The eCommerce sector is more competitive than ever. Retailers have been struggling to keep up with demand as online sales skyrocket, but can they adopt and maintain an eco-friendly approach?
Eco-friendly packaging can significantly reduce non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste, slashing businesses’ carbon footprint. So what are the hallmarks of eco-friendly packaging, and how else can it benefit eCommerce companies?
What Is Eco-Friendly Packaging?
Simply put, eco-friendly packaging is a broad term that describes all forms of packaging that are created with the environment in mind. They usually have one of the following properties or features:
- Recycled — Plastic, cardboard and many other common materials can be processed and repurposed to create a wealth of effective packaging supplies. The main benefit here is that the lifespan of the original materials is dramatically extended, meaning less raw materials need to be produced.
- Sustainably Sourced — Packaging materials produced from renewable sources are far better for the environment than oil-based plastics or other synthetic products. As an example, paper sourced from managed forests helps counteract deforestation.
- Recyclable — When packaging is made from recyclable materials, consumers can easily dispose of packaging responsibly at home or at various recycling points. Their packaging could take on many forms or be used to create more packaging.
- Biodegradable — Packaging made from natural materials often has biodegradable qualities. Paper and cardboard are some of the most natural packaging materials that degrade naturally over a short period and without leaking harmful chemicals back into the environment.
- Compostable — Some forms of eco-friendly packaging can be composted commercially or by the end-user at home. The benefit is that packaging doesn’t contribute to landfill waste, but composting also improves soil quality and suppresses plant diseases.
The Benefits of Using Eco-Friendly Packaging
For many consumers, the use of eco-friendly packaging is more of an expectation than an option. Studies have shown that consumers are even willing to pay more for products that are packaged sustainably, proving that a little investment in the right packaging can go a long way. So how could eco-friendly packaging benefit online retailers?
- Waste Reduction
Packaging waste comes in many forms. Overpackaging products is a pet peeve for many consumers who will instantly assume that little care or thought has been taken in the packaging process. This wastes a tremendous amount of materials and leaves customers feeling frustrated. Waste can also be a problem when the wrong size, shape or type of packaging is used to ship products. Using packaging that’s far too big for the products it containers wastes packaging supplies and could lead to damaged deliveries.
- Improved Recycling Rates
The latest recycling rate for British households is approximately 46%. Still, there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially if the UK wants to catch up with the likes of Germany, whose recycling rate is currently 10% higher. For more recycling to happen, recyclable packaging needs to replace non-recyclable plastics and other synthetic materials. This is an excellent opportunity for eCommerce businesses to replace any non-recyclable offerings with more environmentally beneficial alternatives.
- Reduced Packaging Costs
Paper and cardboard packaging is widely available and incredibly cost-effective. It’s inexpensive to produce and even more affordable when bought in bulk, especially when compared to the price of plastic packaging that doesn’t have any of the eco-friendly benefits. Cardboard packaging is also incredibly versatile and can be used for various products or different shapes and sizes.
- Enhanced Functionality
The humble, brown cardboard box has a lot to offer, especially when paired with paper-based void-fill packaging. Cardboard is lightweight yet durable, meaning package weights can be slashed. This can help dramatically reduce shipping costs without compromising the quality or integrity of the packaging itself.
- Better Customer Experiences
If you’re an online-only business, your packaging needs to send all the right messages about your brand. First impressions are essential, and since your packaging will be the first thing your customers see and engage with, their experience needs to be flawless. Consumers prefer paper-based packaging over plastic or other synthetics, so an excellent place to start is with paper or cardboard packaging that’s naturally recyclable and biodegradable.
Is Eco-Friendly Packaging Important for Online Retailers?
Since high-quality eco-friendly packaging offers so much in terms of performance and is much preferred by consumers, it’s an obvious choice for businesses operating in the highly competitive eCommerce arena. Not only does it benefit the environment, but it can significantly enhance consumers’ perception of companies operating in this space, generating brand awareness, loyalty and eventually, brand advocacy.