Remember when your Big Mac would come in a Styrofoam box that would take 500 years to break down? Or when polystyrene cups were the norm? Over the last few decades, brands have made plenty of progress in improving the sustainability of their packaging, but there’s still lots of room for improvement.
With 81% of global consumers concerned about disposable, non-recyclable products, the brands that can show they’re taking sustainability seriously are in a good position to keep customers smiling – and spending. And with COVID-19 driving a surge in online shopping, and the packaging that goes along with it, we thought we’d share some brands that are leading the pack when it comes to sustainable packaging. Check them out!
Back in 2015, Danish beer giant Carlsberg partnered with post-doc researchers from the Danish Technical University and innovation experts ecoXpac to work out the best ways to bring a sustainable, biodegradable bottle to life. Not long after, packaging company BillerudKorsnäs joined the efforts and the Paper Bottle Company – or Paboco – was born.
Made from sustainably-sourced wood fibres, Paboco now has two prototypes of their Green Fibre beer bottles, which are the first paper bottles able to hold beer. Since the project’s inception, Carlsberg has now been joined by more global brands including The Coca-Cola Company, The Absolut Company and L’Oréal. The first batch of products is set for release in September – we’ll drink to that.
As one of the world’s biggest E-commerce brands, ASOS has been taking big steps to mitigate the environmental impacts of its business, starting with their iconic black and white plastic bags. Since plastic is more durable and lighter than cardboard, and takes up less space in a truck, ASOS estimates that if they switched to traditional cardboard boxes, their greenhouse gas emissions would actually go up by 50%.
The company is also increasing the amount of recycled content in their bags from 25% to 65%, and has reduced their thickness too, saving around 583 tonnes of plastic annually.
As a side note, delivery companies like Shippit and Sendle are now encouraging online stores to go green by offering satchels made from 100% compostable materials like corn. Competitively priced and with no weight limit, we expect we’ll be seeing lots of these eco-friendly bags in the future.
American fashion conglomerate PVH owns brands like Van Heusen, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, and their sustainability goals are impressively ambitious. According to the company’s 2018 corporate responsibility report, 74% of its packaging is already recyclable and ethically-sourced, and this should be 100% by 2025.
PVH also became the first apparel company to join How2Recycle, a standardised labelling system that lets customers know exactly what materials have been used in the packaging and the best way to recycle them.
Puma’s ‘Clever Little Bag’ has been around for over a decade now, so while it may not be one of the latest examples of environmentally friendly packaging, it’s certainly one of the greatest. Introduced in 2010, Puma’s Clever Little Bag replaces traditional shoeboxes with a single folded sheet of cardboard slipped inside a reusable, recyclable PET bag, saving 8,500 tonnes of paper, 20 million megajoules of electricity, 1 million litres of fuel oil, and 1 million litres of water every year.
Aside from the obvious plastic shipping backs and cardboard boxes, our purchases are often packed with plenty of ‘hidden plastic’ – think hang tags, plastic liners, silica packets, and those tiny little bags that hold extra buttons, to name just a few. To cut down on hidden plastic, California-based PrAna launched the Responsible Packaging Movement to encourage other fashion brands to join the mission of eliminating plastic altogether. PrAna is leading the way with its consumer packaging set to be 100% plastic free by next year, and all their clothing free of virgin forest fibres by 2025.
Our 2 cents
While there’s still a long way to go, it’s great to see big brands taking big steps to improve their environmental footprint. Not only is it better for the planet, it’s a great way to show customers – and staff – that the brand is living its value and planning for a better future.