Most people running startups and small businesses underscore the effects of packaging materials on the environment. However, trash from product purchases makes up 69 to 221 kgs of the plastic waste everyone contributes annually. With increasing awareness and efforts to conserve the environment, small business owners should reduce their contribution by adopting eco-friendly packaging materials.
As the name suggests, eco-friendly packaging involves using materials with zero or minimal environmental impact. Eco-friendly packaging materials are made from recycled materials, significantly reducing the ecological footprint.
How Does Packaging Materials Affect the Environment?
Supermarket shelves, fast food restaurants, and other businesses package their products to minimize waste, enhance hygiene, and ease distribution. Unfortunately, the amount of packaging left behind by consumers of these products has serious environmental impacts. The millions of packaging materials dumped by consumers over the years don’t disappear into the air.
All packaging materials used by small businesses end up as landfill waste. These include plastics, glass, Styrofoam, and other materials that take years to decompose. Wasteful packaging affects the environment through:
- Littering – interestingly, a small percentage of packaging products contribute to the litter seen everywhere. Even then, litter is both an eyesore and harmful to humans and the environment. For instance, poorly disposed broken glass can cause injuries, while accumulating cardboard is a fire hazard.
- Air pollution – wasteful packaging materials contribute to air pollution in many ways. For starters, it increases the amount of waste for incineration. This increases the release of harmful gases, like hexane, vinyl chloride, and CFCs, into the environment. These materials also decompose over time, releasing methane and carbon dioxide gas, contributing to global warming.
- It affects birdlife – surprisingly, plastic materials killmore than one million birds Birds can ingest plastic directly or indirectly. Plastic also traps birds, causing injuries and death.
Packaging materials also contribute to landfill waste and water pollution and affect sea life.
Which Packaging Materials Should Small Businesses Use?
Small businesses can contribute to environmental conservation by using the following packaging materials:
- Plant-based Packaging Materials
Plant-based packaging materials are an eco-friendly option for small businesses. These materials are found everywhere, from bakeries, beauty shops, and coffee shops to bookstores. Producing plant-based packing materials uses less carbon than plastics. Common examples include coconut husks, bioplastics, cornstarch, and bagasse. They are natural, thus toxin-free, and don’t contribute to landfill waste.
- Recycled Paper and Plastic
Small business owners can also reduce environmental degradation by recycling paper and plastics. These materials best suit high-demand products, such as food and beverages. Over 93.6% of packaging materials recycled by the American Forest and Paper Association are pizza boxes. Small business owners should join others in increasing the rate of recycling packaging materials.
- Corrugated Cardboard Boxes
Corrugated packing materials contain at least three layers of kraft paper. Kraft paper is highly biodegradable and can easily break down into harmless sulfate and fiber when exposed to air, moisture, and light. Corrugated cardboard boxes are crush-resistant and have a strong strength-to-weight ratio, making them a perfect choice for packing bulk products. Small businesses can order these materials in small sizes and shapes according to their needs.
The Bottom Line
Small businesses should join the larger community in stopping the effects of global warming. While switching to eco-friendly packaging materials is a great start, small businesses should also appreciate minimalism. Using a few packing materials reduces the amount of landfill waste generated. Small businesses should also adopt a use, reuse, and recycle policy and hire professionals for proper waste disposal. Apart from environmental benefits, modern consumers also prefer brands that embrace sustainability efforts.