If you’re an ecommerce merchant who wants to be more eco-friendly, one of the biggest areas you can look into is your packaging. 📦
The growth in online shopping has led to a boom in ecommerce packaging and more waste in landfills. A study by Oceana revealed the Amazon alone generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2019, and the number of air pillows alone could circle the globe 500 times.
These statistics show it’s becoming increasingly urgent for businesses to adopt more eco-friendly practices.
To help you do just that, we’ve put together a handy list of environmentally friendly packaging materials. Go through them below and see which options are the best fit for your business. 👇
1. Compostable packaging
Compostable refers to the ability of a material to naturally decompose back into the earth, ideally without leaving any toxic residue. Compostable packaging materials are usually made from plant-based materials (like corn, sugar cane, or bamboo) and/or bio-poly mailers.
It's important to note that for a material to be truly considered compostable, it should be able to break down in home compost within 180 days and 90 days in commercial composting conditions.
noissue’s Compostable Mailer is one example of certified compostable packaging material. It's created from a combination of PBAT, a biodegradable and compostable polymer, and PLA, which is made from plant-based resources like corn and wheat straw.
The baby and children's store Sun Sea Days is an excellent example of a retailer using compostable mailers to ship products.
2. Recycled packaging
Environmentally friendly packaging materials can also come in the form of recycled packaging. These are items that give a second life to plastics that are already in circulation.
By using recycled materials, you're able to conserve natural resources, reduce the amount of waste in landfills, and prevent pollution by limiting the need to collect raw materials.
We can see recycled packaging in action at Handzy Shop + Studio, which uses noissue Recycled Mailers. Aside from being made from recycled plastics, they contain another adhesive strip so the mailers can be resued once more.
3. Corrugated packaging
Corrugated packaging refers to box fibers made mainly from trees and old corrugated containers. According to corrugated.org, they can be used 7 to 10 times to make new packaging materials. In addition, "more corrugated packaging is recovered for recycling than any other packaging material."
Corrugated packaging is widely used in the industry, with numerous online merchants utilizing it to package and ship their products.
Here’s an example from Everyday Wine, which uses corrugated boxes for its wine bottles.
If you need to use transparent paper packaging, then glassine — a smooth and glossy paper — could be a good option. Glassine is manufactured from wood pulp, making it recyclable and biodegradable. It's also pH neutral and acid-free.
The Belle Candle Company uses glassine to wrap its luxury candles before sending them out to customers.
4. Cellulose packaging
Cellulose packaging is made from natural sources like hemp, wood, and cotton. The material is biodegradable and compostable, making it a sustainable alternative to plastic.
Food brands, in particular, prefer cellulose packaging because of its moisture-resistant properties.
You can see it in the wild at the Kitwe Food & Farmers Market, where vendors selling microgreens are using cellulose film to package their products.
5. Cornstarch packaging
Cornstarch packaging refers to materials made out of — you guessed it — cornstarch. It comes from renewable sources and doesn't contain harmful toxins, making it biodegradable and sustainable.
Cornstarch can also be used to make biodegradable packing peanuts, which is a great alternative to bubble wrap and styrofoam.
6. Mushroom packaging
Another popular alternative to styrofoam, mushroom packaging is made from mycelium — a fungus found in mushrooms. The result is a sturdy packaging material that can hold products and keep them in place.
The folks at Keap, a candle subscription company, use mushroom packaging when shipping products. According to their team, the material's durable and lightweight properties allow them to safely ship items while remaining sustainable.
7. Kraft paper
Kraft paper is manufactured from wood pulp. Unlike regular paper, kraft materials use all types of wood including resinous pine, which is typically left out when creating regular paper products. Almost all of the chemicals that go into making kraft paper can be reused, so the manufacturing process is more sustainable.
noissue Kraft mailers are 100% FSC-certified and come in a range of sizes. You can even customize them with your own branding and style.
Have a look at this example from freelance illustrator and print designer Sally Payne.
8. Green Cell Foam
Green Cell Foam is a bio-based foam material made from US-grown corn. You can dispose of it by dissolving it in water or by composting the material at home or at industrial facilities.
As its name clearly indicates, Green Cell Foam functions much like foam, making it ideal for brands that need cushioning materials when shipping products.
Wrapping It Up
As an ecommerce merchant, one of the most impactful steps you can take to go green is to revamp your packaging and shipping practices.
Hopefully, the ideas and examples above inspire you to take your eco-friendly efforts to the next level!