Exploring sustainable methods of packaging is the need of the hour. As the environment degrades day by day, it is high time that we take a stand and act differently to protect nature.
Companies like Amazon, Flipkart, Bigbasket, etc., ship millions of packages globally every day. Among them, Amazon alone ships 5 billion packages per year globally. Particularly, food and medicine items are packed in a range of plastic jars with lids. Although packaged products delivered at our homes provide a lot of convenience, they are not good for our environment. Packaging done with plastic polymers such as Styrofoam and especially the rings around bottles add up to lots of wastage that are neither biodegradable nor recyclable.
Searching a solution for this huge environmental problem has led to ‘green packaging’, also known as ‘sustainable packaging’. This packaging method uses such materials and manufacturing techniques that reduce energy usage and the hazardous effects of chemicals on the environment. In other words, the green packaging market involves the usage of recyclable and bio-degradable packing material rather than plastic and Styrofoam.
What are the types of green packaging?
There are mainly two types of green packaging:
|Types of Green Packaging||Description|
|Recycled Content Packaging||This type of packaging includes converting the item into a raw material that can be used again. For example, paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc.|
|Reusable Packaging||In reusable packaging, the item is not converted into raw material and re-used as it is. For instance, drum, plastic container, etc.|
As per the recent report by Grand View Research, the market size of the Indian green packaging industry is expected to reach $27.1 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 8.4% from 2020 to 2027. Implementation of the ban on plastic packaging is expected to increase the prices of goods, eliminate low-priced products, and will also result in better hygiene and food safety. Many companies in India have already started using sustainable packaging in response to consumer demands.
Currently, more than 70% of PET plastic is re-used in India, however, the technologies which are related to the economically using all plastic waste already exist in our country. In this regard, a few companies in India are focusing on converting plastic waste into fuel.
What are the benefits of green packaging?
Green packaging serves many benefits. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
- Reduce the dependency on fossil fuels: Green packaging involves zero or minimal usage of fossil fuels that reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing the packaging.
- Easy disposal: The packaging material used will be either compostable or recyclable. If you have composting facilities, then you can convert the waste packaging into compost or if your packaging says that it can be recycled, then, it can be thrown away in recycle bin for re-use.
- Improves your goodwill: Using green packaging will surely create a good impression of your company in the market that you are concerned about the environment.
- Saves from toxic plastics: Petrochemical products cause a lot of pollution resulting in many serious illnesses for humans. By using green packaging, we can not only save the environment but also save humans from getting sick.
Which green packaging solutions are trending worldwide?
The companies have adopted novel ways of green packaging that are definitely going to be the future of packaging. A few of them are listed below:
1. Biodegradable packaging peanuts
Biodegradable packaging peanuts is a good alternative to Styrofoam or EPS (Expanded Polystyrene Foam) packaging that is neither biodegradable nor recyclable. Styrofoam packaging often ends up in water bodies that affect marine life. Peanuts are an economical substitute that does not pollute the environment.
2. Corrugated bubble wrap
Remember the bubble wrap packaging that used to be our favorite timepass while we burst the bubbles? Sadly, it was never good for the environment. Today, various alternatives have been developed. One such is upcycled corrugated cardboard in which small cuts are made to provide the same level of safety to the product through concertina-type effect.
3. Air pillows made with recycled items
Inflatable air pillows are another great substitute for bubble wrap or Styrofoam. They are available in various sizes and are perfect to minimize the space left inside the boxes or to provide cushioning around the product. The best part is that they can be recycled, reused, and are even biodegradable.
4. Cardboard boxes
Cardboard containers or corrugated boxes are the eternal favorites of all businesses since they are the cheapest form of packaging that help in reducing the final product price on account of bundling with packaging. This has led to a steady increase its demand for packaging purposes in medical instruments, food & beverages, and household electronic appliances. Particularly, the booming Ecommerce business is dependent on cardboard boxes for its packaging needs. Since corrugated boxes are non-reactive, they are ideal for packaging and transporting food for a long period of time. This advantage has been ideally utilized by food delivery services and quick service restaurants across the globe during the Covid pandemic lockdown.
Cardboard boxes are biodegradable and recyclable so they pose the least environmental impact. However, this benefit is observed only when they are recycled to produce new boxes. Virgin boxes are made from wood pulp, whose production has a significant impact on forests. The energy required for production is significantly higher than the energy required for producing plastic. Thus, it is challenging for corrugated box manufacturers to adhere to environmental standards during production.
Which industries are utilizing green packaging?
Various industry sectors such as food & beverages, personal care, healthcare, etc have already adopted green packaging. Among them, Grand View Research expects the food & beverages sector to expand rapidly in the coming years, and steadily shift away from non-sustainable packaging to recycled packaging.
For example, in January 2019, KFC announced that it will stop all the non-reusable and non-recoverable plastic-based packaging by 2025. The company has already started using 100% fiber-based packaging from recycled or certified sources by replacing single-use plastic cutleries.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has introduced reusable glass serveware for food & beverages that are consumed in its outlets. Not only that, but the company has also introduced compostable paper cups, wooden cutlery, straws, lids, and stirrers for takeaway orders. Another example is Body Shop India that requests their customers to return empty plastic packaging at the store for recycling. Apart from this, the company has also signed a deal with the local waste picker community where they purchase 250 tons of community trade recycled plastic to manufacture 250ml haircare bottles.
It’s already zero hour and we need to take drastic actions to save our environment. There are various types of packaging in the market that are the best alternatives to non-biodegradable packaging. So, take one step at a time and choose wisely.
Author Bio: Neha Gupta works as a full-time writer at Grand View Research, Inc., which is a global market research publishing and management consulting firm.
Let me know more about green packaging options for the agricultural sector.