In today’s environmentally conscious world, replacing traditional packaging solutions with eco-friendly alternatives is of great importance. To help reduce its environmental footprint, the paper industry has developed innovative solutions to plastic packaging, with demand for sustainable solutions rising significantly. Whether it’s to gain a competitive edge, improve their brand image or raise green credentials, brands, organisations and consumers have become more eco-conscious, surging demand for sustainable alternatives.
Amongst the array of sustainable packaging alternatives developed throughout the industry, biodegradable, compostable and recyclable solutions are the three-standout categories, all hosting a range of unique benefits which contribute to a greener future. But what is the difference between the three?
What is Biodegradable Packaging?
Biodegradable packaging is a type of packaging solution that can naturally break down and decompose over time. These types of materials are broken down by microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and algae. Unlike non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, which can take hundreds of years to break down, biodegradable solutions are beneficial for the environment. Once broken down, the material returns to its natural state and leaves no harmful residue behind, removing the possibility of causing harm to the environment.
Different Types of Biodegradable Packaging
As mentioned, the demand for biodegradable solutions has reached new heights, with brands seeking to meet the needs of the ever-growing mass of eco-minded consumers. It is estimated that the market for biodegradable packaging was at $4.65 billion in 2019, with this figure predicted to rise to $12.06 million by 2025. With the market for biodegradable solutions growing at this rate, it’s no surprise that there are several variations now on the market. Here are just some of the solutions available.
Biodegradable Plastics: Plastic solutions that are produced using biodegradable materials including cornstarch and sugarcane, which can be decomposed in specific environmental conditions.
Seaweed Packaging: Packaging produced using a substance called ‘Agar’, which is found in many forms of seaweed and algae. A feasible, sustainable alternative that is increasing in popularity.
Mushroom Packaging: Using the root structure of fungi called ‘mycelium’, this innovative packaging solution decomposes naturally and can be altered to suit specific needs and shapes.
What is Compostable Packaging?
Compostable packaging and biodegradable packaging share similarities, but they have distinct differences. While all compostable solutions are biodegradable, not all biodegradable solutions are compostable. Instead of decomposing into nothing, compostable packaging breaks down into natural elements such as water, which enriches the soil with nutrients and fosters healthy plant growth. Compostable solutions help reduce environmental impact and provide an eco-friendly alternative that contributes to a circular economy.
Different Types of Compostable Packaging
As societies focus on tackling climate change strengthens, compostable packaging solutions begin to take centre stage, with solutions including the following.
Compostable Coffee Cups: Produced using compostable PLA (polylactic acid), when composted the PLA lining breaks down. This provides the compost with carbon, which enriches the soil and supports plant fertility.
Compostable Tea Bags: When composted in an appropriate environment, the nutrients from the tea leaves and natural fibres contribute nutritional benefits to the soil through decomposition.
What is Recyclable Packaging?
Recyclable packaging stands apart from biodegradable and compostable alternatives, as it comprises of materials capable of collection, processing, and reuse to produce new materials. This involves a cleaning and sorting process that transforms the packaging into raw materials for manufacturing new products, promoting a circular system within society. By facilitating the reduction of packaging waste, recycled packaging plays a crucial role in reducing environmental output.
Different Types of Recyclable Packaging
There is a greater willingness, particularly amongst younger consumers, to purchase products that have adopted sustainable packaging. A survey by Trivium Packaging stated that 86% of consumers under the age of 45 showed a willingness to pay more for sustainable packaging. As concern over the effects of non-recyclable packaging on the planet grows, demand for recyclable solutions has significantly increased, with the following examples being some of the most sought-after solutions.
Cardboard/Paper Packaging: Packaging products such as corrugated boxes and kraft paper bags are the most common forms of recyclable packaging. Paper-based packaging possesses the ability to be repulped and reprocessed to create new forms of packaging products.
Glass Packaging: Glass jars and bottles are very common packaging items that can be recycled. When disposed of correctly, glass solutions can be melted down to liquid form to create new glass products.
Aluminum Packaging: Aluminum packaging solutions such as cans and foil are often recycled. The recycling process is both environmentally friendly and efficient, as it consumes less energy in comparison to developing new aluminum packaging products.
Each with its distinct advantages; biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable packaging all play a crucial role in mitigating packaging waste and minimising landfill impact. Despite each solution varying in their characteristics, they share a common significance in contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.
Focusing on the sustainable development of packaging products, PG Paper is continuously searching for innovative and eco-friendly alternative plastic solutions to add to our product offering. If you would like to hear about the biodegradable, compostable or recyclable packaging solutions we offer, reach out to our business development team today at [email protected]. Alternatively, visit our packaging page for information on the packaging products we supply.