Packaging & Sustainable Packaging
Packaging is the science, art and technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use. Packaging also refers to the process of designing, evaluating, and producing packages. It can be described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport, warehousing, sale, and end use. It contains, protects, preserves, transports, informs, and sells. In many countries, it is fully integrated into government, business, institutional, industrial, and personal use.

The first packages used the natural materials available at the time: basket of reeds, wineskins, wooden boxes, pottery vase, wooden barrels, woven bags. Most of them fitted the description of sustainable packaging as they do not cause harm to the surrounding. As time passed, processed materials were used to form packages.

Traditional processed packaging materials include early glass and bronze vessels. Packaging has made seen significantadvancements since early 20th century. Bottles, transparent cellophane overwraps and panels oncartons are some of the best advancements. These innovations have increased processing efficiency and increased food safety. As additional materials and several types of plastichave developed, they have been incorporated into packages to improve performance and functionality.

Purpose of Packaging
Packaging is donefor several reasons;

  • Physical protection. The objects enclosed in the package may require protection from, among other things, mechanical shock, vibration, electrostatic discharge shockcompression, and high temperature.
  • Barrier protection. A barrier to oxygen, water vaporoxygen and dust, is often. Permeation is a critical factor in design. Some packages contain oxygen absorbers to help extend shelf life.Some food packing techniques use modified atmospheres or controlled atmospheres. Keeping the contents clean, fresh, and safe for the duration of the intended shelf life is a primary function. A barrier is also implemented in cases where segregation of two materials prior to end use is required, as in the case of special paints, glues, medical fluids.
  • Containment or agglomeration. Small objects are typically grouped together in one package for storage and selling efficiency.
  • Information. Packages and labels communicate how to use, transport, or dispose of the package or product. With food, medical, and chemicals products, some types of information are required by government legislation. Some packages and labels are used for track and trace purposes. Most items include their serials and lot number, and in the case of food products, medicine, and some chemicals the packaging often contains an expiry date, usually in a shorthand form
  • Marketing. Packaging can be used by marketers to encourage potential buyers to purchase a product. Package graphic design and physical design is important and hasevolved for several decades. Marketing communication and graphic design are applied to the surface of the package and often to thepoint of sale display. Most packaging is designed to reflect the brand's message and identity on the one hand while highlighting the respective product concept on the other hand.

Sustainable Packaging Options for Small Business.
Operating and sustaining is challenging, especially when it comes to packaging. Traditional packing options like packing peanuts and bubble wrap are generally cheap, which makes them popular. Today’s consumers are more environmentally conscious. They recognize that some materials play a huge role in the global problem of plastic waste. Each day, more shoppers display preferences for buying goods that are packaged and shipped using sustainable packaging materials. The following are some of the best packaging materials;

1. Biodegradable packing peanut.
These are the eco-friendly version of classic Styrofoam packing peanuts. This version is 100% biodegradable, and made from natural wheat and corn starch. Biodegradable packing peanuts dissolve safely in water, and are compostable in your backyard bin or composting tumbler.

2. Corrugated and paper bubble wrap.
Corrugated and paper bubble wrap offers excellent protection and cushioning for your products. It is also fully recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable. Ransack offers a version with a handy dispenser to make wrapping your items quick and easy. In addition to being more eco-friendly than plastic bubble wrap, paper bubble wrap requires less storage space and molds artfully around your products, making for attractive presentation of your goods.

3.Compostable mailers made from corn byproducts.
If you use plastic poly mailers to do a lot of your shipping, opt for these 100% compostable mailers instead. They are made from bio-based polymers and PLA, which are plant-based materials made from corn-starch. They contain 0% plastic and will break down in just 3 to4 months in home or commercial compost, or just 18 months in the landfill. These biodegradable mailers are perfect for shipping clothes, books, shoes, accessories, and other non-fragile items.

4. Paper packaging tape.
Unlike its plastic cousin, paper packing tape is fully recyclable, compostable, and strong enough for virtually any shipping application. When buying, look for water-activated paper tapes that use natural adhesives. Versions that use rubber-based adhesives, or fiberglass reinforcement are not easily recyclable, or biodegradable to the same degree.

