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Eco Friendly Packaging: The Ultimate Guide To Knowing Your Eco’s From Your E-No’s

By Lauren Churcher  |  29 July 2020  |   26 minute read.
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Eco Friendly

How to find eco-friendly packaging, improve your bottom line, and do your bit to save the planet.

It’s no secret that eco-friendly packaging is important and growing exponentially in popularity. As you are reading this, chances are you don’t need us to tell you why we need to look after our planet – but if you’re still not sure, we’ve created a depressing environment crisis infographic so you can see and remind yourself just how bad things currently are.

So – whether you’re unsure what eco-friendly packaging is and why it’s important, or if you already get it and just want to know how to swap to sustainable solutions, you’ve come to the right place. 

Before we dive in, let’s start with the basics:

What Is Eco-Friendly Packaging?

Eco friendly packaging is made from sustainable materials and/or can be disposed of by recycling, biodegrading, or composting to have minimal to no impact on the environment.

Seems simple enough, right? Ready to get going?

Section 1: Why is eco-friendly packaging important? Packaging’s impact and the power of the consumer

How much better would it be if everything was sustainable, and why your customers expect it.

With so many negatives surrounding materials in the packaging industry, you and millions of others are right to question, is packaging justified?

In actual fact, packaging itself isn’t all bad – without it, far more goods would be damaged and the environmental impact of our supply chains would be far higher. Packaging has a positive effect in a lot of industries as it ensures products arrive safely the first time and can make items last longer, particularly in the food industry, which is where we’ve seen and heard the most demand from consumers for change to happen. Plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables can seem incredibly wasteful and unnecessary to us – however, the reality is that in many cases, without plastic, we’d at least double all food waste.

Let’s use a cucumber as an example – unwrapped, its’ freshness can be guaranteed for 3 to 4 days. Wrapped; it’s guaranteed for around 14 days. That’s one piece of plastic instead of a lot of wasted resource, like water for sanitisation, the increase in carbon emissions from the extra journeys needed for fresh produce to be available in supermarkets up and down the country, let alone all of the food waste that would come of it. With supply chains running at maximum speed, and consumer demand at an all-time high, savings on plastic need to be sensible and carefully considered for where the benefit would be, and what the true impact would be without it.

That said, there’s no denying that packaging has an enormous impact on the environment. The largest market for plastics today is packaging materials, with associated rubbish now accounting for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally.

And the worst part? Just 9% of it gets recycled.

So, overall, is plastic packaging that bad? Plastic has been getting a lot of bad press over the past few years, but the material itself is actually a highly effective and great packaging resource – is the fault with plastic, or is it with consumers, businesses, manufacturers, governments, and the lack of infrastructure in place for a reliable waste disposal process? 

In all of these packaging material debates, there’s one thing that prevails: making sustainable packaging choices is essential for the future of the planet. Choosing eco-friendly packaging is a really simple way to reduce your environmental impact – here’s just a few examples of the impact eco friendly packaging can have

As well as all of the environmental benefits linked with swapping to sustainable packaging, there’s a growing pressure from consumers too – they are now making all-important buying decisions based around not just the sustainability of your products, but the packaging they come in too.

We’ve compiled data from a wide variety of sources to create a Consumer Eco Sentiment Survey so you don’t just have to take our word on it – take it from the ones who really matter; your current and potential customers:

Consumer Sentiment

And with 66% of consumers having already avoided a particular product and/or brand for environmental reasons, the time to act is most definitely now.

So, you understand the importance of buying eco-friendly packaging in terms of reducing your environmental impact, and that customers will actually choose you for your eco-friendly packaging. But what’s next?

Section 2: Everything you need to know about packaging right now

Do you know your eco’s from your e-no’s? Our best explanations for credentials, markers, materials, and advice on how to avoid mistakes.

I mentioned earlier that choosing sustainable packaging is essential – but ensuring its credentials are communicated to your customers is critical. You can buy the eco-friendliest packaging there is, but if you don’t tell your customer what it is, why it’s eco-friendly, and how they should dispose of it once they’ve finished with it, you won’t deliver on your eco business goals as your customer simply won’t understand, and your packaging most likely won’t end up in the correct place.

