Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

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Virtually every item we invest in arrives in some variety of packaging, and most folks do not consider about wherever it may possibly close up after it is discarded. If packaging is not correctly disposed of, there can be critical outcomes.

When we toss packaging in the trash, we reduce the all-natural resources it has. There is these kinds of a variety of packaging resources out there that it can be complicated to know regardless of whether they are recyclable. Greatly used components this kind of as plastic, glass, metals, polystyrene (Styrofoam), or paper can typically stop up in landfills, producing substantial damage to the environment. To insert to this complexity, the kinds of products and solutions recycling packages will acknowledge frequently varies.

But is there a possible remedy to this difficulty? Packaging is derived from pure assets and, preferably, we want to be able to use people purely natural means as many occasions as doable to make new solutions, consequently supporting a circular economic climate.

Lots of eco-acutely aware shoppers are seeking for ways to reside considerably less wasteful lives, by choosing products that are widely recyclable in today’s recycling infrastructure, manufactured with recycled content material, or by generating endeavours to reuse the packaging they have now obtained.

Let’s just take a nearer glance at the issues to take into account with widespread packaging materials.


Glass is composed of normal entities, this sort of as sand, soda ash, and limestone. When melted alongside one another at an very significant temperature, these entities type a liquid that afterwards cools and solidifies into glass. Glass has been all-around for 1000’s of a long time, and these days 20 million tons of glass items are designed each and every 12 months in the United States by itself.

The Pros of Utilizing Glass

A single of the greatest pros of glass is that it is 100 % recyclable. Though the high-quality of some other supplies can degrade with each and every cycle, glass employed for food items and beverage storage can be reproduced with no this sort of loss. Glass also has a fast recycling turnover charge. In accordance to the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), recycled foodstuff storage glass can be back on retailer shelves in as very little as 30 times.

An additional perk to utilizing glass is that it is non-poisonous. Glass is cost-free from dangerous chemical substances, and it should have no adverse result on your saved foodstuff merchandise or your overall health.

Recycled glass, or “cullet,” can also support the surroundings by reducing emissions, limiting the usage of raw resources, and preserving power.

The Negatives of Working with Glass

Glass is extremely major in comparison to several other packaging components these types of as plastic, metallic (when used in smaller portions), and fiber, building it heavier to transport for each unit.

Also, like most packaging elements, only a fraction of glass packaging gets recycled. In 2018, the Environmental Defense Company (EPA) calculated that only 31 p.c of all glass in the United States was recycled—with most of the remainder ending up in landfills and the normal surroundings, where by it will acquire countless numbers of decades to decompose. In addition, some curbside recycling plans close to the place have resolved to exclude glass containers from their checklist of acceptable things for collection.

Glass is also a large, fragile materials, which can make transporting it in substantial portions hard.


Plastic is a polymer that arrives from various normal aspects, these kinds of as pure gas, oil, coal, minerals, and plants. In an act called polymerization, these products are refined into ethane and propane, heated at large temperatures to crack down into ethylene and propylene, and later rearranged into different plastic polymers. It also is critical to know that there are numerous distinctive plastic resin sorts. On a plastic item you can look at the Recycling Identification Code (RIC), which supplies a numbering method stamped on to a item to differentiate between the resin kinds.

Plastic manufacturing has only been all around for a minor more than a century and has proliferated in its use. According to the EPA, in 2018 plastics generation in the United States was 35.7 million tons.

The Pros of Utilizing Plastic

From a delivery standpoint, plastic is a good selection for small business use. As a long lasting, flexible, and lightweight product, plastic is incredibly adaptable and can be employed for a wide range of packaging purposes. Selected resin styles are decided on for their one of a kind houses to comprise distinct types of merchandise. Plastic is quite handy to safeguard and protect goods when lowering body weight in transportation, which can help conserve gas and minimize greenhouse gasoline emissions.

The Cons of Working with Plastic

When plastic packaging finds its way into our waterways and larger sized bodies of drinking water, it poses a threat to wildlife as a choking hazard to many animals. Trash from plastic packaging, as with all litter, can also impact aquatic plant existence. The EPA states that floating trash can block out daylight and deplete oxygen stages in the ocean, all of which are vital for underwater photosynthesis.

