Beyond simply ushering in a new decade, 2020 is shaping up to be the start of a new era when it comes to packaging. Prior to the 2018/19 legislative session, only California had imposed a statewide single-use plastic bags ban. (Hawaii’s ban, which was effective across the entire state, was instituted at the county level.) On January 1, 2020, plastic bags were removed from all retail stores in Maine and Oregon. New York state’s ban will take effect on March 1, 2020, followed by Vermont on July 1, 2020. Delaware and Connecticut will follow suit in 2021.
Rather than resisting these changes, businesses are adapting by finding creative and eco-friendly packaging solutions. According to a 2018 report by LEK, roughly 40% of brand owners shifted toward sustainable packaging from 2016 to 2018. A majority of those surveyed planned to transition a portion of their volume to biodegradable, recycled, or compostable packaging in the next 5 years.
What these brands understand is that this wave of environmental consciousness is presenting new opportunities to connect to consumers, who increasingly prefer to support value-aligned businesses. In the same report, the two top drivers of brand growth in the past 5 years were eco-friendly products and healthier/natural alternatives, outweighing other factors like new consumer acquisition and price optimization. In other words, sustainable packaging is good for the bottom line.
One of the easiest ways for brands to transition to sustainable packaging is to opt for paper. A material that has been a crucial part of human history for the past two millennia, paper is natural, accessible, and—most significantly—biodegradable. From endocrine disruptors like phthalates and BPA that we absorb through microplastics, to discarded bottles and bags that kill countless marine mammals and birds each year, plastic pollution has become a rallying point for pro-environment legislators and consumers. By contrast, paper disintegrates when exposed to natural environments, making it an ideal pick for those concerned about the harmful effects of plastic ingestion to both humans and wildlife.
Some critics have noted that the decline of plastic packaging has led to an increase in demand for paper, which in turn contributes to deforestation and fuels climate change. According to the National Wildlife Federation, paper is the second biggest use of new timber globally; in many parts of the world, including the ecologically mega-diverse Sumatra, Indonesia, paper and pulp are a main driver of deforestation. Climate Institute estimates that 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases is attributed to deforestation, and states that “logging for paper products is one of the simplest causes of deforestation to solve.” It is clear that paper made out of virgin pulp resolves major issues from plastic, but poses other risks to the environment. Fortunately, post-consumer recycled paper is one of the most high-quality, biodegradable, and renewable materials in the world and doesn’t contribute to deforestation.
The paper-packaging options we offer at Edge2Edge are created to address these complexities in a truly sustainable way. From 100% recycled-content paper to 100% recyclable-paper packaging (including handles), our eco-friendly paper products are designed for circular economy and reduce the need for logging. They embody the best of both worlds: low carbon footprint and low wildlife impact. With brands that have specific concerns, we pride ourselves in collaborating on customized packaging solutions. The environmental issues we are facing today are relatively new in human history; and the path to sustainability is not a clear highway, rather uncharted waters. Creativity, innovation, and integrity are the guiding principles with which we can navigate this challenging landscape, toward a brighter and greener future for all.