With increasing incomes and customer preferences, the packaging is becoming an important aspect in the marketing of products.
There are billions of packaged products purchased and shipped daily. Each of these creates waste and some traditional form of packaging may not be recyclable which creates further problems for the environment.
Green packaging also known as sustainable packaging provides a potential solution to this problem.
Green packaging makes use of materials and manufacturing processes which have a low impact on energy conservation and on the environment.
Consumers are also becoming highly informed and conscious of the importance of environment conservation.
A recent study shows that 70% of consumers are more likely to prefer products with green packaging and a concern for the environment.
The green packaging industry is growing steadily. In 2015, the global green packaging market was estimated at $212 billion and is expected to grow to $274 billion by the year 2020.
In this article, we will talk about:
- what is 3R principle?
- green packaging materials
- green packaging examples
The biggest market for green packaging is the Asia-Pacific region, followed by Europe and North America.
In addition to changing consumer preferences, government regulations globally are also driving the sustainable packaging market.
the use of green packaging offers many benefits like reduction in waste, recycling of the used product packaging, cleaner production process, and most importantly reducing the threat on the environment.
The highly popular 3R principle refers to reduce, reuse, and recycle in the context of production and consumption.
The different stages of the 3R principle and its significance are discussed below:
The concept of reducing what is produced and what is consumed is important in the waste management hierarchy.
This is the first concept of the 3R principle and it emphasizes using only what is important.
It is based on the simple premise that if we consume less then the resulting waste will also be lesser.
Reducing the amount of waste at the source being produced is the best way to conserve the environment.
If the amount of waste is controlled and reduced at the first step itself then there will be minimal need for moving to the other stages of the 3R principle for managing waste.
It is important for individuals to assess their consumption patterns and decide which items are mandatory and which can be negotiated.
A start can be made by preferring usage of multi-use items which will contribute towards reducing waste.
A coffeepot and a coffee maker serve different purposes though a coffeepot with steaming function can serve the purpose of both the products alone, thereby reducing the need for buying both the products separately.
When such products are used, it means that the customers are using lesser products and this reduces the amount of production of unnecessary products and also reduces the amount of packaging needed for it.
There are times when people end up purchasing products that they do not necessarily need due to impulse buying behavior or when the products are being sold at discounted prices.
When they rationalize their consumption patterns and consume only the strictly required products, it leads to a considerable reduction in wastage at the source.
There are many other ways to reduce waste like printing on both sides of the paper, using electronic communication instead of hard copy, using paper and cloth bags, avoid using of plastic made disposable plates and cups, etc.
The customers should also avoid buying products with excessively unnecessary packaging as, after removal, the packaging mostly ends up in landfills which poses a threat to the environment.
The second stage of the 3R principle is reuse. Where reducing the waste is not possible then they should be reused.
This concept stresses the importance of reusing a product more than once. The product can be used for the same purpose or for a different purpose.
Using a returnable milk container every day for the same purpose or old food product packaging jars for storage are examples of effective reusing of the products.
Even repairing the old products and donating them to charity or other institutions is an example of reusing the products.
Reusing the products is preferred to recycling as there is no need to reprocess the product before it can be reused which leads to saving of money and reduces the adverse impact on the environment.
Building systems to reuse old items or to repurpose them for a different use than what they were originally intended for is an important step in the hierarchy of waste management.
Another excellent example of reusing of products is the construction of modular homes and offices made from the discarded shipping containers.
This has to a great extent solved the problem of managing the waste generated from the large discarded shipping containers. It also saves the cost of recycling them.
The reuse concept is well established even in the developed countries and countries like Japan, Sweden, Belgium, and Denmark the index of reuse of solid waste is more than 90%.
Japan has planned industry clusters where the waste of one industry is used as the resource of other industries. Even in developing countries, the concept of reuse is catching up.
China is committed to avoiding the use of plastic bags, hence it has created a policy since 2008 which asks the customers to pay for the plastic bags if they do not bring their own plastic bags with them.
This encourages the reuse of plastic bags.
The last stage in the 3R principle and the hierarchy of waste management is to recycle.
When the waste cannot be reduced at source and reusing of the product is also not possible, then the product has to be recycled.
Recycling is the process of taking a product at the end of its lifecycle and transforming it into a raw material which can be again used for creating new products.
Recycling requires the community to be conscious of the waste being produced by them and sorting the waste effectively for handing it over to the facilities for recycling it.
While the collection and sorting of the waste items are affordable to execute, the facilities for recycling may not be widely available.
The customers need to be aware of the potential threats to the environment from waste generation.
They should buy products which are recyclable which is the first step towards an efficient recycling process.
An effective recycling process also requires sorting and arranging the different materials so that they can be efficiently recycled.
Recycling reduces the need for additional raw materials for creating new products. This reduces the environmental footprint of the products.
Recycling ensures that the discarded products are not disposed of in the landfills or ocean beds where they can cause significant damage to the environment.
