When it comes to sustainable packaging, the words sustainability and recycling have been synonymous for well over a decade. Although, as the Climate Clock precariously ticks down, consumers around the world are quickly realizing that recycling is simply not enough to reduce our carbon footprint.
Although over 87% of consumers worldwide would like to see significantly less packaging on products, particularly plastic packaging, sometimes it’s inevitable. The next best thing is packaging that does more than just “be recyclable”. What we really need is packaging that actively works to reduce carbon footprint.
Why Sustainable Packaging?
Consumers are increasingly making decisions based on their eco-conscious values. As a result, brands need to place an increased emphasis on eco-conscious packaging that appeals to consumers’ lifestyles if they want to see their brand succeed. As per Future Market Insights (FMI) study on the global packaging industry, due to the rise in plastic waste caused by packaging, market players around the world are now focusing on biodegradable and recyclable packaging material.
According to a recent survey of 80,000 people worldwide, 52% of consumers want packaging that is 100% recycled and 46% wish to see packaging that is biodegradable. These numbers highlight the need to consider what truly sustainable packaging means.
It’s not surprising, then, that there continues to be an influx of alternative packaging making its way into the mainstream and onto our shelves. Following are some key trends making waves in the sustainable packaging world.
1 Refillable parent packaging
The use of refillable containers supports zero waste initiatives that function on a simple principle: The store provides products in bulk, and customers bring their empty refillable containers and fill them with products. Cleaning and personal care products are often available this way.
The use of refillable containers reduces transportation and manufacturing costs, but the success of this system relies on multiple factors. This may include; acceptance from the general public, additional cost incurred in the supply chain, and availability of containers in large quantities.
2 Returnable/reusable packaging
Reusable options, which aim to transform packaging from single-use to multi-use assets, are being implemented to counter the rise of single-use packaging. Rather than being disposed of after reaching the consumer, reusable packaging is returned and recirculated over many trips. Transitioning from single-use to reusables can help to alleviate the environmental burden, decreasing dependence on virgin resources by lowering material production, reducing plastic waste and pollution by eliminating waste after use.
3 Replace plastics with Paper
Paper and pulp packaging types have emerged as strong contenders to replace plastics for food and beverage packaging applications. According to Future Market Insights study on Flexible Paper Packaging, with rising ecommerce, the demand for paper packaging products, such as corrugated boxes, folding cartons, and other flexible paper packaging solutions that offer optimum protection during shipping and handling will gain a strong foothold in the market. With brands shifting away from plastic to adopt paper- or pulp-based solutions, these alternative packaging materials for plastics have gained significant momentum since 2020.
4 Carbon labeling
Carbon Labelling is a new trend that we will see more and more in the next few years as brands make a commitment to meeting sustainability goals. The labels provide information about the climate impact of what you consume. This makes consumers aware of the impacts of their choices.
5 Lightweight Packaging
With innovative packaging material, the concept of lightweight packing is gaining momentum. The benefits of lightweight packaging are clear: reduced material and manufacturing costs, reduced environmental impacts from transportation, and, potentially, less waste bound for landfills.
The market for bio-based plastics made from plant-derived material continues to boom, although there are still large barriers to overcome, such as the number of industrial facilities equipped to process bioplastics. It is an exciting and growing sector in sustainable packaging.
Packaging will get smarter, more intelligent, and more active. As more and more companies commit to building a more sustainable supply chain, we’ll see innovations in packaging materials from design to construction. The good news is that we will continue to see new developments in eco-friendly packaging.
7 Changing The Ink Up
Inks are widespread and effective for printing on any medium – especially packaging. It’s the final stage of your design; a visual narrative brought to life when ink is printed on a substrate.
However, in the past, they haven’t been the kindest to the planet. Petroleum-based inks can contain various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that aren’t great for the environment. Now, forward-thinking companies and packaging specialists are utilizing vegetable and soya-based inks which have a number of key benefits. They’re:
- Easier to de-ink during recycling
- Less likely to release any nasty chemicals when thrown away
These inks are just as vibrant as their petroleum counterparts and are a great and simple way to enhance your brand’s eco-credentials.
Designed To Be Recycled
Whether it’s packaging, fashion or technology, everything we design needs to be recyclable if we want to close the loop on waste. To be recyclable, packaging needs to be separable, labeled correctly, and clean, which are simple requirements to satisfy.
Brands have to implore their customers to actually recycle these products, as that’s why they’re being made how they are. Brands need to consider how their designs can benefit their marketing efforts – are there ways of using recycling as a topic of conversation to engage more people? Good, sustainable packaging choices can help increase thought leadership within an industry.
And many brands are doing it.
Compostable or Biodegradable Packaging
What’s more efficient than having one use for packaging? Having two uses for it!
Compostable or biodegradable packaging is a niche new trend for sustainable packaging. One that allows for a second life for packaging in our gardens.
Ever since packaging has existed, there have been products (plastics) that don’t break down. This is a big issue if packaging somehow ends up in a place it isn’t meant to be – like a plastic bag on a beach.
Some packaging has even started to be made to contain seeds for wildflowers, so it can be thrown away into your garden, biodegrade, and then grow into beautiful plant life.
Marrying Premium Quality with Sustainability
As innovation in sustainable packaging has developed over the past years, it’s evident that creativity and design ownership aren’t forfeited when creating a sustainable product. This kind of packaging can just as easily represent a premium brand as others did in the past.
Not only are brands choosing to represent themselves, create visual narratives and showcase how serious they are about developing top-quality products but are also working in line with corporate social responsibility. This is a big pull for today’s consumers who want to work with brands that care about the planet just as much as they care about their products.
Creating a premium brand experience means enhancing every part of your business offering – including your packaging. The impact of having a great consumer experience and a fantastic product can be greatly diluted by poorly designed packaging.
Environmental issues are presenting humankind with one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. Climate change, the exhaustion of our natural resources and the depletion of our natural environment are all very real concerns.
The way we have produced packaging up to now, although it is not the sole cause of our environmental concerns, still raises issues that businesses, governments, and the public need to address. Only by manufacturing packaging that is fully sustainable can we achieve the twin goals of providing a product that performs the task for which it is designed, but at the same time avoids having any form of negative impact on the environment.
Author Bio: Ismail Sutaria, Senior Research Consultant Packaging
Ismail Sutaria is Senior Consultant, Packaging at Future Market Insights (FMI), a global market research and consulting firm. FMI is headquartered in Dubai, with offices in the US, UK, and India. MarketNgage is the Market Research Subscription Platform from FMI that assists stakeholders in obtaining in-depth research across industries, markets and niche segments. You can connect with Ismail on LinkedIn.
Future Market Insights (FMI), is an ESOMAR-certified market research and consulting market research company. FMI is a leading provider of market intelligence and consulting services, serving clients in over 150 countries; its market research reports and industry analysis help businesses navigate challenges and make critical decisions with confidence and clarity amidst breakneck competition. Now avail flexible Research Subscriptions, and access Research multi-format through downloadable databooks, infographics, charts, and interactive playbook for data visualization and full reports through MarketNgage, the unified market intelligence engine powered by Future Market Insights. Sign Up for a 7 day free trial!