What Are the Benefits of Compostable Packaging?

We’re all concerned with our carbon footprint and packaging waste. But what are the real social, environmental and business benefits of compostable packaging?

We already know how packaging design can boost sales and give you an opportunity to showcase your brand and core values. But there are so many considerations and elements to consider when discussing packaging. One important decision facing businesses today is whether or not to turn to compostable packaging.

More than ever, customers are seeking sustainable packaging options. In fact, such concerns can hugely impact their buying decisions. We see that more than half of UK customers are willing to pay more to avoid packaging that is harmful to the environment. Conscious customers today are prompting companies to develop earth-friendly packaging that isn’t destined for the landfill. But what are the real benefits of compostable packaging? Before we go on to explore the many reasons to turn to this greener form of packaging, we first need to cover the definition of compostable packaging and what distinguishes it from biodegradable packaging.

What Is Compostable Packaging?

Compostable packaging is made from plant-based, recycled materials. This means packaging can break down and be disposed of in a way that is far kinder to the environment than plastic. When disposed of in the right environmental conditions, compostable packaging can return to the earth as soil within 180 days of disposal. Compostable packaging requires less carbon to produce, provides the earth with nutrients and significantly reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill. Any business concerned with climate change and their carbon footprint has heard of and explored the value of compostable packaging for their business.

According to one source, to be labelled as “compostable”, packaging must meet the following criteria:

  1. Biodegradability — 90% of the packaging must break down into carbon dioxide, water and minerals within six months
  2. Disintegration — 90% of packaging material must degrade into pieces smaller than two millimetres within 12 weeks
  3. The packaging material can’t have any negative effects on the composting process
  4. The packaging material can’t have a high heavy metal concentration

Examples of Compostable Packaging Materials

Some examples of compostable packaging materials include:

  • PLA (Polylactic acid) or “corn plastic” — a plant-based, plastic-like material derived from renewable resources such as sugarcane
  • CPLA (Crystallised Poly Lactic Acid)
  • Bagasse
  • Recycled paper
  • Kraft board

Difference between Compostable Packaging and Biodegradable Packaging

While compostable packaging is similar to biodegradable packaging, there are some notable differences. They are not interchangeable terms.

One such difference is that with compostable packaging, you can be sure that the materials used do not produce any toxins when they deteriorate. It’s also worth noting that to be labelled “compostable”, there is a definite time frame wherein the packaging will break down into the earth. Biodegradable products, on the other hand, don’t have a set time frame.

To put things simply, biodegradable products are capable of decomposing by bacteria or other organisms, while compostable products can be used as compost when they decay. It’s also worth noting that while biodegradable items can break down in the environment, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for the planet. While plastic bags can biodegrade into thousands of tiny pieces in a certain time frame, they are still harmful to the environment, unlike compostable materials, which are made of organic matter and are therefore helpful to the environment.

There Are Social Benefits to Compostable Packaging

Manufacturers today can’t afford to ignore green packaging. Customers are looking for sustainable packaging options. They are looking to invest in brands with a conscience, and with values. The environment matters to today’s consumer, particularly if you’re looking to appeal to millennials and Generation Z, who are particularly concerned with the environment.

When your business decides to use compostable packaging, you demonstrate a social commitment to improving the negative effect packaging can have on the environment, while positioning yourself as a champion of sustainability.

There Are Financial Benefits to Compostable Packaging

When customers engage with a brand and believe in its mission and purpose, they are more likely to become repeat customers. This loyalty is hugely important to any business. When you use compostable packaging, your customers believe that you’re not just another soulless corporate entity. You are playing an active role when it comes to the environment and you are showing an interest in what really matters.

Related: The Role of Packaging in the Supply Chain

There Are Environmental Benefits to Compostable Packaging

We have already covered the environmental benefits of compostable packaging, but to summarise:

  • Compostable packaging uses less carbon than other packaging
  • Compostable packaging doesn’t clog up landfills
  • Compostable packaging helps companies make a positive contribution to reducing levels of pollution in the water, soil and air
  • Compostable packaging helps to reduce the amount of virgin materials used to make packaging.

Compostable Packaging Is Free to Toxins and Allergens

This is one area where compostables have a huge advantage over biodegradable packaging options. Compostable packaging is made from materials that are non-toxic and free of allergens. This demonstrates a huge awareness of issues important to the consumer. A conscious, informed customer will almost always choose products free of toxins and allergens instead of a packaging material containing problematic chemicals such as phthalates.

Green Packaging Is the Way of the Future

The fact is, companies who choose to turn to green packaging options are staying ahead of the curve. As time goes by, customers will expect environmentally-friendly packaging as standard, and businesses who make this choice now set themselves in good stead for the years to come.

Are you looking for assistance with your packaging needs? Get in touch today for a free custom packaging quote within 48 hours.