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Sustainable Commerce: A Guide to Biodegradable Packaging

Sustainable Commerce: A Guide to Biodegradable Packaging

If you want to attract more customers and earn the favor of your current buyers, one way to do it is to use biodegradable packaging. In addition, the increasing awareness of the importance of sustainable business practices fuels consumers’ resolve for environment-friendly best practices, including supporting businesses that share their desire to preserve the environment.

Customers Spend More for Sustainable Products 

According to Wharton’s First Insight and the Baker Retailing Center survey on how sustainability affects buying decisions, nearly 90 percent of Gen X consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products (a massive increase from 34 percent only two years ago). However, it’s not just the young people who prefer sustainable products. The researchers also found that more consumers across all generations, from Baby Boomers to Gen Zs, are willing to spend more money on sustainable products.

What do these findings mean for your business? Adopting sustainable business practices will make your brand, products, and services more attractive to today’s customers. A few small changes go a long way. You can start by replacing your standard plastic packaging materials and using biodegradable packaging instead. 

What Is Biodegradable Packaging?

Biodegradable packaging materials are composed of natural polymers like cellulose and protein. They’re paper manufactured into different substrates in a wide range of thickness and variety. When these materials decompose, they can become compost for new trees and vegetation or get remanufactured into new, recycled packaging materials or other objects.

There are several types of biodegradable packaging materials:
  1. Compostable Materials – These are manufactured packaging products that decompose quickly (90 days in a commercial composting facility and 180 days in a home compost). Compostable mailers are great alternatives to regular plastic mailers because they are just as durable and functional, but with the additional benefit of being more sustainable.
  2. Corrugated Materials – Corrugated boxes are the most commonly used packaging materials because of their durability and flexibility. They are sturdy and don’t give in under heavy weights that easily. They can hold their form and protect their contents, whether in storage or transit.
  3. Recycled Packaging – There’s a double benefit to using recycled, biodegradable packaging. First, you’re conserving natural resources because old paper products are used to make new packaging products. Second, you’re helping reduce the amount of garbage in the landfills by patronizing recycled packaging materials. 
  4. Cellulose Acetate – An eco-friendly alternative to plastic sheets, cellulose acetate looks and feels like clear plastic but decomposes like paper. It is made from cellulose extracted from corn stover or the stalks, leaves, husks, and bits of cob that are left in the field after harvest. Cellulose from wheat, straw, and prairie grass can also be used to make cellulose acetate for biodegradable food packaging. 
  5. Glassine – If you’re looking for packaging fillers or wrapping materials that are still sustainable and aesthetically pleasing, glassine is an excellent option. Glassine is thin, translucent, and glossy paper often used to wrap candles and wax crafts. It is made from wood pulp and is acid-free, so it’s not toxic when it decomposes.

These are suitable alternatives to plastic, styrofoam, and other synthetic, non-biodegradable materials. Some might be multi-use, but most of them still end up in the landfills and stay as waste for years. Consumers are aware of this, and as climate change’s effects become more apparent, many are inclined to choose the more sustainable option – even if it costs them a little bit more.

You might think that switching to biodegradable packaging materials offers minimal environmental contribution. However, a small step towards long-term sustainability is still better than none. 

Biodegradable Packaging from Hughes Enterprises

To make it easy for you to find quality eco-friendly packaging materials, here are some of the products that we offer at Hughes Enterprises:
  • Corrugated packaging – Choose from various corrugated shipping boxes in all sizes and shapes. We have regular and half-slotted slotted cartons, full-overlap and overlap-slotted cartons, corrugated carton trays suitable for biodegradable food packaging, and “folders” that fold around a product, typically used to protect books and printed materials. Lastly, you can use corrugated carton pieces as pads and partitions to secure items and keep them from banging around in a large box.
  • Pregis Inspyre tissue paper fill – A satisfying unboxing experience is extremely important for customers, and adding paper fill into a box of goodies heightens the excitement of receiving an order. What’s great about Pregis Inspyre is that you can customize it to show your brand name and logo. This personalized touch further heightens the unboxing experience, plus it gives online customers a taste of what customers get when they buy your products in-store. This paper fill may not offer much protection. Still, it accomplishes several things: it adds aesthetic flair to your packaging, reinforces your branding, and sufficiently pads boxed packages to reduce jostling.
  • PAC Worldwide Polyjacker-R Recyclable Mailer – If you need flat poly mailers for shipping small items, our recyclable mailer from PAC Worldwide would be a good option. It is 50 percent made of recycled content and is 100 percent curbside recyclable, which should appeal to customers who subscribe to curbside recycling programs.
  • Pregis Astro-Bubble® Green – Here’s a more eco-friendly alternative to regular plastic bubble wrap. This Green bubble wrap is 100 percent made of post-industrial recycled polyethylene and is just as effective at cushioning and protecting breakable materials.

We have more sustainable packaging options at Hughes Enterprises. Get in contact with us and our sales team will be happy to discuss options that will best suit your products, packaging lines, and shipping needs.

Educating Customers On What To Do With Biodegradable Packaging

If you want to embody a sustainable business enterprise fully, consider educating your customers on what to do with biodegradable packaging. Proper disposal is crucial for compostable materials to be wholly beneficial to the environment. Without correct segregation, all garbage will end up in landfills, defeating the purpose of recycling biodegradable materials so that they can be composted and returned to nature. 

Here are some examples of how you can inform customers and the public about proper recycling methods:
  • Publish an easily accessible guide on your website on how to properly dispose of your product packaging. Identify which parts are reusable (e.g., glass bottles, plastic containers with airtight lids) and which ones are recyclable (e.g., paper fill, corrugated boxes).
  • Encourage your customers to participate in local curbside recycling programs in their communities, do home composting, or send their biodegradable trash to recycling plants. Biodegradable materials should be kept out of landfills because bacteria that accelerate organic decomposition do not survive there for lack of oxygen. When compostable materials decompose in landfills, they do so anaerobically, releasing harmful methane gas into the atmosphere.
  • Offer perks to customers who reuse your packaging products, like branded eco-bags, recyclable cups, and takeout containers. Starbucks exhibits a good example of these perks. The coffee chain offers a discount to customers who bring tumblers when they order coffee. It’s a great way to promote an eco-friendly lifestyle, plus it establishes the company’s commitment to becoming an environment-friendly enterprise. You can take a similar approach for your business and offer an exclusive gift to customers who return to your store with your reusable shopping bag. 
  • If you run a food business, develop fun ways to get your customers to segregate their trash. For example, you can design a “voting bin” where you write a question on a social issue, and your customers can “vote” for their answer by inserting their used cups in the right slot. 

Reap the Benefits of Eco-Friendly Packaging with Hughes Enterprises

A positive brand image increased sales, and cost savings for your packaging line are just some of the many benefits your business can experience if you opt for eco-friendly packaging products. Some might argue that they are expensive, but if you consider the increasing market demand for eco-friendly packaging and decreasing costs of manufacturing recycled products, the long-term payoffs could be higher than the immediate savings from mass-produced plastic packaging.

Get in touch with Hughes Enterprises for more information on quality and eco-friendly product packaging. We have something to offer for many industries. Call (267) 409-6100 or reach out via our Contact Page.