The world in 2021 is steadily plunging deeper into an environmental crisis, with an increase in global temperature and natural disasters. This has been made worse by the rapid global growth of industries and commerce over the past few decades. It has significant repercussions on the packaging industry as well, underlining the need for environmentally sustainable packaging in the long term.
This has been highlighted by major commercial entities undertaking a transformation in the packaging aspect of their business. For example, companies such as McDonald’s, Calvin Klein and H&M have pledged to make their packaging processes sustainable and ethical by 2025. Other major corporations are also following suit, with younger generations prioritising expenditure on brands with a relatively sustainable image.
Millennials entering the workforce are also boosting this cause, with a steady increase in sustainable packaging ideas as well as the production of sustainable packaging materials over the past few years. In this article, we will break down what exactly sustainable packaging entails, describe a few different industries in which this could be applied, and finally examine ways in which we can hasten the move towards sustainability in the packaging industry.
What is Sustainable Packaging?
On a fundamental level, it is a form of packaging which minimises environmental footprint. In an optimal sense, this reduction is a continuous process to ensure that environmental damage is minimised. A few aspects which are a part of sustainable packaging include –
- The constituent ingredients utilised must be completely recycled or raw materials.
- Sustainable packaging involves creating products with a longer life cycle and reusability. This will help create a virtuous circular economy and make packaging more sustainable in the long-term
- Another crucial facet of the packaging industry which needs to be relooked is the production process itself. Furthermore, the supply chain of a company needs to be analysed and reoriented in a sustainable manner. Finally, uniform standards need to be brought into the packaging industry relating to the overall carbon footprint in their processes.
Types of Sustainable Packaging
There is a wide range of industries which require sustainable packaging. Some of the more relevant ones include –
- Sustainable Food Packaging – The food packaging industry has seen a steady shift towards more eco-friendly packaging, with efforts such as Swachh Bharat and the plastic ban boosting this industry. This is especially relevant with the rapid increase in food delivery services in the country, greatly increasing the packaging requirements.
- Sustainable E-Commerce Packaging – The e-commerce industry has grown exponentially over the past decade, with global e-commerce sales estimated to hit $5 trillion by the end of this year. The unsustainability in its packaging stems from the usage of sub-optimal materials, as well as the common procedure of ‘over packaging’. Green packaging solutions have begun to be adopted, but standardisation is the need of the hour in this context.
- Sustainable Cosmetic Packaging – Estimates suggest that over 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally by the cosmetic industry, with the majority of these unrecyclable. Having said that, unique innovations such as the usage of paper and soap in packaging have boosted the eco-friendliness of the packaging in this industry, and it is essential for this improvement to continue.
Over the last two years, there has been an exponential increase in the adoption of sustainable packaging in India. Companies such as DCGpac have adopted a leading role through their climate-conscious approach to packaging. According to Capgemini’s latest research study’on sustainability and changing consumer behaviour, 79% of consumers are changing their purchase preferences based on social responsibility, inclusiveness, or environmental impact. Furthermore, 53% of consumers have switched to lesser-known brands because they were sustainable.
These factors have meant that this is an important opportunity for Indian companies and the government to take conscious policy and regulatory steps towards sustainability. Creating standards and certifications, as well as providing subsidies to accredit organisations who are moving towards such sustainable practices, is also an effective way to speed up this process. The packaging industry is primed to be one of the leaders in this space, and this shift must continue to gather momentum as we move forward.