Choosing sustainable packaging materials is important for both the environment and our health. The food packaging we use every day has a big impact if it is not environmentally friendly. In this blog, we will discuss 8 tips to help you select packaging materials that are better for the planet and people. Following these tips can help reduce waste and ensure the packaging for sustainable food packaging materials you choose doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. Let’s get started!
1. Choose Recyclable Materials
One of the most important factors to consider when selecting food packaging is whether the material can be recycled. Plastics labeled with the numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5 are usually the easiest to recycle as they are commonly accepted at municipal recycling facilities. Glass, aluminum and some paper products can also be recycled in many areas. Try to avoid black plastics, wax coatings or multi-layer laminates which are more difficult to recycle. Recyclable materials help keep waste out of landfills and allow the packaging to have a second life after use.
2. Avoid Plastics With Numbers 3, 6 And 7
Plastics labeled with the numbers 3, 6 or 7 should usually be avoided for food packaging items when possible. Number 3 plastics like PVC are difficult to recycle and their production can release toxic dioxins. Number 6 polystyrene is also not widely recycled and does not break down easily in landfills. Number 7 plastics are a catch-all category for other plastics and their chemical makeup is often unknown. Sticking to numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5 for plastic packaging helps ensure it can be more sustainably managed at end of use.
3. Choose Minimal And Lightweight Packaging
The amount of packaging used can significantly impact its sustainability. When selecting food containers, look for options that use minimal material while still protecting the product. Lightweight packaging that does just enough is preferable to over-packaged items. Things like bubble wrap or multiple layers may be unnecessary. Consider packaging sizes that are just large enough for standard portions – no need for jumbo sizes with excess empty space inside. Minimal, lightweight packaging reduces the environmental footprint at both production and disposal stages of the product lifecycle.
4. Choose Renewable And Plant-Based Materials
Renewable, plant-based materials are a greener choice than packaging made from fossil fuels. Look for containers made partly or entirely from renewable sources like paper, cardboard, sugar cane or bamboo. These plant-based materials can often be recycled along with other paper products. Some options even use agricultural byproducts or waste streams that don’t compete with food production. Materials like paper provide a more sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics, especially when they come from responsibly managed forests or farms.
5. Consider Packaging Made From Recycled Materials
Packaging produced using recycled content diverts waste from landfills and reduces demand for virgin materials. Look for containers labeled as made from post-consumer recycled plastic, paper or other materials. This supports a circular economy approach. Some options may contain 30%, 50% or even 100% recycled material. Using recycled packaging closes the loop and demonstrates that recycled feedstocks can be remanufactured into high quality end products. As long as the packaging protects the product and can itself be recycled again, prioritizing options with recycled content is more sustainable.
6. Choose Packaging Free Of BPA, Phthalates And Other Chemicals
When selecting food packaging, it’s important to consider any potentially harmful chemicals the container material may contain. Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are two types of chemicals to watch out for. BPA is a common hardening agent in plastics that has been linked to health issues. Phthalates act as plasticizers but can disrupt hormone function. Try to choose packaging free of BPA, phthalates and other chemicals of concern listed on sites like the EWG Database. Safer options use alternative materials or processing methods
7. Buy Unpackaged Or Bulk When Possible
For some products, no packaging at all is the most sustainable choice. Consider purchasing unpackaged bulk foods when available. This eliminates single-use containers altogether. Many grocery and health food stores now offer options like nuts, dried fruit, grains and snacks sold directly from large reusable containers that you fill as well as pay for yourself. You can also bring your own reusable produce bags for unpackaged fruits and vegetables. Purchasing unpackaged cuts down on waste and is often more affordable too. Just be sure to keep items separated and contained properly for transport.
Some unpackaged options may only be seasonal or available at certain stores. But with creativity, many packaged goods can be replaced. For example, making your own nut butters or baked goods at home avoids pre-packaged versions. You can also use reusable containers to transport pre-made lunches as well as snacks. Getting creative with no-packaging solutions supports zero-waste goals where feasible. As well as purchasing from bulk bins that use reusable containers instead of single-serve packaging is always a sustainable swap.
8. Choose Packaging Made By Sustainable Companies
When selecting food packaging, consider supporting brands that demonstrate strong sustainability commitments as well as practices. Look for companies that use eco-friendly materials, minimize packaging, incorporate recycled content, join product stewardship programs, along with transparent supply chains. Sustainable packaging leaders show ongoing progress through certifications, impact reports and concrete reduction targets. Choosing brands making a real effort helps shift industry standards over the long run.
You can also check independent organization rankings of various companies’ sustainability performances. While no brand is perfect, prioritizing those doing the most to minimize environmental and social impacts with their packaging selections sends an important market signal. Leaders pave the way for others to follow.
Making sustainable packaging choices helps reduce our environmental footprint. By considering factors like recyclability, recycled content, compostability and a company’s eco-commitment, consumers can opt for containers that create less waste and pollution. Every time we purchase a product like disposable coffee cup price, we vote with our dollars. Small changes like bringing reusable mugs and containers can lessen your collective impact if adopted widely. Together through mindful choices, we can encourage companies to develop truly sustainable packaging solutions.