Sustainable Packaging

Organic Monitor Calls For More Innovation

Organic Monitor, a market research firm concerned largely with environmental impact, says that cosmetic companies are making progress toward reducing their overall packaging footprint.  But, it appears that there have been few real steps taken toward real packaging sustainability in the cosmetics industry.

There have, however, been some recent developments in ecodesign according to Organic Monitor.  Many brands in the cosmetics industry have begun to focus on reducing packaging materials with sustainable design.

The Few Innovations In Cosmetics Packaging

SOU, a brand of toiletries and skin-care products from Natura Brasil, stands out as a current leader in sustainable packaging design.  SOU products use lightweight, flexible plastic packaging that contain an amazing 70% less plastic than ridged containers designed for the same volume.

This trend is leading only to an incremental decrease in overall packaging materials.  However, it is still a great step in the right direction, as packaging accounts for over 50% of total household waste according to the OECD.

Another impressive development is the new “compressed can” that Unilever introduced for several of their deodorant products earlier in the year.  The can is nearly a third the size of Unilever’s old deodorant can design, saving more than 30% in packaging material and also reduces transportation costs.

However, Organic Monitor also had this to say; “More radical solutions involving materials are necessary to make significant changes to the packaging impact of cosmetic products.”

Bio-Plastics & Experimental Materials

It seems, according to Organic Monitor, that the cosmetics industry at large has yet to take enough steps toward developing environmentally friendly packaging materials.  And while some brands have begun experimenting with sustainable, natural packaging like wood and bamboo, plastic is still the forerunner in the cosmetics packaging market. 

There are a few companies like Procter & Gamble that have begun to use hybrid polymers made from sugar cane in an effort to make use of highly biodegradable bio-plastic while battling the limitations it has when concerned with the cosmetics industry.

But, there are still many cosmetics companies that have yet to employ green packaging solutions.  “A closed loop system whereby waste is used as raw materials is considered the way forward for many cosmetics brands taking the green road,” says Organic Monitor.

Spotlight On The Need For Further Sustainability

Organic Monitor placed sustainable packaging at the heart of the agenda in the upcoming European and Latin American Sustainable Cosmetics Summit.  Discussions of the summit are slated to include: 

  • The Environmental Impact of Packaging
  • Ecodesign Innovation
  • Novel Packaging Material
  • Cosmetic Bio-Plastics
  • Green Packaging Success Stories  

The summit will also feature papers from Natura Brasil, Unilever, Selerant, Procter & Gamble, Arkema, ABIHPEC, Aptar, and many others.

The Newest Innovation In Sustainable Food Packaging

Sara Risch, Ph.D. recently spoke at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.  Her topic: the need for new packaging materials that are not only sustainable, but do not sacrifice the freshness, visibility, and security of the food inside.

“We face a huge challenge in developing new packaging materials that protect food all through the supply chain while being recyclable, compostable, produced with renewable energy, or even edible.”  Dr. Risch said.  She further explained how nature has already set this standard:  Fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas come in a natural form of packaging that keeps the fruits fresh and safe while being compostable or edible – their peels.

Risch noted that the food industry has clearly embraced sustainable packaging, which by most definitions means packaging that is compostable, recyclable, reusable, and created and transported with renewable energy.  But the main staple of sustainable packaging is that it’s safe for both people and the environment throughout its entire life cycle.

The Current State of Sustainable Food Packaging

Risch cited some obvious examples of sustainable packaging like water bottles with reduced plastic and compostable potato chip bags, saying “The industry has made great strides in reducing the amount of packaging.  But remember that packaging is there to protect the product and that function must not be compromised.  Not all materials can be properly cleaned for re-use, for instance, and in some cases, it takes a lot of fuel to collect and transport glass and the heavy materials for re-use.  In some instances, the fuel may exceed the value of the recycled material.”

Industry data indicates that the overall use of sustainable packaging has diverted nearly one-and-a-half billion pounds of paper, plastic, and various other packaging materials from landfills just between the year 2005 and the year 2010, just in the United States.  Though plastic wrap and cardboard boxes are lightweight on their own, along with other food packaging they help to account for 1/3 of the 250,000,000 pounds of solid waste produced in the U.S. annually.

Some examples of the challenges of further sustainability in the food packaging industry that Rische cited were compostable plastic bottles, cutlery, and food trays.  Microbes in soil will break down those plastics in the same way they will grass and leaves in garden compost.  However, there are still uncertainties about the byproducts produced during this plastic breakdown.

The Future Of Sustainable Food Packaging

Risch further noted that edible packaging was receiving a lot of attention.  Last year, a fast-food chain in Brazil posted a video online of its customers eating not only their burgers, but the paper wrap as well.  The technology exists to make edible packaging now, and many companies have begun experimenting with fast-food wraps made from mushrooms, nuts, dried fruits, and several other sources.

