Top 7 Sustainable Packaging Trends

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

When you're browsing the shelves (or your phone) for eco-friendly products, there's more to consider than the products themselves. Packaging also plays an essential role in your shopping habits' eco-footprint. Minimizing packaging waste—from food to clothes to personal care products—can help reduce your impact on the environment. And fortunately, new innovations in sustainable packaging are making this easier than ever.

Read on to learn more about sustainable packaging trends to help you shop greener.

Innovations in Packaging

Eco-friendly products and food items now come in a variety of packaging options. These types of sustainable packaging, from recyclable packaging to packaging that uses less material, help reduce the amount of landfill waste and the overall environmental impact it takes to produce and dispose of packaging. As companies like Tom's of Maine shift toward business models that support the environment, consumers like you have options you can feel good about.

A sustainable cardboard box.

Types of Sustainable Packaging

Here are a few sustainable packaging trends to look for when you're deciding where to put your spending power.

1. Recyclable Packaging

Packaging that can be recycled keeps materials—like cardboard boxes, glass containers, and toothpaste tubes—out of the waste stream. Read package labels carefully. Also, investigate your local curbside recycling programs to determine which items can be recycled, and sort them properly.

2. Reusable Packaging

As the name suggests, reusable packaging is designed to be reused rather than disposed of after a single use. Many companies are developing reusable packaging on individual items, like refillable containers for personal care and household products. The ability to refill containers also reduces the carbon footprint of manufacturing and transporting full-sized, single-use containers. The only downside to reusable items is that they may degrade and need to be disposed of in the long term, in which case you're back to square one (unless the materials are also recyclable or biodegradable).

3. Biodegradable and Compostable Packaging

This type of packaging is designed to break down over time. While the two are similar, biodegradable and compostable packaging have key differences. The main difference is how they decompose and what's left after they break down. Compostable packaging is made from organic or plant-based materials, so it generates nutrients for the soil as it decomposes. However, composting requires the right circumstances to break down.

Biodegradable items will decompose, but this process can take much longer. Biodegradable items may also leave behind microplastics in the environment since this packaging isn't typically made from organic material.

4. Plant-Based Packaging

Plant-based materials are a big trend in sustainable packaging. A type of biodegradable packaging, plant-based packaging (also known as bioplastic) is typically made from renewable resources like bamboo and corn. Like compostable packaging, it will decompose under the right conditions. However, it can also biodegrade or be recycled. According to one study, the process of manufacturing bioplastics uses less energy than regular plastics, which also makes them more eco-friendly to produce.

5. Minimalist Packaging

This type of sustainable packaging is what it sounds like: minimal. The focus of minimalist packaging is to reduce both the amount and type of material used. This packaging is typically made from just one or two materials, which, in addition to minimizing waste, often makes it easier to recycle. The minimalist approach also focuses on simpler aesthetics. Instead of bright colors and flashy designs, minimalist packaging goes for "less is more," with natural colors and simple logos. This often means fewer materials and less energy to manufacture.

6. Mono-Materials

One of the biggest hurdles to recycling packaging is the use of mixed materials since proper recycling requires separating items. When packaging is made from a single material—whether it's plastic, paper, or metal—it's easier to recycle.

7. Soy-Based Inks

In addition to the material itself, most packaging is adorned with designs, logos, and printing of some kind. Traditional printing methods use petroleum-based ink. But there's a growing shift toward using soy-based inks, which are naturally sourced, easier to recycle, and break down efficiently.

Recycling bin with recycling symbol.

How to Shop Greener

As a consumer, you can use your purchasing power to make choices that support the environment. When you're looking for eco-friendly products, keep in mind that it's not just the product itself—but also the packaging it comes in—that makes an environmental impact. Seeking out products and packaging made with sustainable ingredients and materials helps ensure you can enjoy the products you need while keeping the planet in mind.

To learn more about recyclable packaging and how to determine what can and can't be recycled, check out this guide to understanding numbers on recyclable items.

Image Source: Unsplash| Unsplash | Unsplash

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Innovations in sustainable packaging make it easier for consumers to shop for products while supporting the environment.