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4 Types of Eco-Friendly Food Packaging

Eco-friendly food packaging main With climate change being a worldwide issue, sustainable and eco-friendly practices have become a primary focus of business owners. Food packaging is a crucial aspect of sustainability, and with the increasing amount of waste coming from non-biodegradable packaging, the need for an environmentally friendly alternative is more important than ever. Eco-friendly packaging aims to reduce waste and help preserve our planet, and in this article, we will explore four types of eco-friendly food packaging solutions available in the market today.

The Importance of Eco-Friendly Food Packaging

Eco-friendly food packaging refers to packaging materials that are sustainable, biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, or reusable. Plastic food packaging poses numerous environmental and public health risks, including accumulating in the oceans and disrupting your endocrine system. Thankfully, eco-friendly packaging offers several benefits for the environment, businesses, and consumers.

Eco-friendly food packaging often utilizes sustainable bioplastics and plant-based extracts like wheat, wood, and bamboo. These materials are biodegradable, reusable, and devoid of harmful chemicals commonly found in traditional plastic packaging. Research shows that while eco-friendly packaging may contain some chemicals and non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), their migration into food and the body is significantly lower compared to plastics. As a result, eco-friendly options are safer for both the environment and human health. Additionally, they offer improved food quality and safety compared to conventional plastic alternatives.

Eco-friendly packaging also helps reduce plastic waste, which is the leading cause of water and soil pollution. By choosing eco-friendly food packaging, businesses can actively contribute to mitigating this environmental issue. Moreover, prioritizing sustainable packaging demonstrates a commitment to social responsibility and can have positive effects on the environment. It not only reduces the consumption of carbon emissions during the production of traditional plastic packaging but also leads to favorable customer experiences, fostering loyalty and enhancing the brand image.

paper pouches

Benefits of Eco-Friendly Packaging

Eco-friendly packaging is not only beneficial for the environment, but it also provides numerous benefits to businesses and consumers.

Generate Fewer Carbon Emissions

The level of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels is commonly referred to as a carbon footprint. When you reduce the amount of packaging used in your finished product by using eco-friendly packaging made from renewable or recyclable materials, you can lower your CO2 emissions.

Send Less Packaging to Landfills

One of the benefits of eco-friendly packaging is that it can be made from biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable material meaning less waste being sent to landfills.

Packaging Versatility

When it comes to options for eco-friendly packaging, there is no shortage of choices. From compostable materials for single-use items like straws and cups to plastics made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) material, there are a variety of options for you to choose from for your food products.

Ease of Disposability, Recycling, or Reusing

Another benefit of eco-friendly packaging is that when it comes time to get rid of the packaging, it’s much easier to give it a new life instead of tossing it in the trash to be sent off to the landfill. You can ensure that your customers are aware of how to dispose of your product by giving them information on what to do next. This can be printed directly on the packaging, with eco-friendly inks, however you choose to deliver this message, be sure to think about the environmental impact of that as well!

Increased Customer Base and Improved Brand Image

Consumers who care about the environment will generally go out of their way to support brands that share the same values. When you inform your customers and the general public about your mission to protect the environment, they will likely help you spread the word leading to an increase in your customer base and brand loyalty.

4 Sustainable Food Packaging Options

biodegradable to-go box

1. Biodegradable Packaging

Biodegradable materials can decompose naturally and do not cause harm to the environment, though they don’t improve the soil the way compostable materials would. They are usually made of natural materials such as plant starch, food waste, or paper. Depending on the material used, biodegradable plastic bags take three to six months to break down in the right conditions compared to several hundred years for the commonly used synthetic version.

biodegradable compostable bags

2. Compostable Packaging

Compostable packaging can decompose into organic matter in less than six months in the right environment. This packaging is made from natural materials such as mushroom roots, seaweed, or cornstarch. The packaging material can be turned into compost and used as a nutrient-rich soil fertilizer. However, most compostable materials used in packaging are blended with barrier systems to make them sturdier and harder to break down in order to protect the product. This also means a specific environment is needed to break down the materials and can only be emulated in an industrial composting facility.

100 percent recyclable packaging

3. Recyclable Packaging

Recyclable packaging uses materials that can be recycled and used again. Recyclable packaging is collected from the recycling stream, sorted, washed, and broken down for reuse into new packaging. There are limitations especially as materials are recycled multiple times, but recycling keeps materials out of the landfill for as long as possible. Recyclable packaging materials include plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, and aluminum cans.

glass bottles in various sizes

4. Reusable Packaging

Reusable packaging can be used multiple times, reducing the need for frequent replacement. Reusable packaging materials include glass, plastic, metal, silicone, and cloth. For example, a consumer could invest in a glass or metal container and then purchase refills of the product in a plastic bag or bottle that would ideally be recyclable. Another example would be bringing your own containers to a refill station and purchasing from bulk bins.

polystyrene foam to-go containers

Eco-Friendly Food Packaging to Avoid

Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastics are versatile but have detrimental effects on the environment. They are non-biodegradable plastics that take hundreds of years to decompose while polluting the atmosphere and oceans in the meantime. There are many compostable alternatives on the market today, and single-use plastic bans are in effect in many places.

