Protective Packaging and Sustainability: All You Need to Know Today

Protective Packaging

Whatever the size of your company, you’re looking at protective packaging carefully: you need sustainable packaging solutions.  

The Australian Packaging Covenant Organization (APCO) established challenging National Packaging Targets for 2025. In a nutshell, by 2025 100% of Australia’s packaging should be reusable, recyclable or compostable—and a full 70% of plastic packaging should be recyclable or compostable too. 

Although achieving the targets seemed unlikely a few years ago, the packaging industry has taken them on board. New and innovative packaging solutions hit the news regularly.  

Companies are finding that eco-friendly and sustainable packaging pleases consumers; moreover it lowers costs. For example, recently Australia Post announced that its satchel packaging range would use recyclable plastic. Many companies are making similar changes. 

However, what does “sustainable” packaging mean? 

Protective Packaging

What is sustainable packaging? 

Although packaging performs other functions too, its essential function is product protection. Packaging must protect products and deliver them to customers safely and securely. Sustainable packaging fulfills all required packaging functions with minimal environmental impact. 

Today, consumers and end users expect packaging to be eco-friendly. A company’s reputation benefits when it meets consumer expectations. Reduced packaging and transport costs via improved packaging and transportation logistics also reduce companies’ costs and enhance productivity and profits. 

Today’s challenge: find and implement sustainable packaging solutions  

With entire industries, such as the automotive industry, looking for sustainable, reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging solutions, your packaging options are growing. 

1. Reusable packaging: the ultimate in sustainability 

“Returnable” is the new buzzword in reusable packaging. Reusable materials include metal, wood, plastic, glass and foam.  

Entire supply chains are making the switch to reusable packaging, with the Asia Pacific region leading the way. This is due to the large numbers of manufacturers and suppliers in China and Asia. 

Despite the challenge of distance and time, technology makes reusable packaging possible. Implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) platform, sensors are embedded in bulk containers, small containers, dunnage, racks, and pallets. These sensors ensure reusability via tight shipping loops. 

The automotive, food and beverage, health and medicine, consumer durables, and construction industries are all involved in returnable and reusable packaging.  

Initially, reusable packaging costs are higher than for disposable packaging, because these sustainable packaging supplies require durability. However, the benefits are huge. Returnable packaging offers reduced waste, reduced costs, and also reduces transportation damage to goods.  

2. Recyclable and sustainable packaging offers benefits and opportunities 

Sparked by China’s “greening” policies, and its 2018 ban on importing other countries’ recyclable trash, Australia’s huge recycling sector is developing programs and innovations to deal with the situation.  

Most Australian state governments are investing in recycling programs, with the Queensland state government investing $2.1 billion with a goal of developing a zero-waste society.  

Both consumers and governments support recyclable and sustainable packaging: it offers benefits for companies too.  

These can include: 

  • Cost-savings, especially in shipping costs, when packaging is redesigned or reused. An emphasis on lightweight packaging, as well as on the use of recycled materials, helps companies and consumers; 
  • Improved customer appreciation, and loyalty. Both consumers and companies are on board with recycling and sustainability. Let your customers know that your packaging is designed for sustainability when you develop your marketing materials; 
  • Additional savings when waste is reduced. How much could you save if you prioritized waste reduction in packaging? 

Many companies have seen the call for sustainable packaging increase after the big rise in e-commerce due to COVID challenges. When higher numbers of boxes arrive at businesses and at homes, coping with  numerous cardboard boxes, plastic inserts, and plastic bags is a headache. It’s an irritation too and can lead to customer annoyance at companies which send them overly-packaged goods. 

Many consumers are confused about recycling. This offers an opportunity to assist your customers. Use clear labeling to show which items of your packaging may be recycled; or even reused.  

Consider ways you could use more recycled materials in your packaging. Consider innovation too. Innovation can be a challenge. Many companies meet this challenge by making your products’ containers reusable, or increasing the storage in a product package.  

3. Compostable packaging: sustainable, and a growth sector 

Compostable packaging is seeing both innovation and growth. Packaging supplies which are compostable include products made of paper, cardboard, plant-based packing peanuts and other materials, as well as bio-plastics. 

As with recyclable packaging, the compostable and biodegradable packaging sector has seen huge growth. However, consumers are confused by the term “compostable” when it’s used for eco-friendly packaging. Most consumers are unaware that not all compostable packaging is compostable at home—much is only compostable commercially. 

Companies which use compostable packaging can help consumers by labelling their packaging clearly. Home compostable packaging supplies include packaging made from corn starch, sorghum grain, and mushroom mycelium.  

Corrugated cardboard and other paper packaging is usually only suitable for commercial composting; it requires shredding and other treatments. 

Eco-friendly, sustainable protective packaging has benefits for your business 

Those benefits can include reduced overall costs, because waste is minimized. It can also include reduced transportation costs via fresh packaging solutions and innovations.