Thought leadership

How eco-packaging is making its mark in manufacturing

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A relatively broad term, “eco-packaging” refers to packaging that is physically designed to optimise materials and energy across its end-to-end life cycle, from raw materials to production to disposal.

According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, eco-packaging:

  • Is beneficial, safe and healthy for use throughout its life cycle
  • Meets market criteria for both performance and cost
  • Is sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy
  • Optimises the use of renewable or recycled source materials
  • Uses clean production technologies and best practices
  • Has been physically designed to optimise materials and energy
  • Is effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles

The drive towards sustainability in packaging

For manufacturers, meeting the increased demand for sustainable packaging is crucial to long-term business success.

Over half (52%) of consumers in the US and UK want brands to create products with less packaging, or at least recycled packaging. In Asia, consumers in China, India and Indonesia – arguably three of the largest markets in the region – feel very strongly about sustainability and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Whether you’re a packaging manufacturer, a manufacturer who produces their own packaging in-house, or a manufacturer who purchases their packaging from third-party suppliers, here are three ways that choosing eco-packaging can open up new opportunities for your business.

Resource conservation and reduced costs

A key component in plastics is fossil fuels, which has seen soaring prices in recent years. Keep in mind that plastics are not just used in packaging material, but printing inks and adhesives as well.

More eco-friendly options such as recycled cardboard, sugar cane pulp or bamboo paper, corn starch-derived plastics, gelatine glue, and more are overall less costly and energy-intensive than conventional plastics and styrofoam. Their manufacturing processes also release fewer environmental pollutants and carbon emissions.

Beyond changing packaging materials, manufacturers can also look at streamlining their packaging designs to reduce the amount of unused or wasted space. Additionally, smaller packages contribute to reduced shipping costs.

Opportunities for cross-sector collaboration

Circularity is one of the core pillars of eco-packaging. Some of the above-mentioned packaging materials tend to be by-products of certain industries, opening up opportunities for cross-sector collaboration. Bagasse paper, for instance, is made from sugar cane pulp, which packaging manufacturers can obtain at low cost from the sugar industry.

Product manufacturers can also partner with recycling companies to promote more sustainable disposal of their packaging. Two of a Kind’s Project 2×2, for example, collects and recycles contact lens blisters for reduced pollution in landfills and to promote better circularity of plastics.

Effective reduction in Scope 1-3 emissions

It’s not just consumers that are demanding better sustainability. Investors, financiers and broader stakeholders, too, are increasingly scrutinising ESG metrics for manufacturers, with regulators even stepping in to ban or limit the import of single-use plastics and incentivise recyclable packaging.

Eco-packaging can significantly reduce Scope 1-3 emissions in manufacturing, regardless of whether you are producing your own packaging or purchasing them from a third party.

Better for the planet and your bottom line

Making the switch to eco-packaging may involve some up-front investment in terms of technology, design or process change management, but the far-reaching benefits of reducing your organisation’s carbon footprint offers multiple opportunities to reduce waste, lower costs, and improve brand reputation.

Find out how to increase the transparency and visibility of your ESG reporting with the Consumer Sustainability Industry Readiness Index, or COSIRI, read more about the most significant emerging trends impacting manufacturers today, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest news and updates in the industry.

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