To start with, for you to educate your customers, you’re going to need to know it all yourself. So, do you know your biodegradable from your compostable? Or how about your curbside collection from your drop off point? Lucky for you, we’ve got it covered – here’s everything you’re ever likely to need to know when it comes to eco-friendly credentials and markers to look out for:

Recycle

Recyclable

Arguably the most well-known eco credential there is. The great news is that a lot of the most popular packaging materials currently on the market are recyclable, even plastic.

Recycling is a huge opportunity to reduce environmental impact within the packaging market – the most recent UK waste statistics show that in 2017, 70.2% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered. This is estimated to have saved more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 in just that year alone – that’s the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the road.

And when it comes to recycling vs new materials, which is better for the environment? Recycling wins hands down. We’ve established it’s important…but what’s it all about?

What does recyclable mean?

If your material is recyclable, it means that after it has been used, it can be converted into a new material or object and be used again. Recycling materials is hugely important as it reduces the demand and environmental impact associated with using new raw materials.

What does the recycling symbol look like?

The recycling symbol is a very well-recognised logo within the packaging world – it’s also known as the mobius loop. You may also see slightly different recycling logos on food and drink packaging which are more descriptive about the recyclability of the product and how easy it is to be recycled.

Recyclable

What does the recycling symbol mean?

The recycling symbol is used on packaging materials to indicate if that packaging item is recyclable. It can mean the material is either fully or partially recyclable. If you’ve got a combination of materials in your packaging, you’ll need to separate them to make the recycling process easier further down the line. There are a fair few variants of recycling symbols depending on the material it’s used on which can be tricky to get your head around, so we’ve compiled and explained paper and recycling symbols you’re likely to come across.

Bio

Biodegradable

Biodegradable materials and packaging solutions has been growing in popularity over the past few years since documentaries such as Blue Planet II hit our screens, displaying our plastic plagued oceans and shocking audiences globally. So biodegradable packaging is surely the answer – a material that breaks down and won’t contribute any lasting damage to the environment, and probably won’t even get to landfill, right? Not exactly…

The thing that makes biodegradable packaging good is how bad our material handling is right now. If you can’t guarantee a product is going to be recycled, not end up in landfill, not end up by the side of the road, or floating out to oceans, then biodegradable materials come into their own.

But before we get any further, let’s have a look at what biodegradable actually means:

What does biodegradable mean?

If your material is biodegradable, it’ll be able to naturally and gradually break down into smaller and smaller pieces until it no longer exists, and is done in a way that is not harmful to the planet. How quickly an item biodegrades is entirely dependent on both the material and the environment it’s in. To show you what we mean, we’ve looked at the most popular options on the market at the moment and compared how long it takes for each packaging material to break down to illustrate the environmental impact that your packaging choices’ have.

What’s the difference between biodegradable and degradable?

Biodegradable materials will naturally decompose and avoid pollution – however long it takes, it’ll do so by natural means. In contrast, degradable materials will eventually breakdown at some point by some means – it could exist in its original form in the elements for over 1000 years before doing so, but there will come a time when it’ll eventually go, but not necessarily all of it. Strictly speaking, all material and things are degradable, but putting it into the environment is going to have a lasting impact and not be harmless.

So with all of that in mind; if all packaging was biodegradable, would it encourage worse consumer behaviour and even more neglectful attitudes towards the planet? And are all biodegradable materials even eco-friendly?

Firstly, in 2015, the United Nations Environment Programme actually wrote off biodegradable materials as a sustainable solution as they believe the label of “biodegradable” may actually encourage littering, and sadly, that’s exactly what we’re seeing as a lot of people have a “throw away and it’ll go away” mentality, which really isn’t the case.

Secondly, the type of material is without a doubt the most important factor here– paper and cardboard do biodegrade in every sense of the word, and relatively quickly too. But man-made biodegradable materials on the other hand is where the problem really lies. We uncovered the ugly truth behind oxo-degradable plastic which horrified us, as we, like so many others, had believed it was the answer the packaging industry was crying out for.

Biodegradable materials are a great short-term solution to the existing problems we have regarding how we handle packaging materials, but they don’t reduce our need for new raw materials, and have proven to encourage poor consumer behaviour, so whether biodegradable materials are a true eco-friendly solution or not is still up for debate.

