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Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2021

Despite significantly increased usage of single-use plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging sustainability remains a priority for brands across all industries. While consumer caution has been a cause for many individuals to deprioritize sustainable habits, brands did not retreat from their sustainability goals in 2020, and this year is on track to be one in which packaging continues to make strides toward a more sustainable future.

A handful of approaches have emerged as sustainable packaging trends for 2021:

Chemical Recycling for Plastics

As chemical recycling methods and technologies for plastics continue to improve, the practice is gaining proponents. Expanded chemical recycling efforts are included in the British Plastics Federation’s recent “Recycling Roadmap,” which charts a course to the U.K. recycle 3.5 times more plastic than it currently does by 2030. As the amount of single-use plastics discarded by consumers continues to grow, chemical recycling may help stem the tide of plastics that end up in landfills, or worse, in oceans and other waterways.

In many areas, the demand for recycling surpasses the local market’s ability to process the plastic through mechanical means, which drives demand for alternative means of recycling.  Additionally, the narrow range of plastics that can be recycled by traditional means and the limited number of uses for recycled plastics mean it is unlikely that mechanical recycling will catch up to the problem.

To make use of the large volume of post-consumer plastics generated each year, recycling facilities will need to use a variety of chemical processes to supplement traditional mechanical recycling. Research teams are already working on chemical recycling methods for a wider range of materials, including polystyrene, which will greatly reduce the amount plastic that winds up in landfills or as litter.

E-commerce Sustainability

E-commerce shipments – and the packaging that comes with it – have been on a steady rise in recent years. That trend continued in 2018, with 91% of Americans receiving packages at their home this holiday season according to Ranpak’s First Annual E-Commerce and Packaging Trends Survey. While recent e-commerce statistics may be boosted by consumers cautious to shop in crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may retain those online shopping habits once things return to normal. Regardless, this sharp and continued rise in e-commerce puts a spotlight in efforts to make shippers and primary packaging more sustainable.

Brands riding the wave of increased e-commerce sales are eager to boost their sustainable practices, both in response to consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and because sustainable packaging is often good for the bottom line. There are a variety of approaches brands can use to improve the sustainability of e-commerce packaging, including designing packaging with materials that are easy for consumers to recycle. Rightsizing e-commerce packages and optimizing the amount of padding/dunnage included within the package drive sustainability and cost savings on two fronts, both by reducing the cost of materials and reducing size and weight, which improves fuel efficiency during shipping.

Growth in Reusable Packaging

While recyclable and compostable materials play a key role in steering packaging away from landfills, they won’t completely solve our waste issues. Following the path blazed by TerraCycle’s Loop program, which expanded nation-wide in 2020, companies such as LimeLoop, Algramo, RePack and any of the are taking their own approach to growing adoption of reusable packaging. The market for reusable packaging was valued at $30.5 billion in 2019, and a 2020 report from Grand View Research projects it will grow by more than 5% by 2027. While some were concerned that growth may take a hit because of consumer caution during the pandemic, indications showed continued growth through the early months of the crisis, with Loop reporting its sales nearly doubled between March and April.

It’s not just startups springing up to create reusable packaging, major brands are jumping on board to incorporate reusables. Mars, Inc.’s  Sustainable Packaging Plan centers around a commitment to switch to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, including testing 10 reusable packaging programs. Albertsons Plastics and Packaging Pledge includes encouraging customers to use reusable bags, some of which include material from recycled single use shopping bags, and using reusable containers behind the scenes throughout its supply chain.

Whether you’re years into your sustainability journey or looking for sustainable packaging solutions to help your brand get started, the Adept Packaging team has the experience and know-how to help you map out your next steps. Whether it’s sustainable strategy, ideation or implementation, our team is stacked with professionals that can help you transform your packaging. We will help you optimize not only the sustainability of your packaging but reduce costs as well. If you’re ready to incorporate sustainable packaging solutions that drive bottom line savings, get in touch.

Lancaster, PA, USA - December 15, 2017: USPS Priority Mail boxes, Amazon, and other packages delivered at a residential home front door.

How Sustainable is Your Holiday Packaging?

With Cyber Monday upon us, and the holidays quickly approaching, there’s a good chance many of us are going to have quite a few boxes piled up in front of our door in the coming weeks. With the drive for companies to create more sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging, this time of year presents a fantastic opportunity to see how well they’re doing.

With research showing that one of the greatest barriers to recycling is lack of consumer knowledge, we wanted to add some insight on how to tell how sustainable the packaging is that you’re products are being shipped in.

