Sustainable Packaging: What is It?


As the holidays approach, I am thinking of all those overflowing trash cans that will soon line the streets of suburbia where I live. It’ll start will crinkly Halloween candy cellophane, move on to an overabundance of pre-packaged Thanksgiving foods, and end in a mountain of paper and cardboard come December. So what are we doing about it?

What is Sustainable Packaging?

According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition sustainable packaging:

    • Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
    • Meets market criteria for performance and cost
    • Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
    • Maximizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
    • Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
    • Is made from materials healthy in all probable end of life scenarios
    • Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
    • Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial cradle to cradle cycles

Or, as defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development, a sustainable product is on that

meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations

Packaging 2.0 describes a sustainable product as one where:

    the materials must be same-cycled into a product of equal value, or up-cycled into a product of higher value; while the process would either have no impact on the environment or improve it

How are these concepts actually applied?

Coca Cola focuses on package design, community recycling centers, and material reuse. Arm and Hammer has started selling cleaning agents in concentrate, complete with empty spray bottle and instructions for the consumer to ‘just add water’. Packaging design website DieLine keeps the industry apprised of innovative materials.

The Bottom Line

If you’re wondering about the cost of all these sustainability changes, Dennis Salazar at Salazar Packaging offers an insider’s perspective on the profit motives of going green at If you’re curious about the [not so noble] intentions behind all this greening of business, it’s a must read.

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  • Lela,

    Congratulations on a very clearly written and well thought out discussion.

    You have applied a very wholistic approach toward your defininition of sustainable packaging.

    Personally, I feel that any positive initiatives in this area should be welcomed, regardless of the motivation behind them.

  • It’s sad to think that many of the reason’s “Green” has taken off is probably due to the greed of big names who’ve created part of the need for green in the first place.. I’
    ll definitely look into the article.