Sustainably

Sustainably Sourced

With 88% of UK shoppers wanting on-pack information on packaging sustainability, this is the part where you really need to pay attention!

The sustainability of a material is one of, if not the most, important factors for how eco-friendly it really is. Unlike recyclable and biodegradable materials, sustainably sourced packaging ticks the eco-friendly box (see what I did there?) before you have even sent it out, and it doesn’t solely depend on your customer sorting their packaging waste correctly. So, what do you need to know?

What does sustainably sourced mean?

Sustainably sourced materials are, as the name suggests, materials which have been sourced in a sustainable and renewable way. Typically relating to paper and cardboard, sustainably sourced can mean it is made from recycled materials, or from FSC or PEFC approved sources. Sustainability is pivotal to the future of the planet; we simply can’t continue to consume the amount of raw and unsustainable materials that we currently do.

What does FSC mean?

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. FSC are an international organisation who promote responsible forestry by certifying forests all over the world and ensuring they meet environmental and social standards. FSC primarily focus on sustainable use, conservation, restoration.

What does the FSC logo mean?

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. FSC are an international organisation who promote responsible forestry by certifying forests all over the world and ensuring they meet environmental and social standards. FSC primarily focus on sustainable use, conservation, restoration.

Cardboard-FSC
Turtle

Plastic Free

Plastic free packaging is where the largest demand is in the eco-friendly packaging world at the moment; it’s the most desirable of all of the eco-friendly packaging types because of the world’s recent awareness of plastic’s impact on the environment. Whatever the seemingly bizarre alternative – potatoes, mushrooms, or grass, one thing is for certain; it’s more appealing than plastic.

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the world of plastics which has led to all kinds of misconceptions and misunderstandings, so we’ve demystified this murky plastic packaging landscape and have put together what you need to know about LDPE, HDPE, and everything in between so you’re covered on all of the technical terms.. But is plastic free actually here to stay? Definitely. Is it just another craze that consumers will get bored of? Impossible. Here are the details:

What does plastic free mean?

For a material to be classed as ‘plastic free’, it needs to contain less than 1% plastic by dry weight. This means that whilst you may be buying a seemingly non plastic containing product, technically speaking, small elements like plastic tear open strips can be included on these products and it will still pass as plastic free.

Is there a plastic free logo?

As it’s a new demand, there’s no official plastic free logo which can be widely used on packaging…yet.

This one is currently only applicable in the food and drink industry with retailer Iceland and tea brand Teapigs leading the way on the plastic crackdown with food packaging.

Plastic Planet - Plastic Free

Priory Elements Plastic Free

Without a widely recognisable official logo, and with the demand for plastic free packaging increasing, we’ve created this Plastic Free logo which we use on all of our Priory Elements product ranges. Self-explanatory, simple, and most importantly, gets the message across so it’s easily understandable for customers.

Whether you choose to use official or unofficial logos, branding your eco-friendly packaging is key to ensuring your customers understand what materials you’ve used and what they need to do with them.

Ice

Carbon Neutral

We’ve all heard about our carbon footprint, and the size of it has been a discussion point for decades, but with the new government goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the carbon footprint reduction resurgence is most definitely on. Walking and cycling instead of driving and taking a train instead of a plane are the most commonly suggested solutions for reducing your carbon footprint, but how does that have anything to do with your packaging? And what does net zero really mean?

What does carbon neutral mean?

Carbon neutral, or carbon neutrality, means counteracting carbon emissions with carbon removal to achieve net zero so no carbon has been added to our planet’s atmosphere. It’s not saying that no carbon was emitted in the process, but any carbon that was emitted has been minimalised by insetting to reduce the amount that was produced, and anything remaining has been offset.

How do you offset carbon?

If you’re looking to offset carbon, it doesn’t mean you pop outside and plant a tree or two by yourself.  You can do this of course, but you’ll have to plant a fair few for it to offset even just your journey into the office. Instead, the most simple and effective way to offset carbon emissions is to buy a carbon offset which funds projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For the government to hit their net zero by 2050 target, it’s been predicted that they will be offering incentives which benefit companies taking steps towards this goal themselves, so it’s worth taking this seriously as it may put you in line for some funding and support.

It can be difficult to know where to start with insetting and offsetting carbon, but we’ve covered the essential steps to get you well on your way to achieving carbon neutrality.

