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  • Writer's pictureAnna Forster

Top 3 Considerations when Selecting Sustainable Packaging

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

With plastic free July in full swing, we want to discuss the topic that keeps retailers awake at night when thinking about ditching plastic in their supply chains – the question of what alternative packaging material to use when looking for sustainability and performance.


Thankfully, it is now mostly accepted as a given that brands should be moving away from single-use virgin plastic. Beyond that, unfortunately, there is no universally applicable answer to what the most sustainable packaging material is. Solutions can differ depending on the industry and also geography a business is operating in and every retail supply chain presents its own requirements, complexities and opportunities. In some cases, recycled plastic satchels are best; in others, compostable mailers are more suitable. Recycled paper can also be a good choice since it can be recycled many times over and is also biodegradable. When comparing the energy needed for transport and recycling across a company's value chain, however, recycled plastic may perform better. 


There are tools that can help design the best solution for a given business by analysing the movements of packaging materials from cradle to grave in the relevant geography and industry. Results also include overall carbon footprint and residual pollution caused by the material as well as options to mitigate those through reuse and recycling. Achieving circularity should be the overall goal, which still poses a challenge in Australia due to the historical lack of household education, collection systems and overall investment into recycling infrastructure. Here, it is also important for the retailer to help educate their customers on how to recycle the packaging material that comes with their products. Similarly, retailers should encourage their up-stream suppliers to join their efforts in achieving circularity.

In a perfect world, businesses and whole industries should have government-mandated targets for how much recycled material they have to use, particularly for product packaging and shipping. This would help create a larger market for recycled materials and rapidly grow a circular economy for packaging materials in Australia. In this context, some good news just appeared on the horizon with the announcement of the new $190m Recycling Modernisation Fund on July 6, promising investment in recycling infrastructure. 


When embarking on a mission to switch packaging, brands have also shown concern that alternative materials will not sufficiently protect the product or that they are not cost effective. These days, alternative packaging solutions can absolutely deliver the desired performance if designed and tailored to the respective business requirements. Plus, with increasing demand, they have already become cheaper. Should there be an additional cost associated with alternative solutions, they must be regarded as an investment into future proofing one's business and an opportunity to build brand equity with increasingly conscious customers.

If you want to find out more about this topic contact us at The Purpose Agents to have a chat!



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