5. Recycled cardboard boxes and paper boxes.
Paper and cardboard are two of the most recyclable materials. Businesses can use post-industrial or post-consumer recycled boxes to do their shipping. This reduces the number of new boxes needed to meet demand and ecourages sustainable packaging. Alternatively, you can opt for FSC-certified boxes, which use materials sourced from sustainably managed forests. Both are excellent eco-friendly packagingalternatives.

6. Bioplastics.
Bio-based plastic material, or bioplastics, were created to displace traditional plastics made from non-biodegradable fossil-fuel plastics. While not all bioplastics are biodegradable, there are no petroleum-based plastics that are biodegradable. Bioplastics are largely used in food packaging, as well as bags, utensils, and straws, but, its applications are vast, replacing regular plastics wherever they are used. Polylactic acid is the most common bioplastic used to replace polystyrene, polyethylene, and polypropylene. It is usually made from the sugars found in sugarcane, corn starch, and cassava

What are the Various Forms of Packaging.
Packaging can happen in many different forms. Some identify a consumer package as one which is directed toward a consumer or household. Packaging may be described in relation to the type of product being packaged: medical device packaging, bulk chemical packaging, over the counter drug packaging, retail food packaging, military material packaging, and pharmaceutical packaging. It is sometimes convenient to categorize packages by layer or function: primary, secondary, etc.

  • Primary packaging is the material that first envelops the product and holds it. This usually is the smallest unit of distribution or use and is the package that is in direct contact with the contents.
  • Secondary packaging comes outside the primary packaging, and may be used to prevent pilferage or group primary packages together.
  • Tertiary or transit packaging is used for bulk handling, warehouse storage and transport shipping. The most common form is a palletized unit load that packs tightly into containers.
  • Aspects of consumer package labelling are subject to regulation. One of the most important is to accurately state the quantity weight, volume, and count of the package contents. Consumers expect that the label accurately reflects the actual contents. Manufacturers and packagers must have effective quality assurance procedures and accurate equipments.

    Environmental Friendly Packaging.
    The most eco-friendly packaging option is often to reuse any existing boxes, envelopes and materials you have at home. But as a business grows, this isnot always possible and, although using 100% recycled packaging is great for the environment, it isn’t necessarily the best way to keep products safe, building your brand and communicating your design skills. Below are some of the best environment friendly and sustainable packaging ideas you can implement in your business;

    1. Avoiding over-packaging.
    By using the wrong size box or packaging, you risk damaging your product, as it will bump against the walls. Using wrong package will force you to use more filler material to protect your product, which creates more waste. To avoid this, choose packaging with dimensions best suited to yourproduct. That doesnot necessarily mean opting for custom-made packaging, but do consider the size of the product you are sending and choose the smallest box or mailer that the product can fit safely inside. Ensure your product fits nice and snug to avoid breakage or damage and, if you need a filler, use it in moderation. By using packaging with dimensions adapted to your product, you will communicate your values as a brand that cares about the environment.Your products will be more secure and will face fewer returns due to broken products.

    2. Embrace the humble cardboard box.
    Cardboard is a simple and environmentally friendly material. It Is biodegradable, reusable and, in most cases, made from recycled paper pulp. Cardboard boxes are available in a huge range of shapes and sizes. They also cause a small impact on the environment keeping your products safe and sound throughout the shipping process. Even if cardboard boxes arenot segregated when thrown into the bin, they easily break down in landfill. All this means cardboard is the best way to keep packaging clean, cheap and eco-friendly. Cardboard envelopes work well if you need to send small goods like jewellery and accessories that need a little more protection than a normal paper envelope but you want a more sustainable alternative to plastic mailers and bubble-lined envelopes.

    3. Make your packaging reusable.
    Packaging intended for displaying on shop shelves or packaging used for shipping products, can reduce waste by turning to reusable packaging.

    4. Support the eco-system with plantable packaging.
    Plantable packaging is taking the zero-waste concept to a whole new level. It not only leaves no trace but actually contributes to improving our environment by growing more plants and trees that draw CO2 from the atmosphere. Protecting the environment and the natural world is very important and companies should switch to plastic-freesustainable packaging. All packages should be sent in either a cardboard box, sealed with biodegradable paper tape, or a green bag which is lined with recycled paper and is 100% recyclable.

