The single-use packaging market is exploding. Customers’ conflicting demands for single-use packaging and sustainability create a unique challenge for product developers and packaging engineers.
While people – and corporations – are generally concerned about the incredibly high volume of plastic waste in landfills and oceans, people still seek convenience and low costs. Plastic is the number one packaging product when it comes to single use, but there are also alternatives and re-use options that are helping to reduce the strain on our earth.
What is Single Use Packaging?
Single-use packaging is disposable and intended to only be used once before being thrown away or recycled. These items include most food packaging, bottles for laundry detergent and other household goods, straws and other fast food packaging, to name a few.
Most of these products were developed with a specific purpose for their place in time. For example, plastic forks and knives came around in the 1960s as a cheaper alternative that also cut down on energy usage.
Why Customers Like Single-Use
If you walk through a grocery store, you will see aisles of products that are packaged in containers that are intended for one use then disposed. It is unavoidable in our modern culture. Everything at home, from laundry detergent to potato chips, in addition to products that are essential at work, such as paper and electronics, are packaged in disposable packaging.
Why do customers like single-use packaging so much?
- It’s cheap for suppliers, reducing the cost for the end user
- It’s easy to distribute, display in grocery stores, and make it through the last mile to the end user
- It extends the life of perishables
- It makes it easy to take food on the go and save for later
- It’s safe and hygienic
The Cost of Single Use
Customers like cheap. That is one of the biggest selling points for plastic packaging for items that are already cheap like chips, sodas, and other food products. It’s a challenge to keep the quality, consistency, and product integrity AND keep the low cost if you move away from plastic. (Keep reading for plastic alternatives and eco-friendly options).
While the cost for the customer is a top concern, we also have to look at the impact on our whole environmental system. Hundreds of millions of tons of plastic are produced every year. While high product is a concern, it is a bigger concern that customers don’t always dispose of the plastic properly. Learn more about how companies are working to keep plastics sustainable and protect the environment, while also keeping customers happy.
Eco-Friendly Meets Single Use
Many companies are getting rid of plastics in their packaging and using more eco-friendly options. A plastic-free world is a long ways away, but cans, glass, and other biodegradable options are becoming more prominent.
One of the top alternatives is plant-based plastics (or bioplastics), made from plants like corn, mushroom root, and seaweed. Another eco-friendly alternative to plastic is paper with waterproof solutions. If you want to learn more about eco-friendly plastic alternatives, read our post on the future of plastic bottles.
To-go food and take out food is another big culprit for single use packaging. It is becoming more common to see restaurants offering to-go containers that are reusable and can even be returned to the restaurant or reused at home. Many companies have also ditched the traditional plastic containers for paper alternatives.
Reusable packaging is also growing in the household cleaning products and beauty products markets. Some companies have removed the water from their products to make their packaging footprint smaller (customers can “just add water” once they get the products home). Refillable containers are also common in grocery stores when it comes to nuts, grains, cereals, and more.
Every day more and more companies are making their pledge to a more sustainable supply chain.
The Future of Single Use
Single use packaging is here to stay. Companies are being forced to think strategically about how to keep costs down and provide easy packaging solutions for customers. While customer demands are important, companies must prioritize their focus on plastic bans, taxes, and other legislation hitting the plastic market.
Do you use plastics in your packaging? Consider a consultation with a Hughes Packaging Expert to make sure you are offering the best quality packaging solutions for your customers.