Compostable vs. Biodegradable: What’s the Difference?

Sustainable, recyclable, compostable, biodegradable— there are a lot of buzzwords used to describe eco-friendly packaging. Each has a place within the packaging realm; each has its own pros and cons. We’ve covered post-consumer recycled versus recyclable packaging options in the past, but what about compostable versus biodegradable packaging… Do you know the difference?

What is Biodegradable Packaging?

The term biodegradable refers to any material that can be broken down by microorganisms (like bacteria and fungi) and absorbed back into the earth. Biodegradation is a naturally occurring process where an item breaks down and turns into simple organic components like biomass, carbon dioxide, and water. 

For packaging to be labeled biodegradable, it must be able to turn into organic matter. Generally, biodegradable packaging breaks down in three and six months. 

The potential con to biodegradation is that biodegradables only work if disposed of properly and in facilities that regulate temperature, moisture, and oxygen levels. For instance, if biodegradable products end up in a landfill instead of at one of these facilities, they will eventually break down (biodegrade), but during the process will emit greenhouse gases, which doesn’t help to lessen their impact on the environment. 

So if you’re looking for custom biodegradable packaging, remember there must be specific conditions for it to turn into organic matter in an environmentally friendly way.

Compostable Packaging Definition

Composting is the process of recycling organic waste for reuse. When carried out correctly, compostable packaging is broken down in just a few months and the by-product is a nutrient-rich product called humus. 

A big plus? The composting process allows organic carbon to return to the earth while reducing  methane emissions (greenhouse gases). 

There are two ways to compost – a traditional backyard compost pile, or a commercial facility. Backyard composting takes place at people’s homes while commercial composting takes place at a specially designed facility that accelerates the natural process. Unlike biodegradation, which is an entirely natural process, composting requires human intervention. Most of the human intervention in industrial and backyard settings involves the contribution of the water, oxygen, and organic matter necessary to optimize conditions. 

The great thing about composting is that it can be done at home, though it must be properly managed so that the nutrient-rich material can return to the earth. 

It’s worth noting that just because packaging is labeled compostable doesn’t mean consumers can successfully compost it. Instead, some compostable packaging must be sent to commercial facilities that regulate the environmental conditions necessary for composting. This is why it’s imperative that packages are labeled properly so consumers know the best way to dispose of it. 

While composting capabilities vary greatly from one community to another, compostable packaging serves as an eco-friendly alternative to conventional packaging.

What is Better Compostable or Biodegradable?

To summarize, both biodegradable and compostable packaging break down over time. But they require different conditions in order for that process to work. 

Biodegradable products will break down naturally if given enough time, but the process can be sped up with the correct processes. Compostable products require a mix of moisture, soil, air, and other nitrogen and/or carbon-rich elements. While the composting process requires specific elements, it is generally much faster than biodegradation. 

Partnering with ePac

At ePac, we believe that compostable products are a great option for the environment because they break down into non-toxic components with the assistance of heat, water, oxygen, and microorganisms. 

That’s why we offer compostable options for stand up pouches, lay flat pouches, and rollstock made from certified compostable materials. These pouches are composed of compostable certified films, inks, lamination, adhesive, and zippers, and are free of fossil and petroleum based plastics. All our compostable custom packaging comes with the same high-quality performance and print quality as our more traditional offerings. 
If you’re trying to reduce your environmental impact, using certified compostable materials is a great start. Ready to get started on creating sustainable packaging solutions for your brand? Call us today.

ePac Flexible Packaging Launches Sustainable Child Resistant Pouch Line

ePac is excited to announce the launch of Certified Child Resistant (CR) Resealable pouches made with Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials. This was made possible due to an innovative collaboration between ePac, Presto, and Charter NEX. 

Virag Patel, ePac’s COO commented: “The teamwork between Charter, Presto, an ePac has been phenomenal, and the key to being able to bring this innovation to market. With Presto’s focus on child safety, Charter’s GreenArrow™ film engineered for sustainability, and ePac’s focus on child resistant pouches and sustainability, we’re proud to announce its commercial availability”.

Click here to read the full press release.

