Sustainable packaging is the development and use of packaging which results in improved sustainability. At the end stage of design it involves increased use of life cycle inventory (LCI) and life cycle assessment (LCA) to help guide the use of packaging which reduces the environmental impact and ecological footprint, but in the very first steps requires a look at the whole of the supply chain: from basic function, to marketing, and then through to end of life (LCA) and rebirth. The goals are to improve the long term viability and quality of life for humans and the longevity of natural ecosystems. Sustainable packaging must meet the functional and economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable packaging is a relatively new addition to the environmental considerations for packaging (see Packaging and labeling). It requires more analysis and documentation to look at the package design, choice of materials, processing, and life cycle. This is not just the vague "green movement" that many businesses and companies have been trying to include over the past years. Companies implementing these eco-friendly actions are reducing their carbon footprint, using more recycled materials, reusing more package components, etc. They often encourage suppliers, contract packagers, and distributors to do likewise.
For example, researchers at the Agricultural Research Service are looking into using dairy-based films as an alternative to petroleum-based packaging. Instead of being made of synthetic polymers, these dairy-based films would be composed of proteins such as casein and whey, which are found in milk. The films would be biodegradable and offer better oxygen barriers than synthetic, chemical-based films. More research must be done to improve the water barrier quality of the dairy-based film, but advances in sustainable packaging are actively being pursued.
Environmental marketing claims on packages need to be made (and read) with caution. Ambiguous titles such as green packaging and environmentally friendly can be confusing without specific definition. Some regulators, such as the US Federal Trade Commission, are providing guidance to packagers
Companies have long been reusing and recycling packaging when economically viable. Using minimal packaging has also been a common goal to help reduce costs. Recent years have accelerated these efforts based on social movements, consumer pressure, and regulation.
Types of Packaging Materials:
Paperboard and fiberboard are used in both primary and secondary packaging for companies throughout the world. Paper is used for making a large variety of thinner packaging products including labels, Kraft paper, paper bags, butcher paper, and more.
Paperboard is thicker and more durable than a standard paper material. Paperboard is often used in primary packaging. Paperboard is used for milk and juice cartons, cereal boxes, frozen food boxes, candy boxes and more. Paperboard offers slightly more product protection than a paper material and less than fiberboard.
2. HDPE/PET/Rigid Packaging:
Derived from polyethylene, high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate are harder and more rigid plastics than other plastics. Both materials offer excellent moisture resistance while maintaining a rigid protective structure. Some of the most common uses for HDPE and PET are bottles and Jugs.
3. LDP/LLDPE/Flexible Packaging:
Low-density polyethylene and Linear low-density polyethylene are flexible packaging materials used for primary and secondary products around the world. Each material is soft to the touch and often offers excellent puncture resistance.
Low-density polyethylene is used to make a variety of bags, films, and flexible tubing for packaging. LDPE bags and tubing are often referred to a poly bags and tubing. They range in multiple thicknesses and are often used to package food items, dog treats, auto parts, tools and more. Low-density polyethylene is also used to make shrink bundling film which is used as secondary packaging for cases of water bottles and canned goods.
4. Aluminum Packaging:
Aluminum packaging is used for a variety of applications throughout the world. The most commonly used and recognized application for aluminum packaging are aluminum cans and containers. According to the Aluminum Association, more than 7 billion foil cans and containers are produced annually. Though the use of aluminum for cans is prominent, there are several other uses for aluminum packaging.
Though the PE plastic market has consumed some of the glass packaging market, glass packaging still holds a significant market share within the packaging industry. Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic drinks make up a large portion of the glass packaging market. Other industries that consistently use glass packaging are cosmetics and personal care, food and condiments, and even home decor and candles.