Eco Packaging: Reduce Your Environmental Impact

Eco Packaging: Reduce Your Environmental Impact

Julie Ribeiro

Julie Ribeiro

June 5, 2020

The aesthetic value of your packaging is not the only thing to consider when establishing your marketing strategy: have you ever thought about its ecological impact? Even if it is an invitation to buy, the product's packaging has also a significant environmental impact.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, 45% of consumers buy products with the least amount of packaging, which has led many companies to engage in eco-packaging: reducing the amount of packaging, using recyclable materials, completely rethinking the packaging... There are endless options for creating packaging that looks like you, while respecting the environment.

Why wait to make your packaging greener too?

1. Packing and Packaging

The packaging is your silent salesman, the last thing your customers sees before checking out. It is a marketing tool not to be taken lightly: a mistake could have consequences on your turnover.

As an e-commerce brand, three layers of packaging can be integrated:

  • External packaging: this is the box or bag in which your product is delivered in, so the first thing the customer will see;
  • Internal packaging: inside the first layer, which keeps your product as it is (bubble wrap, kraft paper, polystyrene...) ;
  • Product's packaging: the container holding the product itself (plastic tube, glass jar...).

3 packaging layers, 3 chances to make a good impression with your customers! But very quickly, the first questions come up: what materials should be used? And how much?

Beyond the aesthetic side, the environmental impact of packaging is becoming more and more important, for companies and customers. If you don't want your products to be labelled with the hashtags #BreakFreeFromPlastic or #RidiculousPackaging on Twitter, it's a good idea to carefully think about the nature of your packaging.

Fortunately, there are many solutions to align the interests of your customers with those of the planet. From packaging traps to realistic solutions: here is the recipe for an aesthetic eco-packaging!

2. Packaging Against Ecology

The major disadvantage of packaging: it is essential, but manufactured to be thrown away right after use.Companies' images may suffer from a poor choice of packaging. Your buyers believe that taking care of the environment is part of your social responsibility. But you also have to ensure that the goods are transported in their original shape, so it's about finding the right balance!

When it comes to logistics, make sure that the product arrives in proper condition while being environmentally responsible.Here are the major problems with packaging, which as an e-commerce brand, you have to avoid at all costs.

Overuse of Plastic Packaging

The reputation of plastic is well established and is becoming more and more accepted: plastic is harmful to the planet. In the minds of consumers, a product (other than food) wrapped in plastic comes from a brand which has not considered the environmental consequences of packaging. For good reason: plastic is responsible for 6% of greenhouse gas emissions and 40% of plastic produced is used for packaging.

Using too much plastic for a product is risking having your customer switch to a more eco-friendly brand. And with word-of-mouth influencing more than 50% of consumer habits, you really should take care of your brand's image!

Materials Impossible to Reuse

Before selecting your packaging, make sure you carefully choose the materials that compose it. A recyclable material such as glass, aluminum or paperboard is the best choice. Paperboard is a good option: made of cellulose fibre, it is entirely recyclable and can be reused about ten times. In practice, only 49% of paper and cardboard is recycled in France: numerous regulations prevent their recycling. For example, if a piece of plastic tape is found on cardboard, it is no longer recyclable.

Try to select your packaging elements according to their recyclability and their decomposition time. Unfortunately, lots of packaging is not recycled. In order to avoid contributing further to the 7th continent, it is better to use materials with a short lifespan. The choice is important but sometimes difficult to make, because all materials have their pros and cons in terms of ecology and marketing. Some are lighter, others are more recyclable...

Overpacking: An Obstacle to Eco-Design

Overpacking is a common problem: not only is it a waste of material, but it can also lead to a loss of credibility. Let's take the example of a flash drive sent to one of your customers. The USB stick will probably be wrapped in rigid plastic. This packaging will be placed in a cardboard box sealed with tape. And to avoid possible transport damage, the cardboard box will be filled with bubble wrap.

To ship a simple flash drive, you will use: plastic, bubble wrap (non-recyclable), cardboard and tape. Hello waste, not to mention the pollution caused by the production of the materials!

That is why when you create your packaging, it is important to take the nature, size and fragility of the products into consideration. A USB flash drive is not particularly fragile, nor is it particularly large. You can simply place the USB stick in a small reusable cloth bag and wrap it in a kraft envelope. Only 2 materials used instead of 4!

