The year 2017 saw a seismic shift towards a more eco-conscious planet against the likes of plastic and non-bio-degradable product packaging. A big part of this was down to Blue Planet 2, the popular BBC show hosted by David Attenborough which drew in 14 million people for the series opener. At the tail-end of each episode, footage of their shoot location for that episode would show how the effects of rubbish and waste have affected sea life, their habitats and the ocean. Since then, plenty of action has been taken over the changing of various products and its makeup. For example, plastic straws are being replaced by paper straws by Pizza Express, Costa, McDonalds and many supermarkets and stores to name a few, which is excellent news, as it’s reported that each year in the UK alone, we use 8.5 BILLION straws. Straws that don’t decompose and can’t be recycled.
Photographer Justin Hofman's photo of a seahorse with a cotton swab highlights the issues of pollution in our oceans.
Now this goes from something as small as straws that gradually build up by their hundreds, to product packaging. I think we can all agree that there’s a fine line between there being enough packaging around your product to keep it safe during its journey, to being able to step inside it after pulling a tiny item out, engulfed by packing peanuts and bubble wrap. And I'm pretty sure I can safely say that we’ve all experienced both instances, sadly. A growing number of businesses are looking into switching to bio-degradable or recyclable materials for their products and packaging, and alongside this, rethinking the size of the box or carton this is sent in to limit global waste.
Some brands are super smart and savvy with their packaging and use it as a notable tool to the eye to recognise their business; look at Graze for example, the box is fit for exact purpose, with the company name emblazoned across the front in huge, bold letters. There’s only a tiny piece of cardboard and a thin plastic box protecting your peanuts from spilling over the floor or your healthy cake being bashed in, but the fact that it’s so well done with each tub having its own slot is pleasing – it makes it feel secure, and the box and plastic tubs are then recyclable. Whereas synthetic packaging such as Styrofoam, bubble wrap or plastic air bags aren’t recyclable or biodegradable, so when used just goes in the bin, creating more mass for the landfills. Plus, a lot of these include bad ingredients such as petroleum, meaning it’s just all-round bad news for the environment.
The good vs. the bad - effective packaging compared with wastefulness
First impressions are vital when customers are involved, especially when anxiously waiting for a purchased item in the post to arrive. The delivery, the packaging and the condition of the item inside needs to meet expectations from the off-set. However, just as important as the look of the package is the functionality of the box and how well their item is contained inside of it. The balance between shipping a well-wrapped safe product that arrives in impeccable condition 100 times out of 100 and one that occasionally breaks or dents the item with a bump is vital, but is also one that is important to think about logistically. If you send even one parcel each business day in 2018 with excess packaging or wrapping that can’t be reused, that’s 261 business days’ worth of parcels this year. Taking that into consideration with the amount of parcels that are sent each day from each business, this mounts up fast. Just think of the opposite effect – if all stores, fulfilment houses and even customers are even just slightly more conscious of what they’re using and cut down or look to switch materials, this will have a fantastic effect on the world’s waste immediately.
Obviously, this isn’t an easy decision for small businesses and even large businesses to make. The cost of some of the eco-packaging out there to try isn’t yet as cheap as harmful packaging, and on the flip-side, taking the "easier" decision to over-wrap items in existing packaging ensures the safety of items and stops negative reviews and bad feedback. What we are seeing though, is that the anti-plastic movement has become a large positive on brands and their reputation; so much so, that it’s become almost a badge of honour to entice more customers to recognise and try their products. Even from the top earning businesses on the market, sports brands are using recycled bottles and plastic from the ocean in their trainers and even football shirts. An example being Adidas, who have a partnership with Parley for the Oceans, have revealed that the newest Manchester United third kit will be made from recycled ocean plastic, with ‘For the Oceans’ printed along the inner neckline to highlight the issue of marine pollution. This is actually something that isn't new, and has been happening at many clubs each season, and even national kits - with Nike making their 2010 World Cup shirts from plastic, too, yet it’s only really gathering pace and impressions now as it is now a world wide conscious issue that is gathering concern fast. You will notice that each company that switches to new eco-friendly materials more than likely issue a press release to announce the change, knowing the positive reaction and engagement it will draw.
Manchester United's new Adidas third kit with 'For the Oceans' message inside the neckline
Turning your business as green as possible could be a tad more expensive in the short-term, but labeling yourself an eco-friendly enterprise goes a long-way in the market these days, with a growing number of environmentally aware consumers and even businesses. It could be an important step forward. The traction that can be gained on social media and marketing through partnering with fellow green businesses, hashtags and awareness campaigns alone would bring a whole new dimension, and with this more and more customers that actively look for eco-friendly alternatives in the market.
Be aware that some of the glue used on eco items like jiffy bags can take a lot longer to bio-degrade than the jiffy bag itself, whereas recycled materials can just be unpacked and reused until recycling once again. However, switching to either method is a great leap towards protecting the environment. While not each and every business can feasibly afford to change it up to be green, even researching the types of packaging around your warehouse that can or can’t be recycled and adhering to this helps as a starter measure.
Biofill and other biodegradable peanuts are just one of the many planet-healthy alternatives
JEM are always looking towards a greener future; we actively reuse as many boxes and inside packaging contents as we can to save on waste, as well as using biodegradable packing peanuts. If your brand is looking to adopt any of the aforementioned ideas mentioned in this post, just let us know! We are more than happy to assist you with your eco-packaging needs.