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Sustainability opportunities for each packaging format

Find your product’s packaging format in this gallery to better understand its sustainability challenges and opportunities.

Chris McGurrin

July 2, 2020

9 Slides

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to sustainable packaging. The needs of a frozen meal manufacturer will greatly differ from those of a carbonated beverage manufacturer. Different products require different packaging formats, and different packaging formats necessitate different materials.

It is therefore important to be thoughtful when designing a given product’s packaging. For example, if a CPG brand plans to use aluminum cans, it needs to avoid full-body-sleeves or hard-to-remove stickers, as these disrupt the sorting process at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and effectively make the aluminum cans not recyclable. A better option is lacquer printing, which increases the likelihood of proper sorting and a higher quality aluminum product for the recycler to sell.

Ultimately, Sustainable design suggestions are based on many variables such as packaging material, format, product, risk of chemical leeching, life-cycle assessment considerations and more. As a brand, it is important thoroughly research packaging options and holistically understand the impact of packaging. Start by speaking with a sustainable packaging design consultant or recycler to better understand the challenges and opportunities for your product’s packaging and check out Walmart’s Sustainability Hub’s recycling playbook.

Related:Recycling explained: Designing packaging for recyclability

The following gallery presents a high-level look at commonly used materials and formats and provides some general information about recyclability and ways to improve the sustainability of these formats. It is important to note that the following gallery slides do not take Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) measures such as water usage, carbon emissions, etc., into consideration. While LCA is a powerful tool to provide a holistic perspective, the results of an LCA analysis are highly dependent on a company’s location, procurement choices and logistics. Additionally, be sure to read up on the plastic codes, which are referenced in the gallery slides.

Click through this gallery to find your product’s packaging format in order to better understand its sustainability challenges and opportunities.

This gallery was produced in partnership with RCD Packaging as a part of the Sustainable Packaging Toolkit.

About the Author(s)

Chris McGurrin

Manager, Influencer Programs, New Hope Network

A passionate individual working to inspire health for people and planet, Chris manages New Hope Network's influencer programs. In his role, he provides natural products industry-supportive content, resources and brand partnership opportunities for health and wellness influencers. Chris also manages the NEXTY Awards, an industry-facing awards program which recognizes brands and product inspiring a more sustainable future for people and planet. On New Hope Network's editorial team, he produces sustainability-focused content on topics such as organic and regenerative agriculture, upcycling and sustainable packaging. 

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