The growing interest in environmentally sensitive packaging comes from a growing awareness of the impact that our choices may have on our planet. This may be reflected in an organization’s corporate responsibility policy, or it may be important to the message that a company is trying to convey to its own clients.
Sustainable packaging is packaging that may be recycled, reused, or composted. It also may include using less materials for the packaging, such as reduced layers or a smaller package, or including recycled content. Sustainability also includes how the product was made. The energy efficiency of the manufacturing process as well as the transportation of the final product are both significant. Whether the energy and resources came from renewable sources are also potential factors.
Products advertising their sustainability or environmental sensitivity must make specific claims as to their recycled content and recyclability. Producers cannot claim an item is recyclable unless recycling facilities are available to at least 60% of consumers or communities; otherwise, the product must have a disclaimer that it may not be recyclable in your area. Similarly, there are regulations on claiming a product has been made using renewable energy or contains recycled content. More information about environmental marketing claims is available from the FTC.
More products are now available in their own recycled and recyclable packaging. Water bottles made of thinner plastic and compostable bags for snacks are already available, and companies continue to find new technologies. For example, the Coca Cola company has a product called PlantBottle, a recyclable PET plastic bottle made partially from plants. Odwalla, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, switched all of its bottles to an HDPE plastic made of up to 100 percent plant-based materials derived from sugarcane. According to the American Chemical Society, the technology for creating edible packaging already exists, and companies are experimenting with food wraps made from mushrooms and nuts.
Of course, sustainability does not just apply to the packaging. In the current “foodie” culture, consumers are increasingly conscious of the route that food traveled to get to their table. In addition to seeking food choices that are nutritionally sound, many employees may be interested in understanding as much as they can about what they are consuming. Along with the interest in healthier choices, they may want to know about its origins—are the vegetables locally sourced? Is the coffee fair trade? Organic products, while sometimes considered healthier, are also understood to have a smaller environmental impact and are considered socially responsible choices.