What is Eco-Friendly Packaging? Why is it the Need of the Hour?
Eco-friendly packaging is any packaging material that is friendly to the environment and does not harm it in any way. For a packaging material to be eco-friendly, it should either be easily biodegradable and compostable, or something that can be reused and easily recycled when discarded. It is usually made of naturally derived materials and is nontoxic to the environment and living beings.
This ensures that the packaging waste generated does not harm the environment by accumulating over time.
Many companies have started using eco friendly packaging materials to pack their goods and have contributed greatly to protecting the environment and wildlife.
A simple example could be that a paper bag or a cardboard box is an eco-friendly packaging material, whereas things like single-use plastics are not eco-friendly.
Why Is Eco-Friendly Packaging The Need Of The Hour?
Edibles or cosmetics, decoration pieces or objects of everyday use, confectionery or toiletries- everything comes in packaging!
The things we use daily generate waste; the greatest amount of waste generated is not from the used product in itself as much of the packaging it comes in.
All these packaging materials are mostly thrown away into landfills, burnt in the open or incinerators, or dumped in the ocean. No matter the packaging material's fate, if it is non-biodegradable and non recyclable, it will add to the existing environmental pollution and may also introduce toxic chemicals in the air, land, water, and soil.
The pollution and the toxicity that enters the environment as a result of human activities not only degrades the environment and the animals that live in but also directly affects us humans who are a part of the environment. Here are some facts that explain why is eco friendly packaging the need of the hour and is here to stay!
- 10 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year worldwide.
- There are 380 million tonnes of plastic produced every year for a single purpose. This single-use plastic is used to carry anything from one place to another and is thrown away carelessly.
- The recycled plastic is less than 9% of all the plastic generated yearly.
- The people who recycle plastics restrict themselves to only a certain type of plastics; even from those, a large part remains as waste.
- It has been predicted by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050
- More than a million animals fall prey to plastic pollution every year and lose their lives. A recent example is the example of sea turtles that are getting increasingly affected due to the consumption of plastic waste dumped in the ocean.
- More and more waste is generated every year, and it is noted that the non-biodegradable waste generated from plastic materials like styrofoam, cello tape, plastic, and bubble wrap would take more than 400 years to degrade.
What Problems Does Usual Plastic Based Packaging Cause To The Environment?
When we think about conventional packaging materials, the items that come to our mind are materials like thermocol balls, foam sheets, bubble wraps, single-use plastic wraps and plastic containers. All these items might be very convenient, but reusing them, recycling them, or decomposing them is not feasible.
When millions of tonnes of such waste are generated and dumped into the environment, it does not decompose and rather stays as it is, causing havoc to natural resources, living organisms, and nature in general.
Apart from looking visually very dirty, these conventional packaging materials also release some toxic gasses or chemicals when they react with certain chemicals that are present naturally in the surroundings or are added as a result of pollution.
To add to this toxicity, the animals that live in such surroundings also unknowingly consume the packaging materials, and in most cases, they die because they cannot digest these non compostable items.
Packaging items like thermocol and plastic are very light, and it takes up a lot of space per unit mass, which is why in most cases, these items are burnt to compress them further and dispose off more easily.
But again, burning is toxic for the environment because when these synthetically produced polymers are burnt, they release toxic and sometimes even poisonous fumes to the living organisms and the surroundings.
Not only are the living beings affected by this, but there have also been many cases where the non-biodegradable waste has collected on the mouths of streams and caused flooding and change of course altogether. In short, conventional packaging has a hazardous effect on the environment.
Environmental Benefits Of Eco-Friendly Packaging:
- It reduces the carbon footprint by reducing the consumption of resources used for packaging.
- The resources that are used for the production of Eco-friendly packaging material are reused or recycled or are used to enrich the soil with nutrients if it is used as compost.
- Eco-friendly packaging materials help in saving the animals that are getting endangered as a result of such human activities.
- Eco-friendly packaging also is a lot more beneficial for humans. A recent study found that there is microplastic found in the human bloodstream. This indicates that the direct effect of plastic pollution is now being seen in humans.
- Eco-friendly packaging aims at cutting down the use of nonbiodegradable or biologically toxic materials and using materials that can be decomposed easily or reused. It also prevents the development of allergic reactions as a result of toxic substances developing and seeping into the usable products packed in them.
- The throwing of compostable, biodegradable materials in landfills can enrich the land by helping cultivate worms and insects beneficial for the soil through vermicomposting.
- Eco-friendly packaging ensures sustainability with the environment while providing the necessary comfort and convenience for the customers without the risks of the toxic effects of the conventional materials of packaging. The production of Eco-friendly materials for packaging is also very sustainable as it requires less energy and saves water, leading to a better effect on the environment during the production phase.
- It improves the general health of the environment by ensuring good health of the flora, fauna, and humans that live in it. Anything that is not natural and synthetically created that is released in an environment does have a detrimental effect.
The Packaging Material That Is Good For The Environment:
No matter how much we speak about the ill effects of packaging materials, packaging materials are a necessity. Proper packing ensures that the transported goods are in proper condition for use and can conveniently be stored at optimum conditions.
If you believe it is impossible to cut down on conventional packaging materials like styrofoam, thermocol, and most importantly, plastic- we are about to change your mind for good. Here are some of the packaging materials that are good for the environment and can be used as excellent eco-friendly packing materials:
1. Biodegradable packing peanuts
Packing peanuts are mostly made of styrofoam. Still, the biodegradable packing peanuts are made of a biodegradable substance like mushroom films or other protection items but can also be degraded very easily.
