As part of my commitment to doing business sustainably, here’s are some suggestions of packaging materials we will hopefully be seeing more of in the future.
I’m a big believer in the best method of preventing plastic pollution is to not use plastic. While I applaud any individual who perserveres to reduce their household’s plastic use, it is a huge burden to carry, and one which should be foremost shouldered by corporations.
Here are a few alternative packaging solutions which should be used more. I’ve avoided the obvious suggestions such as glass bottles because I don’t doubt that my readers are already aware of the capabilities and limitations of glass and foil. These are five materials which are yet to be explored to their full potential.
I first noticed that my Computer Arts subscription was delivered to me wrapped in a corn starch bag around five years ago. It looks like cellophane, however, is completely biodegradable. However, some corporations which are responsible for the most single-use plastics (looking at you, coffee chains) haven’t caught on to it yet. Paper coffee cups are lined with plastic, therefore aren’t recyclable. Waterproofing the paper cups with corn starch products would be a big step forward. However, the corn starch wrapping does biodegrade in contact with moisture.
Big Businesses have a responsibility to reduce their plastic output. Because it’s big businesses who create the demand for products, setting a trend which will increase packaging availability for everyone else. My eco clients are very reluctant to use corn starch within their packaging because it looks like plastic. Even if ‘made from corn starch’ is printed on the packaging, from a distance, in any retail setting, the appearance of their product being wrapped in plastic would undermine their ethos. However, if a consumer expects to buy corn starch packaging, this won’t be a problem.
Have you ever noticed on your grocery shopping bag, that it says “this bag is made from 70% recycled materials”? That’s because organic molecules called prodegradant concentrates (PCDs) are added, to make the regular bag biodegradable. According to Maria Trimarchi and Vicki M. Guiggio at How Stuff Works “ PDCs are usually metal compounds, such as cobalt stearate or manganese stearate. They promote oxidation processes that break the plastic down into brittle, low-molecular-weight fragments. Microorganisms gobble up the fragments as they disintegrate, turning them into carbon dioxide, water and biomass, which reportedly contains no harmful residues.” So that’s something you can discuss at the pub this weekend.
An organic, renewable material which is harder than oak, grows quickly and won’t cost the planet. Gardening Without Plastic recommends using bamboo plant pots. I think there’s more to bamboo than meets the eye, and I’m really hoping other manufacturers will explore how they can replace plastic with bamboo in the coming years.
Glassine, or as you may be more familiar, tracing paper. Please bear with me on this. It’s recyclable, lightweight, translucent, compact, waterproof and printable. I don’t understand why it’s not used in packaging design more. The only aspect of it which isn’t perfect is that it does have some opacity, so it can’t display a product as clearly as cellpohane can. However in generic products such as tea leaves and rice, which don’t sell based on their beauty. it ticks all the boxes.
Beeswax food wraps
These are my wildcard as a ‘one to watch’. It’s a sheet of cotton, impregnated with beeswax, which makes them waterproof, hygienic and pliable. At the moment, they have an upmarket price point, a purchase for those who only desire to see less plastic waste, because frankly, they don’t compare well in value-for-money against cling film. Even after many, many reuses. Currently, 25 metres of cling film is £1.30, while Lakeland’s 33×33 cm beeswax wrap is £12.99. There absolutely is space for beeswax food wraps, but at the moment, they don’t come with an incentive for those who like to cook economically. I’d like to see a deli sell their own branded beeswax food wraps. Every time someone comes in for their regular sandwich, they bring their beeswax wrap along, rather than having their lunch wrapped in cling film. If Costa can sell reusable cups, they can do it with sandwich wrappers too. Check out Bumble Wraps for a York-based beeswax wraps business.