Eco-friendly Packaging and the best alternatives to plastic in 2022
Made from the byproduct of sugarcane, Sugarcane-based Polyethylene (PE) is a bio-based polymer. It is the renewable source alternative to the valuable oil-based polymer. Extracting ethanol from sugarcane creates plant-based polythene that can also be recycled.
While the aesthetic value of aluminium tube packaging may be responsible for its recent popularity, with slick brands such as Aesop helping to promote its unique style, it has some pretty impressive sustainability credentials. Aluminium can be recycled over and over without losing quality, it has an impermeable barrier, critical for sensitive ingredients in need of preservation.
Aluminium tubes are very robust but do require outer packaging or careful packaging as dents are possible in transit.
PCR (Post Consumer Resin/Recycled)
PCR Plastic is plastic made from recycled plastic which can be widely recycled and then reprocessed into a resin that can be used to make new packaging. This gives packaging a second life and massively reduces the amount of plastic waste.
The start of 2022 has seen a massive increase in the cost of PCR, partly due to the introduction of a plastic tax on products made of less than 30% PCR.
Odour: PCR plastic is odourless, the same as virgin plastic.
Colour: Clear PCR plastic has a slight gold hue compared to virgin plastic. We’ve included an example below showing one of our suppliers virgin, 50% PCR and 100% PCR. When the bottles are filled, the bottles are almost indistinguishable.
Coloured PCR bottles can be produced using most colours but because the base white is slightly greyer, most colours come out slightly duller, but this is only noticeable when compared to virgin.
Stability and Compatibility: Whether it’s made of virgin plastic or PCR plastic, compatibility and stability tests are required to make sure products are compatible and stable with the selected packaging components, and PRC doesn’t usually present any difficulties compared to virgin and sourced from our recommended suppliers.
Flexibility: PCR is slightly less flexible in form than virgin plastic which won’t make much difference to bottles but this does present problems for tubes, which are harder to find in PCR.
Formats: With the increasing consumer demand on PCR, there is now an incredible array of options. Pumps and sprays have often been the Achilles Heel of brands eco-conscious ranges. Packaging suppliers have now started offering 100% PCR components, including dispensing pumps and sprayers, featuring specific functions that are developed based on viscosity variation, which is great news for everyone.
Most plastics can only be recycled about 2–3 times. Plastics lose their quality when they’re recycled. Therefore, most plastics get broken down and used to make up parts of other products like clothing. Most plastics only get recycled once and then used in other products that can be used for longer and avoid going into landfill sites.
However, new technologies are emerging every day, scientists and companies are all working on finding better solutions to recycle plastic without losing quality.
Ocean Bound Plastic
Most Ocean Bound Plastic is recovered from areas near the coast, not from our oceans, however research shows that a huge percentage of the plastic found near the coastline or in rivers will end up in the Ocean. These plastics are considered at high risk of entering our oceans or rivers at the coastline and are recovered to be sorted, cleaned, and turned into resin for new use, making this one of the best, premium packaging options.
Another sustainable trend in the packaging industry is the use of bamboo. Bamboo is a plant used over the millennia throughout the world and is now spanning countless industries including construction and textiles. It’s a fast-growing and sustainable source for eco-friendly cosmetic packaging that helps reduce environmental impact and promotes a cleaner product.
Bamboo caps are a great way of adding an additional aesthetic finish to your brand that allows the consumer to easily identify your sustainable ethos.
Moulded Pulp and Formed Fibre
Moulded pulp is an eco-friendly material that offers a unique solution for certain packaging formats. Moulded pulp has been used for some time but has yet to be used in mass market beauty or personal care products.
Pulp makes for an obvious secondary packaging solution but presents its own issues when coming into contact with the water or oil-based beauty and personal care solutions so have to include an inner liner, much like refills.
The Pulpex Partner Consortium is a collaboration of companies including Diageo, Unilever, PepsiCo and GSK Consumer Healthcare, that are working to adapt and scale paper bottle solutions but both Pulp and Fibre are not yet easily accessible to smaller brands.