2. Corrugated paper
If you have to wrap something fragile and transport it, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably bubble wrap paper. But bubble wrap paper is not environmentally friendly, so the corrugated paper is quickly taking up its job. Just like bubble wrap paper acts as a shock absorber, so does corrugated paper but it can be reused, recycled, or even used as compost.
We are so heavily dependent upon plastic and we are so used to seeing our stuff in plastic that the absence of it creates a hollow. This hollow is filled with glassine, which looks very similar to plastic but is a smooth and glossy paper made up of wood pulp that is recyclable and biodegradable.
4. Cellulose packaging
If you think it is only plastic that can be used to wrap such stuff that requires waterproof packing, then you may be wrong! Cellulose is a natural polymer found in wood, cotton, and in general, the cell walls of plants- that is completely water and moisture-resistant. Since it is naturally derived, it can be used in compost or left to degrade in the soil, but it is so effective that food brands use it for packaging their food.
Corn starch is an edible powder made from corn. But recently, corn starch as a packaging material has been developed using poly lactic acid, another naturally occurring acid. Both these are 100% natural and do not possess any toxins. They can be decomposed easily and are nontoxic for the environment or humans.
Mushrooms are durable, spongy, and lightweight, which makes them ideal for packaging and transportation. Many companies have started using mushrooms under the name of bio form. It is sturdy, shock absorbent, and biodegrades like magic, adding to the fertility of the soil, or it can even be used to grow more mushrooms so that you have more packaging material produced from limited resources.
6. Kraft paper
Kraft paper is a thick paper made from wood pulp in which all elements of the wood are used, and none of them is actually disposed of. Every element used in the formation of kraft paper is natural and can be reused for making more paper or for any other natural purpose that does not harm the environment.
7. Straw and Husk
The straw and hard grains like wheat and maize can be used as a bioplastic or a filling material used to fill up the space left after placing the product that has to be shipped into a box. These can also be twisted into thin ropes or strings that can be used for time instead of synthetic strings.
8. Recycled plastic
Efforts are being made to recycle plastic, and using recycled plastic is a lot better than producing plastic in the first place. Recycled plastic is often used to make things like inflatable air pillows that can be used for safe transportation.
9. Reusable bags
Eco Friendly Bags made up of plant fibers like cotton and jute can become an excellent replacement for plastic bags as they serve the same purpose, but they are stronger. They can be reused an infinite number of times till they do not get worn out, and they also look a lot more beautiful than single-use plastic bags. Once a person has a shopping bag made of such plant fibers, they can carry it on all their shopping trips and live a sustainable life like this!
10. Glass or aluminum bottles
Glass and aluminum bottles are a lot better than plastic bottles when choosing a healthy environment and a healthy human. Both Glass and aluminum is neutral and does not react with most of the mild chemicals in drinks. It can also be reused and repurposed very easily which makes it environmentally friendly. They are also infinitely recyclable without losing their properties.
How Eco-Friendly Packaging Benefits Your Business?
Suppose you think eco-friendly packaging has nothing to do with your business, and you should choose it only and only because of its positive effects on the environment. In that case, it is time to rethink your business strategy. Here are some practical business takeaways that will help you understand how eco-friendly packaging benefits your business:
Many synthetically produced packaging materials are sensitive to temperature, pH, and moisture changes. As a result, the properties change, and they may start releasing toxic gasses or compounds. To ensure that the edibles that you deliver reach your customers in perfect conditions without any toxicity mixed in them, eco-friendly packaging business materials are what you should choose!
Eco friendly packaging businesses can also elevate your brand image in front of your customers. In the wake of the ill effects of conventional packing materials, those brands get the upper hand in using eco-friendly packaging materials because even the common person has realized the ill effects of conventional packaging materials. Just the use of Eco-friendly packaging material will prove to the customers that you care for the environment and will help you build a brand image.
You can spend less on generating single-use packaging materials and focus more on reusing packing materials, saving the cost you invest in the resources.
The production of Eco friendly packaging business materials is very simple as most materials are used in their natural form without the need for any electricity or complicated industrial processes. This saves the time and cost of production of packaging material.
The eco-friendly packaging business materials are very low maintenance, and you never have to worry about them affecting you or the environment in an ill way.
Paper tape- The amount of tape that is used in packaging the parcels for delivery is unmatched! Most of the delivered parcels arrive wrapped in tape like an Egyptian mummy! All this tape cannot be reused and it contributes to tonnes of plastic. The alternative to this is the use of paper tape which is as effective as the plastic tape when it comes to holding stuff together but it can be recycled or composted very easily to avoid waste build up and pollution.
Paper wrap- Paper wrap is the most popular form of packaging material that can be used to showcase your business no matter which industry you belong to. Paper wraps can have customized logos of your company on them or can even have attractive patterns to catch your customers' attention. Paper wraps can be recycled and used again and again so that you make it a minimal waste method of packaging.
When one-third of the total waste generated is from the packaging material, it becomes crucial to consider alternatives that a business can use for packaging without detrimental effects on the environment.
Big or small business- it is every individual's responsibility to ensure that whatever work they do does not harm the environment. After all, the Earth is our home; if we don't protect its resources, we might not have many more generations that could survive with the same convenience and ease like ours.
We see, hear and read news of various detrimental effects of synthetic materials on the environment every day, and now it's time we choose better for our business, our health and the environment we live in.
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