Numerous eco-responsible solutions are available to avoid over-packaging, while transporting goods safely.

3. Packing and Packaging Solutions

Several companies are using alternatives to switch to eco-packaging. You will find a solution adapted to your e-commerce and your financial capacities in order to respect the planet and your customers.

Create a Smart Packaging

Think about your packaging design: what if your packaging wasn't meant to be thrown away?

Qualitative Packaging :

Besides protecting your product, your packaging has an immediate secondary purpose. For example, Birchbox sends beauty products in boxes to protect them. After receipt, these boxes become a toiletry case or storage box. Using the example of the USB stick, your customers could receive it in a high-quality box in which they can pass a string through, and even store several keys at the same time. That way, they have a protective case they can attach to their key ring!

Planning a Second life for your Packaging:

Nespresso's ingenious solution: Nespresso collects used coffee capsules from collection points. With the recycled aluminium, they make cans or bicycles. And they use the coffee grounds to make compost.

The selection of your packaging is crucial once again. Make sure you only use recyclable and recycled materials, or work with partners and suppliers like Packhelp who are committed to these eco-responsible principles. For example, Totem, one of Bigblue's customers, wants to use only 100% sustainable materials. Everything is designed to be recycled: the three layers of packaging are reusable, even the tape is made of kraft and natural glue. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed!

Be Proud of your Eco-Packaging!

If you use sustainable and recyclable packaging, you deserve to be proud of it! Your buyers need to know that. Therefore, there is a whole range of eco-labels on the packaging to highlight eco-responsible brands

FSC, NF Environnement, EU Ecolabel... Each certification indicates a degree of respect for the environment. For example, Bigblue is working to switch to 100% sustainable packaging. This is why we work with cardboard supplier International Paper, which has been certified under FSC, ISO 9001 and 14001. They Individually certify that the wood production is eco-friendly, the services are oriented to the interest of the customers, and always in respect of environmental standards. Almost 95% of our packaging comes from an eco-responsible company!

Alternative Materials for Professionals

To prevent pollution and waste due to packaging, new materials have been developed. These innovative materials are greener, more recyclable and less polluting, and are the key to obtaining an eco-label!

When your Materials Match your Brand Image

Alternatives do not have to be brittle and unattractive! The use of new 100% eco-responsible materials can serve your reputation with customers. It depends on the nature of your e-commerce.

For example, food brands have invented fully edible packaging, such as WikiFoods Inc. which offers frozen fruit pearls with edible protective packaging. Customers will appreciate this brave innovation. Plus, for an extra boost to the environment, you can print your flyers and personalized business cards on seeded paper. After being planted and watered, your advertising messages give birth to delicious flowers and plants. The joy of not wasting anything, and of growing plants!

Alternatives to Plastics

Obviously, the first concern is to replace plastics. As single-use plastics are gradually being banned, companies are looking for alternatives. For example, Lactips has created packaging based on milk proteins. Fully biodegradable and edible, this thermoplastic is both soluble in hot and cold water.

Bioplastics and thermoplastics are gradually gaining ground on the market. They are increasingly used to contain non-food products, such as dishwasher tablets. So what about your goods?

The Plastic Controversy

There still is a BUT to the use of these alternatives. Do they really cause less pollution than plastic? Actually, according to the British Plastics Federation, the production of alternatives is twice as polluting as the production of plastic. Plastics are lighter, easier to handle and generates less greenhouse gas emissions during transport. Before selecting an alternative to plastic, it is important to research the process from scratch, starting with production and ending with the decomposition of the materials.

Single-use plastics also help to avoid waste. For example, fresh foods (such as fruits and vegetables) can triple their shelf life in plastic packaging. And let's not forget that plastic packaging prevents some bacteria from growing and destroying an entire shipment. How many tonnes of food would be thrown away each year without plastics?

4. Briefly, what are the Environmental Effects of Packaging?

Regardless of the nature and size of your e-commerce, moving to eco-packaging is not impossible. From the reduction of packaging to the use of alternative materials, including recyclable materials: there is a solution for every structure, on every scale!

The primary objective of packaging is to incite your customers to buy your products. Today, preferences have evolved. Eco-responsible packaging attracts the consumers' attention more and more, while improving your brand image. Helping the planet while satisfying your buyers is easy: all you have to do is change your packaging habits on your own scale.

And what if you switched to eco-packaging right now?

Frequently asked questions
Everything you need to know.
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