The long-time schism of eco-friendly versus consumerism is rapidly drawing to a close. Consumer demand for sustainable packaging options has increased in recent years as people have become more aware of the dangers and drawbacks of plastic—both in terms of our ecosystem and human health.
Science Advances published a study revealing that humans have produced 18.3 trillion pounds of plastic since the 1950s. Over half of this waste has been produced since 2000. Almost all of it remains in landfills or the environment. Additionally, scientists have come to better understand how the chemicals used in plastic production are affecting human health. The result of this growing body of knowledge is a boom in bioplastics and plastic alternatives.
That is not to say that plastic is all bad. When it first became widespread in the ‘50s it was a revolutionary innovation: cheap, easy, and oh-so-versatile, plastic was the ultimate convenience. Its affordability holds particular appeal, and this has been a point of contention between those in support of sustainable packaging and those opposed.
Those in opposition argue that sustainable packaging isn’t financially sustainable for most businesses. The numbers show us this isn’t the case, particularly for smaller companies. Companies large and small can take steps toward sustainability and may even find themselves financially benefiting as a result.
Right now, plastic is inexpensive. However, because it's derived from substances like petroleum and coal, the price of plastic is subject to an increasingly volatile market. As we continue to deplete our non-renewable resources, the price of plastic could skyrocket. Consider the turbulence in the oil and gas industry...and how that’s affected the price of filling up your car.
Currently, most sustainable packaging costs more than traditional plastic packaging. At least in terms of upfront cost. However, it’s worth noting that plastic is often heavier than plastic alternatives. This is in part because of the material itself and
As Adam Gendell from the Sustainable Packaging Coalitions says, “I think the good business models out there already have those considerations incorporated into them. Thinking about the environment is now an integrated part of thinking about the
Sustainable packaging naysayers often overlook a very important fact: sustainable packaging increases consumer appeal. There is a fast-growing demographic of eco-conscious customers, mostly made up of Millenials. As a generation that grew up amidst economic disruption and global turmoil, Millennials are especially keen on supporting socially responsible businesses. It’s a trend that will only continue: in a study conducted by Nielsen, Generation Z respondents increasingly say that they are willing to pay more money for products that are socially and environmentally responsible. That percentage jumped from 55% in 2014 to 72% in 2015.
It’s not just the younger generations that are pushing for sustainability, however. That same study revealed that over half of Baby Boomers are willing to pay more for such products. The demand for sustainability is found across demographics and even across countries.
Since The United Nations declared the Sustainable Development goal of ensuring sustainable production and consumption practices, companies and countries all over the world have rallied to the cause:
These are just a few examples of how sustainability initiatives are affecting the globe. Those with power and influence recognize they have a duty to set a good example, but it’s also a savvy business move on the part of companies. Consider this: if a company loses even a small percentage of customers due to the choice of packaging, that in itself could overshadow the cost differential between sustainable and unsustainable packaging. People want to associate with companies that do good and have the interests of consumers (and the world) in mind.
Those that oppose sustainable packaging forget a basic but critical economic principle: the law of supply and demand. Common sense dictates that the more people want an item, the more companies will provide it. As a result, companies that practice sustainability not only attract more customers, but they will likely save money in the long run as the market price for sustainable packaging is driven down.
Already, we’re seeing the law of supply and demand in action. Companies continue to innovate, and as they do so, sustainable packaging is becoming more and more cost-effective. For example, the Swedish brand BillerudKorsnäs has helped brands all over the world to improve packaging performance and save money throughout the supply chain. Their case studies reveal that sustainable options can result in significant savings:
Even small businesses can win with sustainable packaging. In fact, in the agriculture industry, small- and medium-sized farms are seeing the benefits of sustainable packaging through supply chain savings and consumer respect. They have an easier time transitioning to sustainable packaging than larger farms because larger farms have more complex supply chains and tend to have a greater number of people to satisfy.
Four Pillar Farms in Vermont is an example of a small farm that is enjoying nationwide recognition for its sustainable practices. Through its commitment to eco-friendly packaging, the farm provides a level of integrity that workers and consumers are proud to associate with. According to the farm’s owner, Peter Cousineau, “the consumer is willing to pay a little more for packaging to alleviate the guilt of buying produce in plastic containers.”
Small steps like those taken by Four Pillar Farms is part of a critical cycle: as other companies witness the success of those that adopt sustainable packaging, they will respond with larger commitments. As a result of larger commitments, those providing plastic alternatives will continue to innovate better solutions.
ReadyCycle® is one such innovator. We are committed to reducing environmental impact by continuously innovating cost-effective solutions that are nontoxic to consumers, workers, and the environment. We recognize that innovation is the first step in creating positive change, not only for businesses but also for communities and the world at large. To learn more about our 100% recyclable packaging—that features water-based coating, vegetable-based ink, design flexibility, food-grade adhesives, and no wax or added adhesives—click here.
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