Countries like China have been taking serious steps toward achieving high recycling rates. It has set up numerous recycling facilities and disposal waste cooperatives.
Resource recycling of domestic waste is a major emerging trend in China and is important for energy saving and ensuring eco-friendliness in the long-term.
China also had one of the highest rates of emission reduction at 46%.
It must, however, be understood that recycling is a manufacturing process in itself and it also entails adverse impact on the environment, though the impact is less than disposing of the waste in landfills and ocean beds.
Recycling should be used as the last alternative when reducing waste or reusing the product is not feasible.
Materials Used for Green Packaging
There has been a clear move towards using green packaging by the brands. The green packaging not only helps to protect the environment, but it also projects a positive image of the companies among the customers.
There have been rapid technological advancements on materials used for green packaging. Some of the common materials being used for green packaging are discussed below:
Aqueous Barrier Coatings
The aqueous barrier coatings offer a great packaging alternative to the laminated structures.
The coatings significantly enhance the fiber products by preventing moisture penetration into the packaging and thereby preventing the chances of spoilage and contamination of the product.
The greatest advantage of the aqueous barrier coatings is that they are eco-friendly and sustainable, unlike the laminated structures.
The use of the new aqueous barrier coatings has been increasing steadily and it is being preferred over the laminated structures which are non-recyclable and pose environmental threats.
Molded Fiber Printing
Molded fiber printing is not a new technology but it has evolved considerably over time.
with the use of the new technology, it is possible to print high-quality and high-resolution four-color graphics directly on the surface of the molded fiber packaging.
This eliminates the need for any additional labels and stickers on the packaging. It also has the added benefit of visually appealing graphics which can attract the customer’s attention.
It is a sustainable packaging form as there is no need for additional outer packing and labels. It is also a cost-effective packaging solution.
Lightweight insulations are widely used for hot or cold applications.
This temperature-controlling packaging material provides many benefits over the traditionally used packaging materials like the expanded polystyrene (EPS).
The lightweight insulation material is commercialized in Europe and is commonly used as shrouds over dolly, roll cages, and pallets.
These shrouds maintain chilled temperatures for more than 3 hours and are particularly useful for stores having limited refrigeration and high turnover.
The material is sustainable and eco-friendly, unlike the EPS which is not recyclable.
Micro Fibrillated Cellulose (MCF)
Micro fibrillated cellulose is a unique fiber extracted from plant waste.
It is used to increase the strength and durability of the packaging material and also enhancing the oxygen and moisture barrier properties of the packaging material.
The desired features can be achieved with very minimal addition of the MCF to the existing substrate.
An addition of 1% of MCF to an existing substrate can lead to an increase in product performance improvement to the extent of 15-20%.
Micro-Patterned Packaging Materials
Micro-patterning, new technology is being used for making the cups for hot beverages easier to hold and grip.
This micropatterning make the cups more user-friendly. There is no impact on the branding and graphic representation on the cup due to micropatterning.
The technology though provides improved grip, comfort, and handling of hot beverages.
It also slows down the condensation formation and vastly improves performance characteristics.
Examples of Green Packaging Influencing Customers
Companies are moving towards green packaging for influencing the customers.
There are many benefits of green packaging which the marketers can take advantage of.
The move towards green and sustainable packaging is triggered by a sense of environmental conservation and also by the government regulations pushing for eco-friendly packaging.
The customers take note of brands which adopt green packaging and prefer to buy those brands.
Green packaging has also been known to increase the sales of the brands which further stresses its significance in the competitive market.
there are brands which have successfully adopted green packaging. The examples of effective and successful green packaging are discussed below:
Dell has been one of the first companies to offer worldwide recycling to its clients.
They have come up with an innovative packaging solution made from bamboo. The company uses this bamboo made cushioning for some of its products.
The company wanted to use a renewable and recyclable material for packaging in its endeavor to be eco-friendly.
Their unique and innovative bamboo cushions have been recognized widely and have received a D-6400 certification from the American Society for Testing and Materials.
The cushions are 100% recyclable and degrade when added to a hot and active compost pile.
The bamboo cushions are also not photo-toxic which means that it will not harm the plants that grow from it.
Amazon-Frustration Free Packaging
Amazon introduced its frustration free packaging. It is designed and also tested to be delivered to customers in its own packaging without the need for outer packaging materials.
This has resulted in the elimination of 11,200 tons of packaging in the first five years of its introduction.
The frustration free packaging offers a more green and sustainable packaging option that is made from 100% recyclable materials and fits the right sized.
It also does away with any plastic clamshells and wire ties which make it convenient to open.
According to Iqsdirectory, IKEA, another global retail giant, has announced its plans to push mushroom-based packaging as a renewable, eco-friendly alternative to polystyrene. Polystyrene is either difficult or impossible to recycle, depending on surrounding resources, initiatives, and packaging design.