compostable

Evaluating the Feasibility of Switching to Compostable Packaging

Awareness of compostable packaging has grown significantly in recent years. One of the driving factors of this growth is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy, which set a goal that all plastic packaging be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. While many consumers are familiar with the reuse model, dating back to the days of the milk man, and recycling, with curbside recycling access continuing to grow, composting is a new concept that is not familiar to many people.

Understanding the Definition of Compostable Packaging

One of the main challenges with compostable packaging is developing a thorough understanding of the definition. To provide background on what is considered compostable packaging here is an excerpt from Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, An Adept Packaging White Paper.

Compostable packaging, or more specifically, compostable plastic, is defined by the ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) as “capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose) and leaves no toxic residue.”

According to World Centric, to be considered compostable plastic, there are three characteristics it must meet three conditions: 

  1. Biodegradable – in order for a material to be considered biodegradable, it must break down into carbon dioxide, water, biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).
  2. Disintegrable – the material is disintegrable if it is indistinguishable in compost; it must not be visible or needed to be screened out
  3. Free of Eco-toxicity – a material is considered free of eco-toxicity if the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth. 

Evaluation of Compostable Certification

Compostable packaging can be a great alternative for materials such as laminate plastic films, which do not have many end-of-life options today outside of landfill and incineration, but when assessing compostable packaging there are several factors that need to be considered, including:

  • The composting certification
  • On pack consumer communication
  • Supply chain of the package
  • Likelihood that it will make it to a composting facility

Compostable Certification Process

The certification process depends on several factors, including which country the package will be sold in and whether it is designed to be composted in an industrial facility or a home composting environment.

According to Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, in order to determine that a material is compostable, there are certain tests that the material must pass. Some institutions have defined either the standards or the methods to perform these tests, such as:

Commonly, to receive the assessment and certification, there are independent certification bodies that help with this process, such as:

  • DIN Certco (German Institute of Standardization, Germany)
  • AFOR (Association for Organics Recycling, UK)
  • Keurmerkinstituut (Certification Institute, Netherlands)
  • COBRO (Packaging Research Institute, Poland)
  • ABA (Australasian Bioplastics Association, Australia)
  • Vinçotte (Accredited Inspection and Certification Organization, Belgium)
  • Jätelaito-syhdistys (Solid Waste Association, Finland)
  • Certiquality/CIC (Composting and Biogas Association, Italy)
  • Avfall Norge (Waste Management and Recycling Association, Norway)
  • BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute, USA)
  • BNQ (Bureau de Normalisation du Québec, Canada)
  • JBPA (Japan BioPlastics Association, Japan)

Ensuring your package is engineered using certified compostable material and can still function to protect your product is one step in determining the feasibility of using compostable packaging.  

Consumer Communication for End of Life

Another challenge that companies face when implementing compostable packaging is lack the of consumer education surrounding it. Consumer communication is important when it comes to packaging, no matter what end-of-life scenario the package was designed for. If the package is disposed of incorrectly, it defeats the purpose of the intended design and provides no added value. Due to the fact that many consumers are unfamiliar with composting, it is best to provide as much information as possible.

 In the case of composting, completing the certification process will provide options of what graphic, instructions, and claims can be made on pack.

For example, the US BPI has a standardized logo that also aligns with the How 2 Compost labeling program from GreenBlue, the creators of How 2 Recycle. While in Europe, the TUV certification labels are widely recognized by consumers. Including resources that make it easy to find the nearest industrial composting facility or instructions for composting at home is also useful to promote correct end-of-life disposal.

Access to composting facilities

Not only does the consumer need to be aware of how to properly dispose of the package, but in the case of composting they also need to have access to an industrial composting facility that accepts packaging or have their own home composting setup. Not all industrial composting facilities are created equal; they range from accepting green waste, food waste, compostable packaging or all the above. GreenBlue has created an interactive map that highlights US composting facilities and the type(s) of material they accept.

Some companies utilize compostable packaging for products that have a defined supply chain, such as products being sold in sports stadiums where you can influence the collection systems put into place. The Green Sports Alliance is an organization that works in this space and promotes zero waste at facilities they partner with.

Determining your consumer’s access to these facilities or ability to influence collection systems determines the ability of your consumer to correctly dispose of the packaging. Without access to these facilities, a consumer doesn’t have the tools needed to compost the packaging.

Assessing if Compostable Packaging is Right for You

Considering compostable packaging can be a complex process to take on, given the need for certified material, education for consumers and access to composting facilities for end of life. By considering the factors noted here, companies can make a determination if the foundation is in place to take the next steps and what can and cannot be achieved by making the change to compostable packaging.

If you’re considering switching to compostable packaging or want to have a discussion about if compostable packaging is an option, our experts would be happy to help. Contact us.

