Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for packaging

Packaging waste

Some consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the footprint of their food. This includes the impact on the environment and climate, but also the impact on their own health. They’ve higher demands on the way food is produced. This also applies to packaging. Consumers want less products to be packaged (in plastic). It’s quite a challenge to realise that. Food must be safe to consume, even after a long storage period or around the world trips. This means we have to look for a balance between less (plastic) packaging and less food waste due to spoilage or damage.

Another reason to start packing products in a more sustainable way is price. From 2024, the difference in price between packaging made of recyclate and new plastic will increase. Non-recyclable packaging will thus become more expensive. The idea is that this measure will crate more incentives for sustainable packaging.

Ways to make food packaging more sustainable

  • Use sustainable materials that are less harmful to the environment. For example, paper, cardboard or other materials that are easy to recycle.
  • Minimise the amount of packaging material. This reduces waste and makes the product lighter during transport. This can be done by using thinner material or fewer different layers of material, for example.
  • Avoid using harmful substances such as BPA, PVC and/or plasticiser chemicals.
  • Use biodegradable packaging. These materials are made of (in)direct natural origin, such as paper, cardboard and wood. Nowadays, there are also Bio-PE and Bio-PET packaging and even packaging made from natural fibres, fungi or a combination of these.
  • Make packaging reusable. Longer use of packaging helps to reduce waste and promote re-use. This can be done with packaging made of glass, stainless steel or hard plastics.
  • Improve traceability of packaging. Packaging that provides information regarding the origin of ingredients and the production chain strengthens sustainability awareness.

Adapting existing packaging isn’t done overnight. It often takes months, or even years, before a final decision can be made on how to make it more sustainable. The first step would be to at least be aware of the current impact and make a plan where the impact can be reduced. Then you can start looking for the right kind of material, testing in production and food safety. Last but not least, make sure the packaging fits your brand’s story.

If you start making products more sustainable, make sure you actually do so. Don’t just say it’s more sustainable, without actually making an impact. Consumers are very critical of greenwashing and sham sustainability. If you’re not ready to become more sustainable yet, consumers value transparency about it more than a spiced-up marketing story.

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