Polystyrene Foam

Polystyrene foam, or expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) is a type of plastic that is foamed by pentane or carbon dioxide gas and then used to make insulation and packaging materials as well as food containers such as beverage cups, egg cartons, and disposable plates and trays. It is harmful to the environment because it takes centuries to decompose if it decomposes at all. Polystyrene foam is also difficult to recycle because it isn’t accepted in most curbside recycling programs. Unfortunately, most polystyrene foam is thrown into the trash,ending up in our landfills, waterways, and environments indefinitely.

Non-recyclable Packaging

Sadly there are many packaging materials that are non-recyclable. Packaging products that have been UV coated or treated with a glossy or metallic finish are non-recyclable. There are many coatings and finishes that make a package non-recyclable, so be sure to do your research on what can be easily recycled. Although aerosol cans are made of metal which you’d think is recyclable, the pressurized contents could damage recycling machinery making them non-recyclable. Plastic shopping bags and plastic wrap usually aren't accepted for recycling because the lightweight material can tangle, clog, and potentially damage the machinery used in recycling centers. However, many grocery store chains allow consumers to reuse plastic shopping bags; some even have collection bins for torn or unusable bags to send to facilities that can process this type of plastic.

mushrooms used for packaging

Innovations in Eco-friendly Food Packaging

Edible Packaging Solutions

Edible packaging is an innovative type of eco-friendly packaging that eliminates waste entirely. The packaging is made of edible materials, such as seaweed-based packaging and milk protein-based packaging. An example of this is during a marathon in London edible drink pods containing a sip of a sports drink were handed out replacing thousands of cups that runners typically would have thrown on the road leading to a tremendous post-marathon cleanup job. The drink pods are encased in a seaweed-based film that can be swallowed, but if spit out will biodegrade in 4-6 weeks. Innovations like these aim to reduce the amount of plastic used in food packaging and replace it with renewable resources. Even if edible packaging isn’t something people actually want to eat, it would still be hyper-biodegradable, disappearing much faster than single-use plastics or even compostable bioplastics.

Plant-based or Bio-based Plastics

Plant-based plastics and bio-based or bio-plastics are derived from natural sustainable materials like corn, starch, seaweed, sugarcane, tree pulp, bamboo fiber, and more. While the term “bio-plastics” is not precisely defined, it is commonly used to describe various materials that consist, at least partially, of renewable sources and could also be biodegradable. It will be important to check with your supplier on best practices for disposing of this type of packaging sustainably since it may vary based on the base biomass used and additives that may be added to protect your product.

Self-decomposing Solutions

Self-decomposing solutions are made from materials like mushroom mycelium. This type of packaging is a biodegradable material that decomposes within a few weeks. Mushroom-based packaging offers a regenerative alternative to plastic foams used in protective packaging. This type of sustainable packaging even encourages plant growth, making it an excellent alternative for plastic-based packaging.

solid waste washed up on a beach

Environmental Impact from Eco-Friendly Food Packaging

Most of the debris and waste that ends up polluting our streets and oceans is from discarded single-use food packaging, so it makes sense that the food industry is leading the way to eco-friendly food packaging solutions. While eco-friendly packaging isn’t going to solve all of our problems, it’s a step in the right direction. When you incorporate eco-friendly food packaging into your business operations, you actively contribute to reducing waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, making you a valuable part of the solution.

various recycables

Move Towards a Greener Future Today

Eco-friendly food packaging plays a vital role in promoting sustainability and protecting the environment. When companies opt for eco-friendly packaging options, they can actively reduce their carbon footprints, preserve natural resources, and foster customer loyalty.

At Paramount Global, we recognize the significance of collective efforts in minimizing our environmental impact. We take pride in partnering with businesses that are dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint and taking control of their environmental responsibilities. Our team of experts are committed to assisting you in finding the best eco-friendly packaging solution for your specific needs.

With advancements in materials and innovative techniques, eco-friendly packaging now offers the same practicality as traditional plastic alternatives. By embracing eco-friendly products in your packaging solutions, we can each contribute to building a greener future. Contact us today to discover how we can become your trusted partner in your shift to eco-friendly food packaging.

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For over forty years, Paramount has been delivering perfectly integrated packaging and supply chain solutions.