When Risch was asked if sustainable packaging would bring the day that cereal, frozen pizzas, beverages and the like would be entirely edible or compostable, package and all, she replied:

“I do not see this happening any time soon.  There are just too many challenges in terms of developing structural integrity, as well as the barriers to oxygen and water, that are typically needed for foods.  Without that protection, the packaged food won’t be sustainable.  It will have a short shelf-life and spoil quickly.”


New Green Packaging From Costa Coffee

Costa’s new packaging was designed to reduce the amount of resources needed to package their products.  They hope to save more than 18 tons of paper per year as part of their drive to achieve zero landfill waste before the year 2017.

The initiative is part of their parent company’s corporate responsibility strategy.  Whitbread’s “Good Together” program aims at being a force for good within society while also ensuring the company’s long-term sustainability.

Costa is the first coffee product retailer in the United Kingdom to feature front-of-package nutritional labels consistent with those supported by the UK’s food and health organizations like the British Heart Foundation.

Costa’s Head-Of-Food Comments On The Packaging

Costa’s Head-of-Food, Jane Treasure, recent said, “At Costa, we are delighted with the improvements we have made to our packaging and the customer response to it.  Now using fewer resources and displaying new nutritional labeling, this re-designed packaging demonstrates Costa’s role as an industry leader with regard to corporate responsibility and sustainability.”

The news of Costa’s new packaging comes as the company opens its first concession with their newest partner, The Garden Centre, In Northampton.

A spokesman for Costa said, “As the UK’s favorite coffee shop, and one of the success stories on the UK high street, we work closely with planning departments across the country to open new stores for the benefit of their local communities, creating new jobs and providing attractive and popular social meeting places.”

Cascadian Farm Leads The Way In Sustainable Innovation

Cascadian Farm, a maker of over 75 organic products, recently introduced the first cereal box liner created from renewable plant-based sources.  The company’s Cinnamon Crunch cereal is now being packaged in the bag, which is made of up to 57% fully certified plant-based materials.

The liner is only the latest innovation in the brand’s sustainability initiative in support of Cascadian Farm’s mission to help shape a better world.

Jennifer Jorgenson, Cascadian Farm’s Marketing Director, went on record saying, “At Cascadian Farm, we know that every choice we make can help shape a better world, now and for the future.  A desire to protect our Earth’s resources led us to develop this groundbreaking inner bag.”

Cascadian Farm’s sustainable packaging experts developed the bag together with proprietary sustainable packaging developers.  The liner is one of the key initiatives by the company to use renewable resources.  Cascadian Farm says that using plant-based resources, which can be rapidly and naturally replenished, is a big step toward being more closely aligned with the land.

The brand also notes that more U.S. consumers are buying sustainable products.  That number has risen from 69% in 2012 to 78%, an impressive increase over just one year.

A New Box For The Impressive New Liner

To help show the environmental benefits of the new box liner to their customers, Cascadian Farm has designed a new paperboard box (100% recycled) for their Cinnamon Crunch cereal as well.  The box features graphics and messages about the innovative inner bag.  It also displays the “We’re Growing A Better Package” logo, which states that the liner is made of up to 57% plant-based material, as well as a USDA certification which notes the package as being bio-based.

Cascadian Farm’s Cinnamon Crunch with the new plant-based inner bag is now available nationwide at major supermarkets and many natural food stores.

Bio-Plastics & Environmental Labeling

Consumers and stakeholders in the food industry were recently studied in a survey conducted by Tetra Pak.  The research indicated that both ranked bio-based material as the major contender poised to shape the future of the beverage packaging industry.

A full 50% of consumers believe that the further use of bio-based plastics will improve the environmental performance of packaging in the form of cartons.  Another 37% of consumers said that they actively and regularly search for food packages baring environmental logos and labels, making the growing demand for environmental information another key finding of the research.

Last year, about 37% of consumers said that they trusted environmental packaging labels.  That number has risen substantially since then to a massive 54% today.  And 20% of consumers surveyed said that they recognized the logo of the Stewardship Council and were able to associate that logo with sustainable forestry.

Recycling Remains #1 Environmental Concern

But the number-one environmental concern of food industry stakeholders and consumers has remained the same since 2005 – recycling.  Stakeholders rank the ability to recycle packaging as a top priority, and recycling has long been the main environmental activity of consumers at large.

The CEO of Tetra Pak, Dennis Jönsson says that these findings only serve to reinforce how important it is for companies to keep environmental issues at the heart of their agendas.  He also commented earlier in the month that the industry was “lagging on its sustainability objectives around recycling” and that it needs to nearly triple recycled packages sold before 2020 to meet the 40% increase target from 2010.

Tetra Pak will attempt to improve its products’ recyclability as well as increase the world-wide rate of recycling. 

Jönsson also said, “We have no illusions about the challenges we face.  But we believe that by finding new ways to process, package, and distribute food, and to deal with waste.  And, by working with partners throughout the value chain, we will make a difference for the futures of the company, the industry, and the society.”