Plant

Compostable

Compostable packaging material has never really been seriously considered as a viable packaging solution due to impracticality – if it’s designed to easily breakdown then surely, it’s unsuitable for your products and won’t withstand the courier network? However, many now believe it’s the most sustainable solution there is. Well, is it?

What does compostable mean?

If you think compostable is very similar to biodegradable then you’re not wrong; in the natural elements it’ll break down, but compostable goes one further as it doesn’t just “not leave anything behind”. The truth of it is that compostable material does leave something behind, but it’s a good something – nutrients that can be reused by plants once the material has completely decomposed.

How long does composting take?

The time associated with composting is entirely dependent on both the material, and the environment it’s in. Composting has to take place in specific conditions, and for an item to be considered compostable, it typically needs to break down within 90 days.

Home compostable vs industrially compostable: the difference

Home compostable means the packaging item can go in with your other household compost such as fruit and vegetable scraps.

Commercially, or industrially compostable, means the material needs to be in specific conditions to break down. Industrial composting facilities heat the packaging materials, in excess of 55 degrees, to accelerate degradation of the material – without this extra help, the material can’t be considered compostable.

Both types of compostable materials are a great short-term solution in terms of managing the amount of packaging waste which we’re faced with. But, whilst compostable products are giving back to the earth and aren’t adding to landfills (certainly not for any meaningful amount of time anyway), it still doesn’t stop or help with the growing need for new raw materials.


That’s the credentials covered; from net-zero to decomposition conditions and everything else in between that you could possibly need to know. It’s paramount that you now take this, apply it, and as we always recommend, communicate it to make your eco-friendly packaging speak to your customers.

With all of this in mind, you’re no doubt thinking about your current packaging, the materials it’s made from, and its eco impact.

In a perfect world, the true measure of how eco-friendly any material is can be measured in terms of the sustainability of raw material sources used to create it, and how recyclable and reusable those resources are once made. However, we live in a complex world and we have a global materials handling crisis on our hands; meaning that even if materials are endlessly recyclable, a tiny minority of them are actually being disposed of correctly in this way. As the materials handling crisis is addressed, the perception of how eco-friendly certain materials, like plastic, are could change. But for now; we’re here to help you with the current landscape.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the most popular packaging materials: the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good:

Making sustainable packaging choices is easier than you may realise – you don’t even have to think outside the box…literally. Cardboard boxes are one of the most traditional and popular packaging items there are, and thankfully, are one of the eco-friendliest solutions too.

More recently, alternatives to polythene have been in high demand and manufacturers are now turning to an inconspicuous vegetable as the basis of mailing bags and films instead of polythene. And the answer? Potatoes. Yes, seriously. Potato starch is growing in popularity as more and more people are making the swap as it’s an excellent alternative to single use plastic.

Here are the eco-friendliest materials that are currently widely used on the packaging market:

Material RecyclableBiodegradableSustainably SourcedPlastic FreeCompostable
PaperYesYesYesYesYes
CardboardYesYesYesYesYes
StarchNoYesYesYesYes

The bad:

Okay, so unsurprisingly plastic didn’t make the cut for ‘the good’ packaging materials. We’ve seen that it’s a good and effective material, but we also know that unless it’s disposed of correctly and in the right facility, it can be extremely harmful to our planet. We know it’s tricky to get your head around, so we’ve compiled everything you need to know about recycling plastic packaging. But, when directly comparing it to paper, cardboard, and starch, how does it fare?

MaterialRecyclableBiodegradableSustainably SourcedPlastic FreeCompostable
Plastic YesNoUnknown*NoNo
PolytheneYesNoUnknown*NoNo
LDPEYesNoUnknown*NoNo

*Recently, more new plastic is being made partially or entirely from recycled materials which is much better for the environment than relying on new resources. If you do currently use any of the above materials, check with your supplier about the composition of the plastics you buy.

The ugly:

The three worst offenders in the packaging world are actually set to be eliminated under the UK Plastics Pact by the end of 2020. These materials are considered problematic or unnecessary in any application – take polystyrene for example; it’s not widely recycled, and if your local authority is one of very few that accepts it in recycling collections, it’s highly unlikely that it’ll actually be recycled. So, what are the troublesome three, and just how bad are they?

