Close The Loop: Why We Should Think About Our Packaging
Close The Loop: Why We Should Think About Our PackagingBack to News
A single plastic bag can take between 10 and 100 years to degrade, for other plastics it is longer. With 55% of our plastics ending up in landfill, that is a lot of waste and a long time to get rid of it. When you think about it, our plastic bags for life could be passed down for generations!
As consumers we often have no say in what our items are packed in, especially when shopping online. This all adds to the feeling of guilt about our contribution to landfill when the bin lid opens up. Considering eco-friendly alternatives has become even more important so that our short-term use does not become a long-term problem.
At Onesta we’ve been there and understand the struggle of trying to make better choices in a non-sustainable society. That’s why we believe in the importance of eco-friendly manufacturing and packaging, so you don’t have to worry about the lifecycle of your purchase or what it arrives in. When looking elsewhere, there is so much information and types of packaging available it can be hard to tell what our favourite brands are using. To help, we are sharing some of the basics so you can confidently shop more sustainably.
Remind me, what is Eco-Friendly Packaging?
Eco-friendly packaging is any kind of packaging that is made from biobased materials, is biodegradable or recyclable. It is produced with less energy than typical packaging and the disposal process is sustainable, either through re-use, or complete breakdown of the materials.
What is a biobased material?
Biobased materials refer to any material made from living (or once living) organisms (e.g. plants). They are grown and maintained in a sustainable way that allows us to continue to use them, compared to fossil fuels which can’t be replenished. Biobased materials can be used to make bioplastics which are a type of plastic that is made completely or partially from renewable plant materials. The starch of plants can become a useable plastic and, unlike the petrochemical standard made from fossil fuels, are completely biodegradable.
What is biodegradation?
When something is biodegradable, it means that it can be broken down by microorganisms, bacteria and fungi. One form of biodegradation is compost, where things break down and turn into soil that can be then used to nourish the earth and plants growing in it.
But just because something is biodegradable or compostable doesn’t mean it’s completely eco-friendly. Some compostable bags still use toxic ink and adhesives which when broken down, will go into the earth.
Our mailer bags are created using plant-based materials, vegetable- and water-based inks and non-toxic adhesives, making it safe to compost them at home. A closed-loop cycle is created when resources that were harvested and used are put back into nature to be re-used again in different ways. This is kind of like earth’s way of recycling, when it’s done right!
What is recycling?
Recyclable materials are anything that can be broken down into a raw state and used to make something new. Some plastic packaging is recyclable and can be used for a wide variety of new things. In the UK, in 2016 45% of plastic packaging was recycled. This is a good start but that is still over half of packaging ending up in landfill. There are limitations on what can and cannot be recycled in different areas of the country (and worldwide) so it is always important to check with your local authority on what to do with your plastic waste. Recycling packaging means that companies can use less energy to produce a new item. Which is why, when we’re shopping, if we use any packaging that isn’t compostable, we look for packaging that can be recycled and is made from at least a portion of recycled materials.
Why is this important?
Eco-friendly packaging is friendlier to people, animals and the planet! By allowing packaging to biodegrade in compost, you are helping the soil in your area but also reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released. When organic and biodegradable waste goes to landfill, it is put into an anaerobic environment, meaning it doesn’t have enough oxygen to break down properly. This results in the production of methane which is 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide, contributing massively towards global warming by trapping heat. When making a purchase, you can usually tell which brands use eco-friendly packaging because they’ll tell you on their website!
Eco-friendly packaging keeps the production loop closed. By using reproducible and sustainable raw materials we aren’t draining finite resources and support the eco-system instead. Reusing materials already in use stops them from ending up in landfill or the oceans. Keep an eye out for brands that use eco-friendly packaging that is safe to have and compost at home, and make sure the packaging doesn't contain any toxic chemicals which could damage you, your pets or the environment!
How can we tell if a brand uses eco-friendly packaging?
Just because a brand says they’re using eco-friendly alternatives, does not mean they are good for the earth. Here are some tips on how to tell if a brand is using truly eco-friendly packaging and how much they’re committed to protecting the earth:
Check their website – do they have information about their packaging? Most brands who use eco-friendly packaging want to tell the world about it!
Check the “ingredients” – does the brand list out the materials used in the packaging and what the benefits are to the environment? Some chemical groups of concern include hazardous metals (e.g. cadium, chromium), bisphenols (e.g. BPA), phthalates, and PFAS (if you want to learn more, please read the chemtrust article in the sources list).
Do they tell you how to dispose of the packaging? Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with the packaging and it may get thrown away if there’s no instructions…
For far too long, packaging has been damaging the earth and causing health concerns to people and animals. We aim to support the earth and people through every part of our business, including the bit you “throw” away! So next time you’re shopping for something and concerned about what the packaging might be, take a look on the shop’s website and see how transparent they are about the packaging they use.