Our Let’s Get Sustainable series spotlights Klarna retailers and partners who are setting an example for the industry through effective efforts to protect both people and the planet.
2021 is an excellent time to be running an e-commerce business. According to Digital Commerce 360, online retail sales in the US increased 32% year over year in 2020 and were up 39% in Q1 2021 with the global pandemic accelerating the adoption of online shopping. While great news for businesses, this isn’t always great news for the environment.
Commonly used packaging like plastic poly mailers is generally used once and then trashed in landfills, and plastic packaging is responsible for almost half of the global total of plastic waste.
Thankfully, eco-friendly packaging is fast becoming the norm for businesses and there are many alternatives to wasteful packaging.
What is eco-friendly packaging?
Eco-friendly packaging is created to minimize the impact of shipping on the environment. Instead of materials ending up in landfills after one use, eco-friendly packaging can be composted, reused, or recycled.
The materials used are ethically and responsibly sourced, reducing the impact on the environment during the manufacturing process. Examples of this include using recycled paper instead of new wood pulp, or soy-based inks instead of petroleum-based inks.
Why should you be using eco-friendly packaging?
Because it’s the preferred choice by shoppers. People want to purchase from brands making responsible decisions and helping them lessen their impact on the environment as consumers.
Nielsen found 66% of global consumers and 73% of millennials are willing to spend more for sustainable goods, while 48% of consumers are willing to change their consumption habits to lower their environmental impact.
Also, it’s the right thing to do for our planet. As Sir David Attenborough’s eye-opening documentary and the recent United Nations climate change report show, action needs to be taken as a global collective.
What are some common misconceptions about eco-friendly packaging?
Sustainable packaging is plain or ugly. False! Great design and eco-friendly options aren’t mutually exclusive. Sustainable packaging options like recycled tissue paper, compostable stickers, and reusable tote bags can all be customized with a brand’s logos, colors, and illustrations for a one-of-a-kind packaging experience.
Sustainable packaging is more expensive. Companies like noissue offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to ensure smaller brands can easily access sustainable packaging options and eco-friendly packaging is affordable to businesses of all sizes.
What kinds of eco-friendly are available?
Compostable packaging is made from plant-based materials like corn or wheat and bio-polymers. These materials help the packaging break down in compost. In order to be certified compostable, packaging must break down within 180 days in a home compost and 90 days in a commercial compost. Current items available include compostable mailers, stickers, cards, and shipping labels. Compostable mailers can be small (6.5” x 9”) and perfect for smaller items like jewelry, or larger (14.5” x 18.8”), which is good for bulkier items like clothing.
Recycled packaging is made from previously used single-use plastic bags, bottles, and paper. These materials are processed at recycling facilities and put back into circulation, doubling their lifespan, conserving natural resources, preventing pollution, and reducing the collection of new raw materials. Examples include recycled plastic mailers, boxes, tissue paper, and tape. Recycled mailers may be small (6.5” x 9”) which is great for small items like cosmetics, to up to 14.5 x 18.8 inches in size, which is best for larger shipments like home goods items and gifts.
Reusable packaging is packaging designed to be used more than once and has a built-in secondary (or ongoing) use. It’s usually designed to be durable and easily cleaned to promote reuse—examples include reusable mailer bags or tote bags. Tote bags usually come in a large size, 15.75″ x 15.75″, which could fit clothes, art prints, or home and gift items. Those tote bags are a great way to also further market your brand, giving you a low-cost way for more people to see your name and logo.
How to select the right kind of eco-friendly packaging for your brand?
There is no single right answer, as each type of packaging has its own unique benefits. However, it does help if you know your customers’ capabilities because they are the ones responsible for fulfilling the packaging’s correct end-of-life cycle.
Compostable packaging requires more knowledge and effort on the end user’s part because the packaging must be disposed of in a commercial or home compost. Brands should make sure they communicate this in either printed or online communications.
Recycled packaging is easier to dispose of as it can be recycled curbside or anywhere soft plastics are accepted. Good recycling facilities are widespread worldwide. However, it’s still important for brands to educate customers on the appropriate category (plastics, paper, etc) so the packaging goes to the right recycling plant.
In order for reusable packaging to have its desired sustainable impact, it must be used more than once. Brands need to be clear and educate customers on how this packaging can be reused in order for them to get the most out of it, and then encourage them to do so.
Start your sustainable packaging journey today and become part of the solution.
Elly Strang is digital editor at noissue. Want to find compostable, reusable or recycled options for your packaging? noissue lets you design your own branded eco-friendly tissue paper, stickers, tape, and more. Simply upload your design, logo, or illustration, and we’ll do the rest. Learn more about our packaging options here.