Flexible Packaging Reduces Waste

The upfront design of flexible packaging helps with source reduction by eliminating waste before it’s produced

March 10, 2023

4 Min Read
Marat Musabirov for Getty Images

Andrew Meyer, CEO of AeroFlexx

Much of the plastic pollution in the world comes from single-use plastics. Plastic is a critical material in the modern world, and the pollution is primarily driven by the lack of a circular life cycle, most importantly, the lack of plastic being recycled. Recycling is confusing for consumers, sortation facilities are not efficient in identifying all plastics, and not all communities recycle. There is a lot of misinformation. Even with the inclusion of a how2recycle label, many consumers are still unsure of what to do with their recycling.

Environmental innovators are constantly looking for solutions to help remediate this crisis with minimal burden for consumers. New flexible packaging designs allow consumers to become more environmentally conscious without adding to their inconvenience.

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The Environmental Benefit of Source Reduction

The plastics industry is rife for a revolution, not only because it can be so environmentally destructive, but because consumers have begun to demand a change for a 50-year-old product. Although many single-use plastics end up in landfills, 67% of consumers say they want recyclable packaging, highlighting the global demand for sustainable plastic packaging alternatives.

Flexible packaging’s upfront design aligns with the plastics industry’s overall goal of source reduction or eliminating waste before it is produced. Compared to rigid bottles, uniquely designed liquid packaging can allow manufacturers to use 70% less plastic upfront, consume up to 73% less water, and reduce waste to landfills by as much as 81%, representing a significant reduction in their overall carbon footprint. This reduction in the total use of plastic and emphasis on full recyclability represent a strong commitment that the industry has made to sustainability.

Related:How Your Flexible Packaging Operation Can Be More Productive

Because flexible packaging includes fewer pieces, the supply chain required to produce them can also be streamlined. Traditional rigid plastic packaging is often made in several phases — the cap, bottle, and label — all of which might be made on separate assembly lines, or even in separate factories, and must be transported to assemble the final product. Flexible packaging, conversely, can significantly reduce the number of emissions caused by the transportation of goods.

Reducing Costs with Innovatively Designed Flexible Packaging

Additionally, flexible packaging has the advantage of being much more durable and less susceptible to breaking. The more pieces a package has, the more points there are at which it could break. Flexible packaging is effectively an “all-in-one” package — and is often hermetically sealed to ensure its contents are even more secure. Furthermore, the hermetic seal is effectively a tamper-proof seal, ensuring that the product remains unopened until it reaches the consumer.

Related:Flexible Packaging with Impact: FPA Gold Winners

This is an advantage for businesses because fewer refunds must be issued due to products arriving broken or damaged. Additionally, contents will not be able to leak out during the shipping process in a way that could potentially cause environmental harm.

Some flexible packaging options can be shipped with minimal or no additional packing materials such as bubble wrap, packing peanuts, air pillows, shrink seals, and induction sleeves. Eliminating or reducing the need for packing materials, which tend to be used a single time for one shipment and then end up in landfills, can have a tremendous environmental impact.

Providing Improved Customer Experience with Flexible Packaging

Sustainable packaging can also become a significant selling point for consumers. Studies have shown that consumers are more cognizant than ever of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions, with 43% of consumers saying that they are influenced when purchasing by the environmental impact of the product they are buying. In other words, if two products are similar in quality, they are likely to go with the more eco-friendly one, and flexible packaging can provide that edge.

Furthermore, flexible packaging can provide an elevated customer experience. Ease of use is important for consumers, and the new flexible packaging design is much more convenient than traditional rigid plastic packaging. For example, while some flexible packaging designs do have lids, replacing them with easily-tearable tabs and self-sealing technology means that consumers can more easily tear open the package.

Traditional rigid plastic packaging requires the use of costly molds to produce. Since flexible packaging does not require such molds, that represents significant upfront savings for manufacturers. Additionally, the use of molds reduces the customizability of plastic packaging, giving flexible packaging the encouraging benefit of offering brands much greater control over their image.

With flexible packaging, companies can offer consumers the same, if not a better experience than what they would have received with traditional plastic packaging while also offering significant benefits for sustainability. Flexible packaging is changing the game regarding sustainability, the consumer experience, and business costs, making it an all-around exciting alternative.

Andrew Meyer is CEO of AeroFlexx.

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