The Best Eco-Friendly Packaging

By Rosanna Campbell-Gray

From April 2022, a new legislation will be introduced in the UK to establish a Plastic Packaging Tax. The new regulations will see a £200 fine for each tonne of plastic packaging that is less than 30% recycled with similar regulations being rolled out across the EU. In 2019, New York State proposed a ban on polystyrene food packaging and expanded polystyrene, otherwise known as packing peanuts, in a bid to reduce water and wildlife pollution. These are some major steps in adopting sustainable packaging practices across the world. 

Globally, packaging is the primary source of plastic production as well as the biggest source of plastic waste. In 2015, around 146 million tonnes of new plastic packing were produced. This figure alone should make us all want to see eco-friendly packaging adopted by brands big and small. Whilst new regulations will be hugely effective in curbing plastic pollution and encouraging a circular packaging economy, we hope to see more companies looking ahead and investing in low-impact, biodegradable alternatives. 

The Paper Bottle

Coca Cola and L’Oreal are just two of the companies investing in a paper bottle future with Paboco, The Paper Bottle Company – an eco-friendly packaging alternative. The company’s aim is to provide sustainable, effective choices for brands and consumers, whether it be for your favourite fizzy drink or sun lotion. Currently, the bottles contain a thin, recyclable film of plastic however, their team of engineers and scientists are working towards a fully plastic-free, biodegradable product. Made primarily from wood pulp sourced from sustainable, well-managed forests, the paper bottle has the potential to eradicate billions of plastic containers. 

Packaging Peanuts Go Green

Possibly one of the most popular and polluting forms of packaging – the peanut. Designed to protect heavy and fragile products in transit, the lightweight polystyrene peanuts revolutionised the world of packaging and although polystyrene is easily recyclable, it rarely is. The material is derived from non-renewable energy sources such as petroleum or natural gas and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has even declared styrene to be a possible human carcinogen. Furthermore, the lightweight material is extremely difficult to recover once it enters the environment and is often mistaken as food by marine species. 

Luckily for us, biodegradable packing peanuts are the ideal eco-alternative. In fact, they’re so good it’s hard to tell the two apart. Green peanuts are plant-based and dissolve in water. They tend to be made from wheat or cornstarch and leave no toxic pollutants behind making them perfect for biodegradable and sustainable packaging.

Mushroom Packaging

Mushrooms are having a bit of a moment. In fact, in November 2020, adidas, Kering, lululemon, and Stella McCartney formed the Mylo Consortium – the largest joint development in consumer biomaterials to date. 

We expect to see Mushroom Packaging lead the way when it comes to the future of sustainable packaging. Scientists have recreated the root structure of mushrooms which is called mycelium using upcycled organic materials such as hemp. The material is the best eco-friendly alternative to polystyrene and 100% compostable – simply break it up into little pieces and scatter around the garden, returning the nutrients to the Earth. 

The material is quite literally grown into the desired shape and the process takes just seven  days from start to finish meaning there is barely any waste.

Botanical Papercards

From business cards to invitations, Botanical Papercards will make your business stand out. Developed in Canada, Botanical Paper Cards collect post-consumer waste in their local area and turn it into seed paper – a plantable, compostable material. Not only are Botanical Papercards saving over 10 tons of paper from going to landfill each year, they also allow consumers to engage in a conversation surrounding sustainability by planting the card in order to grow a small patch of wildflowers. The whole process aims to encourage biodiversity whilst reducing waste. Botanical Papercards also offer some great sustainable packaging options for 

Credit: Botanical Paperworks

Sustainable Vegetable Inks

The printing of instruction manuals, marketing materials and product information may be causing more damage than you think. The most common type of ink is petroleum-based and derived from crude oil, making the process of production highly intensive from start to finish. Petroleum-based inks tend to contain high levels of VOCs, organic compounds that can be extremely harmful to both planet and people. Luckily for us, the use of soybean and other vegetable-based ink are on the rise, mainly due to a significant investment in the quality of the product. These inks are the future of sustainable printing, they contain minimal VOCs and are significantly better for the environment and our health.

Credit: Mushroom Packaging

Eco-Friendly Tape

The options for plastic-free tapes are a lot better than you might have imagined. Eco-tape brand noissue use 100% recycled FSC paper which is water activated – that means no gloss or wax is required to make it stick and ensures that the tape is entirely biodegradable. Soy-based inks are used for all of their personalised products which include tissue paper, stickers, tape, cards and eco-friendly mailing bags. The number one rule when purchasing tape is to make sure that it’s gummed paper tape from sustainable forests. 

Go Circular

Possibly the best way to reduce waste from packaging is to adopt the age-old ‘milkman model’. More and more brands are adopting the circular delivery system for consumer goods. Companies such as Loop as well as a number of organic supermarkets are now offering cosmetics, cleaning products, food and drink so check out what’s on offer near you. Sustainable glass packaging is the preferred material for these circular systems due to their long lifetime and ease to clean.

Rosanna Campbell-Gray

Rosanna is Content Director at Talia Collective. Having worked in a leading  travel PR agency in London, she is currently heading up the editorial side of our platform whilst volunteering with the US-based NGO Sustainable Travel International, assisting with new media campaigns related to carbon offset programs.