Conveyor with bottles filled with milk products

Elements of a Successful Reusable Packaging Program

The topic of reusable packaging programs has been widely discussed in recent years, but in practice, efforts have barely scratched the surface of its true potential. Executed properly, reusable packaging provides benefits ranging from increased sustainability and improved productivity to increased product quality and, perhaps most importantly, cost savings. Well-integrated reusable packaging programs help industries optimize the use of critical resources and minimize the waste associated with traditional packaging methods.

Applications for Reusables

Many packaging elements throughout the supply chain can be converted from single-use materials to reusables. Everyday items used in the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of goods, including durable handheld and bulk containers, pallets, shipping racks and dunnage, are often made for single-use or limited-use applications, but brand owners can find a lot of value in converting them to reusable items.

Reusable packaging can be used for shipping both inbound goods such as raw materials and outbound finished goods. While they are in the manufacturing facility, goods can be transported from one department or stage of the manufacturing process to another in durable packaging that lasts for many cycles before it needs to be replaced. Recyclable materials can be returned in reusable containers and replacement parts and other after-market goods can be distributed in reusable packaging that customers return for repeated use.

Planning for Reusability

The first step to a successful reusable packaging program is a thoroughly researched and well thought out plan. Brand owners need to solicit input from customers to find the best opportunities to incorporate reusable packaging downstream. Thorough analysis of current packaging systems provides opportunities to identify ways in which reusables will generate cost savings, and a well-researched list of suppliers will reveal sources to produce the items and materials you’ll need to implement a reusable packaging process throughout the supply chain.

Designing Reusable Solutions

While the planning stage provides an important overview of the process used to convert to reusable packaging materials, packaging engineers and sourcing experts need to adhere to a diligent design process to create a successful program. The new system must be designed for consistency with existing standards, such as pallet size, as well as take into account logistic needs. Equally as important, the new reusable system must provide protection for components that is on par with or better than traditional packaging to earn buy-in from stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, reusable solutions must integrate seamlessly with the customer’s supply chain for the program to succeed.

While those considerations are integral to buy-in from external stakeholders, design needs to account for additional considerations for internal stakeholders to understand reusables’ value. A successful program must balance durability with weight and easy of handling to control costs and ensure reusable solutions last long enough to generate savings. The new system must comply with health & safety standards and free up space that was previously used to store traditional packaging components for productive use. To prevent loss, an integrate a tracking system that monitors the location of reusable packaging as it moves through the supply chain can be incorporated. This allows for creation of a plan for storing the physical elements of the reusable program at each stop along the supply chain.

Prototyping and Testing

Because implementing reusable packaging involves an overhaul of so many pieces of your packaging process, it is important to make sure every element integrates seamlessly within the system before implementation. For this reason, a thorough testing process involving prototypes of each physical element is integral to the process. Many of the same suppliers identified during the planning stages can be leveraged to produce prototypes.

When it comes to package testing, there are a variety of options to consider. Consulting engineers and other high-level technical experts with knowledge of the product and its distribution provides valuable input to narrow down the list of standards to use for packaging tests. Testing standards that apply to reusable packaging include:

  • ISTA-3A: Packaged-Products for Parcel Delivery Shipment
  • ISTA-3B: Packaged-Products for Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipment
  • ASTM D7386-16: Single Pack Performance Test
  • ASTM D4169-09: Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems
  • FedEx 6A: Packaging Testing Under 150 Lbs.

Integration

Once the planning, design, and testing are completed and approved, a well-executed integration process will ensure the reusable packaging program gets off to a successful start, which is important for the longevity of the program. Proper introduction of the new reusable solution is also valuable to ensure that everyone who will handle the reusable packaging understands the new system. This will encourage correct use of the system, so that reusable items can circulate properly and return to their starting point after they are used.

Completing the transition from single-use packaging solutions to a true reusable packaging program can be a complicated process requiring a high level of input from technical experts. For brand owners who lack the resources or the manpower to complete the transition, Adept Packaging can help. Our team of Loop-certified packaging engineers have guided many brands through the transition. Our global network of suppliers enables our engineers to design, develop and qualify innovative reusable packaging solutions. Additionally, our sustainability team collaborates with our value optimization team to analyze opportunities for cost savings via transitioning to reusable packaging. They build the plans, design the details, manage the prototyping and testing process, and oversee integration to provide a smooth transition to a reusable packaging program that will save on costs and increase a brand’s sustainability efforts.

If you’re interested in talking to our experts, contact us! We’d love to hear from you.

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/

circular-economy-2

Closing the Circular Economy

The circular economy is the key to meeting challenging sustainability goals. Its success would mean that energy, resources and nutrients continue to bring value and are not wasted by being dumped, burned, or disposed of in other means. In the packaging world, there are a number of ways to close the circular economy.