A guide WITH THE BEST KNOW-HOW AND TIPS FOR using nine sustainable packaging alternatives FOR YOUR BRAND
We at FAIRLING have the mission to connect brands and retailers from all around the world and to make the world of wholesale a better and more sustainable place.
In our How To & Tips guide on this blog we want to give you the best possible advice for your business so you are ready for takeoff with the most important tips and advice. Today’s advice will be all about using more sustainable packaging alternatives for your brand and what you can do to make the world a little better.
The environmental facts
- In Germany alone, 3.9 billion parcels are sent out annually
- Environmentally harmful materials can be easily replaced with ecological alternatives
- We will talk about innovative alternatives for reusable shipping boxes eliminate packaging waste
Sustainable packaging? So far, only very few people think about this. This became particularly clear during COVID-19. Instead of eating on porcelain plates at the restaurant, food is ordered and packed in styrofoam as well as plastic. It’s no surprise that plastic waste has increased by about 10% since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the German recycling company Der Grüne Punkt.
Many packages and deliveries in all kinds of business sectors are wrapped in plastic, while sensitive goods are additionally protected with bubble wrap and finally shipped in cardboard boxes. In most cases, these end up directly in the trash after arrival, which is why mountains of waste are generated, most of which consists of non-recyclable materials.
Why is conventional packaging problematic?
Plastic sleeves, Styrofoam, bubble wrap as well as labels are made of plastics based on fossil raw materials such as petroleum. And shipping boxes are not really environmentally friendly either, despite their material origin. Sure, paper and cardboard are made of wood and are therefore at least biodegradable.
However, countless trees are felled for this purpose. It takes about 300 kilograms of wood, 5,000 liters of water, 1,000 kWh of energy and 110 kilograms of Co2 just to produce 100 kilograms of paper. In view of the huge volume of parcels, the importance of sustainable packaging cannot be overstated.
What are the alternatives for environmentally friendly packaging?
Basically, it must be stated that not sending a package is even better than choosing a sustainable packaging alternative. Thus, one’s own consumption behavior should be reconsidered as well as adjusted first of all. The easy-to-remember rule of thumb is: Reduce, reuse, recycle. But of course, if you are a brand shipping nationally and internationally, this is easier said than done. You still want to provide your customers and retailers with your awesome products. This is why we are talking about more sustainable options that you could think about.
Field of application: packaging for cosmetics & jewelry
Advantages: Renewable resource, biodegradable as well as reusable (for refill models).
Disadvantages: Depending on the type of wood, relatively heavy & contributes to deforestation.
Field of application: shipping boxes, filling material, wrapping paper as well as packaging for various goods.
Advantages: Renewable raw material, recyclable & lightweight.
Disadvantages: Contributes to deforestation & gets damaged quickly
Field of application: Mainly used as packaging for food
Advantages: Recyclable by melting down, reusable without damage, as well as safe for foods
Disadvantages: Limited impact resistance, heavier than plastic, glass production and recycling requires a lot of energy.
Field of application: food packaging, garbage bags & filling material.
Advantages: Usually consists of renewable raw materials & is usually biodegradable
Disadvantages: Doesn’t decompose fast enough as well as greenwashing and/or label fraud
Field of application: thermal packaging
Advantages: Insulating effect like EPS, quickly renewable as well as soil-friendly raw material.
Disadvantages: So far only a few areas of application
Field of application: Filling material
Advantages: Lightweight, shock absorbing, non-toxic & consists of renewable resources.
Disadvantages: Comparatively expensive
Alternatives for cardboard boxes, tape & filling material
If goods are shipped, cardboard boxes are preferable to plastic bags. These can be recycled several times. Thus, it is worthwhile to collect cardboard boxes of different sizes as well as to reuse them. Dedicated shipping cardboard boxes as well as shoe boxes or cardboard packaging are suitable for this purpose – any packaging that is used several times saves the environment. However, if the purchase of a cardboard box cannot be avoided, the recycling lines of the major manufacturers are recommended.
There is more and more paper tape as an environmentally friendly counterpart to its plastic predecessor. Additional tip: Gifts can also be wrapped without adhesive tape. Creative instructions for this can be found on the web. It’s also a great idea to sew gift bags with a ribbon to close them and use them again and again.
With fragile objects it simply needs filling material for protection. However, for clothing as well as other insensitive things you do not necessarily need filling material. Therefore it is best to pack the shipment in the smallest box possible, so that there is no space at all that requires filling material.
If filling material must be used, there are several good alternatives to bubble wrap like:
- old newspapers as well as old wrapping paper
- wood wool & corrugated padding
- sustainable cushioning chips (for example made of corn starch)
What other innovations are there in terms of sustainable packaging?
There are now some interesting approaches to reusable shipping containers. Some manufacturers rely on sturdy, impact-resistant plastic boxes. These can be used up to 1000 times and do not require any filling material at all. The reason: holders inside the box make it possible to lash down the goods.
Some providers even implement a GPS tracker and a camera inside their boxes. When online purchases are received in such a shipping container, it can be reused for returns, dropped off at a collection point or picked up by a service provider at the customer’s door. This creates a reusable cycle that massively reduces the packaging waste of online orders.
Conclusion: Less is more
Packaging without plastic, etc. is an important development. The more plastic is saved, the better it is for people and the environment. However, the credo should not be to find more and more alternatives to packaging. It is better to fundamentally question the packaging mania. This starts with changes in your everyday life such as foods and everyday products:
- Buy individual vegetables and fruits instead of shrink-wrapped packages.
- Buy foil-free dishwasher tabs
- Take reusable boxes with you to the take-away or the unpacked store
As a general rule, less is always more – especially when ordering and shipping online. When shopping online, it’s important to make sure the seller offers eco-friendly shipping and offsets their own Co2 emissions. Furthermore, if goods are regularly delivered in boxes that are too large, requiring a lot of filler, the retailer can be emailed to ask them to change this. The list of things that each individual can do is long.
Looking for more inspiration?
If you are still looking for some more inspiration about how you as a brand can use more sustainable alternatives, you should check out these innovative brands!
Wearetreed for example uses local wood and wheat straw plastics for their products. They use minimalist packaging and plant a tree for every item that is sold.
Eökke is an eco-friendly stationery brand using no common plastic at all. Instead they use biodegradable foil that is decomposable.
Even if there are times when wholesaling seems more difficult, it’s still important to be visible and tell the shops about your great products. Maybe you got some ideas from this article and found inspiration on how to make your ads on FAIRLING interesting.
If this was an old hat for you, you are probably searching for some resellers for your products. We would love to help you find those. Just book a free demo call and we will be very happy to talk with you about your possibilities or answer your questions!
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