You’re going to need to buy things, but you have a choice as to how many of those things are packaged. Sustainable packaging includes packaging that can either be reused, composted, or recycled. The first on the list of Rs now is Reduce, Rethink (Do I need this product?), Reuse, and then Recycle. Flexible packaging is plastic packaging which is only beginning to become more sustainable.

It was encouraging to me when going into deeper research on the subject of packaging how much is going on behind the scenes to make changes. I discovered a lot of committed people who work for sustainable and flexible packaging companies and are trying to make improvements.

At this time, the most sustainable packaging choice is to choose cardboard or paper, such as buying your meat and cheese at butchers and delis where it is wrapped in paper. With e-commerce shopping, cardboard consumption has increased dramatically, so there is a demand for it in the recycling business. Pizza boxes – if devoid of food particles – are acceptable in many recycling bins, even with oil spots. The U.S. creates three billion pizza boxes annually.

Sustainable packaging companies have pressured Amazon to reduce the size of its delivery packaging, which means using less and creating savings for the company. There is pressure to stop using styrofoam peanuts for filling voids in boxes and instead use corrugated cardboard. Check your next Amazon order to evaluate changes. I have noticed they are sending boxes closer to the size of my orders.

Flexible packaging (plastic) as I said above is in the beginnings of big changes. The U.S. is the largest contributor of plastic waste in the world. We generate 46.5 million tons each year. Some recent good news is that the U.N. is taking on plastic pollution. “Heads of State, environment ministers, and other representatives from 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday, March 2, to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by the end of 2024,” according to UN News.

In listening to Waste 360’s “Nothing Wasted” podcast, I learned that all plastic packaging isn’t bad, as its biggest plus is how it has prevented food waste by keeping our food fresher for longer. The producers explained that we cannot just suddenly stop using plastic for everything, but instead we must keep a circular economy going so all jobs aren’t lost. I recommend listening to the podcast “Delivering Hope Through Sustainable Packaging” HERE. One of the presenters was Cory Connors, a sustainable packaging consultant at Landsberg. The other presenter was Jonathan Quinn from the packaging company Pregis. It was an interesting discussion. 

A company called Amcor, mentioned in Packaging Digest, is developing better packaging by producing a life span performance paper in Europe for food packaging. It is 80% paper fiber, so it is recyclable. They are starting now with packaging for snacks and confections and eventually for coffee, spices, and dried soups. They have also designed paper collars to hold canned six-packs instead of using plastic rings.

How can you choose today to reduce your use of plastic and select more sustainable packaging?

  1. use canvas or cloth bags for groceries – if you forget them, choose paper bags over plastic
  2. use a reusable water bottle to eliminate single use plastic
  3. choose bamboo or metal straws – or no straw
  4. use glass Snapware storage containers, Corningware, or beeswax instead of plastic
  5. use natural fabrics such as cotton and bamboo
  6. go back to bar soaps instead of soap in plastic containers (My family gave me bar soap shampoo for my birthday, and it works great!)
  7. buy meat and cheeses wrapped in paper – paper is better than plastic
  8. use reusable mesh cotton bags for your produce
  9. shop at your local farmer’s markets when possible

Learn more about the choices you can make at Break Free From Plastic.

We would love to hear about some of the changes you’ve made to reduce your plastic waste! Please share in the comments how you and your household are becoming more sustainable.