Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

Pretty much just about every product or service we invest in comes in some sort of packaging, and most people today don’t believe about where it could close up the moment it is discarded. If packaging is not appropriately disposed of, there can be major implications.

When we toss packaging in the trash, we drop the purely natural sources it is made up of. There is these a selection of packaging resources out there that it can be challenging to know no matter whether they are recyclable. Extensively made use of resources these types of as plastic, glass, metals, polystyrene (Styrofoam), or paper can frequently conclude up in landfills, resulting in significant hurt to the surroundings. To increase to this complexity, the kinds of goods recycling programs will settle for usually differs.

But is there a feasible remedy to this dilemma? Packaging is derived from purely natural methods and, preferably, we want to be in a position to utilize people organic means as lots of moments as attainable to make new merchandise, consequently supporting a circular financial system.

A lot of eco-acutely aware shoppers are on the lookout for techniques to reside fewer wasteful life, by choosing products that are widely recyclable in today’s recycling infrastructure, designed with recycled content material, or by making endeavours to reuse the packaging they have already purchased.

Let us take a closer appear at the troubles to take into account with prevalent packaging elements.


Glass is composed of all-natural entities, this kind of as sand, soda ash, and limestone. When melted alongside one another at an incredibly high temperature, these entities type a liquid that later cools and solidifies into glass. Glass has been close to for 1000’s of a long time, and right now 20 million tons of glass products are manufactured just about every yr in the United States on your own.

The Pros of Making use of Glass

1 of the most significant positive aspects of glass is that it is 100 per cent recyclable. While the excellent of some other elements can degrade with each cycle, glass utilized for food and beverage storage can be reproduced with no these decline. Glass also has a rapid recycling turnover fee. According to the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), recycled meals storage glass can be again on keep cabinets in as tiny as 30 days.

A different perk to applying glass is that it is non-toxic. Glass is totally free from hazardous chemical compounds, and it ought to have no adverse result on your stored food items solutions or your wellbeing.

Recycled glass, or “cullet,” can also aid the setting by cutting down emissions, limiting the usage of raw products, and preserving strength.

The Downsides of Applying Glass

Glass is extremely hefty when compared to numerous other packaging resources these types of as plastic, steel (when utilised in smaller portions), and fiber, earning it heavier to transportation per device.

Furthermore, like most packaging products, only a fraction of glass packaging receives recycled. In 2018, the Environmental Defense Agency (EPA) calculated that only 31 % of all glass in the United States was recycled—with most of the remainder ending up in landfills and the pure environment, where by it will consider countless numbers of decades to decompose. In addition, some curbside recycling plans all over the place have decided to exclude glass containers from their list of satisfactory items for assortment.

Glass is also a hefty, fragile substance, which can make transporting it in substantial quantities tricky.


Plastic is a polymer that arrives from different organic components, this sort of as purely natural gas, oil, coal, minerals, and crops. In an act termed polymerization, these products are refined into ethane and propane, heated at substantial temperatures to break down into ethylene and propylene, and later on rearranged into various plastic polymers. It also is essential to know that there are quite a few distinct plastic resin kinds. On a plastic products you can glimpse at the Recycling Identification Code (RIC), which gives a numbering technique stamped onto a solution to differentiate among the resin styles.

Plastic creation has only been all around for a tiny in excess of a century and has proliferated in its use. In accordance to the EPA, in 2018 plastics technology in the United States was 35.7 million tons.

The Pros of Working with Plastic

From a delivery standpoint, plastic is a great solution for business use. As a long lasting, adaptable, and lightweight materials, plastic is particularly multipurpose and can be employed for a variety of packaging programs. Specific resin styles are chosen for their one of a kind houses to have particular kinds of solutions. Plastic is very valuable to safeguard and maintain goods although minimizing pounds in transportation, which helps save gas and minimize greenhouse gasoline emissions.

