Top 10 Sustainable Raw Materials For Packaging
The demand for sustainable packaging is growing. Consumer demand is piling the pressure on manufacturers, who then have the dual responsibility of supplying packaging to the market that is not only strong and durable, but also friendly to the environment.
The ISCC Plus certification scheme has laid out several principles that apply to sustainable packaging including: zero-deforestation; protection of land, water and air; reducing greenhouse emissions; transparent supply chains; and compliance with international laws and treaties.
Here is a list of our top sustainable raw materials for packaging.
Types of Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Raw Materials
Made from natural sugar cane fibers, bagasse is considered both a renewable and sustainable raw material. The advantages of bagasse as a tree-free paper include its robust nature, its versatility of uses for packaging, and it’s breathable, water-resistant qualities. Bagasse is both biodegradable and compostable, and will regrow in the space of a year.
Cork is a popular packaging material because of its strength and durability. It is water-resistant, fireproof, breathable, lightweight and incredibly tough. One of the biggest advantages of cork as a sustainable raw material is that it is both biodegradable and recyclable.
A favorite of Wal-Mart, polylactic acid (PLA) is biodegradable plastic made from fermented corn starch. It’s completely safe to use with food products and liquids. PLA is also compostable and produces less greenhouse gases than other types of plastic.
Mushroom® packaging is manufactured from a material called mycelium, composed of mushroom roots and waste. The result is a highly durable material that's 100% compostable and comparable to conventional packaging foam. IKEA is just one of the big brands using mushroom-based packaging instead of Styrofoam.
Bio-based polyester can be manufactured by combining sugar and plant-based starches. Known as Polyethylene Furanoate (PEF), it is widely used for bottles, films and food trays as its chemical make-up keeps food fresh. The manufacturing process also produces less greenhouse gas emissions.
Hemp has become an increasingly popular sustainable raw material for manufacturing bioplastic. Hemp requires less water than other crops and grows quickly. Hemp bioplastic is biodegradable, and takes between 3-6 months to completely decompose. It is also reportedly 3.5 times stronger than polypropylene.
The benefits of seaweed as an eco-friendly packaging alternative are many. It's readily available, grows quickly, is 100% biodegradable, and safe to eat, making it a highly innovative food packaging alternative. Seaweed even shows promise as a raw material for manufacturing bioplastic.
Norwegian carton manufacturer Elopak has created a bio-based alternative to Polyethylene (PE) that not only keeps food fresh, but uses much less plastic than conventional food and liquid cartons. These innovative renewable cartons are made from wood fibers sourced from responsibly managed sustainable forests.
Paper accounts for 55.1% of the overall packaging market share. Now recycled paper is ready to take over that market share. According to Science Direct, recycled paper has the same quality and strength as paper made from virgin materials. Recycling paper decreases the pressure on landfills, reduces the amount of pollution in the air from incineration, and generates between 20%-50% fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
In many countries, corrugated cardboard is manufactured from corrugated cardboard raw paper, which is essentially recycled paper. This material is incredibly strong and versatile and is 100% renewable and recyclable. Corrugated cardboard offers superior protection, and is gaining popularity as a material for shipping boxes.
According to the Frontier Group, around 30% of waste in the U.S. is made up of packaging. By simply changing your raw materials, you can drastically reduce the amount of waste and pollution your business produces and do your part to contribute to a more sustainable industry.