There are two very good reasons why you should consider switching to sustainable packing materials for your business’s products:
1. The UK government is shortly due to impose a £200 a tonne plastic tax
on plastic waste that contains less than 30% recycled plastic.
Of course, you could avoid that tax by using plastic packaging that contains 30% or more recycled plastic. However, even if the plastic you use in your packing materials is technically ‘recyclable’, in practice very little plastic is actually recycled. Many local authorities don’t have the facilities to recycle plastic (especially ‘soft’ plastic) and whilst some recycling points at supermarkets allow customers to recycle plastic packaging, relatively few customers do so.
2. Consumers are increasingly likely to avoid products that are wrapped in plastic or other non sustainable packing materials.
They know how little plastic is actually recycled, and several studies in the UK have shown very clearly that the public would rather avoid buying products wrapped in unsustainable packaging altogether.
So, even if you manage to avoid the plastic tax (by using partly recyclable plastic), you’re unlikely to impress your customers if you continue to use plastic packaging when there are alternative, sustainable packing materials available.
As a business owner, how can you transition to using sustainable packing materials? How practical is it to convert your packaging to eco-friendly alternatives?
Here are some current sustainable packing trends for your business to consider to entice customers to choose your products over your less eco-aware competitors.
1. Make your packaging fit the product
Reducing the size of your packaging reduces the amount of materials used, and takes up less room in delivery vehicles. You’ll also reduce the need to use packing fillers (see below), which can keep your costs down and meet the approval of your environmentally-aware customers.
2. Use biodegradable packing materials
One of the cheapest sustainable packing supplies you could use is simple cardboard. It’s 100% biodegradable and will degrade completely within a year.
Clean cardboard (not stained or contaminated) can be reused or recycled. Cardboard used to package foodstuff may be composted instead.
However, there are downsides to using cardboard: its production may require deforestation, and the environmental cost of recycling is problematic (e.g. the emissions created from transporting waste to be recycled, and from recycling itself).
3. Consider using bioplastics
Standard plastics are made from fossil fuels and never break down. Bioplastics are made from plant-based materials such as rice and vegetables. These aren’t recyclable, but they can be composted. An example of a bioplastic is PLA (polylactic acid), which can be used for food packaging and plastic bags, and can also be used as space fillers (see below).
4. Sustainable fillers (‘void fillers’)
If your boxes are too large for the products you’re sending to customers, you’ll need to fill the empty spaces so that the products don’t get damaged in transit. Traditionally, bubble wrap, air-filled plastic pockets, and polystyrene peanuts/packing chips are used as these are cheap and effective. They’re also unrecyclable and cannot be composted, though, so consumers really don’t like them.
Consider switching to paper fillers (which can be recycled/composted) or packing peanuts made from PLA or other biodegradable materials.
5. Recyclable packing tape
Cardboard can be recycled, but the packing tape that’s often used to seal the boxes for delivery is usually made from plastic. Recyclable packing tape, made from gummed reinforced paper rather than plastic, is readily available online.
6. Sustainable alternative to bubble wrap
Even if you’ve chosen the correct size of box for your products so that there’s minimal void to fill, if you sell delicate items you may want to wrap them in protective packaging. Rather than use bubble wrap, you could consider embossed paper rolls, which will protect your products before being recycled.
7. Returnable packaging
If you’re in the market of supplying goods, materials or products business-to-business, returnable packaging may be a viable option to boost your eco credentials. Drums, bulk containers, crates and pallets could all be used to deliver items and then returned (with a discount incentive) so that you can reuse them for other customers.
8. Edible film packaging
If you sell food products, you could look into chitosan, an edible, antibacterial film that can be used to package fruit and veg.
Switching to sustainable packaging supplies and storage
The cost of changing to recyclable packing materials is no longer as considerable as it once was. Several studies in the UK and abroad have found that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products that are packaged in sustainable materials. By offering sustainable, ethical packaging, you’ll demonstrate to your customers that you share their eco-friendly ethos and priorities.
Many of our customers are e-commerce businesses that store products, materials and equipment in our self storage units. Our stores use electricity from 100% renewable sources, and we are committed to reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill and carbon emissions by half. So, as well as promoting your use of sustainable packaging supplies, you could also assure your customers that your storage facilities are also focussed on sustainability.
For more information on how we’re reducing our carbon footprint, have a look at our sustainability goals