Plastic packaging, the most sustainable packaging option?


The packaging industry is seeing a sharp increase in demand for sustainable packaging as sustainability is currently a hot topic. But there are lots of misconceptions about sustainable packaging. For instance, is packing in cardboard always preferable to packing in plastic?

What does “sustainable packaging” mean?

Creating packaging with a low environmental impact without sacrificing the quality of the packaged product is known as sustainable packaging. Here, it’s critical that packaging is produced ethically, using recyclable materials and as few resources as possible (Consumers’ Association, 2021).

Paper and cardboard are currently replacing many plastic packaging solutions (for example bags). Therefore, cardboard is frequently the first material that comes to mind when considering environmentally friendly packaging. Although there are times when using plastic is preferable to this approach. For instance, the environmental impact of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics is significantly lower.

How eco-friendly are PE, PP and PET?

Packaging made of one material, such as PE, PP and PET (mono plastic), is much easier to recycle than packaging made of two materials, such as plastic and cardboard. This is due to the fact that mono plastic production requires almost no energy because the energy is recovered during incineration. Additionally, recycling doesn’t require any materials or water, and proper incineration doesn’t result in the production of any harmful substances.

The following is a list of PE plastic’s main benefits:

  • 100% recyclable,
  • Thermoplastic, and therefore infinitely recyclable
  • Recovers energy during incineration
  • Minimal water usage during production

Sustainability from the consumer perspective

As was previously mentioned, consumers are unsure of what is actually sustainable and what they believe to be sustainable. Although cardboard and paper seem environmentally friendly, they might not be the best choice at all. The switch from plastic to paper bags has also given rise to this notion in the minds of consumers. But are these paper bags really sustainable?

10,000 litres of water are needed to produce one kilogramme of paper, compared to just one litre to produce one kilogramme of plastic. Additionally, paper bags are typically used just once or twice, whereas plastic bags can be used up to nine times on average.

Transporting paper bags is also more damaging to the environment, as paper bags are up to 10 times (!) as big. In addition, printing the bags takes more ink for good results, and the bags cannot withstand rain. As a result, a protective layer has to be applied to the paper, which makes the material less recyclable.

How can Cyklop help with sustainability?

We offer several sustainable consumables and machines in the range. PET strapping, for example. This strapping is safer, more environmentally friendly and cheaper than steel strapping.

On this page we explain why PET strapping is better than steel strapping.

Our PET strapping is made of 99% recycled material and is 100% recyclable after use, which makes the product circular. Besides PET strapping, we also offer paper strapping, with a sustainable appearance for consumers that is recyclable through the normal paper stream.

We also consider sustainability when wrapping pallets. Pallet wrappers can be purchased with a pre-stretch function, which saves a significant amount of film over time. Pre-stretched or nanofilm can be used without a pallet wrapper because it is already very thin on the roll. The most recent advancements allow nanofilm to be even stronger than regular wrapping film despite being much thinner.

How do I deal with the growing importance of sustainability?

Because it is a subject that is gaining importance, it is crucial to take sustainability into account. However, as this article demonstrates, it can be challenging to combat market misconceptions. Therefore, we are happy to offer you recommendations for a sustainable packaging line and, as needed, assistance with plastic recycling. Click here to get in touch with us!