When people think of environmentally friendly packaging, they think about recycled plastic, aluminium and glass, but recycled paper is often the first thought. Paper-based packaging is one of the most responsible choices available, and the options go far beyond what was once possible. Explained below are environmental benefits of paper based packaging in all its forms.
Paper is derived from trees that are harvested and re-planted, which already makes it a more renewable option. That is aside from the ability to recycle paper itself. Compare this to non-renewable sources like oil that could eventually run out and leave a much heavier environmental footprint.
Paper recycling taps into the waste stream, allowing us to create packaging or other paper-based products. A side benefit of using paper is that it gives companies a reason to plant and maintain forests instead of repurposing land for something else. Paper is endlessly recyclable; it won’t degrade despite being recycled a dozen times, though it can safely rot in a landfill.
Paper-based packaging is an eco-friendlier alternative than plastic, but the versatility is yet another reason to use it. Today more companies are trying to innovate by providing paper-based packaging for a variety of industries where it wasn’t once widely used such as the pharmaceutics and luxury industries.
Plastic bags can only be recycled into yet more plastic bags. However, scrap paper can be recycled into fibre-board, paper sacks, wrapping paper and more. Newly improved paper bags allow dry foods to be kept on the shelves, protecting both the food and the shelving. This can replace many plastic and glass containers. Paper bottles are also being developed for carbonated beverages and even milk. This trend could replace various aluminium cans and plastic bottles. Bio-based barrier materials could eventually replace plastic in many applications.
Paper Vs. Plastic
Paper bags are not just eco-friendly, they are also quite durable. Cardboard boxes, in particular, can handle heavy loads and stand upright. Advances in manufacturing and design are also leading to paper-based packaging for liquids.
Progressive paper-based packing will keep the contents fresh, as well. Paper can lock in flavors whilst keeping out pests, so it is a great choice for items that need to be well sealed, such as flour and spices.
Paper packaging is unlikely to cause harm to wildlife if discarded outside. Plastic bags can harm wildlife if swallowed, or wound around their neck or limbs. Unfortunately, some animals and marine life can mistake plastic for food. Wildlife consumption of plastic leads internal blockage, which then causes them to starve to death. Plastic bags can take between ten and one thousand years to decompose. Compare this to paper bags that take up to one month and it is clear to see how making the switch would have a massive impact on keeping our wildlife safe.
The Carbon Footprint Is Miniscule
As trees grow, they pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon gets locked up in the material. If paper is not recycled, then it will eventually degrade into nothing because paper is biodegradable. Compare that to the immense carbon footprint of the oil industry and the addition of carbon dioxide released when plastics are made and burned.
There are other environmental benefits to using paper-based packaging. It is typically lighter, so shipping a load of consumer goods requires less fuel and energy. Today’s state-of-the-art generation of paper-based packaging keeps out insects and dust, minimizing food waste from contamination and possibly eliminating the need to protect food products in a second shipping container. The ability to tap into local waste streams for paper or to harvest locally grown trees means that we can create paper packaging without transporting raw materials like oil all over the world. Paper is extremely lightweight allowing it to benefit the shipping process. When paper is shipped to a recycling facility it requires fewer resources. This is aside from paper packaging being used to create energy as well through a variety of methods.
Paper bags and boxes can easily be printed with advertising and company logos. This allows manufacturers to use far less material. In fact, a toy encased in protective plastic typically sits in a cardboard box on the shelf, and many times shipped in one. When companies switch to high quality paper packaging, less material is needed overall to protect and advertise products.
The best option: Paper
Paper based packaging is the most environmentally friendly option on the market currently, while advances in engineering and material science allow it to be used with an increasing number of products. Paper packaging can be reused, recycled, or turned into a renewable energy resource while having far less of an impact on the environment than the alternatives.