Sustainability has become something of a buzzword across industries in recent years, amid mounting environmental concerns. As the pressure grows to meet environmental targets, the packaging industry is one that should be going overboard when it comes to sustainability – here’s why.

Packaging and containers account for almost a third of solid waste generated in the US each year. In fact, researchers at Stanford University have revealed that we throw away our own weight in packaging every 30 to 40 days, and these figures are expected to grow in line with the popularity of ecommerce.

It’s a lucrative market – experts predict that the packaging industry’s market value will increase at a rate of 3.5 per cent over the next few years to reach $998 million by 2020 – but it’s also one that can’t escape the growing need for progress in light of the waste generated.

Sustainability is now expected; it’s certainly desired, and brands that show off their environmental credentials are set to benefit. Here’s how packaging is becoming more sustainable in 2016 and the different ways in which it’s bringing about industry improvements.

The shift towards flexible plastics

Gone are the days when rigid plastic containers were the mainstay when it comes to food packaging. Now, more flexible plastics are becoming popular, and not without reason – more supple materials are better at absorbing food odor and preserving food, but they’re also much easier to recycle because of their lighter weight. Being lighter means they’re cheaper to ship, too.

One-material packaging

Both sustainability and convenience are important factors when it comes to packaging, and there has been a noticeable shift towards single materials for packing products over the last few years. Recycling is a key issue and packets made with a variety of materials are notoriously harder to dispose of sustainably; single-material packages, however, are often more recyclable and require less disassembling, making them a more convenient choice.

Plant-based plastics

Plastic has long been a problem for the environment but brands with plenty of capital have been looking into ways to create a plastic of sorts from plants. One such company has succeeded in its goal; Coca Cola unveiled its PlantBottle in 2015, made entirely from renewable plant materials, and plans to switch over its entire bottle range to the sustainable version by 2020.

Aluminium compression

In order to reduce waste and carbon emissions through manufacturing, many brands that use cans in their packaging are reducing or compressing the size of these aluminium containers. Companies like Unilever have successfully reduced their use of aluminium by moving to 50 per cent smaller compressed alternatives for their deodorants.

Reusable packaging

An alternative to making packaging easier to dispose of is to make it easier to keep instead. German sportswear brand Puma decided to do away with regular shoe boxes a few years ago and instead replaced them with a handy bag, made from sustainable materials. Production of the bags is more energy-efficient and has the extra benefit of adding perceived value and boosting brand awareness.

Sustainability is an ongoing priority for the packaging industry; at IGD, we’re proud to incorporate sustainable practices without compromising on quality. Our end-to-end service allows for sustainable elements to be implemented at every stage of the process, from design to shipment, adding value and reducing costs in the process. Find out more by getting in touch with us today.