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Consequences of  non-sustainable packaging practices

Brands can spend years making their products sustainable, only to undermine their own efforts by wrapping them in single-use plastic packaging. Single-use plastic is a particularly damaging part of the industry. For example, a plastic shopping bag usually serves the consumer for 12 minutes, on average, but takes up to 1,000 years to break down.

  • About 32% of the plastic packaging goes straight into our oceans, and even if plastic does make it to a landfill (which are poorly designed structures preventing much of anything from breaking down due to a lack of oxygen) it will likely leach chemicals into the groundwater.


  • For urban solid waste, plastic bags have become major items in the litter system. This has resulted in animal choking, pollution, blockage of channels, rivers and streams, and landscape disfigurement.


  • Animals often confuse the bags for food and consume them, therefore blocking their digestive processes. Which causes injury and death and transfers plastic up the food chain to bigger fish, marine mammals and human seafood eaters.


  • Plastics also take over many endangered species habitats in the ocean.


  • The presence of plastics along coastlines affects tourism. Economic losses are linked to lower tourism earnings, adverse effects on tourist activities and harm to the marine environment.


  • Trapped shoreline plastic has a negative effect on shipping infrastructure, energy production, fishing and aquaculture.


  • Plastic packaging bags posses a threat to the environmental deterioration of developed global society.

Corporate Social Responsibility in packaging

Corporate social responsibility and sustainability are more than just buzzwords. Consumers and societies expect businesses to be part of the solution when it comes to environmental and social issues. According to a recent survey of consumers from the US & UK by Globalwebindex, the percentage of consumers who are willing to pay more for eco-friendly packaging has grown from 47% to 59% in just seven years

Packing and shipping is a pollution industry. Single-use plastic packaging just isn’t OK anymore. It pollutes our waterways, suffocating marine life and breaking down into microplastics that enter our food chain. Environmentally-conscious customers are more aware of the consequences of single-use packaging. Sustainable brands are improving and working hard to become single-use plastic-free.

Responsible Sourcing Benefits for Retailers

Brand reputation

of the surveyed Retailers reported positive impacts on risk management and brand reputation

Employee commitment

of the surveyed Retailers claimed sustainability commitments had a positive impact on employee engagement

Costumer satisfaction

f the retailers surveyed saw positive impacts on customer satisfaction and stakeholder engagement

Types of packaging

Today there are multiple solutions to address single-use packaging, from recycled materials, compostable packaging, no wrapping or reusable packaging. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Compostable bags

Compostable bags are a ground-breaking technology that eliminates the final piece of single-use, non-degradable plastic from our packaging.

These bags are biodegradable and compostable in months, certified non-GMO and non-toxic so won’t harm animals if they do end up being ingested. The materials varies, some are made from organic materials and some other cases polymer resin.

It has been thoroughly tested and found to be non-toxic to marine species, breaking down into water, carbon dioxide and ‘mineralised biomass’; a natural biological breakdown step of the carbon in the material into carbon dioxide and water.

As the material degrades, smaller oxidised polymer chains are formed that eventually break down to carbon dioxide and water. The material does not form toxic microplastics or yield any harmful products at any stage of the breakdown and biodegradation process. The ink used is also non-toxic and food-safe, so there are no nasty chemicals produced as the bag breaks down.

Simply put it on your home compost heap and use it to enrich those home-grown veggies. If you want to speed up the process and see it by yourself, all needed is warm water and your sink. The material breaks down quickly and harmlessly in water temperatures above 70ºC.

Organic Paper bags

As for clothing, the alternative solution is sustainable paper bags that replace those old poly bags. These paper bags are made from recycled kraft paper and are F.S.C approved, ensuring sustainable forestry practices. These paper bags can be recycled again in your kerb-side paper recycling.

A Globescan survey found that 50% of the surveyed consumers worldwide (a total of 10,000 consumers were surveyed from 13 countries) recognize the FSC label and they trust that FSC is effective in protecting forests. Again, remarking the importance of

Sustainable Cardboard boxes

Resizing all boxes also poses a big solution, reducing the volume storage. This means shipping less air from our suppliers, thus reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping.

Concerning the material of the cardboard box,  an alternative solution is using Kraft card which is made from recycled materials and can be reused and recycled over again. The brightly colored wraps are made from a silk card which can also be recycled in your kerb-side card recycling.

Eco-friendly Tape

Switching from vinyl tape to a gummed paper tape which can be reused and recycled. Gummed paper tape is water-activated, which allows printing on non-glossy/wax-coated paper. The aforementioned materials (gloss and wax) do not break down in composting conditions, nor are they biodegradable, hence why having water-activated paper tape is a positive for packaging sustainably. The paper used is from 100% recycled FSC.

Gummed paper tape is customizable and can be printed in different colors. The colors are printed with soy inks, an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based inks. Soy-based inks are made from soybeans, which is a renewable resource, and printing with these inks produces more vibrant colors and does not leave behind petroleum-based products while decomposing. Soy inks also have low levels of VOCs, which reduces air pollution during the printing process.

