The overall market for e-commerce packaging is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years. This is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 14.3% by 2022, according to Smithers Pira. Consumers who order online are savvy. There’s nothing worse for a company than being publicly shamed on social media for sending out products wrapped in swathes of unnecessary plastic or over-sized boxes. Let’s take a look at the 5 most common mistakes companies make when attempting to improve the sustainability of their packaging.
1. Using excessive packaging to advertise your luxury product
To coin a phrase from Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. If you can grow a brand that shows your commitment to sustainability and your willingness to participate in circular packaging, you won’t need to invest time and money in excessive packaging for your products. Let your values and your product speak for itself. This is particularly appropriate for e-commerce companies where your website does a lot of the selling for you. When your customer has spent time reading about your brand and product online and gone on to purchase your product, why bother with expensive, unnecessary packaging?
Take a look at these companies getting it right with their simple, yet eco-friendly, luxury packaging designs
2. Opting for packaging that is made from recycled content
Trees still need to be cut down to make cardboard packaging manufactured with recycled content. Cardboard may seem like the more sustainable option when compared to plastic but the manufacturing process is still environmentally damaging. All recycled cardboard is made with a proportion of new pulp and cardboard can only be recycled around 7 times before the fibres become too stretched. Think reuse before recycling.
3. Opting for packaging that can be recycled
Both cardboard and plastic and many other materials can be recycled, if taken to the appropriate outlet. But in all cases the onus remains on the consumer to do the right thing. Even if consumers do manage to recycle the packaging appropriately, can we be sure it is actually getting recycled? It only takes a small amount of food waste or a rogue unrecyclable plastic film to ruin a whole batch of materials, causing them to end up as landfill. If the UK continues to ship our rubbish abroad, even more emissions are pumped into the atmosphere.
4. Viewing plastic as the enemy
The war on plastics continues to dominate the media. This has prompted many companies to try to cut plastic out completely in favour of more environmentally friendly options such as cardboard or plant based options.
However, the overall environmental impact of a material must be considered before it is selected as the most ‘sustainable’ option and this is not always easy to measure.
In the food industry supermarkets are under pressure to remove plastic packaging from their food items in favour of biodegradable paper bags or cartons. But is this any better for the environment overall? Plastic trays are great at protecting more fragile items such as raspberries and pastries. A recent study found that wrapping cucumbers in plastic increased their shelf life by nearly 30%. If we remove plastic from food packaging we must first ensure there is a suitable alternative. Otherwise food waste will increase dramatically.
Amazon have recently been criticised for using plastic envelopes to package some of their products (BBC News: 21.08.19) Despite the criticism from consumers and industry professionals, could there be a reason for this seemingly unthinkable move? Plastic is considerably lighter than its cardboard alternative and often takes up less space. This results in less vehicle space, less trucks on the road and less CO2 emissions.
Reusable ‘eco-friendly’ bamboo mugs have recently been criticised for being hazardous when heated above 70 degrees centigrade. This is due to the glue used to manufacture the mugs. A recent study by German consumer group Siftung Warrentest found that when the mugs are heated repeatedly, they release harmful chemicals. They are also not recyclable and take many years to biodegrade, meaning they end up in landfill or get incinerated.
Whilst plastic itself is not an environmentally friendly material, the overall environmental impact of other materials must be carefully considered before they are favoured.
5. Over-thinking when trying to innovate
Our global waste crisis requires innovation, collaboration and expertise from all sectors if we are to preserve and protect our planet for future generations. But sometimes the most sustainable and ethical packaging can be the simplest. Think about a few years ago when fish and chips were wrapped up in yesterday’s newspaper. What happened to our grandparent’s generation of make do and mend? So how can we apply this same sustainable attitude to the packaging industry? Whilst we must choose an easy to recycle and if possible compostable material, we should also be reducing and reusing wherever possible, particularly for outer packing cases.
Consider packing your products in new surplus or once used cardboard boxes. Every day millions of used or unwanted cardboard boxes are needlessly baled and sent for recycling when they are perfectly reusable. With our Reuse-A-Box campaign we can provide low cost, truly sustainable cardboard boxes to package all kinds of products. When you reuse just 1 tonne or 7 pallets of cardboard boxes you are saving around 17 trees from being cut down. You are also saving huge amounts of energy, water and reducing CO2 emissions produced by the recycling and manufacturing processes.
Contact us today and find out how you can start packing your products in truly sustainable packaging.