The food packaging industry is one of the largest producers of plastic cartons and containers that end up in the trash bins. These food packaging waste further find their way to the landfills, the ocean floor, and the incinerators, posing a threat to the environment. In fact, globally, landfills are the third largest source of methane that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.
Food manufacturers and packaging design experts can divert the waste from the landfills and facilitate the process of recycling by introducing recyclable food packaging, minimizing their ecological footprint.
Here are five ways in which the food packaging industry can design for recyclability, reducing its negative impact on our planet.
1. Use Biodegradable Material
In recent years, manufacturers are using biodegradable and compostable products that naturally break down and reduce the amount of waste being diverted to the landfills. These packaging options are made out of plants and fibers that can be easily recycled, giving back the valuable natural resources to the planet.
The new generation of manufacturers and packaging design experts are working towards tackling the global plastic waste crisis, minimizing their environmental footprint.
For instance, companies, namely Google, Gilette, Samsung, Whole Foods, and Virgin America are moving towards a sustainable future by partnering with green packaging manufacturers who offer compostable packaging solutions.
Packaging companies are coming up with creative ways to minimize the carbon footprint and attract eco-aware consumers. For instance, Papelyco offers compostable paper plates that are made using corn husk and plant seeds. After use, these plates can be placed in the soil to grow plants, offering an environment-friendly alternative to non-biodegradable plastic and foam packaging.
Moreover, the traditional plastic can be replaced with bioplastics and recycled plastic to achieve eco-friendly packaging. Bioplastics are made from renewable materials such as starch, cellulose, and biopolymers that are biodegradable and can reduce the problem of the excessive plastic waste polluting the environment.
2. Opt for Minimalist Packaging
The essence of minimalism lies in omitting needless packaging elements, reducing the amount of waste generated and the ensuing negative impact on the environment. Simplicity in packaging is all about de-cluttering the product packaging design.
Environment-conscious consumers are increasingly gravitating towards products that are embracing minimalist packaging. In fact, in the Nielson Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility that polled 30 thousand consumers across 60 countries, 52 percent of the respondents shared that their purchase decisions were partly based on the packaging and that they check whether the brand is committed to making a positive impact on the environment.
Minimalist packaging can help manufacturers save money on the packaging material and the shipping costs, create a sophisticated look, stand out on the shelf amongst competitors, and position themselves as an eco-conscious organization.
In order to design a minimalist package for your product, you must assess the target market requirements and understand how the competitors are marketing their products. Working with a packaging supplier who understands your unique business needs will help you identify ways to optimize your resources, creating packaging solutions that are environment-friendly.
3. Make It Easy for Recyclers to Separate the Packaging Components
Recycling reduces our dependence on landfills and incinerators, reducing the environmental hazards and protecting the natural resources. However, the waste management infrastructure calls for better solutions that facilitate the recycling process.
Manufacturers can make the process of recycling waste easier by designing packaging that will compel the consumers to separate and segregate the components, such as the container, the lids, the labels, and the caps before discarding them.
For instance, Tetra Pak recently announced the launch of Tetra Top that enables consumers to cut off the plastic top from the carton sleeve, allowing them to be recycled independently.
4. Use Eco-Friendly Labeling Inks
One of the greatest challenges in recycling food packaging is the removal of polymeric ink on the labels. The components found in the labeling ink may contaminate the recycled material, preventing it from being reused. Moreover, the traditional de-inking process involves the use of large amount of chemicals that are not only expensive but also pose a threat to the environment.
Over the past few decades, the advances in the ink chemistry and printing technology have given rise to eco-friendly solutions such as non-toxic biodegradable ink. Packaging firms are increasingly using labeling inks made from milk, soy proteins, or plants and other food items to reduce their negative impact on the environment. These inks are more sustainable in comparison to the chemical-based inks, making the recycling process easier.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) regulates the food packaging and labeling in the manufacturing sector. Make sure the components used in the labeling inks are not on the exclusion list for printing issued by the USFDA.
5. Pay Attention to the Adhesives Used
Though adhesives comprise a small part of the product packaging (about one percent of the overall package weight), use of non-eco-friendly adhesives can contaminate the recycling material, posing a risk to the environment.
Recycling compatible adhesives (RCAs), a class of hot-melt PSA (pressure sensitive adhesives), are easier to remove during the recycling process as they remain large enough after the pulping stage.
Every ingredient used to assemble and seal the food packages must adhere to the food compliance regulations laid down by the USFDA. These regulations state that the adhesives used must neither affect the nature or the quality of the food nor interfere with the process of recycling.
Without a doubt, food packaging has to be attractive and non-toxic and offer convenience to the consumer. However, with food packaging being one of the most common sources of waste, it is imperative that manufacturers come up with innovative ways to make their packaging environment-friendly, reducing the amount of waste being diverted to the landfills and the incinerators.
The above-mentioned points will help manufacturers and their packaging design teams to create recyclable packaging options, minimizing their ecological footprint.