Digital Printing & Sustainability: 4 Reasons Digital Print is an Eco-Friendly Choice

As more and more consumers and retailers are looking for companies that offer eco-friendly options, brand owners are oftentimes left wondering where to begin when it comes to developing their sustainability goals. Large brands like Nestlé and General Mills have committed to more sustainable packaging and regenerative farming methods that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions; however, oftentimes small and medium-sized brands are left wondering how they too can stay environmentally-friendly and relevant, without investing significant resources, or without a complete overhaul? 

As a brand owner, you can start by looking at your product development. By assessing where you are sourcing your ingredients, your packaging, your energy usage, waste, and more will help to align your actions with your vision. A simple place to begin evaluating your options is by turning to your current distribution and manufacturing partners, or finding new partners, to see which eco-friendly options are available.

When it comes to flexible packaging, there are many sustainable options available. Brand owners can go the sustainable packaging route, with recyclable, post-consumer recycled, or compostable packaging. Or, brands can partner with a packaging manufacturer offering digital print, an inherently more earth-friendly printing method. Some companies are even able to offer both options.

Today, we’re diving into 4 reasons why digital print is an eco-friendly choice for brands of all sizes, and why it may be a good choice for your brand. 

1. Digital Printing Helps to Reduce Emissions

Regardless of the type of packaging you choose for your brand, it’s important to take into consideration the carbon footprint and emissions released during production. 

The great news about digital printers is that they produce far less CO2 emissions than many traditional and rovograture printing presses. At ePac, our HP Indigo 20000 presses are carbon neutral, allowing the process of digitally printing our pouches and rollstock to have a lower environmental impact than conventional printing. 

A reduction in emissions = a happier earth. 

ePac’s HP Indigo 20000 press at their Austin, Texas location. Our presses allow us to simultaneously focus on high-quality flexible packaging and the environment.

2. Digital Printing Reduces Waste 

With digital printing, waste is reduced substantially. Unlike with conventional printers, with digital printing, printing plates are not needed for the creation, setup, and production of each SKU. Printing plates wear and tear with time, and new plates need to be created anytime there is a change made to a packaging design, leading to more wasted materials. With digital print, files are uploaded to the press and printed, as you would do on your home printer, which eliminates the waste associated with plates. 

Bottom line: No plates means less materials are required, and less waste is produced.

3. Digital Printing Reduces Inventory Waste & Obsolescent Packaging 

With the ability to print to demand, print multiple SKUs in one run, and place low minimum orders, brands can drastically reduce obsolescence (both waste and costs) when compared to conventional printing methods. Never again do you have to throw out packaging and lose money due to a changed recipe, design, certification, or regulation. 

By cutting down on obsolescence, digital printing helps to keep unused plastic packaging out of landfills, and more money in your pocket.

4. Digital Printing & Eco-Friendly Flexible Packaging Materials 

The materials involved in digital print – from the inks to the films – are also sustainable. In addition to our HP digital presses being carbon neutral, they use polymer-based inks, which do not contain any hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). These sustainable inks consume less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases than solvent-based or UV-curable inks typically used in traditional packaging manufacturing.  

With digital printing, you also have sustainable packaging options, including recyclable PE-PE films, as well as films made from post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin content. Both types of packaging keep plastic out of landfills, which is a win-win for brands and consumers alike.  

Eco friendly flexible packaging, made of post-consumer recycled materials, from our friends at Hella Nuts.

Digital Printing and Your Brand 

As you can see, digital printing serves your small to medium-sized company so you can align your sustainability goals, without a complete brand overhaul. The fact is, switching to digital printing will save you from wasted resources and time. You’ll also enjoy an easy ordering process, and more money in your business, since less will be tied up in inventory.

Plus, compared to analogue, or conventional printing, digital printing is a far more sustainable option since it uses less energy, produces less waste, and has a smaller carbon footprint overall. When it comes to flexible package creation, the environmentally conscious choice is digital printing.

Want to learn more? Check out HP’s video that explains how digital printing technology can easily help you create a more sustainable product and lower your carbon footprint, while delivering a superior package.

Partnering with a Digitally Printed Flexible Packaging Manufacturer

If you’re curious about what digitally printed custom flexible packaging could do for your brand, our team of flexible packaging experts would love to talk to you. Give us a call or request a free quote to take advantage of our flexible packaging services with all the benefits of digital printing including sustainability, short runs, fast turnaround time, and endless customizable design options. 

ePac Flexible Packaging and RePurpose Technologies Create Disruptive Solution for Plastics Recycling

ePac is excited to announce a new partnership with RePurpose Technologies.  This partnership will allow both companies to help create solutions that ensure plastics are recycled and kept from landfills. ePac and RPT together will create recycling facilities starting in 2021.

