Latest sustainable packaging trends for 2021
Current environmental problems, such as climate change, have made even more evident the need to look for sustainable options in the packaging sector to stop polluting landscapes and oceans. Some of these solutions have been the reduction of single-use plastics and the increased use of recyclable and reusable packaging. Others, however, have taken a development line based on looking for alternative materials that can degrade without causing any damage to the environment, to manufacture what is known as “eco-friendly packaging”.
One of the big concerns today is the large number of plastic containers that end up at sea. Recyclable plastics are intended to give these materials a second life rather than ending up in nature, but it is not enough to produce reusable packaging, it is necessary to raise consumer awareness to give a second use to these packaging once they do not need them.
The difficulty in educating the population in this regard has led to new currents seeking a different solution: some eco-friendly alternatives to packaging that may degrade if they are left down, but the packaging sector still wonders if this is truly the most effective solution.
What is eco-friendly packaging?
Eco-friendly packaging generally encompasses both biodegradable and compostable containers. Biodegradable packaging is usually made from materials derived from plant compounds or additives during the production process in order to make them biodegradable. This means that if they were discarded uncontrolled and ended up in the environment, they will disappear, under certain conditions of biodegradability and in a shorter period of time, being part of nature itself again.
Eco-friendly packaging differs from traditional plastic packaging mainly in the matter that forms them. The material of an eco-friendly bottle might not derive from oil, and in its production no greenhouse gases that harm the environment are emitted.
Besides, there is some other type of containers can be compostable. They can be converted into organic substrate to be used as fertilizer that helps generate new plant matter.
Even though the definition of eco-friendly packaging seems to completely exclude plastics, in fact, many sustainable packaging is made from plastics such as PET. Although this material is not biodegradable or compostable, it is 100% recyclable, so its use is also considered “sustainable”.
Benefits of using eco-friendly packaging
The demand for eco-friendly packaging has increased enormously in recent years, and the benefits that its use brings to companies are many.
The most obvious and that can be directly verified are those that have to do with sustainability. Sustainable packaging does not produce waste, it either disappears by the action of microorganisms to be part of nature again or it is reused to produce another products.
Eco-friendly packaging also makes little physical difference compared to traditional plastic packaging. That is, these containers are also resistant, protect products, and are just as manageable and visually appealing as those made of plastic.
But without a doubt, one of the biggest advantages experienced by all companies that use eco-friendly packaging is the alignment with the ideals of customers. Using these packaging helps to convey to consumers an image of awareness and concern for the environment, which undoubtedly makes them perceive the brand as an entity aware of the latest trends, innovative and, above all, responsible for their own production.
Trends in eco-friendly packaging 2021
These last years have been a key time in the development of eco-friendly and sustainable packaging. Demand for organic packaging has grown enormously due to the need to reduce costs, CO2 emissions, the amount of raw materials used and waste produced. Currently it is possible to obtain plastic material from different renewable sources such as soybeans, grass, maize… these include sugar cane.
Research on new products that allow all these advantages has continued and will continue to grow over the next few years, and makes it possible for this 2021 to already envisage the use of the progress made. Some of these trends in organic packaging for this year are:
- The film for stretch palletizing BIO PE obtained from SUGAR CANE is 100% recyclable and compostable so it is a totally environmentally friendly type of product.
- Fully compostable packaging – this type of packaging disappears into composting plants, where thanks to the presence of oxygen, microorganisms and moisture, can be broken down to become a fertilizer.
- Rigid packaging manufactured with novel technologies (plasma fluorination) that allow recyclability of the packaging – These containers provide greater protection of the product and maintain the properties of the product in its entirety. They are containers with barrier properties that have become a very cost-effective and sustainable solution.
What seems clearer is that the trend of sustainable packaging use will continue to grow, companies will continue to look for solutions in which the materials that make up the packaging can be more easily separated and recycled using processes that also do not harm the environment, and eco-friendly packaging will continue to be investigated to offer better features.
Seeking greater efficiency in the storage and transport of products, eco-friendly packaging is undoubtedly one of the most suitable options, although plastic packaging is also changing to suit the new sustainable needs of companies, and to get rid of plastics does not yet seem so clearly to be the best solution.
To get rid of plastic in eco-friendly packaging… Is it the solution or does it aggravate the sustainability problem?
Plastic packaging still has certain advantages over fully eco-friendly packaging, especially when it comes to conserving certain products for which greater protection and specific characteristics are needed in packaging.
And while trends seem to point to plastic rejection, many industries and sectors are opting for innovation that will continue to use plastic packaging in a more sustainable way.
This innovation would aim to achieve a separation of the materials that make the plastic containers easier, so that all these materials can be recovered, recycled and given a second use.
But, moreover, new processes are already being developed in the plastics industry with which to obtain eco-friendly packaging with recyclable, compostable and biodegradable plastics that no longer pose a threat to nature.
At Alción Packaging Solutions, we bet on the latest packaging trends, and develop our manufacturing processes sustainably. We implement the latest technologies to achieve packaging with sustainable characteristics which are 100% recyclable, because we want to contribute to the circular economy and responsibility to the environment.