The Best Alternatives for Single-Use Plastic Packaging (B2B)
Are your customers searching for sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic packaging? Or is your own company looking to make the switch? There's a lot to consider. How do you determine which packaging materials are truly sustainable? We'll take a look at several popular alternatives to single-use plastic as well as the entire packaging chain to help you in your exploration process.
First and foremost, what does sustainability truly mean? One definition is that it “aims to meet the needs of today without endangering the ability of future generations to fulfil their needs.” This perspective on sustainability is based on three pillars: economic, environmental, and social sustainability, also known as profit, planet, and people. We’ll keep this Investopedia definition of sustainability in mind as we proceed with this blog.
Current Popular Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic Packaging (B2B)
Examining the Pros and Cons
Mono-material is a popular alternative to single-use plastic packaging in the B2B sector. Traditional packaging often consists of multiple materials, making recycling more challenging. Mono-material consists of a single, easily recyclable raw material.
Each mono-material has its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, cotton is easily recyclable. Its fibres can be separated relatively easily and woven or pressed into new forms. It breathes well, making it ideal for long-term storage for bedding and other home textile products. An additional benefit is that it is ideally suited for printing. But it’s a more expensive option in terms of its initial purchase.
Paper is another example of a mono-material that is easily recyclable. In its unprinted state, it has a “brown look,” lending your product a sustainable appearance. Paper is particularly suitable for products that can withstand some impact, as its packaging is more prone to tearing compared to other material types. Additionally, it doesn’t breathe, and it can only be used once before it has to be recycled again.
Cardboard is a more sturdy form of paper. It’s available in various shapes and sizes, and is well-suited for printing. It’s commonly known as a sturdy yet manageable material for displays and transportation. On the downside, it’s susceptible to damage and doesn’t breathe.
Felt comes with a relatively higher upfront cost but is sturdy, insulating, and breathable. It’s also relatively easy to work with and reuse.
LDPE (low-density polyethylene, a tough film) is also recognized as one of the most popular alternatives to single-use plastic. As recycled material, it’s attractively priced, flexible, and easily recyclable. LDPE doesn’t breathe, making it less suitable for producers of bedding and home textiles. It also has a slightly duller, cloudier appearance, potentially making it less fitting for luxury product packaging.
The answer to the question of which alternatives for single-use plastic packaging are the best goes beyond material choice alone. Considering a packaging material’s sustainability involves the entire process.
Sustainable Packaging Involves the Complete Picture of the Process
Sustainable packaging encompasses the entire lifecycle of packaging and requires the involvement of all stakeholders, from buyers to producers, suppliers, and end customers. Willems Packaging is eager to analyse the entire process for you: from design and production to transportation, usage, and recycling.
In your search for alternatives to single-use plastic packaging, keep these 5 factors in mind:
#1: Consider the Entire Package: From Production to Reuse
Don’t be solely swayed by whether a material looks “natural.” Scrutinise where the raw materials originate, how they’re processed, reused, and whether transportation is efficiently arranged. When choosing a packaging material, keep in mind that some may appear sustainable and natural, but their production process might be far more labour-intensive than plastic. For example, plant-based fabrics are a popular alternative to plastic. Plants require CO2 to grow, so these fibre-rich crops help store emissions. But large-scale cultivation may require clearing significant portions of forests, and monoculture practices pose a threat to biodiversity.
Another packaging material, cardboard, offers a clean look and is highly reusable. But producing the necessary paper requires the felling and shredding of trees. It’s essential to consider how trees are harvested. Do foresters use fuel-guzzling diesel engines or eco-friendly electric machines? Do labourers receive fair wages? How do their communities benefit?
All things considered, plastic may be surprisingly more sustainable than we think. Ultimately, it’s about how we manage and reuse plastics after their initial purpose is fulfilled.
We compensate for the CO2-emissions of production and transportation from our packaging products through a collaboration with Trees for All.
#2: Try Samples or Smaller Quantities
Before investing in an entirely new type of packaging for your company, we recommend testing a concept first. Some packagers offer packaging samples. At Willems Packaging, you can test standard samples for free, and custom designs at an additional cost. Request a quote today!
You can also start by ordering a smaller quantity and conducting a trial to gauge which option resonates best with your customers. By trying the new and old options side by side, you mitigate financial risk. This way, you can safely transport products using different packaging materials and assess their performance before overhauling your entire packaging process.
At Willems Packaging, you can test standard samples for free, and customised designs at an additional cost. Request yours today!
#3: Pay Attention to Sustainability Certificates and Labels
Labels and certificates help you navigate through the myriad of “sustainable” packaging materials available. Organisations evaluate providers based on a range of criteria. A label gives you assurance that the product is genuinely sustainable in terms of reusability, environmental friendliness, and societal impact on the communities where it’s produced. Willems Packaging collaborates with certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
But not all labels and certificates are equally reliable or transparent. Some have weak or unclear criteria, inadequate oversight, or limited independence. It’s essential to critically examine the source, purpose, and methodology of a label or certificate. Online platforms like Textile Exchange and Oeko Tex provide more information about the reliability and relevance of different labels and certificates.
#4: Consider Local Regulations and Taxes
Another factor to take into account when you choose sustainable packaging products is the applicable legislation for your market. Consider, for instance, the EU Plastics Strategy 2030, which aims to ensure that all (PET) plastic packaging in the EU is recyclable by 2030.
Laws or regulations concerning packaging materials, waste management, or labeling can vary from country to country or region. Some countries prohibit or restrict certain types of plastics, require a minimum proportion of recycled material, or impose taxes on packaging.
Be mindful of these regulations to avoid sanctions or additional taxes.
Avoid surprises at the country borders and unexpected additional costs. When you order your sustainable packaging through Willems Packaging, you’ll know exactly what to expect: from the initial sketch to delivery at your doorstep.
#5: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
One way to approach packaging sustainability is by following the 3R strategy (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), also known as the waste hierarchy. This strategy entails first trying to decrease the amount of packaging material and energy used, then reusing products and materials for an extended lifespan, and finally recycling products and materials that are no longer needed or reusable to create new products.
If the startup costs of entirely new packaging are currently beyond your reach, you might still invest in recycling or overall reduction. The latter can be achieved through cleverly designed custom packaging, for instance.
The choice between reducing, reusing, and recycling is intertwined with your product type, sustainability goals, logistics processes, budget, and local and international legislation. Willems Packaging is happy to assist you in identifying the factors that will optimise your packaging process.
One thing is certain: sitting on the fence and not making more sustainable choices will only leave your company lagging behind. That’s why we’d like to help you explore alternatives to single-use plastic packaging today.