“I’m excited to be a part of the team and the collaboration with ePac that allows everyone to take action and be part of the solution” said Claudine Osipow, CEO of RePurpose Technologies. 

Jack Knott, ePac’s CEO added: “The reason we started ePac was to play a small part in rebuilding our communities; our relationship with RPT will allow us to continue in that direction with a reliable, sustainable, and transparent solution”.

Click here to read the full press release.

What You Need to Know About Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Packaging

Both savvy shoppers and consumer packaged goods companies are placing more emphasis on sustainability, reducing waste, and using less energy. As a brand owner, your sustainability goals are more important now than ever, as consumers begin seeking out brands focused on the environment.  

When it comes to packaging, it’s no surprise that brands are looking for eco-friendly packaging. While recyclable or compostable packaging are the two most common types of sustainable packaging, there is a third choice gaining traction on the shelf – post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging.

What are Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Plastics? 

Post-consumer recycled content, often referred to as PCR, is material that is made from the items that consumers recycle every day, like aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bottles. These materials are typically collected by local recycling programs and shipped to recycling facilities to be sorted into bales, based on the material. The bales are then purchased and melted (or ground) into small pellets and molded into new items. The new PCR plastic material can then be used for a variety of finished products, including packaging.

How is PCR Packaging Different from Recyclable and Compostable Packaging?

Though PCR, recyclable, and compostable packaging are all sustainable packaging options, they each differ in the way that they are processed and what they can offer consumers. 

PCR packaging is manufactured with film that is made from recycled materials. In general, PCR packaging cannot be recycled again since it’s already made from recycled materials. This allows brands to fulfill their sustainability goals, without relying on the consumer to recycle or compost the package after use. 

A package is deemed recyclable when the materials can be processed and used again.  Once the package enters the recycling stream, it is broken down into raw materials and sold to manufacturers. One potential downside of recyclable packaging is that the benefits are dependent on the consumer actually recycling the package, and knowing where to recycle the package.

Lastly, compostable packaging is packaging that breaks down completely in a compost site and leaves no toxic residue. In order for a plastic to be called compostable, it must biodegrade, or break down into carbon dioxide, water, or biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).  One potential downside of compostable packaging is that not all consumers have access to industrial composting facilities. 

The Benefits of PCR Packaging 

While all eco-friendly packaging options are a step in the right direction for brands looking to be more sustainable, PCR packaging, in particular, has some benefits that are worth discussing. 

In general, PCR films are a great packaging option for brands looking for eco-friendly flexible packaging, and can be developed into stand up pouches, lay flat pouches, and rollstock. These films can be used in most industries including confection, coffee, baked goods, snacks, pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies, pet treats, and sports nutrition.

PCR packaging also matches the quality of regular flexible packaging. PCR film can offer the same level of protection, barrier performance, and strength as regular plastic film. You can rest assured knowing that PCR film will still block light, oxygen, and other gases from penetrating the package layer and getting into your product. 

Lastly, and quite possibly the most obvious benefit, is that using PCR packaging can help your company reduce its carbon footprint, lessen its impact on landfills, and meet its overall sustainability goals.

The best part? PCR packaging is a great option for brands who want to offer a sustainable solution for consumers, with no requirements or actions needed on the consumer end, unlike recyclable and compostable packaging. 

Finding a PCR Packaging Partner

As you examine your company’s sustainability goals, consider partnering with a PCR packaging manufacturing. At ePac, we offer PCR pouches, rollstock, and lay-flat pouches in varying percentages, for any of your project’s custom flexible packaging needs. Our PCR film is FDA-compliant for direct food contact and can accommodate high-impact, photo-quality graphics. It’s just one of our sustainable flexible packaging services that we deliver for our customers. Ready to get started, or want to learn more? Call us today or request a quote and see how using PCR can help you meet your sustainability goals. 

Recyclable Pouches: Here’s What You Need to Know Before Going Green

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a part of a CPG brand that’s curious about adding a recyclable pouch or rollstock to your product offering. The rise in popularity of eco-friendly products and consumer concerns over packaging waste has led many brands, like yours, to consider shifting to more sustainable efforts.

