The Compostable Packaging Life Cycle
Approximately 36% of all plastics produced are used in packaging, with around 85% of that packaging ultimately ending up in landfill or as litter. In 2018 the U.S. sent 10 million tons of plastic packaging to landfill, with only 2 million tons being recycled.
With these statistics in mind, it’s more important than ever for the packaging life cycle to be circular. But what does that mean?
"A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system.”
A circular economy focuses on materials being used over and over, in a continuous loop, rather than discarded.
Compostable packaging is designed with circularity in mind. It begins with sustainable design and production using biobased materials. Once the packaging has been used ( and reused!) it is composted, and turned into new materials (compost!) to be used again - creating a circular loop.
What Does the Life Cycle of Your Compostable Packaging Look Like?
A circular economy aims to eliminate waste and pollution, circulate materials, and regenerate nature. How is the compostable packaging life cycle circular? Let’s take a look:
Your compostable packaging is designed and produced from renewable biobased materials. Your product is created and put into its new packaging.
The packaging protects your product as it travels to a retail store, or is sold directly to a customer. Your customers receive your product and use it in their homes.
After it has served its primary purpose, your used compostable packaging is recovered and composted. It breaks down into non-toxic, natural elements alongside food scraps and other organic materials.
The resulting compost is added to the soil, where it replenishes nutrients in degraded soil and nourishes plant life.
Healthy soil supports strong ecosystems, which produce nutritious and abundant crops. Those crops could be future ingredients for your products!
Composting mimics the cycle of life and decomposition in nature, it is endlessly circular! Composting naturally recycles organic material into a product that enriches the soil. Healthy soil enables us to restore ecosystems, grow nutritious crops, and reduce our global carbon footprint.
Why is Circular Packaging Important?
Sustainability is about making sure that the things we create today don’t have negative impacts on one another or on our planet, both now and in the future. A circular economy that aims to regenerate helps us to create resilient ecosystems.
End of life is not the only stage of the packaging life cycle where we can be more sustainable, environmental impact occurs at every stage. Materials, sourcing, production, and even the shape of your packaging all play an important role in the life cycle of your packaging!
Learn More: Designing for Circularity
Circular Packaging Swaps
One of the easiest low cost places to begin is by ditching plastic or plastic-coated labels and stickers and using compostable labels instead. Using compostable cellophane bags, or compostable wrap, in place of plastic is also a relatively simple swap. If you need something stronger and with a higher barrier, choose compostable zipper pouches. Compostable pouches are also a great way to incorporate more sustainable materials into a refill or subscription-based system.