Ordering and sending packages is part of everyday life. However, since this can harm the environment, we show alternatives for sustainable packaging
Author: House of Eden
- In Germany alone, 3,9 billion parcels are sent every year
- Environmentally harmful materials can easily be replaced by ecological alternatives
- Innovative providers of reusable shipping boxes eliminate packaging waste
Sustainable packaging? Few think about it so far. This becomes particularly clear during COVID-19. Instead of eating on porcelain plates in a restaurant, food is ordered and packed in styrofoam and plastic. No wonder plastic waste has increased by around 10% since the pandemic broke, like the recycling company The green dot communicates.
But even without Corona, packaging is an important topic in Germany. According to the Federal Association for Parcel and Express Logistics (BIEK) More than 2020 billion parcel shipments are expected in Germany in 3,9. In view of the corona crisis, this year's Christmas shipments will increase by around 60 million to around 420 million.
These are shrink-wrapped in plastic, while sensitive goods are additionally protected with bubble wrap and finally sent in paper boxes. Most of the time they end up in the garbage after arrival, which is why mountains of garbage are generated, most of which consist of non-recyclable materials.
Why is traditional packaging problematic?
Plastic covers, styrofoam, bubble wrap and labels are made of plastics that are based on fossil raw materials such as petroleum. And shipping boxes are not really environmentally friendly either, despite their material origin. Of course, paper and cardboard are made of wood and are therefore at least biodegradable.
However, countless trees are felled for this. According to the Initiative for recycling It takes around 100 kilograms of wood, 300 liters of water, 5.000 kWh of energy and 1.000 kilograms of Co110 to produce 2 kilograms of paper alone. In view of the huge volume of parcels, the importance of sustainable packaging cannot be overestimated.
What alternatives are there for environmentally friendly packaging?
Basically it must be stated that the Waiver sending a package is even better than choosing a sustainable packaging alternative. First of all, your own consumer behavior should be reconsidered and adjusted. The simple rule of thumb to remember is: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. So: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Sustainable packaging examples:
Application: packaging for cosmetics & jewelry
Advantages: Renewable raw material, biodegradable and reusable (for refill models)
Disadvantages: Relatively heavy depending on the type of wood & contributes to the deforestation of the forests
2. Paper / cardboard
Area of application: shipping boxes, filling material, wrapping paper and packaging for various goods
Advantages: Renewable raw material, recyclable & light
Cons: Contributes to deforestation & is quickly damaged
Application: Mainly as packaging for food
Advantages: Recyclable by melting down, reusable without damage and food-safe
Disadvantages: Limited impact resistance, heavier than plastic, glass production and recycling & requires a lot of energy
Application: Packaging for food, garbage bags & filling material
Advantages: Usually consists of renewable raw materials & is usually biodegradable
Disadvantages: Does not decompose quickly enough as well as greenwashing and / or fraudulent labeling
Area of application: thermal packaging
Advantages: insulating effect like EPS, a rapidly renewable raw material that is gentle on the soil
Disadvantages: So far only a few areas of application
6. Corn starch
Application: filling material
Advantages: Light, shock-absorbing, non-toxic & consists of renewable raw materials
Disadvantages: Comparatively expensive
Alternatives for cardboard boxes, tape & filling material
If goods are sent, cardboard boxes are preferable to plastic bags. This is because these can be recycled several times. So it is worth collecting and reusing cardboard boxes of different sizes. Dedicated shipping boxes as well as shoe boxes or cardboard packaging are suitable for this - any packaging that is used repeatedly protects the environment. However, if the purchase of a box cannot be avoided, the recycling lines of the major manufacturers are recommended.
There is more and more paper tape as an environmentally friendly counterpart to its plastic predecessor. Additional tip: gifts can also be wrapped without tape. There are creative instructions for this on the net. It is also a great idea to sew gift bags with a ribbon to close them and use them again and again.
With fragile objects, you simply need filler material for protection. But not with clothing or other insensitive things. It is therefore best to pack the goods to be shipped in the smallest possible box so that there is no space left that would require filling material.
If filling material has to be used, there are various good alternatives to bubble wrap and co .:
- old newspapers and old wrapping paper
- sustainable upholstery chips (for example made from corn starch)
- Wood wool & corrugated upholstery
What other innovations are there in terms of sustainable packaging?
There are now some interesting approaches to reusable shipping containers. Manufacturer like LivingPackets, memo box and Repack rely on stable, impact-resistant plastic boxes. These can be used up to 1000 times and do not require any filling material. The reason: Brackets inside the box make it possible to lash the goods.
Some providers even implement a GPS tracker and a camera in their boxes. If you receive online purchases in such a shipping container, it can be reused for returns, handed over to a collection point or picked up by a service provider at your own door. This creates a reusable cycle that massively reduces the packaging waste from online orders.
Conclusion: Better to pack less than ecologically
Packaging without plastic and Co. is an important development. The more plastic that is saved, the better for people and the environment. However, the credo should not be to find more and more alternatives to packaging. It is better to fundamentally question the packaging craze. It starts with food and everyday products:
- Buy individual vegetables and fruits instead of shrink-wrapped packages
- Buy film-free dishwasher tablets
- Take reusable boxes with you to take-away or the unpacked shop
In general, the following always applies: less is more - especially when ordering online. When shopping online, it is important to ensure that the seller offers environmentally friendly shipping and offsets its own Co2 emissions. If goods are regularly delivered in boxes that are too large, which requires a lot of filling material, the retailer can also be asked to change this by email. The list of things that every individual can do is long.