7 Eco Friendly Packaging Materials
Packaging comes in a range of different materials. Sometimes what is used depends on the kind of freight or goods that it needs to protect, other times it is simply a matter of what the company finds cheapest or easiest to use, or what the transport company insists on. Plastic is a much used material that has certain benefits, but it also has a downside in that it takes a long time to break down.
There are several options for eco friendly packaging materials and more are being found as the swing to sustainable practices becomes more important and more popular. Here are some of the most used sustainable packaging materials.
- Cardboard and paper. While they both originate from trees, often it is the waste product from timber that is used. And since both can be used over and over and they break down quickly in landfill leaving no residue they can be considered sustainable. If recycled, other products can be made from them.
- Cornstarch biodegradables. Packaging made from cornstarch break down easily and is a compostable product. It is often used for takeaway foods or made into pellets that can be used as a filler in boxes or cartons. While it does have a negative impact on the environment when in landfill, this is only for a limited time.
- Bubble wrap may seem to be made of plastic, which as we know is not good for the environment. However, the kind of plastic used to make some types of bubble wrap is completely biodegradable. This is made from recycled polythene.
- Biodegradable plastic is also coming into use more to replace the traditional plastic than does not break down. It starts to break down quickly when exposed to daylight.
- Micro fibrillated cellulose (MFC) specialty fibre made from plant waste offers reduced material with a sustained performance that outperforms glass or carbon fibre and offers a barrier to moisture and oxygen, making it suitable for foodstuffs.
- Bamboo fibres that can be used to make a product similar to cardboard. These can be composted, but if not, they are biodegradable, rotting down quickly in landfill or gardens. It is presently used to package smart-phones, notebooks and tablets.
- Cotton waste mixed with mushroom spores to create the kind of packaging shape needed. And no, it doesn’t grow mushrooms as the spore is killed off once the required shape is reached. However, it breaks down admirably, just like mushrooms do.
Unfortunately, while some products such as bamboo are considered green alternatives, the actual process used to make the packaging is often just as toxic as other non-green options. Another problem is that plastics that break down quickly in landfill, start this process while they are still being used. They are good for things such as taka-away food, but not where they need to be used for several years. This appears to be the case with many plant-based products.