The Cons of Utilizing Plastic

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

Not all plastics are readily recyclable utilizing today’s recycling infrastructure. It’s tricky to differentiate concerning the varying styles of plastics to know which can be conveniently recycled, and how. As an example, PET water bottles and HDPE detergent bottles are some of the far more frequent and effortlessly recycled plastic packaging choices, but significantly less usually recycled plastics are extremely probable to finish up in a landfill.


Resources like aluminum, tin, and steel are all utilized to package and protect products. They occur in several sorts, but most normally just one will locate these metals in the variety of cans, foil, or the metal located in multi-layered flexible pouches. The use of metals in packaging dates again to 1810, when the tin can was invented. It grew to become a broadly used type of foods packaging as it allowed foodstuff to keep freshness though blocking organic acids from developing.

The Pros of Using Metal

Steel packaging blocks outside the house things these types of as daylight, enabling food stuff to continue to be new. It is a potent material that can shield its contents, and it will not split down as conveniently as some other elements.

Even though tough and tough, metallic can also easily be worked into a wide variety of distinctive styles to accommodate a range of packaging needs. The lightweight composition of some metals, aluminum in individual, makes it possible for for lessen shipping and delivery expenses and many varieties of steel packaging use a considerable total of recycled written content to make the solution.

Another advantage to metallic packaging is that it can be recycled infinitely at a charge-successful, electrical power economical price. According to the Aluminum Association, “Making recycled aluminum only requires all over 5 percent of the energy essential to make new aluminum—reducing carbon emissions and saving funds for enterprises and conclude individuals. As a consequence, almost 75 p.c of all aluminum ever manufactured is even now in use nowadays.”

The Disadvantages of Using Metallic

As with other packaging that extracts pure assets, mining has an environmental influence as a result of the extraction of raw ore from the ground. It is for this purpose that it is primarily significant to reuse and recycle metallic packaging.

Fiber (Paperboard)

Fiber-based packaging, also known as paperboard, is usually made from fibrous resources these kinds of as pulpwood, recovered paper, old corrugated cardboard (OCC), wheat straw, or other normal elements. This materials has found an boost in desire in the past two decades, having doubled its generation in that time. The most typical utilizes for paperboard are beverage cartons and food stuff or sweet packaging.

The Execs of Working with Fiber

Paperboard is frequently developed from recycled materials, it can be recycled by itself, and it can be biodegradable if it satisfies certain marketplace benchmarks.

It is a versatile product that can be very easily adapted to healthy a variety of needs this kind of as cartons, cereal containers, trays, boxes, big bins, and far more. If your enterprise specials with any products and solutions that are fragile, paperboard can be utilized as added padding to incorporate a layer of defense.

The Drawbacks of Making use of Fiber

According to the EPA, paper containers and packaging presently have a recycling charge of just 20.8 percent. Paperboard and other fibrous packaging resources at occasions are not as resilient as metallic, plastic, or glass. This presents difficulties with transport. It is not as effortlessly stackable, it retains weaker barrier properties than its opponents, and it is much more prone to humidity damage. Equally, paper packaging doesn’t have great barrier qualities to prolong product shelf lifestyle when when compared to metallic, glass, or plastic.

Getting all of this into thought, is there any single packaging substance that is greater than the rest? This is a intricate problem with a lot of variables. Each and every kind of packaging has its rewards and negatives, but there is a area for every single dependent on the nature of your business enterprise, what products you are advertising, how you are transporting them, and quite a few other aspects. It is truly worth taking a nearer search at the packaging resources your small business is utilizing to evaluate their price usefulness, environmental friendliness, and the perfectly-remaining of your customers.

Rubicon’s Packaging Recycling Options

At Rubicon, we help organizations of all measurements come across appropriate recycling answers for all their waste streams to continue to keep as considerably substance out of landfills as achievable and advance our mission to stop squander.

If you have any queries, or are interested in discovering more about Rubicon’s packaging recycling solutions, be sure to get in touch with us these days.

Meredith Leahy is Sr. Manager, Round Economic system at Rubicon. To keep forward of Rubicon’s bulletins of new partnerships and collaborations close to the planet, be sure to adhere to us on LinkedIn, Fb, and Twitter, or contact us now.