Eco-Friendly Packaging

Packaging is an industry that affects all the other industries of the world. Companies like Amazon make use of more than 5 billion packages a year or around 13 million packages a day.

These packages are designed and used for our convenience, however, needless to say, they are not so convenient for our environment. Materials like cardboard boxes have low ecological impact, but other materials like packing peanuts, plastic tapes etc. are not biodegradable, and hence, non-recyclable. This also contributes to more than 30% of the total waste generated every year.

According to various surveys, 42% of the consumers said packaging made from recycled or sustainable material was necessary and more than 57% have said that they are ready to invest more for environmentally friendly packaging. As seen, green packaging is not just a need, it is a demand too.

Green packaging, also called sustainable packaging, uses materials that diminish energy use and have way less adverse impacts on the environment. Additionally, they are also made using green processes which reduce power output and diminish the amount of greenhouse gas produced.

Green packaging uses three kinds of environmentally friendly material, namely bioplastics, recycled plastics, or post-consumer products such as recycled bulk bags. The materials used in green packaging can range from starch-based biomaterial to compostable materials.

One of the easiest and most vastly used methods of reducing waste generation during packaging is the recycling of old cardboard and wood packages. Especially, when sourced or made from 100% recycled materials, they make for excellent choices because of their recycled and reused properties.

Starch or cornstarch-based packaging refers to the packaging derived from corn and hence, is much eco-friendlier than normal plastic. Polylactic acid or PLA, is another form of biodegradable plastic made from lactic acid. Typically used in place of petroleum-based plastic, PLA is made from agricultural waste, including corn, sugarcane, and beet pulp.

Some countries along with the world have insisted on a ban on foam products. However, to fill the void, companies with biodegradable packing peanuts, made of wheat and starch. They are lightweight and inexpensive; additionally, if they end up in water bodies, they do not harm the water life either. Another alternative is that companies have started using corrugated bubble wraps. They create a cushioning surface and can be used as protective packaging for fragile materials.

One of the lesser-known alternate methods of packaging is using mushroom-based packaging. Mushroom packaging, like the earlier methods, also uses agricultural waste. However, here the waste consists of packaging using mycelium or mushroom roots. One of the most notable companies to use mushroom-based packaging is the Swedish retailer Ikea.

However, one of the easiest ways of reducing waste generation during packaging by end customers is using recycled plastics. Though they may or may not be biodegradable, they still reduce waste generation by reducing the need to generate new plastics.

Though fast gaining traction, one of the major problems because of which eco-friendly packaging is still less widely used is because of the high-end cost. The cost of using recycled plastic often exceeds the cost of traditional non-biodegradable plastic by quite a margin. Another major reason can be attributed to the lack of awareness amongst the people.

Eco-friendly packaging can be called the next, and much needed next step in the packaging industry. Especially for a country for India, where the high population amounts to massive waste generation, eco-friendly packaging needs to be encouraged.



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