Here’s the good news: if you are currently using flexible packaging for your brand, or you are a manufacturer using roll stock, you’re already choosing an environmentally-friendly package. In fact, the production process of flexible packaging is one of the “greenest” around. 

According to the Flexible Packaging Association, flexible packaging uses fewer natural resources and energy to manufacture and transport than other package formats and generates fewer CO2 emissions.  Flexible packaging also reduces food waste by extending the shelf life of the product inside. 

What’s more, digitally printed flexible packaging adds even more sustainable benefits, such as a reduction in materials used, with no plates to create. Digitally printed flexible packaging also produces fewer emissions and less energy consumption than traditional printing. Add to that the fact that you can order to demand, so companies carry less inventory, minimizing obsolescence.

While digitally printed pouches are a sustainable option, digitally printed recyclable pouches are an even bigger step in the environmentally-friendly direction. Let’s dive in.  

Why Recyclable Pouches Are the Future

Today, recyclable films and pouches are becoming more and more mainstream. Foreign and domestic pressures, as well as consumers’ demand for more earth-friendly options, are spurring countries to take a look at the issue of waste and recycling and find feasible solutions.

Consumer-packaged goods companies (CPGs) are getting behind the movement too. Unilever, Nestlé, Mars, PepsiCo., and others have committed to using 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging by 2025. Coca-Cola is even supporting recycling infrastructure and programs across the U.S., as well as increasing recycling bin access and education for consumers. 

According to Mintel, 52% of U.S. food shoppers prefer to buy foods with minimal or no packaging to reduce packaging waste. And in a global survey conducted by Nielsen, consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Thirty-eight percent are willing to pay more for products made with sustainable materials, and 30% are willing to do so for products that deliver on socially responsible claims.

The Rise to Recycle 

As CPGs get behind the cause by committing to use more recyclable packaging, they are also supporting programs to help consumers recycle more of existing packaging. Why? Flexible packaging can be a challenge to recycle as is, yet more education and infrastructure for consumers will go a long way to spur change. One such challenge is that plastic film cannot be recycled in curbside bins at home. Instead, it must be taken to a drop-off location, like a grocery or other retail store, to be collected for recycling.

Unfortunately, not all consumers know this and much gets thrown into curbside recycling and then later ends up in a landfill. The good news is many websites help consumers learn about recycling, like perfectpackaging.org or plasticfilmrecycling.org. They both allow guests to enter their zip code or address and find the nearest recycling center to them. At these sites, consumers can also learn about which types of plastic packaging can be recycled, as well as what happens to film and pouches after they are recycled.

Labeling Recyclable Pouches

You can also play an important part in educating your customers through proper labeling and communication. Labeling on the package itself can help direct consumers on what to do with the package after use. 

The application of the How2Recycle icon or other recycling labels, to packaging graphics, clearly displays how to recycle the package. These labels include what consumers need to do, like rinse the pouch out, for instance. They also indicate which component of the package can (or cannot) be recycled. These labels make it a lot easier for consumers to recycle. Websites like How2recycle.info, and recycleacrossamerica.org explain what recycle labels mean, taking the guesswork out of recycling. 

This may go without being said, but it’s a really good idea to add recycling labels to your package to increase consumer participation in recycling.  

Recyclable Pouch Material Options Currently Available

Common food and beverage pouches are known to be difficult to recycle because most flexible packaging is comprised of multiple layers that are difficult to separate for recycling. Some CPGs and suppliers, however, are exploring eliminating certain layers like foil and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) in some packages to aid in the recyclability. And taking sustainability even further, many suppliers today are unveiling pouches made from recyclable PE-PE films, EVOH film, post-consumer recycled (PCR) resins, and compostable films.

You can take an array of actions to respond to the recycling problem, from adding recycled materials and using solventless lamination to transitioning to fully recyclable pouches. As you look to add recyclable films to your package offerings, consider using eco-friendly, water-based inks, which are commonly used to print recyclable and non-recyclable pouches. A new generation of water-based inks for solventless lamination is better for the environment and they perform as well as solvent-based inks. 

Connect with a Company That Offers Recyclable Packaging

As water-based, compostable and recyclable inks, as well as recyclable films and resins, become more mainstream, recyclable pouches will continue to be a key driver in furthering flexible plastics packaging recycling. At ePac, we offer 100% Recyclable PE-PE High Barrier Film and Pouches that are approved for HowToRecycle dropoff. Our solventless lamination and water-based recyclable and compostable inks reduce VOC emissions and significantly decrease waste. 