MaterialRecyclableBiodegradableSustainably SourcedPlastic FreeCompostable
PolystyreneNoNoNoNoNo
Oxo-degradable plasticNoNo*NoNoNo
PVCNoNoNoNoNo

*Whilst oxo-degradable plastic does decompose, it breaks down into microplastics which are more damaging to the planet and can be fatal to any animals that ingest them.

With the current state of affairs not looking too rosy, it’s time to turn our attention to the future and have a look at what it means for you and your packaging.

Section 3: The future of ecommerce packaging

A look at the new and exciting materials being developed and how these will play a part moving forwards.

The future will be green or not at all.

We have no doubt that sustainable packaging is the future; packaging that is made from sustainable material sources, has a carbon neutral manufacturing and distribution footprint, and leaves no impact after use – ideally being fully recycled, and returning back to the start of the cycle.

However, we’ve seen that a majority of the packaging materials currently on the market aren’t sustainable when we look to the future. Paper and cardboard are surely here to stay, but we can’t become solely dependent on those materials as they will end up having a detrimental impact on the planet too. Is paper just going to be a drain on natural resource like plastic and end up causing more damage?

For instance, it takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag, and the paper manufacturing process produces a higher concentration of toxic chemicals. Paper manufacturing will never go away either, as it can only be recycled 5-7 times.

There’s no need to fret just yet – paper is still a sustainable packaging solution as it’s much less likely to be a source of litter and doesn’t pose a risk to wildlife. It’s also widely recycled and decomposes very quickly. In fact, corrugated cardboard has a recycling rate of around 84%, making it the most recycled packaging material in the UK. 

We can’t put all of our eggs in the paper basket though (both literally and figuratively as whichever way you look at it, it’d make a mess.) So, what alternatives are there? What’s new to the market now, and what’s rumoured to be coming soon? Let’s take a closer look at new materials for the future of packaging:

Grass

Grass Paper

Given the potential environmental damage associated with the increased paper demand, a simple alternative resource is now starting to be used; grass.

Not only is grass fast growing and renewable, it’s fully compostable too. And it gets better – the grass paper manufacturing process emits 79% less CO2 compared to using raw wood materials. There’s also a 50% reduction in raw materials needed, 88% less energy needed, and a near 100% reduction in water used. With no chemicals needed in the converting process either, and with the same resistance and lifespan of standard paper, it’s a real winner.

Grass paper packaging products, such as grass paper mailing bags are just about as eco-friendly as it gets; fully recyclable, biodegradable, compostable, sustainably sourced, and manufactured carbon neutrally.

Potato

Potato Starch

Potato starch as a packaging material has been flirting with the industry for a while now, but has only ever really worked for one product, until now.

As you read in the previous section, polystyrene is extremely bad for the environment, which has been bad news for those who use and rely on packing peanuts for impact and void protection. However, an alternative made from potato starch has been taking the market by storm for a fair few years now. It does an awesome job of protecting your goods, offering better impact protection than polystyrene versions, and they’re far better for the planet too as they’re fully biodegradable and compostable.

Historically, that’s been potato starch’s limit in the packaging world, but as more and more businesses are demanding an eco-friendly alternative to LDPE, the solution, once again, has been found in the shape of starch.

As magazine mailings cause hundreds of thousands of single use plastic wrap bags to be used every week, a plastic-free alternative was needed here, and fast. Starch mailing bags are just that – made from natural potato starch and other biologically sourced polymers with no plastic in sight.

Typically, eco-friendly mailing bags are a lot heavier than plastic options as they’re most likely made from paper, so they’ve never been a viable option in the mailing world as every gram counts. Starch mailing bags fix that problem; they’re ultra-lightweight to not add to your postal costs – and in some instances you may even see them decrease.

But that’s not all – starch mailing bags are suitable for both home and industrial composting and will completely disintegrate in compost environments in just a few months, instead of a few thousand years like their plastic counterparts. They’re milky white in colour so are distinguishably different from clear plastic options and even include on-bag instructions to show end users how to correctly dispose of them – but as with all compostable packaging solutions, it’s best to inform your customers and make sure they’re aware, as compostable material can’t go in any recycling.

