For nearly a decade, the biggest buzz in packaging has been the move toward sustainability, or “green” packaging. Driven by retailer requirements, public perception, economic pressures (petroleum, in particular), and government policies, sustainability impacts every aspect of a package. From the cycle that starts with how the materials are sourced to how the end user disposes of the package makes the issue complicated.
Consider these points when choosing packaging for the bakery.
- Whenever possible, design for recyclability. One of the most effective ways to preserve the energy expended in manufacturing packaging materials is through recycling. While many materials, such as paper and PET, may be widely recycled, oftentimes coatings, labels, and other elements added to enhance package functionality or aesthetics may render them unfit for the recycling stream. But new options are emerging.
- Employ packaging strategies that encourage product consumption. Approximately 34 million tons of food waste is generated in the US each year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. So packaging that increases the likelihood that the majority of a product is consumed provides a tremendous sustainability advantage. Among the technologies that can be used to help reduce food waste are resealable features and clearly marked use-by dates.
- Know where your packaging materials come from. Increasingly, retailers and consumers are looking to CPGs for transparency. It is to your benefit to make sure you are using responsibly sourced packaging materials.
For Stonyfield Farm, the use of non-Genetically Modified (GM) crops is a core value. When it switched to corn-based bioplastic for some of its yogurt cups, it learned its resin supplier could not guarantee the use of non-GMO corn in its feedstock. So Stonyfield became the first major purchaser of offsets through the Working Landscapes Certificates, which ensures that an equivalent amount of corn is grown to sustainable agriculture standards.
Consider materials made from renewable feedstock. Packaging based on renewable feedstocks—from bioplastics made of corn or sugarcane, to protective packaging constructed of mushroom roots—is a rapidly growing area. But there are many questionsstill to be answered regarding the viability of some of these technologies and their relative sustainability versus traditional materials.