5 eco-friendly packaging alternatives to plastic
With many businesses trying to reduce their impact on the environment and mitigate the well-publicised plastic crisis, the team at Paramount are always on the lookout for newly-emerging eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastic packaging that won’t have a detrimental impact on your costs or supply-chain processes.
The upsurge in businesses trying to reduce their use of plastic has inspired a huge increase in new eco-friendly alternatives on the market, including biodegradable containers and recycled agricultural waste.
Here are a few eco-friendly packaging alternatives to get you thinking.
Paper & cardboard
Switching to paper and carboard alternatives is the simplest and often the most affordable solution to reduce your environmental impact. Over 72% of paper consumption in Europe is recycled, making it one of the most recycled of all materials. It can be used as an alternative for a packaging container, mould or protective stuffing. For example, upcycled corrugated cardboard is a fantastic eco-friendly alternative to plastic bubble wrap, as it can be just as effective at protecting against shocks.
However, you should bear in mind that although these materials are organic, if they are not sourced sustainably, then using them can also have a negative impact on the environment. Try to use recycled paper and cardboard that’s been sourced post-consumer or post-industrial. You can also have further reassurance using FSC-certified products, as these will be sourced from sustainably-managed forests.
Corn-starch, or similar sugar-based packaging, is sustainable, cheap and easy to produce. The polylactic acid, which is made from fermented sugars, such as corn-starch, has plastic-like properties which make it a suitable alternative for any products reliant on plastics, like bottles, straws, moulded forms and loose-fill containers. When disposed of correctly, the corn-starch-based material will break down into carbon dioxide and water within several months, or longer if there is no oxygen or light available.
You heard that right! Mushroom packaging is a cheap and eco-friendly packaging alternative that can be used for smaller items. It is made from agricultural waste which is cleaned and then mixed with mushroom roots, also known as mycelium. The material can be moulded into whatever shape is desired and can biodegrade very quickly, either by composting it at home or breaking it down into non-toxic, organic matter.
Seaweed-based packaging is a particularly suitable plastic replacement for packaging small-format foods, like sandwiches, small seasoning packets, cereals and fast food wraps. It has a lifespan of 2 years when stored in a cool and dry environment. Its high-barrier properties mean it can be used to increase the shelf life of meat, poultry and dairy products. Not only is this type of packaging completely natural (and edible!), but it is 100% biodegradable and works as a natural fertilizer for plants when decomposed.
Eco-friendly & recycled plastics
Sometimes a product might require something more durable than paper, carboard or a biodegradable material. There are now many recycled plastics readily available; which are made from 100% recycled plastic, so when it is absolutely necessary, this could also be a viable option for you. And if it can be reused or recycled again, even better! Some plastics can be recycled 10 times or more.
As a leading supplier of Fuji Machinery & Co Ltd’s horizontal flow wrapping machines, our machines are able to process eco-friendly materials including biodegradable, biocompostable and recyclable packaging. If you’re exploring how to reduce your carbon footprint or use of plastic packaging, speak to our team on 01252 815 252.