Cardboard

Paper & Cardboard

Whilst paper and cardboard certainly aren’t new packaging materials in the slightest, they are now being used more frequently and for a wider variety of products which have historically relied on plastic, and other unsustainable materials. For instance, glassine paper documents enclosed wallets have recently been introduced, and are taking over from the LDPE versions, paper padded envelopes are replacing the age-old plastic-lined Jiffy Bags, and corrugated cardboard rolls are increasing in popularity with many businesses wanting to avoid bubble wrap. There’s an eco-friendly alternative for just about every packaging essential now, so there’s no excuse to not have a look at where you could make some small simple swaps.


So those new materials look pretty exciting, right? But what if we told you there was something else which trumps them? There’s one thing better than using less new resource – using no new resource. We’re talking reusable, multi-journey packaging with no single use plastic in sight. And it’s already a thing for consumables. Intrigued? Thought so. Let’s take a little look at Loop.

Loop was created by TerraCycle as they, like all of us, know that we need to stop using, producing, and relying on single use plastics. With 99% of things we buy and make becoming waste within the first 12 months of purchase, and most of the resulting waste not being accepted by public recycling systems and ending up in landfills or incinerators, it’s clear that something needs to change, but how? 

As you may have suspected – this is where Loop comes in. Loop allows you to consume your everyday household essentials, be it food or cleaning products, in a responsible way. Your normal products are delivered in specially designed, extra durable, reusable containers, and when you’re finished with them, the courier collects them, takes them back to be cleaned, and then they can be reused and refilled and the cycle starts again.

Loop is a small step for consumers, but a giant leap towards a circular economy. The doubt surrounding if a circular economy is achievable stems from uncertainty of big brands taking part which would be the main draw for consumers – but Loop proves it’s within reach. With companies such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, Coca-Cola, Mondelēz and Danone, and their brands on side, a circular economy is surely no longer an if, but a when – certainly where consumables are concerned anyway. Could it be replicated in ecommerce though? Is fully re-usable packaging a viable option for ecommerce? Or would the carbon footprint associated with the deliveries and collections outweigh the good it would do?

As initiatives such as Loop are really just starting, there’s definitely a long way to go as the world’s economy is currently just 8.6% circular. But, there’s a glimmer of hope and possibility as so many large brands are taking it seriously that a circular economy isn’t just a pipe dream anymore, it’s slowly becoming a reality. It’s companies like Loop with the innovative initial idea, and organisations such as The Ellen MacArthur Foundation dedicating their time to accelerate the transition to a circular economy that will make it possible.

So, you know what you’re looking for, why you’re looking for it, and that now is the time to be looking, but where do you look? We’ve even got that bit covered too.

Section 4: How to find and choose eco-friendly packaging

Where to focus and how to make effective changes quickly.

We believe that finding eco-friendly packaging shouldn’t be a chore and certainly doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. It’s easier now than ever before to find sustainable packaging swaps as there’s more and more options available to you – we’ve shown that eco-friendly means more than just paper packaging now. If you have a need for it, chances are there’s a solution out there; it’s just a matter of finding it. Whatever it is, and whatever eco goals you want to fulfil, we’re here, armed with the help, advice, and products you need to get the perfect packaging.

Recycle

Recyclable Packaging Solutions

Recyclable packaging is increasingly becoming an expectation from customers and consumers, so it’s essential that your choices fit the bill – why not try one of these?

Cardboard Boxes

It’ll come as no surprise to you that cardboard boxes are at the top of our recommended eco-friendly products list as, quite frankly, they’re all-round awesome. Suitable for sending and storing all sorts of items and products, they’re cost-effective, and fully recyclable, biodegradable, sustainably sourced, and completely plastic free. Sometimes, you just can’t beat the original classics and that’s definitely the case here.

Cardboard Boxes
Paper Tape

Gummed Paper Tape

If you’re using cardboard boxes, you need to think about what you’re using to seal them. Sure, standard packing tape works, but it’s made entirely of plastic and negatively affects the recyclability of your cardboard boxes. You need a solution which is recyclable and biodegradable in one go with your boxes, if only this existed… Oh wait, it does. And not only that, but gummed paper tape is even stronger and far more secure than regular packing tape, and it breaks down a whopping 80 times faster.