Not all plastics are quickly recyclable utilizing today’s recycling infrastructure. It’s hard to differentiate involving the various forms of plastics to know which can be quickly recycled, and how. As an instance, PET water bottles and HDPE detergent bottles are some of the more frequent and very easily recycled plastic packaging alternatives, but fewer frequently recycled plastics are really very likely to finish up in a landfill.


Materials like aluminum, tin, and metal are all employed to package deal and maintain products. They come in quite a few kinds, but most normally just one will come across these metals in the sort of cans, foil, or the metal found in multi-layered adaptable pouches. The use of metals in packaging dates again to 1810, when the tin can was invented. It turned a widely used sort of food stuff packaging as it allowed foodstuff to retain freshness while avoiding all-natural acids from creating.

The Professionals of Making use of Metallic

Metal packaging blocks outdoors factors these kinds of as daylight, allowing foods to continue to be fresh new. It is a sturdy materials that can secure its contents, and it will not crack down as effortlessly as some other supplies.

Although difficult and tough, metallic can also conveniently be worked into a variety of distinct shapes to accommodate a array of packaging desires. The lightweight composition of some metals, aluminum in unique, will allow for lower shipping and delivery expenditures and a lot of sorts of metal packaging use a substantial amount of money of recycled content material to make the product or service.

A different edge to metal packaging is that it can be recycled infinitely at a value-effective, electrical power economical amount. According to the Aluminum Affiliation, “Making recycled aluminum only will take close to five per cent of the energy necessary to make new aluminum—reducing carbon emissions and preserving funds for companies and close individuals. As a end result, just about 75 per cent of all aluminum at any time created is nonetheless in use currently.”

The Drawbacks of Using Metal

As with other packaging that extracts pure methods, mining has an environmental effect by the extraction of uncooked ore from the floor. It is for this cause that it is specifically vital to reuse and recycle metallic packaging.

Fiber (Paperboard)

Fiber-based mostly packaging, also recognised as paperboard, is generally created from fibrous components such as pulpwood, recovered paper, aged corrugated cardboard (OCC), wheat straw, or other organic materials. This substance has found an maximize in demand from customers in the previous two a long time, obtaining doubled its production in that time. The most frequent employs for paperboard are beverage cartons and foodstuff or candy packaging.

The Pros of Using Fiber

Paperboard is often developed from recycled elements, it can be recycled alone, and it can be biodegradable if it meets specific business benchmarks.

It is a flexible material that can be very easily adapted to in shape many desires these kinds of as cartons, cereal containers, trays, boxes, large bins, and a lot more. If your enterprise specials with any merchandise that are fragile, paperboard can be employed as more padding to include a layer of defense.

The Negatives of Using Fiber

In accordance to the EPA, paper containers and packaging at present have a recycling price of just 20.8 %. Paperboard and other fibrous packaging supplies at periods are not as tough as steel, plastic, or glass. This presents problems with shipping and delivery. It is not as conveniently stackable, it retains weaker barrier attributes than its opponents, and it is more inclined to moisture hurt. Likewise, paper packaging doesn’t have very good barrier homes to prolong item shelf lifetime when when compared to metallic, glass, or plastic.

Getting all of this into thing to consider, is there any solitary packaging materials that is much better than the rest? This is a advanced concern with several variables. Each individual form of packaging has its advantages and cons, but there is a spot for every single based on the mother nature of your small business, what goods you are providing, how you are transporting them, and several other components. It is value taking a nearer appear at the packaging components your enterprise is employing to appraise their charge usefulness, environmental friendliness, and the effectively-currently being of your buyers.

Rubicon’s Packaging Recycling Alternatives

At Rubicon, we support organizations of all measurements discover suitable recycling options for all their squander streams to retain as a great deal material out of landfills as probable and advance our mission to end squander.

If you have any thoughts, or are fascinated in understanding additional about Rubicon’s packaging recycling products and services, remember to call us currently.

Meredith Leahy is Sr. Manager, Round Economic system at Rubicon. To continue to be in advance of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations all around the entire world, be positive to adhere to us on LinkedIn, Fb, and Twitter, or get hold of us now.