Environmental concerns and sustainability are leading to a monumental shift in the way we live our lives.
Almost all consumers shop with sustainability in mind, be it in the types of products they buy (from cars to construction materials to foods), the packaging, the origins and supply chain transparency, or the brand’s reputation. This means that all companies that produce consumable products should be mindful of these consumer behaviours and consider acting on them, or risk being overtaken by competitors.
But one of the most difficult consumable products to replace causes some of the most harm to our natural environment: plastic.
Plastic has some incredibly useful applications, especially when it comes to storing and transporting perishable products like food and beverages. But plastic is also a scourge on the natural environment, polluting ecosystems and killing wildlife. Some plastics even have serious health effects on the human body.
In this blog we’ll explore the benefits of plastic-free packaging, what we’re doing at Rawson to improve our plastic-free packaging options and some FAQs on plastic-free packaging.
Plastic-free packaging benefits
Better for the environment
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, two thousand garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into the planet’s oceans, rivers and lakes every single day. Plastic pollution has even been found in the deepest ocean trench, more than ten kilometres below the ocean surface.
Moving away from plastic packaging is not just a noble goal, it’s an imperative if we’re to preserve ecosystems and support wildlife.
Better for the human body
Some plastic products, including plastic laminates found in packaging, can contain harmful compounds such as “per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances” (PFAS).
PFAS are used in some familiar everyday items: non-stick cookware, some firefighting foams, cosmetics and even in food packaging to repel grease, water and oil. PFAS are considered “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment or in the human body and are so toxic they can lead to serious health issues such as liver damage, cancer and fertility complications.
But it’s not just PFAS. Other types of plastic contain carcinogenic and endocrine (hormone) disrupting compounds. Shifting towards plastic-free packaging is, therefore, a no-brainer when it comes to health.
Going plastic-free: types of packaging solutions
Innovative approaches to sustainable materials
There are exciting innovations in plastic-free packaging with similar properties and applications to plastic: packaging that’s sustainable, including options made of paper, cellulose, bamboo, seaweed and sugarcane fibres. These alternatives, sometimes labelled as “bio-derived plastics”, may offer similar functionalities while being biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
The holy grail of plastic-free packaging is the creation of food and beverage storage that functions like plastic but is a combination of recyclable, compostable and biodegradable. While we’re not fully there yet as an industry, we’re well on the way.
Being environmentally conscious like Rawson
At Rawson, we’re committed to making our operations as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. That’s why:
- We’re a closed loop manufacturer, which means that not only are all our processes conducted under the one roof, but any waste products from manufacturing are collected and reused where possible and recycled if they can’t be reused. It saves a huge amount of natural resources, including paper, energy, chemicals and water, and reduces what goes to landfill.
- We use vegetable-based inks made with corn, walnut, coconut, linseed, canola and soybean extracts. The quality of the finished result with vegetable-based inks is the same as traditional inks, but without the environmental and health concerns of traditional petroleum-based inks.
That all sounds great, but what about plastic packaging?
A huge amount of paper or fibre-based packaging uses plastic coatings, especially for storing food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. At Rawson, we specialise in options for plastic-free, fibre-based, folding carton packaging that uses water-based coatings instead of plastic coatings. We also offer choices of eco-cello and compostable cello coatings. And, in our board-based packaging, we have options coated in clay, wax or foil to enhance water resistance, which can be used for some (though not all) food-safe storage.
Collaborating with suppliers like Rawson that share a commitment to sustainability ensures you can spruik your business and products to consumers who are demanding sustainable options.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Are environmental and sustainability considerations important for consumers?
Yes, consumers are increasingly prioritising environmental and sustainability considerations. Studies show that a significant percentage of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging and consider the sustainability of the product or company before making a purchase, reflecting a growing awareness of the environmental impact of packaging materials.
What is the status of plastic-free packaging in Australia?
Australia is making strides towards embracing plastic-free packaging. Companies across various industries are adopting sustainable alternatives, and the government is actively encouraging initiatives that promote eco-friendly packaging. However, there’s still progress to be made to achieve widespread adoption.
Are there any plastic packaging substitutes that work like plastic packaging?
There’s some exciting work being undertaken by startups and scientific research organisations, including Australia’s own CSIRO, into a range of plastic substitutes and bio-derived plastics that are biodegradable. However, we’re not yet at the point of going fully plastic-free when it comes to all types of packaging, with some products (especially some commercial food products) unable to be stored in plastic-free packaging.
Where to from here?
Embracing plastic-free packaging is a step towards a healthier future for people and the planet. As innovative plastic packaging alternatives continue to emerge and consumers increasingly shop with sustainability in mind, your business should consider steps to become plastic-free.
Rawson is a leader in sustainable packaging solutions. Get in touch to see what options we can offer to help your company get ahead on the plastic-free packaging journey.