Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2023

Sustainability has become more than a buzzword, but a battle cry. Climate change is real and is affecting our planet in various ways that even some leading scientists didn’t even see coming. And because of that, every day, people demand the world around them do more, especially regarding the brands they trust. 

Sustainability and recycling are top-line items that should be on the minds of companies and consumers everywhere. Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the most critical things we can do right now to impact climate change. And to do that, we need packaging designed to be less of a burden on our ecosystems. 

Brands need to emphasize eco-conscious packaging, and consumers want recycled. But what are some of the trends we see coming down the line in 2023? 

Lightweight Packaging

Photo from our customers, Oatein, who worked with ePac UK Silverstone to switch from tubs to pouches for their protein supplements.

Flexible packaging is evolving, and lightweight packaging is making its mark around the industry as a product that offers reduced material and manufacturing costs. Still, there’s also a reduced environmental impact due to it not taking up a lot of transportation space, just like landfills. Instead of bulky packaging that’s rigid and takes up a lot of space, lightweight, flexible packaging is much easier for companies to adopt because it’s cost-effective, even when shipping the packaging from the manufacturer to your door.

Refillable Parent Packaging

Photo from our customers, Hawkins and Brimble, who worked with ePac UK Silverstone to launch their refillable shampoo and conditioner range.

We’re seeing more and more companies doing things like this. Our client Aegle’s in London ships the first order in a larger glass bottle, while we provide their customers sustainable pouches for refill orders. Refillable containers reduce transportation and manufacturing costs and the additional cost incurred in the supply chain. This move is becoming more normative thanks to people wanting less waste in their lives.

Recyclable Packaging

If there’s one trend that’s only getting bigger, it’s recyclable packaging that allows for packaging to have a second life. Because so many plastics don’t break down, the issue is always, where does this plastic go for basically eternity? Long after humans are gone, that bag of Doritos will still linger, and those bags often wind up on the beach, hurting sea life. More and more companies are switching their packaging to a fully recyclable PE (polyethylene) mono-material structure, designed to be broken down easily and can be easily sorted in recycling facilities. This is one of the more exciting avenues in packaging because more companies and consumers want to lessen their carbon footprint by being mindful of their packaging. 

Inks are Going Green, Too 

One of the things we’re continually investigating is the inks used on the packaging. It’s the final stage of design, the narrative kiss that sends things over the top, especially on the packaging that looks good on the shelf. One of the things about inks, though, is that most of them are petroleum-based. This can be just as bad as non-recyclable plastics and contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), so now many companies (like us) are investing in vegetable and soya-based inks that are just as vibrant as their petroleum counterparts.

Built with Recycling in Mind

Green is the theme for 2023, but everything moving forward shouldn’t be clogging up our landfills and waterways. It’s time to close the loop on waste – packaging should be reusable and solicited with the idea that customers recycle these products. Brands should consider how designs benefit marketing– can they use recycling as a conversation to engage people? All signs point to yes. 

Creativity and design are always at the forefront of innovation, which we’ve recently written about for 2023. Packaging sustainably is one of the biggest trends we’ll see moving forward. Brands are working on setting themselves apart, creating visual narratives, showing that they’re capable of developing top-tier products, and championing corporate social responsibility. Today’s consumers want to support brands that care about the planet.

There are plenty of ways to create a more verdant, sustainable future, but we have to work to get there. As we see innovations daily, it’s essential to put those out in front of the customers who use their wallets as their megaphones to support the brands that believe in taking care of the earth. This is a core value at ePac and one we’re dedicated to seeing become a reality with all our clients.