Over time, the materials that were once developed to solve problems are not causing issues of their own, and at the detriment to the natural environment. As we reflect on 2021 and the efforts to reduce waste and source more sustainable materials, we take a look at five of the most significant eco-packaging trends of the year.
1. Mono-material plastics
Despite composite and laminate plastics being superior compared to their mono-material or single layer brethren, companies have begun to realise that composite and laminate plastics are harder to recycle than single-material plastics. Consequently, companies are currently shifting towards using mono-material plastics as they carry fewer recyclability issues. The overall recycling process for mono-material plastics is faster, more efficient, less energy-intensive and more cost-effective as the "pre-stage" of splitting or dividing the various materials apart that is usually done for composite and laminate plastics is skipped.
2. Reducing plastic components
Companies have now begun reducing and removing excess plastic from their product packaging, which supposedly helps with recyclability. Overpackaging is also a major contributor to environmental degradation. The EIA and Greenpeace UK, for example, reported that the top ten supermarkets in the UK had collectively produced 896,853 tonnes of single-use plastic in 2019.
Bioplastics are currently also a rising star with voices to replace fossil-based plastics with bioplastics being on the rise. There are several biodegradable plastics now available in the market, including PLA, Sugarcane plastic, and ones made from water-soluble films.
4. Replacing plastic with paper
With the increase of the demands for sustainable packaging, the demands for paper have also increased. Paper is currently a cheaper option for packaging compared to bioplastics. However, it is still not as sustainable as producing paper means chopping down trees, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Sometimes, using paper as the main packaging material can merely mean shifting environmental burdens from polluting the earth with long-lasting materials to polluting the atmosphere with CO2.
5. Plastic packaging reuse
Despite reusing plastic packaging being harder to practice than directly throwing them away or even recycling them, the reuse movement has gained popularity over the past years, with companies such as LOOPstore providing reuse stations that accommodate major brands, including Nestlé. At these stations, customers can refill their used containers with products such as shampoo, soap, cooking oil, and many more, which means less trash is generated.
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