Sustainable packaging can mean many things and varies with the product questioned. The good news is that I come across sustainable and low waste companies very often. It is a company’s responsibility to provide sustainable packaging and it is the consumer’s responsibility to choose the sustainable option. Both parties have a say in the matter of packaging because companies want to make money and consumers have the power to vote with their money. I try my best to stay away from conventional plastic which is extremely unsustainable in many horrific ways. Its life cycle is cradle to grave most of the time, and its grave is the ocean where it turns into microplastics and creates a lot of damage to ecosystems.
It is very important to notice that to have sustainable packaging we need the right system to process it. The most relevant example is one that I have to live with every day. I work at a vegan bakery where the owners pride themselves on having eco-friendly packaging for their customers. Although I believe their intentions are very pure, they don’t notice that this “eco-friendly packaging” they take pride in is not as eco-friendly as they believe. Their packaging is made out of compostable bioplastic which in theory can be sustainable, it is unsustainable in practice since the city that I live in does not have a composting site, therefore, this packaging ends up in the landfill because it can’t be recycled either.
My favorite sustainable companies are Who Gives a Crap, Pela, and Blueland. Who Gives A Crap is a great example of sustainable packaging and sustainable products. Their products are made out of recycled paper or bamboo and their packaging is a recycled cardboard box therefore all of their packaging is recyclable or compostable. Pela is another great example, they made the first compostable phone case and their packaging is 100% recyclable and compostable. Last but not least, Blueland has the potential to reduce so much plastic. The creator of Blueland realized that we buy many cleaning products that come in plastic and just contain a lot of water and some kind of formula to clean. Therefore, they created tablets that dissolve in water and create the mirror cleaner or the hand soap you need without the plastic packaging. Their tablets are packaged in compostable paper. These companies and many more are what drive the sustainability and zero waste movements. Humans create more trash than they can process and although it has a lot to do with our obsession with shopping on impulse and with the mentality that all can be replaced and thrown away, we have companies like these to thank for their ingenious ideas and solutions.
There are many sustainable materials like hemp, bamboo, recycled paper and cardboard, and plastics made out of compostable materials. But for the future of packaging to be bright we need to have the right systems in place, and we need to educate the public on how to get rid of their trash. We need to support companies that have sustainability as their priority and not support companies that are not conscious of the waste they create with their products and packaging. Like I mentioned before, customers vote with their dollars and that’s a lot of power and responsibility we have.
Essay by: Leonela Pola
Florida International University