By Biyya Mansoer

Eco-packaging: what are the options?

While we can get excited over the box, bag, or wrapper that our items come in, single-use packaging is a major contributor to the waste crisis today. Fortunately, there have been innovations of eco-friendly alternatives to single-use packaging. What is eco packaging and what are the options out there?

Nowadays, packaging from shopping does not only serve the purpose of protecting the products. Packaging can be aesthetically pleasing, fun, or luxurious and this brings us a joyful and unique unboxing experience. While we can get excited over the box, bag, or wrapper that our items come in, single-use packaging is a major contributor to the waste crisis today.  In the EU alone, packaging waste represents approximately 87 million tonnes or about 170kg per person (according to Eurostat).

Why single-use packaging is unsustainable

Single-use packaging (plastics in particular) is often very difficult to recycle. According to U.N Environment, only 9% of the world’s nine billion tonnes of plastic has been recycled. Small items such as plastic bags or bubble wrap can get stuck into the crevices of recycling machines. Therefore, they are often rejected by recycling centres (Financial Times). 

In addition,  plastics are not compostable; instead, they break down into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastics. The inability to be recycled or composted results in them being discarded as waste and then dumped into landfills. Unrecycled plastic waste can also end up floating around in our oceans, harming marine animals that mistake them for food (National Geographic). 

The fashion industry itself is no stranger to the current waste crisis. The drastic increase in online orders today suggests that there are more products delivered to consumers using single-use plastics. Luckily, there have been innovations of eco-friendly alternatives. 

We have previously discussed the impact of online vs offline shopping and how you can minimise your environmental footprint when shopping online in this article. But now, we are discussing the types of eco packaging and plastic alternatives that you can look out for to reduce your waste from online orders.

But first, what exactly is eco-packaging? 

While ‘unsustainable’ packaging is single-use, you can probably guess that eco-packaging is the opposite.  Eco-packaging is developed with the purpose of reducing waste and the environmental footprint in the life cycle of packaging. The concept of eco-packaging packaging may not be as straightforward as you may think; it can be a little complex. It is much more than just prioritising paper packaging or cardboard boxes.

Why is that? There are so many types of packaging used in different stages of the supply chain. This can be from shipping boxes to plastic bags that protect clothing from moisture during shipping. And of course, the final packaging that holds the final product. Due to the complex nature of the supply chain, many companies have put minimal packaging as a common goal in their sustainability initiatives. This is a step in the right direction. 

The growing consumer pressure for sustainability and the rise of environmental activist groups in recent years have made a significant contribution to such efforts. We, as consumers, have become increasingly aware of the negative impacts that excessive waste can have on our planet. We can now assess a brand’s commitment to sustainability by looking at the type of packaging that they use. While not every stage of the supply chain uses sustainable packaging, you can look for better alternatives for the material that your shopping is packed in. 

So, what are the alternatives?

Recyclable and recycled packaging

Recyclable packaging is probably one of the most commonly used alternatives by many brands. Packaging that can be recycled is made from materials that can be transformed into something new after it has been used. Cardboard and paper packaging can often be recycled so make sure that you dispose of them in the recycling bins accordingly.  Recycling is extremely important because it helps to divert waste from landfills.

Image credit : Dawn Printing

Many brands today are pushing to become more sustainable and this often means that they begin to disclose the type of packaging they use. Whether the brand is sustainable or not, they may use cardboard/paper packaging or wrappers that are recycled. 

To ensure that the packaging comes from responsibly sourced forests you can look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. The FSC is an international non-profit organisation that is committed to promoting the responsible management of forests worldwide. Another certification you may look out for is the Global Recycled Standard (GRS). The GRS verifies the recycled content of products as well as environmental and social responsibility practices. Certifications can ensure that you will not be greenwashed! 

Here are some brands on Renoon that incorporate recyclable and/or recycled packaging:

# Eticlò and  Reformation currently use plastic-free and 100% recycled paper products incorporated into their packaging that is also FSC certified.

# Underprotection: all of their cardboard boxes, gift boxes, and wrapping paper is made from recycled material. Their gift boxes and bags are FSC certified. Postal bags are made from recycled plastics that are GRS certified. 

# Girlfriend Collective uses packaging that is 100% recycled and recyclable.

# TALA currently utilises packaging that is recycled and recyclable as well as tags that are made from 100% plantable paper.

# Woodstrk: packaging & hang tags are eco-friendly, plastic-free, and made from 100% recycled cardboard.

Compostable packaging

By definition, compostable material is biodegradable but with an added benefit: they decompose and become food for new plants (Bio plastics News). Packaging that is compostable is made from plant-based materials that can break down. Although, keep in mind that just because your packaging is compostable does not mean that you should dispose of it right away! While compostable packaging can be biodegradable, it may not always be the case, according to WRAP. Therefore, it is useful to read the labels in your compostable package to know how you can discard it correctly because sometimes they specifically suggest that you place them in the compost bin.

In the fashion industry, compostable packaging is still not widely accessible because producing and sourcing them can be expensive and time-consuming. Not to mention that it is still a fairly recent invention and therefore there is no existing system in place to enforce this as a standard.

Fortunately, there are fashion brands on Renoon that have begun to use compostable packaging:

# Pangaia and Gabriella Hearst use TIPA packaging – a part bio-based plastic alternative that can fully disappear within 24 weeks in a compost facility. TIPA packaging can be put in a home compost or industrial compost systems along with food waste.

# Reformation has incorporated some compostable packaging made from biomaterials.

# September The Line has begun to use postage bags that are 100% compostable and are made from sustainably-sourced plants

# Santicler commits to a zero-waste business model and uses fully compostable packaging crafted from bio-plastics. In fact, their bags are made just like an orange peel- they are fully compostable in less than 30 days with no toxic residue! 

Image credit: Reformation (left), SupplyCompass (Right)

Reusable packaging 

Although is it not widely accessible just yet, reusable packaging has been on the rise recently as an alternative to reduce waste. RePack is a reusable and returnable packaging service that has been collaborating with fashion retailers. On Renoon, brands such as Ganni and Mud Jeans have partnered with RePack as a solution to provide free reusable and returnable packaging for their online orders in the future. 

Would you like to see more brands on Renoon that are utilising reusable packaging? Or, would you like to be notified when your favorite brands on Renoon will start using reusable packaging? Let us know! 

Image credit: Aalto (left), Pack-pedia (right)

What you can do to reduce your packaging waste

Image credit: Pinterest (original source unknown)

As eco-packaging is being used more and more, we can now choose to shop from brands that utilise eco-friendly alternatives. However, some types of eco-packaging such as the compostable or reusable types are not widely accessible just yet. Not to worry! You can try to shop less or buy multiple items in one single order to minimise the use of single-use packaging. It is all about doing the best you can to reduce your waste footprint. 

Is sustainable packaging a priority for you? Let us know! 

In the meantime, start your search for fashion that is good for our planet. 

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