Sustainability Check

We’ve created a checklist for a quick evaluation of the packaging you’re interacting with this holiday season. Give your packaging a point for each of these boxes you can check off.

  • Overpackaging: there is no evidence of over packaging. The product fits well into the box it was shipped in. Examples of overpackaging: a box within a box, a disproportionately large box for a small item, excessive unnecessary packaging, etc.
  • Ships in Own Container: The product was shipped in its own container without an overbox.
  • Excess Padding: There is no evidence of additional, unnecessary padding. For example foam peanuts, shredded paper, etc. Many of these materials can be recycled, but developing packaging specifically for ecommerce that can ship without additional material is cost-effective and requires less work on the consumer end.
  • The packaging material is recyclable. For example corrugate, PET, etc. If you’re not sure, check out this recycling guide.
  • Recyclability is communicated. Is there a label on your package that tells you how to recycle the packaging?
  • Reusability: the packaging can be reused for an additional purpose.
  • Styrofoam: there is no evidence of Styrofoam in the packaging. While some places can recycle it, most materials recovery facilities still do not accept it as part of their recycling program.
  • Mixed-materials: the package is not made of mixed materials. Examples, plastic mixed with paper, foam envelope, foam on corrugate. Since materials need to be easily separated to be recycled, packaging that has mixed materials are much more difficult to recycle.
  • Label: the label is not shrink-wrapped to the package.  Materials need to be separated easily, and PVC shrink labels impede that separation.
  • Returnable: Can I use the packaging to return the item if I need to?

The higher the score, the more sustainable the package. As companies continue to narrow in their focus on sustainability, these numbers will continue to increase. With increased awareness, new regulations and consumer pressure, most of the large brand owners have already set aggressive goals for 2025 and beyond.

E-commerce giant, Amazon, has developed requirements vendors must meet to ship through Amazon, with an aim to reduce waste and increase customer satisfaction. As a member of the Amazon Support and Supplier network, Adept Packaging works side-by-side with some of the major E-commerce retailers, designing sustainable packaging for the most complex, custom supply chains.

If you’re in the ecommerce market and notice your packaging is scoring lower than you’d like, contact us! We hope this holiday season, you’ll recycle responsibly. Have a safe and sustainable holiday!

Tips for designing sustainable ecommerce packaging

8 Tips for Designing Sustainable E-Commerce Packaging

With the continuous and exponential increase in E-commerce sales within the last several years, it is apparent that any business who wishes to perform globally needs to be optimized for it.

As consumers continue to demand more environmentally friendly packaging, sustainability needs to be a top consideration when designing packaging for the E-commerce market.

In a recent white paper, Design Packaging for E-Commerce with a Sustainable Mindset, which can be found in our resource library, our sustainable experts discuss what E-commerce is, why it’s so important, and how companies are preparing for the huge shift in distribution.

As an added bonus, we thought it might be helpful for companies wishing to design sustainable E-Commerce packaging, to have access to these 8 considerations:

1. Align Your Goals

Make sure you align your sustainability strategies, priorities, and actions with your stakeholders (suppliers etc.).

2. Design for Recyclability

Avoid over designing with special inks, coatings, or lamination that can reduce the recyclability and sustainability of the packaging.

3. Avoid Over-Packaging

Minimize the amount of material included in your packaging. Not only does it reduce material waste, but it reduces material cost, inventory, transportation weight, and storage cost.

4. Know Your Product

Explore shipping options outside of the standard cardboard box. Understand your product needs to determine if your packaging must be water-resistant, flexible, soft etc. and redesign with a sustainable mindset.

5. Avoid Excess Padding

Remove foam peanuts, shredded paper, etc. and utilize inserts instead if necessary.

6. Avoid Mixed-Materials

Avoid paper-out, poly bubble lined mailer envelopes. The mixed-material composition makes it difficult to separate and prevent them from being recyclable.

7. Choose Sustainable Materials

When deciding on material options, consider biodegradable, compostable and recyclable options.

8. Communicate Recyclability

One of the biggest issues in waste reduction are consumers. Educating and communicating the end of life options for your packaging is necessary so consumers understand how to close the loop.

If you need assistance developing sustainable E-Commerce packaging, contact our APASS certified sustainable experts.

Download

For a downloadable version of these tips, click the pdf below.

Sustainable-Ecommerce-Packaging-Infographic

Sources: https://www.environmentalleader.com/2019/04/6-tips-for-eco-friendly-dtc-e-commerce-packaging/
https://www.zaproo.com/sustainable-ecommerce-packaging/