When it comes to shipping products and goods, plastic wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, or similar single-use or recyclable plastics have the market cornered. After all, both businesses and consumers want goods to arrive safely at their destination, and while the environmental impact is clear, most people will generally fall back on recycling programs and product protection to justify their use.
However, it’s clearer than ever that recycling is never going to be a solution to this plastics problem. To begin with, many of the packaging materials we use today are either hard to recycle or not recyclable in any way. Additionally, only 9% of plastic packaging is actually collected for recycling, and the rest makes its way to landfill or the environment where it breaks up into hard-to-spot microplastics.
Zero-waste shipping and packaging can be achieved in a variety of ways; from small practical steps to take within your existing process, to reassessments of your entire value chain from the production of your product right down to the packaging the consumer is left with once they’ve unboxed their item. Even reducing the size of the packaging used makes a difference.
Thankfully an increasing number of zero-waste packaging solutions that don’t compromise product safety or hurt the bottom line are available, and many businesses are being made aware by consumers that the status quo is unacceptable. Additionally, there are economic opportunities to be found in a move towards sustainable packaging and shipping.
Here we’ve compiled a selection of innovative, zero-waste shipping solutions aimed at online businesses and individuals to help you reduce plastic packaging and boost the circular economy.
1. Hero Packaging
Husband and wife Anaita and Vic set up their compostable packaging company, Hero Packaging, after the accumulation of plastic waste from their online retail business horrified them. Although compostable mailer bags are single-use and not entirely zero waste, they are a vast improvement on plastic bags and can be recycled directly in home compost piles.
Hero’s bags come in a variety of attractive colors and sizes, but can also include custom designs. The Australian-based company exports their mailer bags worldwide but is on the cusp of setting up distribution centers in the US and Canada if you’re concerned about your carbon footprint and aren’t content to offset it.
EcoEnclose offers a vast range of recycled packaging materials and supplies that are fully customizable so you can make sure there isn’t the slightest waste of space when packing up your product. Although focused on eco-friendly solutions, they haven’t compromised on quality or product safety.
Options are available to search their packaging via the kind of product you sell, making it simple to envision the specific packaging you’ll need if you’re a newcomer to the world of zero-waste packaging. It’s worth noting that their standard mailer is primed with reseal strips so that every bag can be used to return a product or send a brand-new shipment.
3. The Better Packaging Co.
The Better Packaging Company is at the cutting edge of sustainable packaging. Run by two Kiwis, Kate and Rebecca, the company stands out from the crowd with its reusable packaging, among other biodegradable packaging options. Reusability is a real bonus as, while producing a recyclable cardboard box or a compostable bag is one thing, true zero-waste activity aims to avoid recycling and composting.
Returnity creates reusable shipping bags of recycled plastic bottles. Custom designed and manufactured for your business, these bags can be flipped inside out and begin a new life with consumers as a tote bag, duffle bag, or any number of uses.
Returnity is firmly on the reusable rather than disposable side of the fence, choosing to focus on working with businesses to create sleek, well-designed, and durable packaging that generates a little moment of magic for the consumer on top of the product itself.
They guarantee their bags for 40 shipments and will happily take them back at the end of their life to recycle them. This is an elegant zero-waste solution for businesses looking for a circular shipping model.
Noissue lets you custom design your own tissue paper and receive it anywhere in the world three weeks later. On top of being made from recycled materials that are 100% compostable, Noissue paper uses soy-based inks to print your designs on acid, sulfur, and lignin-free paper. They also produce a small range of other products such as stickers, tote bags, and food wrappers. This is a small business making a big difference.
6. Mushroom Packaging
Mushroom Packaging is an innovative approach to mailing, and each box is created to specification with 3D drawing tools and grown over seven days. It’s made from hemp and mycelium and the texture resembles an egg carton.
It can be composted directly into garden flower beds by the consumer where it will break down in as little as 30 days. It’s most suitable if products that require a slightly stiffer packaging to protect the integrity. Mushroom Packaging already boasts distribution centers in the US, Europe, and the UK.
For the ideal replacement to bubble wrap for individuals or business packaging, Flexi-Hex is an ingenious cardboard mesh that can be used to protect a huge range of fragile products. The patented grid design resembles a honeycomb and is made from 100% recycled cardboard. It’s capable of cushioning everything from surfboards to wine bottles, however, it’s worth heading over to the website to see how wide an application this amazing product has.
Vela was launched as a deceptively simple solution to the overuse of plastic in the garment industry, but their sleek paper bags have applications far beyond that. Entirely recyclable and made from FSC certified paper, the Vela bag is a simple and feasible upgrade for any online fashion retailer currently using plastic bags.
Crucially, these durable, waterproof, breathable paper bags are an affordable alternative to their plastic counterparts. On top of that, the company works with a third party to calculate and offset the entire carbon footprint of the Vela bag life cycle.
9. Boox Box
Marketed as the box you don’t throw away, Boox Box was created by founder and CEOMatt Semmelhack to battle the mountains of cardboard being shipped across the US. Boox is designed to be shipped, returned, then reused over and over again. This means no more breaking down boxes for your customers, and a cleaner environment for everyone. See our interview with Boox here.
There are many young companies motivated to contribute to the plastic-free movement sweeping the globe, so keep pushing to reduce your impact on the environment by researching plastic-free packaging options near you. And remember, with consumers placing more pressure on brands to reduce their use of plastics, these zero-waste options don’t just preserve your bottom line, they can benefit it.
For more tips and guidelines on your journey towards zero-waste at home and at your company, subscribe to the blog or browse the store today.