4 Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2022
Sustainable packaging trends for your business to consider in 2022.
It’s strong, versatile, lightweight and affordable. As a functional material for packaging, it’s ideal. And it never goes away. Ever. Even when it does break down, it seeps into our food and water systems. The creation, use and disposal of plastic results in the release of significant greenhouse gasses, nasty toxins and overflowing landfills. 91% of plastic is never recycled.
It’s bad stuff, but there is reason for cautious optimism. Advances in the tech, increased demand and a shift in how we think about the products we buy are making plastic alternatives noticeably more numerous, accessible and affordable.
Here are several trends to watch out for as you consider your own brand’s sustainability commitments and packaging systems in 2022.
By far the most exciting area of development in sustainable packaging is happening in compostability, particularly around materials that mimic a lot of plastic’s strengths, like bioplastics and fibre-based substrates made from bamboo or wheat.
But all is not what it seems. ‘Home-compostability’ is an important distinction and a big move in packaging that is picking up steam in the CPG space. The distinction between ‘compostable’ and ‘home-compostable’ is one you may be forgiven for not realizing existed in the first place. The term ‘home-compostable’ means you can place the packaging right into your organics bin with your vegetable peelings and the month-old pasta you forgot about in the back of your fridge. These materials easily break down in a typical composting environment within a matter of months. The breakthrough material PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoates, for all you chemistry keeners) is the real hero here because this bacteria-spawned canola oil-based biopolymer breaks down into what amounts to soil, exactly what you would want.
‘Compostable’ on the other hand, generally refers to ‘industrially compostable,’ materials that won’t break down in soil or with your food scraps. These require additional processes to complete their journey back to the earth. Commonly used bioplastics made from sustainable starches like PLA (Polylactic Acid) regrettably fall into this category. Their production results in 80% lower emissions than that of traditional plastic, but it’s not really home-compostable, meaning that without a special infrastructure at the municipal level which is essentially everywhere, they do end up in the landfill next to the standard single-use plastics.
But the topic of home-compostability remains an exciting one with real promise. To illustrate just how mainstream home-compostability has become, consider that in Canada, fried chicken giant, KFC has introduced a home-compostable version of their signature chicken bucket along with a pledge to have 100% home-compostable packaging by 2025.
While easy to overlook, the ink used in the traditional printing process is actually a petroleum-based ink which, it hardly needs to be said, is a major pollutant and can be a barrier to recycling. Alternative soy-based inks are actually quite common now, with over 90% of daily newspapers in the US committed to using it. Soy-based ink has a number of advantages over petroleum-based ink, not the least of which is a reduction in the amount of ink required for coverage while still maintaining true colour.
One disadvantage soy-based inks have is a longer drying time, which tends to reduce capacity and profitability for printers who already find themselves in a low-margin industry, meaning your print supplier might have them but doesn’t use them, so it’s important to clearly communicate your expectations for your own packaging.
Nothing symbolizes the problem with plastic quite like a discard plastic water bottle. But cartons of water? CPG brands the world over are choosing to use cardboard as their material of choice for wet and dry goods alike. Of note is packaged water brand Boxed Water who even makes it the central selling point for their product, frequently making the claim that their packaging is 92% plant-based.
Of course, no carton meant to hold a liquid is without some degree of plastic content, but the massive reduction in plastic use is meaningful on its own.
Once upon a time, plastic replaced glass as the clear, durable packaging material of choice. Now with public opinion turning decidedly against plastic, it turns out that sometimes the best solutions are the ones we already have. To that end, consumers are having a nostalgic moment for glass. A 2020 study found that 85% of Europeans favoured glass packaging for its sustainable benefits. Durability concerns aside, glass is infinitely recyclable—and notably, reusable (that is if it doesn’t break). Glass also has the advantage of being much more beautiful than plastic in appearance and feel, lending itself well to premium products. Everything old is new again.
As sustainability continues to grow as a top-of-mind purchase driver for consumers in the CPG space, it’s important to evolve your systems to keep up with what the market is demanding. Recognize that packaging is more than just the wrapper in which your product arrives; in the minds of your customers, it is inseparable from the product itself. That’s revealing piece of good news because it means your business doesn’t have to shoulder the additional cost of a more sustainable packaging option. If sustainability is truly meaningful to your customers, and all data points to that increasingly being the case in all categories, they will be more than willing to pay a little bit more for it.
Get in touch with Famous Folks and learn more about how your brand can connect with the emerging world of purpose-led brands and understand your conscientious customer.