Gummed paper is very simple to use, Simply,  add a damp sponge to activate the adhesive on the back of the tape before applying it to the surface and ready to go. For large order processing, you can use a manual or electronic dispenser.

Swing tags

Using simple paper sticker tag instead of the traditional little plastic kimble tag commonly found on swing tags


Instead of plastic envelopes use paper mailbags, which are made from unbleached kraft pulp, sourced from renewable FSC/PEFC compliant paper mills. They are both recyclable and compostable.

Sustainable resources

The following three frameworks assist in developing and improving sustainable packaging range.


Compostable packaging is typically made from a number of renewable plant-based materials and/or bio-polymers. To be certified home compostable, a product must break down in home compost within 180 days and 90 days in commercial composting conditions.

Cardboard and paper products are a great addition to the backyard compost as it helps with the carbon-nitrogen ratio. Easily broken down in a compost, these products also tend to have chemical compounds removed from the product.

Sometimes people don’t notice that something is compostable, meaning it can sometimes end up in the landfill.


Recycled packaging is made from previously used plastic products, including single- use bags, bottles and other common plastic items. The plastic is processed at a recycling facility and put back into circulation, thus doubling its lifespan.

Recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators – it conserves natural resources and prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials. Taking something already in circulation to give it a second life.

While operating and maintaining recycling plants can often be a bit more costly, you can support by choosing products made from recycled materials.


Reusable packaging is packaging that has a built-in second (and possibly third, fourth, etc.) use. While most packaging is typically single-use, and recycled after it accomplishes its primary goal, reusable packaging can be used multiple times for a variety of functions.

When an item of packaging is used for a second time after its initial use, that doubles the utility of the packaging, and prevents another single-use piece of packaging from being used.

In order for reusable packaging to have its desired impact, it has to be used more than once. Simply put, if a reusable bag is immediately discarded, it loses any potential positive benefits it might have had. To combat this, companies should focus on educating their customers on their packaging and how to make the most out of it.

Sustainable packaging suppliers


Aquapak has created a polymer technology that delivers excellent functionality as a material solution for the circular economy, that is both recyclable and environmentally safe.

They produce multi-functional water-soluble polymers that enable economic recycling and meet the goals of the Circular Economy. All of their products are designed to facilitate the elimination of plastic pollution at the source by recycling, enhanced recovery and biodegradation.

Polymer technology is the perfect alternative to plastic wrappings. The feel is the same, the output is different.


The FSC or Forest Stewardship Council certifies that the paper products that make up our custom packaging tape are sourced from a forest and supply chain that is managed responsibly and sustainably. Furthermore, the tape itself is made from 100% recycled content and is water-activated, meaning that the surface isn’t coated in wax to prevent sticking—another environmental benefit.

Sustainable Packaging suppliers

Noissue, packaging ecologico, sustainable packaging group, pack help, Servoart pack europe. You should be able to find a local supplier by clicking sustainable packaging on Google. Less carbon print 🙂

Examples of Ocean Brands using sustainable packaging


Finisterre, a popular Ocean activist surfwear brand has been adapting to sustainable packing policies since 2015 by changing to paper mailbags. They currently use their own polymer wrapping called Leave No Trace in partnership with Aquapack.

4th Element

4th Element, a Sustainable Diving brand from the UK has tirelessly worked towards sustainable packaging for most recent years. Most of their packaging today is sustainable, replacing their plastics wrappings with biodegradable choices, paper mailbags from FSC paper, paper tapes etc.


Sanuk, a sustainable shoe brand for surfers also has a strong packaging framework.  They constantly seek out new ways to improve product packaging. For the past three years, they have critically looked into our packaging’s environmental impact.

Sanuk is packaging materials LCA, and, through that exercise, they were able to set some lofty but highly attainable goals to further their packaging environmental savings. From increasing their use of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) paper to using less plastic and less paper, they are doing their part to reduce the environmental impact of our packaging materials. Their efforts will have saved approximately 64,881 trees according to their website. Source:


Aqualung, a leading and pioneer ocean advocate brand in the diving industry, has a bit different approach from the others cited above. Their products are probably more valuable and expensive if we talk about regulators, BCDs, and fins. They use recycled materials and they claim that their packaging can be of second use to their customers.  They have removed the plastic from their packages.

Ways to give back and keep the loop going

Planting trees is a great way to contribute to global reforestation and show off your eco-friendly packaging. You can join a reforestation alliance or partner up with a recognized planting non-profit organization. For every order your customers make, your brand will plant trees in areas of need. Your partner or alliance will give you access to a badge to promote your eco-goodness to your customers. This promotes circular economy and will definitely help to close the loop.


Author alek1986

I'm an e-commerce consultant, Shopify Developer and a Water sports keen enthusiast. For the last 10 years, I have thrived living near the water in Central America and the Caribbean where I have evolved as a PADI Divemaster, Marina & Dive center director, Web & Booking apps developer for multiple Leisure organizations and practiced other sports such as surfing, kite surfing, sailing and paddleboarding. I have also partnered and been involved in multiple social-environmental projects such as Swim for Haiti, AVAV & 4Ocean. Today I enjoy building & developing multiple Shopify stores from stunning Lake Leman, Switzerland.

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