The future of sustainable packaging will eliminate or significantly decrease the need for recycling materials in general. The consumer has gotten used to being drawn to the pretty package and it will take time to redefine what the consumer is looking for in a product. It will also take time for consumers to be knowledgeable in the ethical impacts of sustainable packaging. The company and consumer will need to be educated on why this process is superior and will over time have a positive effect globally. This also needs to be a global effort to eventually become a positive global impact.

Ways to achieve sustainable packaging is the use of less packaging material, biodegradable packaging, or using the product as part of the packaging. Some ideas to achieve this goal is to give companies incentives for sustainable packaging or discounts on purchasing sustainable packaging. Also, some companies feel a humanitarian desire to reduce waste globally and will be role models for other companies to follow. It will become the new catchphrase and can be positive branding for companies. Why do shoes need to come in a big box? Why do purses need to be stuffed with paper and cardboard? Why do products need several layers of packaging? Online shopping will also help companies comply because the selling will be visually on the computer and not in person. This will eliminate the need for packaging that draws the consumer into the product.

Consumers can also drive this by choosing a company using sustainable packaging over others. If consumers demand ethical packaging then naturally the businesses will comply. Teaching consumers to be more in tune with the ethics of a company they purchase from will also drive the need for sustainable packaging. This will cause a snowball effect because consumerism drives what companies are willing to do to sell the product. The company wants to be successful and if consumers demand ethical packaging then they will comply. So, even companies not interested in global sustainability will change due to consumer desires.

Another huge area in need of sustainable packaging in the food industry. We have become a throwaway society and want food easy to prepare. This is an area difficult to come up with solutions because people need easy food prep and also need to know the food product is tamper-proof. Possible solutions could be buying more in bulk or using containers that can be brought back and refilled. This area needs to be reevaluated as to how it is provided currently. Maybe, a rethinking of easy food prep and turning back to whole food products made from scratch. This also is an area where online shopping can help reduce the need to have the product eye appealing in person.

The package recycling process in the US currently is not efficient and does not work productively. The products that we cannot eliminate from packaging and require recycling need to enter a greener and more efficient recycling process. Currently, most recycling materials are sent out of the country which is producing a negative energy output. Let us change the recycling process to local centers that somehow use green energy or produce energy in the process. Keeping it local will produce jobs in the area and keeping the process green will also help the local area. Maybe, the entire process is run by solar and has no negative energy output and the recycled material can be used locally to manufacture new products locally.

The future of sustainable packaging does need to change to become greener. Imagine how much waste could be prevented from filling landfills if all companies took this idea seriously. It will take time but this will be our future.

Aaron Shaw
EduPrize Gilbert

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