noissue Mailers by @four_elevens

The terms recyclable and compostable packaging are often used interchangeably, which can be confusing for customers who want to know how to dispose of packaging correctly.

If you’re a brand that is using or looking at using environmentally friendly packaging, it's important that you know the distinction between the two so you can correctly educate customers on the end-of-life care.

Here’s what you need to know to understand the difference between these types of packaging.

Advantages of Eco-Friendly Packaging

Thanks to a surge in environmental consciousness with shoppers globally, eco-friendly packaging is becoming increasingly popular.

The effects of this are being felt across many industries. One example of this is McDonald’s announced that it will completely move to renewable and recyclable packaging by 2025.

With younger consumers prioritizing eco-friendly business practices over others, sustainability has become a necessity – not a choice. 37% of US consumers prioritize eco-friendliness and sustainability while shopping. There are several advantages of using environmentally friendly packaging:

  1. Improving your brand reputation. By switching to eco-friendly packaging, businesses can ensure that their brand name and products are received well by the target market. People are more interested in purchasing from businesses that use product packaging that is either recyclable or compostable.
  2. Resonating with environmentally minded consumers. There’s a growing market of people who only purchase green products and are even willing to spend more on such green products.
  3. Increase in customer satisfaction. Customers' general satisfaction increases when they find it much easier to reuse or recycle their packaging.
  4. Cost savings. By switching to eco-friendly recycled packaging, businesses save on transit, storage, and warehousing costs. This means increased profit margins.
  5. Increase in sales. By focusing on a more niche demographic, businesses that use recycled packaging products witness increased customer loyalty and sales.

The two most popular kinds of eco-friendly packaging include recycled and compostable packaging. Before delving into the differences between them, it’s essential to understand what recycling and composting mean.

Recyclable Packaging

noissue Recycled Mailer

Recycling is the process during which waste materials are converted into new usable objects and materials. Materials like plastic, glass and paper are recyclable. Using recycled packaging contributes to a circular economy in two ways.

First, it reduces the demand for raw materials to produce new products, and second, it keeps the waste materials out of landfills by reusing existing items. Commonly recyclable materials include metal, glass, plastics, cardboard, etc.

A recent survey suggests that around 62% of people worry that their lack of knowledge is causing them to recycle incorrectly. The survey demonstrated that a high percentage of Americans struggled with identifying the products which can be recycled, so more education and communication is needed from brands.

Compostable Packaging

noissue Compostable Mailer by @harawei

Composting is the process of breaking down materials without leaving a toxic residue. Compostable products are organic, mostly made of materials such as starch that completely break down into compost without producing any toxic waste. Generally, composting is a controlled process in an industrial facility, but some packaging products may be certified as home compostable, like noissue's Compostable Mailers.

Compostable products usually come from your kitchen or garden. Items like vegetable peels and fruit skins are compostable materials.

However, animal waste (like meat or poultry) should not be mixed with your compost, otherwise, it will mess up the compost pile. Things from your garden like twigs, weeds, and leaves from the garden also make good compost.

As the name suggests, compostable packaging is made of materials that can be broken down into compost. Products that adhere to European Standard EN 12432/14955 are industrially compostable and come with a “seedling” logo. Other products that can be composed at home come with a “home compostable” logo.

Compostable Packaging vs. Recyclable Packaging

Sometimes, people just assume that compostable products can just be thrown away and that they will biodegrade themselves. However, composting is not that simple.

To compost a product, an industrial compost facility or a home compost must be used to correctly follow the process. If customers cannot access a home or an industrial compost facility, compostable packaging is almost impossible to recycle.

If not appropriately composted, compostable packaging can create disposal problems. Compostable packaging makes more sense if the customer is educated and aware of the home composting protocols or knows when to send their packaging material to a composting facility.

Some experts believe that recyclable packaging is better than compostable packaging as it can use pre-existing materials while wasting less energy. For instance, a large amount of energy is consumed in manufacturing a plastic coffee cup. Reusing and recycling it could be better than composting an organically made coffee cup. After all, the longer a product's life, the better it is for the environment.

One of the drawbacks of using recycled packaging products is that the plastic material will eventually break down many times and reach a point where it cannot be recycled further.

At this point, another disposal method like throwing it in the trash will have to be used. Recyclable and compostable packaging has both benefits and drawbacks when compared to each other. However, it does not mean they must be used in isolation. As indicated above, the two methods can be used in tandem with each other to minimize the environmental impact.

Wrapping It Up

Are you thinking of moving to more sustainable ways of packaging your products?

Check out noissue's custom recyclable and compostable packaging options and use the framework that works best for your business!