Are you a start up looking to reduce the amount of waste your business generates? In that case you may want to continue reading. We recently asked the retail sellers on Sustainable Marketplace (thirty at the time of our survey) to share some of their thoughts and ideas about sustainable packaging. They generously provided us with elaborate responses – which we gladly share with you in this blog, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
We asked our retailers six quick questions:
- On a scale of 1-10 how important is sustainable packaging for your brand?
- What are some of the criteria you use to decide whether packaging is sustainable or not?
- Is just your product packaging sustainable or are your post packs sustainable too?
- Do you use different criteria for your product packaging than for your post packs?
- How long did it take you to research and find your packaging?
- Are you always looking to improve your packaging or have you found the perfect solution for your product?
Question 1 - On a scale of 1-10 how important is sustainable packaging for your brand?
It shouldn’t be a jaw dropping surprise that 100% of our respondents score sustainable packaging with a maximum 10. They rate the sustainability of their packaging as extremely important.
Elaborating, virtually all respondents specifically identify sustainability as a wholistic, business-wide concept. For our retail sellers, it simply makes no sense to go all out in creating a waste free or low waste product, selecting ingredients with the utmost of care, if the same attention to detail is not paid to the product’s packaging and shipping.
According to one respondent: “Packaging quickly becomes one of the biggest contributors to waste in many product businesses. I see this as an opportunity to dramatically reduce our impact by choosing sustainable plastic free alternatives.”
Not all our retail sellers are producers though. What about the packaging of products that are manufactured overseas and imported in Australia?
They still see a way to try and improve the overall sustainability of their product: “Although we unfortunately have little control over the packaging of the brands we distribute, we try our best to educate and encourage manufacturers on sustainable packaging as much as we possibly can.”
If educating manufacturers is one thing, consumers must also adapt their expectations and educate themselves.
As one seller writes: “Many consumers concentrate on a product’s origin and contents, often overlooking the packaging. Product packaging, as well as shipping materials, are a huge source of waste and contribute significantly to environmental issues such as landfill etc.
If you are wanting to make change as a consumer and opt for more eco-friendly alternatives than you MUST look at packaging and understand the different options available as well as their source, manufacture and disposal.”
Question 2 - What are some of the criteria you use to decide whether packaging is sustainable or not?
We asked our retail sellers to tick as many options as applicable of the following:
The packaging is compostable
The packaging can be re-used
The packaging can be re-filled
The packaging is 100% recyclable
The packaging is made of one material only, which facilitates easy recycling
Eighty percent of respondents ticked the option ‘it’s compostable’, giving it the highest score, followed closely by ‘it’s 100% recyclable’ and ‘it can be re-used (both 72%).
Fifty percent of respondents ticked the option ‘it’s made of one material’, while thirty percent ticked ‘it can be re-filled’ as a deciding factor for what makes a material sustainable.
Compostable packaging is popular and increasingly available – as paper and cardboard, but also as plant-based, compostable plastic. These are fast evolving products though, and while standards such as degradable and biodegradable were quite acceptable a few years ago, we now prefer products to be compostable or even home compostable.
Note the difference between ‘compostable’ and ‘home compostable’: although the end product (nutrient rich compost) is the same for both, only products carrying the certified home compostable label can be added to your home compost heap (and devoured by worms). Products labelled ‘compostable’ can only be processed in industrial composting plants, where temperatures can be kept consistently higher to aid the breaking down of the materials.
According to one respondent: “It's important to ask manufacturers if packaging is HOME compostable or FACILITY compostable. Also I have found many companies list their products as compostable but when challenged they are merely biodegradable. A very big difference.”
And another: We do not use "compostable" plastic as we have found that it is not truly compostable in a home setting as it takes too long to break down. This includes mailer envelopes. Commercial composting is not widely available yet so not a truly sustainable option until it is.”
All of our sellers avoid plastics wherever they can. They simply don’t want to contribute to the current excess of plastics – even recycled plastics - in landfill.
Question 3 - Is just your product packaging sustainable or are your post packs sustainable too?
All our retail sellers report that they’ve given deep consideration to all of their packaging and consider it to be part of the same process.
Some of the respondents are waiting for other businesses to catch up to newer standards. Natasha from Excalibur Dehydrators for example, reported that: “While we do our best to only use recycled and eco-friendly materials for our packaging, postage costs have restricted our ability to incorporate sustainable satchels. We're waiting very eagerly for Australia Post to release their range of compostable satchels.”
Question 4 – Do you use different criteria for your product packaging than for your post packs?
Wouldn’t it be great if sustainable packaging was so affordable and readily accessible for all our respondents to respond with a wholehearted ‘yes’?
Unfortunately that’s not quite the case (yet).
