Whether you’re a large corporation or small business looking for a thoughtful and sustainable way to ship your products, or just someone who’s looking for an eco friendly option when sending gifts through snail mail, we’ve researched the impacts, asked all our friends who own small eco-conscious businesses, and tested out dozens of packaging samples to come up with this list of best in class eco friendly and sustainable packaging materials.
It’s no secret that a lot of waste is produced when an order is sent through the mail. Receiving a way-too-big plastic shipping bag for a small item or a ridiculously large amount of non-recyclable packing peanuts can make environmentally conscious consumers upset at the sheer amount of single-use plastics and waste that comes along with their item. Luckily, there are quite a few options available that can reduce waste and help our planet, one order at a time.
RECYCLED AND COMPOSTABLE BOXES
Cardboard boxes are typically environmentally friendly and are much less detrimental to the environment than other shipping accessories, like packing peanuts. They are also recyclable and compostable, with some exceptions. For example, cardboard boxes that are contaminated with oil or become soggy are not able to be recycled, but they can be composted. Boxes that use a shiny plastic coating or use heavy dyes also cannot be composted but can be recycled.
Shipping boxes are made using corrugated cardboard, which refers to the flute (the wavy part of the cardboard) and two plates of liners which the flute is sandwiched in between. The flute is often made of recycled paper, but the cardboard industry still needs to cut down trees to create virgin flutes. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “corrugated boxes had a recycling rate of 96.5 percent in 2018.”
Sustainable packaging brands we recommend:
ARKA’s shipping boxes are available in many beautiful and different sizes and styles. All their products, not just their mailers, are produced using sustainable practices with ISO-certified facilities. They’re also recyclable (as long as you don’t get it wet!) and biodegradable.
Tishwish sells zero waste and compostable mailers that are made from 100% plant-based materials. Durable, waterproof, and available in myriad colors, these mailers are similar to plastic but with a fraction of the decomposition time, making them a great eco friendly option. Plus, a tree is planted with every order.
BIODEGRADABLE PACKING PEANUTS, BUBBLE WRAP, AND OTHER FILLERS
Package fillers refer to materials that are wrapped around a delicate item or are used to fill the box for minimum internal movement during transportation. Things like bubble wrap and packing peanuts are commonly used fillers but are not the most environmentally friendly option.
Bubble wrap is usually made from low-density polyethylene, a film plastic, which is not accepted at recycling plants because they’re hard to keep clean and they can disrupt sorting machines by getting tangled in other materials. Packing peanuts are made from styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, and are also not accepted at recycling centers because there are very limited ways to make new products from polystyrene.
Sustainable packaging brands we recommend:
Puffy Stuff is an all-natural, grain-based alternative to traditional styrofoam packing peanuts. They’re completely biodegradable, contain zero petrochemicals, are static-free, and reusable, making them a great and easily disposable option. Whether you decide to add it directly into your personal compost or toss it out to be in a landfill, these peanuts will degrade when it comes in contact with water, where it can be eaten by bacteria. And according to their website, they’re edible too (although, they admit it’s not particularly tasty), so feel free to munch at your discretion.
Randpak’s Geami® WrapPak® M is a biodegradable and recyclable filler that acts similarly to bubble wrap without plastic. It’s made with a combination of die-cut kraft paper and tissue interleaf paper which is cut into a honeycomb structure for strength and helps keep the items inside secure. Its honeycomb cut also adds a touch of elegance and elevates the unboxing experience.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
When you’re swapping out your packaging to achieve a more sustainable goal, everything counts, and that includes tape. Tape and stickers consist of a carrier and an adhesive, and while they can be made with paper, cloth, or foam, packing tape, a very popular adhesive for shipping packages, is made of polypropylene or polyester backing, an unrecyclable plastic.
Sustainable packaging brands we recommend
Plant-derived and compostable, this packing tape is an alternative that looks and feels like traditional packing tape without single-use plastics. It’s composed of a cellulose backing and a high-performing natural rubber adhesive, this tape is made from a renewable source and made to keep your items secure.
PURE Labels’ compostable stickers are vegan, made with a recyclable and compostable adhesive, and meet composting standards for industrial composting environments. It’s the perfect sticker to use on a compostable box or mailer to let the receiver know that it’s compostable!
THE IMPORTANCE OF ECO FRIENDLY PACKAGING
As conscious consumers, we know the importance of purchasing from and supporting businesses that go above and beyond to ensure that the product they’re selling is sustainable and good for the environment, but the packaging that the product comes in is just as important. By making the switch to compostable and sustainable packaging like biodegradable bubble wrap, compostable mailers, or biodegradable packing peanuts, you’re taking the necessary steps to make our planet a greener, healthier place.
At Made Trade, we not only encourage the use of eco friendly packaging, but we’re also Carbon Neutral Certified, meaning that the carbon footprint that’s generated in transit is offset 100%. From production to packaging to arriving at your door, making sure the process is sustainable and eco friendly in its entirety is extremely important to us.
So now that you’ve seen all the wonderful benefits and options there are to eco friendly packaging, we hope you can consider making the switch to benefit the environment and our Earth. Happy shipping and thank you for shopping on Made Trade!