    5. Consider compostable packaging.
    Compostable packaging degrades under specific conditions of temperature, oxygen, humidity, the presence of microorganisms and suitable equipment. Depending on its composition, packaging can be composted:  At home, in a compost bin, most often in the garden, with bio-waste, like kitchen and green waste  or in an industrial composting plant, where temperatures reach 70° C It then transforms into natural fertiliser. Compostable is always biodegradable, but the inverse isnot always true. Compostable or biodegradable packaging shouldnot be thrown in the environment. It doesnot degrade in the same way in all environments and while waiting to deteriorate, it could have a negative impact on biodiversity. So if you choose to go with compostable packaging, like compostable mailing bags, be sure to include instructions so your customer knows what to do with it.

    6. Use your packaging as part of your craft fair display.
    Use your packaging on the stall where you display your products, give extra height or even double as your stand itself. If your packaging is particularly clever, beautiful or custom designed, it could attract more customers. This creates a good talking point, and if you do it right can reinforce your brand identity too. Plus, not only does your customer get to see the packaging that comes with your product, but it also makes packing up and transporting all your products to and from the show much easier!

    7. Educate your customers.
    Amplify your positive impact on the environment by educating your customers about sustainable packaging. Make YouTube video, do an Instagram Live, post about it on social, or give your customers clear instructions on how to reuse, return, compost, plant or recycle your packaging. You could do this on a note in your parcel.To be even more eco-friendly, drop them an email or include it in your shipping notification, or even print it on your packaging.

    Packaging Security
    Packaging can play an important role in reducing the security risks of shipment. Packages can be made with imprwith better tamper resistance to deter manipulation and they can also have tampered evident features indicating that tampering has taken place. Packages can be engineered to help reduce the risks of theft and resale of products. Some package constructions are more resistant to pilferage than other types, and some have pilfer-indicating seals. Counterfeit consumer goods, unauthorized sales, material substitution and tampering can all be minimized or prevented with such anti-counterfeiting technologies. Packages may include authentication seals and use security printing to help indicate that the package and contents are not counterfeit. Packages also can include anti-theft devices such as dye-packs, electronic article surveillance tags that can be activated or detected by devices at exit points and require specialized tools to deactivate. Using packaging in this way can help mitigate losses. Conveniencepackages can have features that add convenience in distribution such as; handling, stacking, display, sale, opening, reclosing, using, dispensing, reusing, recycling, and ease of disposal. Single serving or single dosage packaging has a specified amount of contents to control usage. Bulk commodities such as saltcan be divided into packages that are of more suitable size for individual households. It also aids the control of inventory.

    Sustainable Packaging Alternatives.
    Green packaging is considered as being boring, brown, recycled cardboard.It is more expensive than traditional methods. Packaging is a way to express their brand, so get creative with eco-friendly packaging, as well. Here are a few options for businesses who are looking to upgrade to eco-friendly packaging.

    1. Starch-based packing peanuts.
    Traditional packing peanuts are made of Styrofoam, which can take up to 500 years to biodegrade. Starch-based peanuts have the same protective power as the conventional Styrofoam version, only they can be dissolved in water within minutes, minimizing their environmental impact. Starch-based packing peanuts are made of agricultural waste, as compared to polystyrene, which is made from petroleum. These foam pellets can be fantastic option for shipping fragile goods that need significant protection.

    2. Biodegradable plastic.
    Plastics are famous for sticking around. Biodegradable plastics can breakdown in sunlight and are often made of plant by-products, rather than petroleum. While it might not be as cost-effective or long-lasting as regular plastic, biodegradable plastic can significantly reduce the waste created by your packaging.

    3. Natural fabrics.
    If the item being sent is not fragile, it might not need much protection beyond the original packaging. After all, most products end up being double or triple-packaged by the time they reach the consumer. Instead, try wrapping products in cotton or burlap fabrics that can protect the original package from bumps and scratches. When purchased in bulk, this package option might be even more cost-effective than boxes, and produces fewer toxins during production.

    4. Creative, reusable packaging.
    Instead of using materials that are meant to be thrown away, dream up a new use for your packaging. A box printed with cutting instructions could become a doll house or a cat’s new nest. A very durable container could be folded up and sent back to the retailer for reuse. A burlap sack could become a new reusable packaging alternative. With the right mindset, there are thousands of options for e-commerce businesses looking to rebrand with a eco-friendlier style.

    Final Words.
    Our packaging choices can affect business, but using environmentally-hazardous material can harm the environment. It is important to strike a balance between sustainable packaging and an approach that will work for your small business.