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.
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.