While the switch to sustainable packaging does pose some challenges, it is ultimately a better course of action. Why? First, plastic is nonrenewable. What makes it popular–its cheapness and the ease with which we can produce it–is not going to last. As we deplete the resources necessary to create it (namely oil and coal), it will become more expensive and much less viable as a packaging solution.
In addition, the concerns about the toll plastic is taking on the environment and human health cannot be understated. A primary argument is that since it is not biodegradable, it accumulates in the natural world and remains there for hundreds of years. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Forum states that by 2050, oceans will contain more plastic than fish. Fish and other wildlife consume plastic debris that then enters our food chain. That is unfortunate because we are becoming more and more aware of the dangerous effects that the chemicals in plastic have on the human body.
As more studies are published on the effects of plastic and plastic waste, consumers and companies alike are becoming better informed. As a result, the demand for eco-friendly products is increasing and a slew of big-name companies are rising to meet it. We are reaching a tipping point in the packaging industry. Some would argue we are already there.
it’s not easy being green, right?
Companies and governments are both taking steps to push sustainable packaging. With the growing demand for sustainable products, there are many innovative brands springing up around the world with new solutions. The U.S. is pioneering the way forward with companies like Ecologic, TemperPak, Envirolife, and ReadyCycle. Each produces sustainable packaging with the goal of creating products that match or outdo their plastic equivalents.
This is partially in response to major corporations highlighting the importance of sustainability. For example, last year the world’s most well-known producers of bottled water, Danone and Nestle Waters, created the NaturAll Bottle Alliance. They paired with a Sacramento-based startup called Origin Materials to develop a bottle crafted from sustainable, renewable resources. It was a major industry breakthrough, and it is rapidly spreading.
The Alliance holds that 100% bio-based bottles are not only viable, but they are also commercially scaleable. The belief is not unfounded–global giant PepsiCo joined the Alliance in September 2018. The result of this consortium is a revolution in the way beverages are being packaged. In fact, it’s just a smaller part of a bigger revolution: companies all over the world have recognized the importance of social responsibility, or are beginning to.
Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, realizes this. As the leader of one of the world’s most powerful global investment management corporations, his words carry weight. He wrote a letter to the CEOs of other big-name companies with a simple but profound call to action: “society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
As one of the world’s most massive and renowned restaurants, McDonald’s is yet another eight-hundred-pound gorilla that has taken a stand on sustainability. After consumers expressed concern about the packaging waste produced by the restaurant, McDonald’s announced that by 2025 they plan to source packaging from 100% renewable, recycled, or certified sources.
“We recognize that the size and reach of our business puts us in a unique position to improve people’s lives and the environment all around the world. We want to use our Scale for Good and always keep raising the bar on what it means to be a responsible company committed to people and the planet” — Francesca DeBiase, Executive Vice President
Since 2016, around 65% of their packaging has been fiber-based and they have pledged to “drive innovation in sustainable packaging and in the recycling sector.” McDonald’s has also made a point of aligning their initiatives with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
all together now: a global effort
The UN’s ambitious global agenda sparked major changes in companies and communities alike. The seventeen goals they put forward have had a significant impact on the world. Goal number twelve, which revolves around ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, has certainly had an impact on the packaging and recycling industries.
For example, the UK has pledged to work toward zero avoidable waste by 2042, In January 2018, they also announced that they plan to “set the global standard” in eliminating plastics. As a result, Prime Minister Theresa May announced an effort to create “plastic-free aisles.” That is to say, food is loose and not kept in packaging.
There is a definite interplay between country and companies. A few months later, Tesco, the UK’s largest grocery store, banned the use of plastic bags. A series of “zero-waste” supermarkets have sprung up in the UK and around the world.
Many countries and cities have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags, including Taiwan, Morroco, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Madagascar, Cambodia, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Georgia, Italy, Moldova, and more. Many others charge fees for plastic bags to discourage consumers from using them. In Kenya, anyone found using or selling plastic bags can be fined $38,000. While it is an extreme example, it shows how people all over the world are taking sustainable packaging seriously.
Change is imminent but slow. As one “eight-hundred-pound-gorilla” after another comes to the side of sustainable packaging, we’re slowly outweighing the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste we’ve produced since the 1950s. It’s going to take more than a couple of silverbacks to tip the scales, but the change is inevitable. Everyone has to do their part to make the world a better place.
what’s in store?
Considering the amount of packaging that is used within the agriculture industry, there is a massive opportunity for all involved in it to make a difference. That’s why Sambrailo is introducing ReadyCycle, a line of alternative packaging for growers and retailers who are committed to reducing their plastic waste. After all, innovation is in our blood–we introduced the world’s very first plastic clamshell container for berries, the kind you see in your local supermarket today.
Now, we aim to create a cost-effective, 100% recyclable plastic alternative in order to eliminate materials that are toxic to the environment and human health. As Juana Ramirez, our Director of Sales and Marketing says, “We recognize and believe that we are at a point where change is desperately needed. Introducing ReadyCycle as a packaging alternative to plastic for agriculture is our first step leading the charge.”
ReadyCycle products are made with food-grade adhesives and water-soluble inks. They come in a range of sizes, every surface of every product is printable, and prototypes can be built quickly. That makes marketing a breeze. If you need to change messaging or add a seasonal recipe, it’s easy to switch things up. Being green is easy when you have versatile, customizable, 100% recyclable packaging on hand. In fact, the Plastic Pollution Coalition has voted ReadyCycle products as one of the top thirty ideas for reducing plastic found in supermarkets. Want to feel the difference firsthand? Order your free samples!