Sustainable Packaging is not just a buzzword, both brands and consumers are giving it a priority in branding and buying decisions. Renewable and recyclable packaging aka eco-friendly packaging is no longer an option but more of a necessity as eco-conscious consumers push brands towards being more socially and environmentally responsible. Renewable raw materials are natural resources that are easy to grow and can be restored in a short period of time.
Innovative packaging solution providers have combined renewable raw materials with the most recent technology and innovative design to produce effective, efficient and greener packaging solutions.
Currently, packaging is made of conventional materials like plastic and cardboard, this works well because their value chains have been optimized. However, the focus needs to shift to renewable raw materials bearing in mind the finite nature of resources. There is increasing interest in some renewable raw materials that can be used as sustainable packaging in the place of conventional plastic.
Cardboard and paper pulp have been favourites for a while now since paper is sustainable, resource-saving, efficient and recyclable. Here are a few other alternatives that have become more attractive.
Grass Paper: Grass Paper is made into a packaging material as an alternative to industrial material while designing cardboard boxes. It is a very flexible material and can be used in a variety of applications and sizes. Grass is an innovative packaging solution as it is a sustainable material that grows abundantly, is renewable, is naturally sourced, and can be harvested multiple times a year in large quantities. Other advantages of grass are that it is available in different grammages, mixing ratios and finished variants. It also provides natural habitats for bees and insects.
Cotton: Bijoutier cotton wool is most commonly used as a packaging insert material or filling material. It can be used instead of foam inserts. Cotton consists exclusively of renewable raw materials, it is completely biodegradable and eco friendly if grown organically. Cotton is used in the packaging of jewellery as it protects from unwanted tarnishing.
Bamboo: Bamboo packaging is based on using the renewable raw material, bamboo. The raw material is usually untreated making it completely biodegradable. It is already a popular product in the food industry as it does not release any substance into the product it packages. As a sustainable packaging product, it is highly durable and versatile. It grows abundantly in nature which makes it an ideal biodegradable, renewable resource.
Milk Protein: Packaging with milk protein has been developed by a French start-up company, Lactips. They have developed bioplastic pellets which can be transformed into a water-soluble film. This packaging film is edible and more effective than oil-based film. The effectiveness of the film is due to milk protein casein which has five hundred times the oxygen-blocking effects of oil-based films. Bioplastic films made of milk protein can keep food fresh for longer, they can also be used to heat their contents, e.g. soup and be eaten together. The film is biodegradable and takes eighteen days to compost.
Algae: Containers are being made entirely out of algae by a British start-up Notpla. They created Ooho, an innovative packaging alternative to plastic. Designed to be used for beverages, these containers are 100% biodegradable as well as edible and only take a few weeks to break down when thrown away. They are mottled to imitate the outer skin/shell of the fruit, making the product completely biological and replacing the need for beverage bottles completely. Algae containers have already been used at Roland Garros and the London Marathon.
Mushroom Mycelium: Packaging with mushroom mycelium is an innovative natural alternative to polystyrene moulds. Econovate, an American company produces packaging from biological waste which is hemp hurds. They use mushrooms to consume the biological waste and grow into the shape of the mould required. The material takes seven days to grow, it is then exposed to intense heat to stop the mycelium from growing further. This high performing packaging solution is 100% biobased, cost-competitive, thermally insulating, water-resistant and best suited to package fragile products. It composts in forty-five days when put into the soil.
Micro-fibrillated Cellulose: this substance is made of plant waste, it is stiffer than carbon fibre yet lighter than both carbon fibre and glass. MFC is made of sustainable material, it not only makes packaging stronger it also creates an oxygen and moisture barrier.
Moulded Fibre: Moulded fibre packaging is not new. The improvement is actually about printing technology now making it more sustainable. High-resolution coloured graphics can now be directly printed on the packaging making labels and secondary packaging in many cases redundant.
Although some of the alternative materials mentioned above are not yet ready for mass production, due to economic or technical reasons they offer options and predictions of a more sustainable future for packaging material. It must be remembered though that plant-based innovative packaging solutions should not endanger rainforests, wood-based products should be made from sustainably sourced forests, eco-friendly packaging needs to also be sustainable, and sustainable packaging also needs to be ethical. Sustainable product packaging should also be coupled with sustainable package design.
At Ficus Pax, we love to talk about sustainable packaging materials and design. Drop us a line to discuss your needs and to get our creativity flowing.