When looking for sustainable products, you may only think about the physical product itself, but the way a product is packaged is just as important. Many forms of packaging cannot be recycled or reused and end up in landfills or the ocean. Even recyclable plastic packaging is often not enough, as 91% of plastics are not recycled, resulting in 25 million tonnes being dumped into the ocean each year.
Nearly 30% of municipal solid waste is packaging and containers, contributing to a massive carbon footprint. Many products are packed with too many materials that can only be thrown in the trash, but “eco-friendly packaging” refers to alternatives to standard packaging that can easily be recycled, reused or have other environmental benefits.
the Good Housekeeping Institute launched our very first Sustainable packaging price Last year draw attention to the environmental aspects of product packaging. The packaging is an important element in the protection of a product and its ease of use: we have always taken into account the effectiveness of the packaging and the clarity of the instructions as part of our product assessments, but for the Sustainable Packaging Awards, GH scientists and industry experts assessed the packaging of 190 products based on materials, recyclability, design, minimalism, efficiency and innovation. We have assigned products that have risen to the top based on the ratings of our judges and have ensured that the products with the highest packaging ratings meet our institute’s performance criteria – we would not endorse a product that doesn’t work, no matter how it is packaged sustainably.
What is the most ecological packaging?
We know that between eco-laundering claims and confusing industry conditions and regulations, it can be difficult to find which products are truly green or sustainable. Here’s how to find the best eco-friendly packaging and how to make more sustainable choices when shipping products:
- Reuse as much as possible. First, reduce the amount of packaging you consume. We recommend that you collect tissue paper, wrapping paper and shipping envelopes for reuse if necessary. Save cardboard boxes for online orders. Even if they decompose during the trip, the pieces can be used as cushioning material.
- Remember, the less material, the better. Lighter materials can mean less CO2 emissions during transport and production.
- Know that paper is a great packaging alternative to plastic because it is recycled most often and is biodegradable. Ideally, look for cardboard and uncoated, waxed paper instead of bubble wrap.
- Biodegradable packaging peanuts are made from potato and cornstarch instead of styrofoam, so they break down when discarded, unlike standard packaging peanuts.
- Corrugated cardboard is an excellent replacement for plastic containers. It can easily be reused and recycled.
How to identify ecological packaging when shopping in stores
Beyond shipping and direct mail, you can also help reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing products that are packaged in a sustainable manner. Here’s what to look for when purchasing:
✔️Prioritize packaging with recycled content. Reusing old materials is a great way for a brand to reuse previous waste.
✔️Search for recyclable materials that can be easily recycled at the curb at home. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the recycling symbols. Here are the common recyclable materials:
- PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
- HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
- LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
- PE (polyethylene)
✔️Avoid mixed packaging. If you see something wrapped in several types of materials such as paper and plastic, remember that it makes recycling difficult. You may be able to recycle each component, but you will need to separate them first.
✔️Buy clear glass that can be recycled, unlike colored glass.
✔️Choose aluminum and steel such as soda cans and canned foods that can easily be recycled at the curb.
✔️ Avoid products with secondary packagings such as plastic fasteners, cardboard dividers, and packaging, as many cannot be recycled.
✔️Buy simple packaging. Less coloring on the box and labels makes recycling easier.
✔️Look for refillable containers. Some products are designed so that you buy the packaging once and then continue to refill it over and over instead of buying and throwing away the same product.
✔️Only buy cosmetics with primary packaging, which no additional waste from discarded boxes or plastic packaging. A simple seal to guarantee the integrity of the product is all you need. Avoid packing them with pumps, droppers and pressurized aerosol cans: none of these can be easily removed.
✔️Buy “naked” food. Flexible plastic packaging, films and Styrofoam cannot be recycled or reused, so look for minimal, recyclable packaging like Loop instead. Alternatively, do your shopping in bulk and bring your own reusable containers.
✔️Use reusable organic fabric bags to replace single-use plastic bags when purchased. You can use them over and over again, reducing unnecessary waste.
✔️Buy clothes from sustainable fashion brands or better yet, buy used items from local thrift stores and online programs such as ThreadUp or Poshmark to reduce environmental impact.