Optimised packaging: reusable, lighter, biodegradable

Optimised packaging: reusable, lighter, biodegradable
© treenabeena, image #68023133, 2017, source:
Materials, Waste
All manufacturing industries
Medium cost
Annual saving:
0 - 30 %
Payback time:
2 - 3 Year(s)
Resource savings: Raw material:
The environmental effect of the initiatives varies considerably and is difficult to assess. Recycling is recommended for all packaging types because of the energy and raw material savings. FSC certification of packaging might only have a small effect on the total life-cycle performance of the packaging, whereas reducing weight or increasing recyclability can have a larger effect. Low-hanging fruit might not result in (large) environmental improvements. For this to be assessed, a life-cycle evaluation of the packaging before and after the changes is necessary. According to WRAP (2010), a 10 % environmental gain (expressed as CO2 emissions) can be achieved by increasing recycled content of glass by 20 % or standard plastics by 26 %. Weight reduction yields proportionate reduction of environmental impacts.
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design, Supply operations, Waste and recycling
Size of company:
Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
What is in it for you:
Reusable and light-weight packaging mean resource and cost savings including in transport. Biodegradable packaging supports sustainable branding and meets growing demand for 'green' products.
Descriptive information:

Packaging protects and preserves products and ensures that they arrive in perfect condition. But producing packaging also consumes resources and disposing of it results in a large amount of waste, especially in the growing online trade. This is an economic and an environmental burden. Packaging and packaging waste are high on the political agenda in the EU and in some EU Members States both through the implementation of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme. Customers are also demanding better, greener packaging alternatives.

Some companies are responding to this challenge by developing sustainable packaging strategies. These address key issues and practices including how to reduce packaging weight/volume, making it easier to refill, reuse and recylce packaging, and using certified and recycled materials in packaging.

Some overarching principles that can be applied to packaging procurement or design to improve sustainability include:

  • Use fewer materials in any single packaging solution to make recycling easier
  • Use mono-materials where possible
  • Design for ease of separation to aid recycling
  • Communicate the packaging material and recycling message
  • Design packaging so that all contents can be easily extracted
  • Make packaging reusable
  • Avoid extraneous or additional items on sales packaging as they may contaminate recycling streams
  • Package goods in the right quantities to eliminate products going to waste. This holds especially for perishable and fresh products (food), to a lesser extent cosmetics
  • Minimise packaging (avoid additional layers of packaging)

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