Are you ready to take that next step to create greener packaging?

Contact us today for a free quote and learn how adding recyclable pouches to your product line-up can boost your overall sustainability goals. 

The Simple Way to Go Green Through Digital Printing

As a consumer-packaged-goods company, we know that you’re under pressure to step up your sustainability game. News headlines abound with issues concerning packaging and waste, green manufacturing, and energy conservation. Not only that, but consumers are demanding more sustainable options. That’s why we want to let you in on a little secret; there is a simple way to create more sustainable packaging, and you can start today.

The answer lies with digital printing.

Sound too simple? Here’s the thing: by simply switching to digital printing for your flexible packaging, you are making a significant shift in your environmental impact.

How?

Our partners in digital printing, HP, illustrate this idea perfectly in the video below.

When compared with traditional (or analogue) printing, digital printing:

  • Reduces the impact on the environment
  • Saves time and materials at set up
  • Saves on materials and transport with short runs
  • Affords you the ability to print on demand
  • Saves on the waste of unsold or unused inventory (bye bye, waste)   
  • And offers a streamlined ordering process, taking the confusion (and time) out of ordering and customizing your perfect package

With digital printing, cost-efficient, short runs are possible, with print-on-demand capability, getting your package to market quickly. Due to this, you have the opportunity for on-demand customization, geographic segmentation, intelligent packaging and personalization like never before. You can also make design changes to your package quickly and easily, as you make a recipe change, add a SKU, or create seasonal packaging.

Digital printing serves your small to medium-sized company so you can overcome the pressures of increasing competition, sustainability, and keeping up with changing consumer trends. You’ll also enjoy an easy ordering process, and more money in your business, since less will be tied up in inventory. Switching to digital printing will save you from wasted resources and time. Take this step toward sustainability today.

Curious about how your business can benefit from digital printing? Contact us today!

Flexible Packaging’s Role in Fighting Food Waste

Flexible packaging is getting more sustainable thanks to developments in recyclable and compostable films, more efficient equipment, solventless inks and more, but there’s one other major sustainability category that flexible formats can greatly help with that should be getting more attention: food waste.

Consider this: Water, land, energy, labor and other resources are necessary to grow and produce food. And according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one-third of the world’s food production is lost or wasted every year. That’s about 1.3 billion tons. What’s more is that food waste is believed to be a major contributor to climate change. In addition to resources that are ultimately wasted when food is discarded, food waste generates methane once it gets to landfill. Methane is believed to be more than 20 times as potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat within the atmosphere, per a report in the Scientific American

Here are some other food waste tidbits to chew on, per the FAO:

  • Produce is among the most wasted type of foods.
  • Food losses account for about $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing ones.
  • In developing countries, most food is lost or wasted at the later stages in the supply chain.

As you can see, food waste is a serious problem – and it’s imperative that solutions are uncovered to reduce the amount that is discarded. One big solution is in the packaging.

Flexible Packaging and Food Waste

So how can flexible packaging help decrease food waste? By extending shelf life so more food can be consumed and not discarded. According to the Flexible Packaging Association, flexible packaging’s film properties and add-on features (i.e., sliders and closures) are able to help extend the shelf life of foods by several days – perhaps even weeks. This is especially notable when you consider that about two-thirds of all discarded food is due to spoilage. This is a big talking point from flexible packaging companies, such as ePac packaging. For instance, when it comes to non-flexible versus flexible formats, zucchini’s shelf life can go from one day to five days. Green beans can go from seven days to 19 days. Table grapes can go from seven days to 70 days. Ground beef can go from three days to 20. Chicken can go from a week to 20 days. And the list goes on and on.

Here at ePac Flexible Packaging, we take sustainability very seriously, and we’re always looking to complement our digital flexible packaging business model with more environmentally friendly films, material sources and strategies. And every food product that is packaged in an ePac digital printed stand up pouch is sustainable in the sense that it helps extend shelf life. Combine this with the eco-friendly films, initiatives such as the How2Recycle label from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and other green materials involved throughout the packaging supply chain, and it’s easy to see how flexible packaging has the potential to become the premiere format for sustainability.

Compostable Film is Making Strides

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.