There are pros and cons to many materials, is glass better because it’s recyclable or worse because it’s heavy? What about types of plastics, are some recycled more than others? What about mixed materials? What about biodegradable materials or natural packaging? It’s confusing, right?

A lot depends on what you are packaging. But here are some tips to help you, ultimately you have to make decisions based on the latest information, as it often changes!

1 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In that order. The less we use that also protects the product the better. Packaging has to perform a task, which is to both sell the product and protect it. Wasting both packaging and product is the greatest waste of all. Don’t let that happen. If you post your packs, do travel tests (post if to yourself to make sure it gets to you safely).

2 Get advice from places like Wrap. They are a great source of information, but use common sense as sometimes it’s not applicable to you (see point 9).

3 Label your packaging clearly for recycling instructions. You can get more advice on the Wrap website here. This is what the symbols mean (click here for the full list). Consistent communication means more people understand, the more they understand the more they act in the right way.

4 Avoid black plastic where possible. Why? Because of carbon black pigments which do not enable the pack to be sorted by the optical sorting systems are still being used widely in plastics recycling. Even if the plastic is recyclable, it may end up going into landfill, which is what we all want to avoid.

5 Inform your customers why you chose the packaging you use. Share what you learn, turn it into a story. Not only is it engaging, but it can help build your brand and educate consumers. But be honest.

6 Campaign. 35.8 million plastic bottles are used EVERY DAY in the UK, but only 19.8 million are recycled. Let people know what they can do to reduce this. It shows you care. If you care, your customers are more likely to care.

Learn from the past.  We used to take our own bags to go shopping or returned bottles to be refilled (and got paid for it). You could take your own containers to be filled from the store. All of these things reduced packaging and waste but in our unending appetite for consumption, this has changed to a disposable, convenience, throw-away culture. Dare to be different. What can you do to help change behaviour?

Use appropriate materials. I expect most people were hoping this would be a list of amazing solutions for every scenario. We published a blog post of packaging and print resources recently and intend to update it soon. There are different types of plastics. RPET is a good material, but in general, we are in favour, especially for small brands, of reducing the amount of plastic and believe drinks are better in glass which is a far more recyclable material in the UK.

Enviropack do RPET bottles.

These people have nice glass bottles and jars.

This company does nice recycled glass bottles.

We gave this advice recently to the GLA backed ‘Punch & juicy’.

9 Use common sense. Advice changes over time and you will often find it contradicts what some have said. Nothing is simple or straightforward. For smaller brands transportation is less of an issue. For larger brands weight is. It seems crazy to us that black bags aren’t biodegradable but are recycled when they are designed to go into landfill. If plastic stays around for thousands of years and other materials are easier to recycle, then until plastic has a proper cradle to cradle life span, we believe it’s better to choose these other products. Transportation is another issue, but there is no point getting that lovely batch of recycled glass pots from China if a more local manufacturer can supply you without sending the products half way around the world.

10 Your packaging is there to sell the product AND protect it. The worse waste isn’t just excessive packaging, it’s wasting what you sell AND the packaging. You have to be realistic. It’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in that order.

11. Where do you get your energy from? Yes, we said 10 tips, but this isn’t specifically about packaging. Your business consumes energy. Rather than focusing on just your packaging, isn’t it better to look at your business holistically? There are many eco-friendly energy suppliers. We use Ecotricity which we are extremely happy with as all their electricity comes from renewable sources such as solar, wind and wave power. The host of this blog gets its power from the wind. Reducing your impact on the planet is important. Change the big things first.

Do you have anything to add? What have been your experiences with sourcing sustainable packaging? Do you have any tips to share or anything to add? Please post below.

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