Liz from Lil’Bit Better: “I have to [use different criteria]. It's much easier and affordable to get home compostable shipping items than product packaging. It’s extremely expensive for small business to get compostable/home compostable product packaging in Australia, as it's just taking off and minimum quantities are way beyond my capacity and budget for now. Although I can purchase some packaging from overseas, it is still expensive and often the credibility is questionable.”
Others don’t face these issues. Rikki from WAW Handplanes: “The only difference is that our post packs need to be weatherproof and so here we use compostable corn starch as opposed to cardboard.”
Question 5 - How long did it take you to research and find your packaging?
It took our retailers anywhere from ‘not too long’ to ‘at least six months’ to research and find their packaging. It really depends on priorities.
Fibre for Good wanted a local product, which took a long time to find.
Styelle Swim’s founder Charys’ advice to others is to ask the right questions so you get what you’re looking for.
Bear & Kind took months to research and find their packaging and are still ordering some from overseas as it’s not available in Australia.
Although WAW Handplanes have refined their packaging over a few years, they continue to seek newer and more cost-effective alternatives.
The same for Lil’Bit Better: “I never stop looking for better alternatives and ways to improve and educate.”
But perhaps Natasha from Excalibur Dehydrators sums it up best: “It took far too long, considering finding greener options should be as easy as possible.“
Question 6 - Are you always looking to improve your packaging or have you found the perfect solution for your product?
All our retailers report that they continue to seek higher quality and more cost effective solutions.
According to Charys from Styelle Swim: “As far as we are concerned, you can never be sustainable enough and there is always a better option.”
And Liz from Lil’Bit Better: “The perfect solution for my products doesn't exist and it never will. When looking at sustainable or eco alternatives there are always pros and cons: freight costs, energy consumption, water usage and manufacturer waste will always be factors in assessing how good packaging is for the environment. Greenwashing is an issue too as well as misinformation.”
These packaging, printing and shipping companies come recommended by our retail sellers. Many offer custom made solutions.
Geami brown Kraft paper with honeycomb structure – available from various companies.
Hero Packaging – certified home compostable, reusable mailer bags and padded mailer bags.
Pakko – Australian made custom packaging and cardboard boxes.
Kraft paper tape – water activated gummed paper tape. Available from various outlets.
Better Packaging Co. – re-usable certified home compostable mail satchels. Better Packaging Co. also have a register for drop off points of used satchels (for those who do not have a home compost heap)
Eco Enclose – a wide range of recyclable, reusable packaging options and materials that can be recycled or composted.
Biotuff– biodegradable and certified compostable mailer satchels.
Cardboard Cosmetics – Kraft push up tubes, cylinder jars and sifter jars
Sparrowdog (Tuggerah, NSW). Offer excellent well priced and plastic free fulfilment service for small business.
Australia Post – offer a carbon neutral shipping service and continue to improve their packaging.
Sustainable Printing Co – affordable environmentally friendly printers in Victoria.
Enviro Print Australia – sustainable printing and marketing options (among others compostable adhesive labels)
We also found these (mostly Australian) packaging companies on Instagram. Perhaps it's worth checking out if they’re in your geographic area or fit your requirements.
- Planet Protector Packaging - Sustainable insulated packaging made from waste wool
- Grounded Packaging - Certified B Corp
- Woodruffandco - Branding tools for packaging
- HeapsGood Packaging - Mailers and labels
- inke packaging - Custom and sustainable Australian made packaging onlin
- Rethink Packaging - 100% compostable packaging
- PackQueen Packaging - Postage, gift, food and custom packaging
- Packaging People - Bags, cylinders, digital printing
- Ecoware Packaging - New Zealand based, packaging made from plants
- Earth Packaging Co - Home compostable mail satchels and packaging.
- Mushroom Packaging - Home compostable mycelium packaging
- BioPak Packaging - Wide range of compostable product packaging
- Pronto Packaging - Growing range of green food packaging
- Hello Packaging - Plastic free mailers
- QIS packaging - Wide range of paper and cardboard packaging
- Lil Packaging - High quality, sustainable and recyclable packaging
- No more plastic Packaging - Biodegradable and compostable packaging solutions
- Greener Packaging Co. - Packaging design studio for sustainable brands
- Envirochoice Packaging - Eco friendly disposable packaging (food)
- Kent Paper & Packaging - One stop packaging shop with a growing environmentally friendly range
- Wastebasedco - UK based, carbon negative home compostable mail bags
- Progressive Packaging - Corrugated recycled paper boes and sustainable packaging materials
- PA Packaging Solutions - Compostable duplex/triplex barrier packaging
- Synergy Packaging - Melbourne based manufacturer and supplier of high quality PET and rPET packaging