Corrugated Rolls

Whilst standard bubble wrap is recyclable, wrapping your products in lots of plastic doesn’t exactly deliver on the eco sentiment. Corrugated rolls are essentially a cardboard alternative – offering a low-cost, flexible, wrap-around protective solution which is suitable for a variety of fragile or delicate products. As corrugated rolls are made from cardboard and nothing else, they are recyclable, biodegradable and made from sustainable materials.

Corrugated Cardboard Rolls
Bio

Biodegradable Packaging Solutions

So, you want to minimise your packaging waste and know that biodegradable packaging is a good way to do so – what’re your options?

Jiffy Green

Padded envelopes have been a staple in ecommerce despatch operations pretty much from day one; they’re lightweight, offer great protection, and are low cost too – the only downside is they’re a single use packaging item which are nearly always destined for the bin due to the combination of paper and plastic. Jiffy Green solve this as they’re made entirely from paper so are recyclable and biodegradable, and – even the lining is made from recycled paper fibres to ensure your goods are protected as well as the planet.

Jiffy Green Padded Bags
Paper Air Pillows

PaperWave Bio Film

If you’re used to filling space in boxes with non-recyclable plastic-coated air, also known as air cushions, I’m sure you’re keen to find an eco-friendly alternative. But don’t worry – you don’t have to jump the airwave ship as the only thing you need to change to make the sustainable swap is the film. Same machine, same protection, just with the recycled paper and starch blend film instead – it’s recyclable, biodegradable, and even compostable too.

Packing Peanuts

Another classic void fill solution is the humble packing peanut. However, with the polystyrene elimination deadline at the end of 2020 looming, an alternative material is needed for these packing chips. Step forwards the GM-free starch based fully recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable packing peanuts. Not just eco-friendly, they’re lightweight to not add to your postal costs, and offer superior impact protection compared to the original polystyrene variants.

Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Ice

Carbon Neutral Packaging Solutions

If you’re looking for even more ways to reduce your carbon footprint and are looking to become a carbon neutral business yourself, a sure-fire way to contribute is by choosing carbon neutral packaging – start with one of these:

Bubble Lined Bags

With thousands of padded envelopes being sent through the courier and postal networks every single day, and with so many big-brand options on the market, you need to choose wisely. Bubble Lined Bags offer the lightweight and cost-effective all-round cushioning protection that you know and love, are made carbon neutrally, and they combine an FSC approved paper outer with a bubble wrap inner which can be separated and both be recycled. 

Bubble Lined Bags
Paper Mailing Bags

Paper Mailing Bags

If you’re used to using poly mailers but want an eco-friendly alternative, look no further than paper mailing bags. Not only are they a strong, reliable, and lightweight mailer for pre-packaged or non-fragile goods, they’re super eco-friendly too; fully recyclable, biodegradable, made carbon neutrally, and of course completely plastic free. Grass paper mailing bags are also made climate neutrally, and are compostable too.

ColomPac

If carbon neutral is an absolute essential for your packaging, the best way to achieve it is to pick a carbon neutral manufacturer with the same eco-friendly beliefs as you – and you can’t get better than ColomPac. Whatever your needs, there’ll be a solution in the ColomPac range; not only do they continue to produce outstanding packaging time and time again, but they do it in the most efficient and eco-friendly way possible. All products are fully recyclable, biodegradable, carbon neutral, made from FSC approved materials, and are completely plastic free. Winner!

Sustainably

Sustainably Sourced Packaging Solutions

Ensuring your packaging is sustainably sourced is an essential for businesses – more sustainable solutions are on the market every single day now, so there’s really no excuse any more. Here’s some of our top picks:

Packing Paper

If you truly want your goods and packaging to embody all things environmentally-friendly, giving them an eco-look is an excellent way to communicate your values to your customers. Packing paper not only is made from FSC approved sources or recycled materials, but is fully recyclable, biodegradable, and a plastic free wrap which is easily recognisable by everyone as eco-friendly and offers no-hassle disposal in normal paper recycling. 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it was easier to do so – and choosing packing paper is a great way to help them help the planet.

Packing Paper
Cardboard Envelopes

Cardboard Envelopes

Cardboard envelopes are often only considered by those sending documents through the post, but the reality is they’re a brilliant alternative to poly mailers, postal tubes, and even padded envelopes. Rigid envelopes offer rigid and robust protection to a wide range of items, and can expand up to 40mm for sending products with a bit of depth to them. They’re also exceptionally eco friendly as they’re fully recyclable, biodegradable, made from sustainable sources, and plastic free.

