Sustainable, recycled, and plant-based materials are all words widely used in packaging today. Many consumer-packaged brands are now offering their products in eco-friendly options to address the ever-rising pressure packagers face to adopt sustainable materials and practices into their business models. Consumer concern triggers these companies to look for sustainable solutions to address the waste issue. In response, packagers are exploring using biodegradable and compostable materials that are designed to break down and go back into nature after a certain amount of time. While not generally discussed at a consumer level, compostable film has a large presence within packaging.
Many film providers are offering compostable, plant-based materials to packagers looking to adopt this technology into their line-up. Compostable flexible packaging is comprised of cellulose or other plant-derived materials. Cellulose is a renewable, sustainable resource that offers good gas barrier properties, is heat resistant, able to be heat-sealed, and is a natural oxygen barrier. These films are designed to break down completely, sometimes in a matter of only a few months, depending on the environmental conditions. These films offer consumers peace of mind that the waste associated with food and other products won’t end up in a landfill.
While there are a lot of packagers doing this, it is not exactly mainstream just yet for a couple of reasons, one being price. With more innovation and more expensive materials being used, mainly compostable film, the price can rise quickly. A lot of the compostable options arereserved for high-end, organic, niche brands that come with a heftier price point. Since most consumers are not necessarily demanding compostability right now, though many are aware of the benefits and seek brands based on this, large and established CPG brands are not going this route. They are, however, looking for recyclable, or recycle-ready options to help the environment, save a little money and respond to consumer demand.
Another reason that compostability is still niche for most consumer items is because it only fits for certain applications and may not work for a full line launch, or re-launch. In some cases, these films do not run the same on existing packaging equipment, making it harder to adapt the film into a current packaging line. A large drawback is that with compostable packaging, CPGs get nothing in return, whereas with recycle-ready, they get the materials back. As a solution, companies can choose to use 100% compostable packaging materials or can go for a hybrid approach, replacing some film components or layers with renewable materials.
One thing is certain, there is an overall desire for more sustainability with packaging of all types. Compostable films have a strong, albeit quiet, presence in packaging and this presence will only get stronger as consumer awareness builds and the price of this innovation goes down. Flexible packaging delivers consumers so many benefits, from its light weight, unbreakable quality, sustainable attributes, and the possibilities for high-impact graphics from full digital printing.
At ePac, we are constantly addressing the issue of sustainability. We are the first company ever to be built from the ground up around the latest wide-web digital printing technology. Our manufacturing process uses the latest in energy saving techniques and recycled materials. And our digital printing process has a substantially less impact on the environment than conventional printing methods. Let us partner with you to create a sustainable and impactful package that consumers are sure to choose over and over again.