As a packaging professional with 30 years of experience working with plastics, glass, and cardboard for cosmetics, FMCG, and Pharma, I am still surprised by the lack of understanding and misinformation surrounding packaging, especially its impact on the environment. The primary purpose of packaging is to safely and efficiently deliver the brand’s product to the consumer. However, these days, brands should also consider the environmental impact of their packaging, both now and in the future. By doing so, they demonstrate good corporate citizenship, which resonates well with consumers. In this article, let’s focus on protein and supplement packaging, a market that traditionally hasn’t been overly concerned about the environmental repercussions of packaging. While functionality and aesthetics are important, the environmental impact has been largely neglected.
Plastic pails: There used to be a significant amount of bulk products sold in pails. However, these containers have a high material-to-product ratio, do not ship well when filled, and are heavy to carry home. While technically recyclable, they present challenges due to their excessive carbon footprint and contribute to landfill problems. Wide-mouth jars, which are still widely used for packaging products, can be made from PET and HDPE. PET has a recycling code of 1, and HDPE has a code of 2 (refer to the recycle codes here). These jars are lighter than pails, resulting in a lower carbon footprint, and are easier to recycle. However, if they are disposed of in general waste, they can persist for multiple generations.
Stand-up pouches: This is a relatively newer type of packaging, often referred to as a zip-lock bag, which is popular among brands due to its excellent shipping capabilities and decorative options. Recent news about the collapse of Redcycle highlighted that these soft plastics are NOT recyclable. Each pouch, although small, is made from a laminate or combination of plastics and will end up in rubbish or landfills for multiple generations. Composite cans: Another type of packaging that has gained popularity is composite cans. Consumers often perceive the cardboard exterior as environmentally friendly, but this is not entirely accurate. This type of packaging is highly wasteful as many cans are lost due to denting. They are made of cardboard and have a layer, sometimes plastic and sometimes foil, to maintain product freshness. As a result, they are NOT recyclable, and the energy required to produce this type of packaging makes them highly carbon-inefficient. While some components of the laminate will break down in landfill, others will persist for multiple generations.
The best practice, considering today’s technology, is to use a wide-mouth jar with as much food-safe recycled content as the brand can afford, which is also biodegradable in landfill. Why? This type of packaging is well-suited for transportation, maintains product flavour and shelf life, and is made from recycled materials—essentially giving a “second life” to materials from other packaging, such as juice or water bottles. It is also recyclable, as indicated by the recycling codes mentioned earlier, and biodegradable in landfill. This means that if the packaging is not recycled or if there is an excess of recyclable material, it will degrade naturally without leaving behind microplastics. We have witnessed the adoption of sustainable packaging in skincare and food packaging. At Weltrade Packaging, we are leaders in responsible and sustainable packaging. We understand that packaging must first fulfil its primary purpose and then strive to be as sustainable as possible. We are proud to be a member of the Australian Packaging Covenant, and our HACCP and ISO approvals further attest to our commitment to quality and sustainability. We are passionate about your brand and the environment we live in. Let’s address these issues today instead of pushing them to become tomorrow’s problems.