Printer Labels

From organisation to despatch, labels are a necessary feature in every organisation. But have you ever even thought about their eco credentials? They’re commonly overlooked but really shouldn’t be – ensure the labels you choose are made from sustainably sourced materials, either FSC, PEFC, or recycled paper, and you’ll be surprised by how much of a large-scale positive effect this could have.

Printer Labels

Turtle

Plastic Free Packaging Solutions

With recent studies showing that if plastic production isn’t curbed, plastic pollution will outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050, it’s key for businesses to minimise, or eradicate the use of plastics, and packaging is a great place to start – try one of these:

Self-Adhesive Paper Tape

Much like gummed paper tape, self-adhesive paper tape is an excellent plastic-free alternative to standard packing tape. Self-adhesive tape is not only a reliable way to seal and secure your boxes, but is fully recyclable and even has a biodegradable adhesive so your customers don’t need to worry about separating them and it can all go in the same recycling bin. And if you really want to shout about your eco stance, Priory Elements Eco Tape is even printed with the message “Delivered In Planet Friendly Packaging”.

Self Adhesive Paper Tape
ColomPac Book Wraps

Book Wraps

If you want to avoid void fill altogether, an adjustable wrap-around mailer is perfect for you. Don’t be fooled by the name here – whilst traditionally book wraps have been used for sending, you guessed it, books, they can actually be used for sending a multitude of items in a secure and reliable way. Manufactured entirely from cardboard so there’s no plastic in sight, book wraps are fully recyclable, biodegradable, and made from sustainable sources.

Paper Gift Bags

Eco-friendly packaging isn’t just for ecommerce businesses, it’s essential for traditional retail stores too. In a bid to reduce plastic production, England introduced a 5p charge for carrier bags, but has the plastic bag fee worked? Fee or no fee, bags for life are still made from plastic so why not eliminate plastics here completely and go for paper bags? They can be re-used, are fully recyclable, and even biodegrade in 2-6 weeks.

Paper Bags

We really mean it when we say it’s easy to find eco-friendly packaging solutions,and the possibilities are endless – excuses aren’t going to cut it anymore. The amount of options can actually be overwhelming, so we’re going to take a look at a few companies who are getting it spot on to give you some tips on how to take these ideas and make them into a reality for your business.

Section 5: Why listen to us?

How we can help you make eco-friendly changes in your business for the better.

We recognise that one of the huge responsibilities of running our business is managing the impact we have on the environment and we take it extremely seriously. Our mission as a business is making ecommerce as eco-friendly as possible, and as such, have been, and are continuing, to take important steps to reduce our environmental impact. We don’t just talk the talk either; we’ve removed single-use plastics from our own despatches, give preference to carbon neutral couriers, and ensure we only use the energy we actually really need. 

Our eco promise is our commitment as a business to reducing our impact, and the impact of our industry, on the environment so you can be safe and proud in the knowledge that your packaging and eCommerce supplies are manufactured, priced, and delivered in the most eco-friendly way possible.

We want to lead by example, and as such, have created our own brand of eco-friendly, plastic-free packaging to reduce the environmental impact of the packaging industry. Priory Elements packaging ranges minimise the use of new materials, prevent unbiodegradable waste by-products, and can be recycled fully.

We’ve made it even easier for you to find and understand how eco-friendly your packaging is as we’ve given all of our products Eco Scores. Our Eco Score grades products from 1 to 5 based upon key eco-credentials; if the product is recyclable, biodegradable, sustainably sourced, carbon neutral, and plastic free – the higher the score, the eco-friendlier it is, it’s as simple as that.

We’ve helped thousands of businesses with their despatch operation and have seen first-hand the influence that material choices and eco-friendly packaging can have on both a company’s bottom line and their environmental impact. If you’re ready to give it a go yourself but would like a helping hand, we’d love to run a packaging health check to review your current choices and suggest some simple solutions which will transform your operation into an eco-friendly haven.

And there we have it, our ultimate guide to eco-friendly packaging. What changes are you looking to implement in your own business? Are you planning on some key material swaps? Is there anything we could assist with? Let us know in the comments below or contact us – we’d love to help!

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