Many companies use plastic in their products, packaging and packing of their packaged products – which amounts to a lot of responsibility for the customer and end consumer!  27% of PET containers were recycled in 2008, which pales in comparison to the 2,500,000 plastic bottles that Americans use every hour.[1],[2]  Environmental groups say one of the biggest problems with plastic bottles is that consumers do not recycle them.  So, how responsible are the new plant-based and compostable packages?

BrownFlynn has three bins in its kitchen: Paper Recyclables, Non-paper Recyclables, and Landfill.  Try practicing this in your office or at home.   It is certainly eye opening when you see exactly how much stuff you put into the bin marked “Landfill,” because you know where it’s going for good.  The more chances we have to put things in the “Recyclables” the better – just one of the ways to reduce our impact.  The good news is the global market for sustainable packaging is estimated to reach $142.42 billion by 2015.[3]

Let’s take a quick look at some of the companies making these types of alternative packaging:

– Geämi™: 100% certified sustainable paper-based recyclable packaging material
– Braksem SA: sugar cane-derived polyethylene
– International Paper: ecotainer® compostable cups & food containers
– DuPont: renewable packaging materials
– EnviroPak: compostable/recyclable/biodegradable molded pulp packaging

A few of the companies that are using alternative packaging:

– Coca-Cola: bottle with at least 30% plant-based material
– Frito Lay’s Sun Chips: compostable bag
– Snyder’s of Hanover: renewable bag
– Whole Foods: fiber-based biodegradable to-go containers
– P&G (Pantene, Max Factor & Cover Girl): sugar cane-based polyethylene
– Dell: bamboo packaging
– Crate&Barrel: 100% recyclable Geämi™ packaging
– Macy’s: 100% biodegradable packaging materials for online shipments

A lot of progress has been made in the world of packaging, but pressures are increasing with consumer demands, LCAs, Walmart’s Packaging Scorecard and supplier sustainability codes, and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indices associated with responsible packaging.  Despite the great debate, all of these different eco-friendly packaging materials left us thinking that in theory, they’re only as responsible as the consumers using them (and hopefully, properly disposing of them).  The race is on for the most innovative packaging.  As consumers, we all have the opportunity to act responsibly and reduce what we throw into the “Landfill” bin.

— Katie Kaminski

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