*Rhea Mazumdar Singhal

One of the first interactions a customer has with any product is through packaging. The global shift toward reducing carbon footprint and sustainability has resulted in a widespread change in the manner we think and design products. It is the well-known brands that are paving the way. We are living in a world where there are social media backlashes, digital transformation, and mass climate change. People are focusing more on shifting ideologies, innovating tech-savvy products, and global transformation. Consumers are more aware of their social responsibility, and companies have to be conscious of how this impacts on the market. A consumer or a brand wanting to create a difference in this world will look to their sphere of influence to decide what they can do to save this planet. At present, more and more companies and brands are looking forward to sustainability, not merely because it’s the preference of their customers, but because they are beginning to understand their role in making the planet a better place. Plastic features highly across media outlets with images of sea life sharing their habitats with plastic bags, micro plastics, etc. Governments have certainly played their part too, by banning plastic straws in certain markets for example.

Why eco-friendly packaging is so important for us? There are many answers to this question. Below are some most obvious answers on why we should switch towards sustainable packaging.

  • Reduces Carbon Footprint– Eco-friendly packaging is better for the environment as it is made of recycled waste material which reduces the consumption of resources.
  • Easy Disposable– The use of sustainable packaging may vary but it is always either compostable or recyclable. If the packaging is clearly labelled as recyclable packaging then it can be thrown into your recycling bin for re-use.
  • Biodegradable– Green packaging not only reduces your carbon footprint and environmental impact but is also beneficial after it has served its purpose as the packaging materials are biodegradable.
  • Versatile and Flexible– Eco-friendly packaging is pretty versatile and can be re-used and re-purposed in most major industries that involve packaging. Whatever you are looking to package right from meats to electronic devices, there will be an eco-friendly type of packaging that will meet their needs and reduce costs.
  • No Harmful Plastic– Traditional packaging methods and materials contribute to global warming and other environmental issues. Using eco-friendly packaging allows you to reduce the amount of plastic that you use.  Petrochemical products usually tend to litter public places and have been linked with health problems when used with food.
  • Reduced, Reused & Recycled Sustainably-
  • Reduce:This focuses on using thinner and tougher materials which can do the same job with fewer materials.
  • Reuse:There are a lot more products available that encourage their reuse such as boxes with a special coating to make them tougher.
  • Recycle:A lot more products are being manufactured with a larger percentage of them being made up of recycled materials which can be recycled easily as well and have been labelled as such. Most manufacturers do this as it allows them to minimize the impact of price increase on new or virgin materials.

Some examples of how big brands are supporting eco-friendly packaging and aiming to reduce carbon footprint by the end of next decade are-

  • Calvin Klein– PVH, the company behind Calvin Klein and other popular clothing brands (including Tommy Hilfiger), aims to achieve 100% sustainability and reduce negative environmental impact to zero. This initiative hopes to clear up any uncertainty about which materials are recyclables and prevent recyclable packaging from ending up in landfills.
  • Kellogs– As a brand that appears at most breakfast tables, Kellogs’ environmental policies could have a huge impact on global efforts. In 2018, they pledged to work towards 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by the end of 2025. Kellogs already uses recyclable cardboard boxes for all of its cereal, and as part of their zero-deforestation pledge, most of these boxes are made from recycled carton board.
  • The Body Shop– Another cosmetics and skincare brand, The Body Shop is committed to tackling the plastic crisis by offering recycled packaging. By 2025, The Body Shop packaging will consist of 75% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. Their goal is to reduce the amount of virgin plastic produced.
  • Johnnie Walker– Johnnie Walker’s paper bottle is just one step in a wider race toward sustainable packaging.
  • Haldirams– The biggest food chain in India is using 100 per cent biodegradable food packaging and is contributing in reducing the plastic pollution.

Not only big brands but small industries have also become environment conscious and are adapting eco-friendly packaging. So, eco-friendly packaging is the new Black in the coming years and will stay in fashion in the coming decades.

Today, more and more consumers are opening their wallet to buy only eco-friendly products. The recent trends indicate that consumers spending on eco-products, from diet to transportation, are on the rise. Here are a few interesting green packaging trends to look out for in the upcoming years. 

  • Reducing Waste– Companies are demonstrating their involvement and dedication towards green environment by limiting waste. Good practices are being shared across all platforms to create awareness and to encourage recycling. Many businesses have now incorporated print inspection in their quality control process. This move will help companies to prevent massive recalls of products and thus reduce waste.

Minimalist packaging is also being used by many businesses as it reduces the waste of storage space and packing materials. Packaging is done by taking into consideration the size of the product to be packed. A small package size for a small product size. Many companies are now implementing the function of reusability in their packaging. Polybags is an example of reusable packaging. These bags can be used over and over again, thus contributing to sustainable packaging.

  • Using Clear PackagingClear packagingis an interesting trend that is gaining a lot of attention. A packaging that is devoid of colour, paint, and design with only a clear and concise label means that not much energy is wasted in manufacturing it. Potential consumers who are pro-environment are quick to notice and understand the dedication of the company towards a greener environment.
  • Reducing the use of Energy– Lightweight packaging trend is a win-win situation for both, the business and the consumers. The packaging cost to manufacture lightweight packages is relatively low as fewer materials are used, less energy is consumed to manufacture them and less fuel is used to ship them. Consumers see the convenience associated with lightweight packaging and they also see the less waste that is being produced and that is good for your brand image and your sales.
  • Using more Recyclable & Biodegradable Materials– Using recyclable materials is the easiest way to make sure that we are contributing our bit towards a sustainable environment. Companies too are demonstrating their level of commitment towards the green environment by using materials like paper, cardboard and recyclable plastics in their packaging.
  • Using unique and innovative material­– The packaging industry is not new to technology. It has been using unique and innovative materials for sustainable packaging for a long time now. But one trend that is going to be the next big thing is edible packaging. This trend has the potential to achieve maximum eco-friendly goals. It will take time and a lot of research to implement edible packaging across industries. But when it is done, the scenarios would be ideal. There will be no waste altogether.

Consumers will continue to choose eco-friendly products to promote sustainability and because of the demand and expectations of the consumers, companies will employ eco-friendly approaches to their businesses, and if they do not, they will perish. The future seems bright. 

*Meet the Author

Rhea Mazumdar Singhal is the Founder and CEO of Ecoware, India’s first and largest sustainable packaging company. Rhea was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar, the highest civilian honour for women by the President of India. Rhea is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader (2018) and an Asia 21 Young Leader (2019). Rhea is an invited member of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) National Committee on Women Empowerment and CII India CEO Forum on Air Pollution; she is also the Chairperson for the Indian Women Network for North India. She founded Ecoware with the sole aim of solving India’s plastic menace. Ecoware disrupted the food packaging industry by introducing a fully compostable alternative to plastic. One of Rhea’s greatest successes has been persuading the Indian Railways, the largest food service operator in India, to switch to Ecoware biodegradables trays. The efforts of Rhea and the business model of Ecoware have now been validated by the global movement against single-use plastic and regulations to better consumer behaviour.