Different packaging alternatives to plastic and how affordable they are for small businesses

Want to know a significant problem with plastic? I’m not talking alternatives, I’m talking your basic, run of the mill, oil-based plastic. You know, the demon dog of wastage? It’s not that it can be difficult to recycle or has been treated as a single use product throughout its production. It’s not even the fact that it’s become a fundamental problem with the world’s eco-systems and is one of the single worst pollutants known to man.

No, the one significant problem with plastic in its most basic form is this: it’s cheap.

Sure, there are other over-arching factors, but the reason plastic was originally heralded as a design marvel is because it was absurdly durable, could be made quickly in vast quantities, as was cheap to produce. Who has parents or grandparents that still have Tupperware from the late seventies or early eighties? Who has repeatedly used a single use carrier bag after its intended use because it was still in one piece? Its inventors made it far too well.

But, in this time of packaging alternatives, cost is a major factor. When it comes down to it, businesses are there to be successful, and often, finding the cheapest version of something increases a company’s profitability. It’s why you still see places like your local kebab shop or off-licence using cheap plastic bags or polystyrene boxes: they’re more cost effective than buying any sustainable alternatives. It’s only been recently, in fact, that alternatives have been affordable enough to make them financially viable, and the technology to produce said alternatives is getting better by the day. I’m sure the first every plant produced plastic cost a fortune, but now the tech is significantly streamlined, certainly enough to ensure many high-profile outlets are using them.

It begs the question of how plant-based plastics are made. In effect, it is utilising natural chemicals within certain plant types to create a plastic that is a durable as it’s oil-based counterpart, while being sustainable and compostable. Plants like sugarcane, corn, legumes, and cassava contain substances such as collagen, starch, cellulose, and polyester that obviously grown naturally rather than needing to be manufactured artificially. These compounds are gathered and compounded by adding ethanol and lactic acid, where it is added to natural resins. What you end up having is a malleable plastic that is, effectively, the same as it’s oil-based cousin. All that needs to be done is injection moulding and you have a durable plastic product.

What is key here is just how sustainable to process is. Many of these products are compostable, so can technically be used to help grow most crops for production. And while more durable varieties, such as water bottles, can take upwards of eighty days to decompose, it’s still significantly better than the many hundreds of years oil plastics take. Also, upon decomposition, there are few, if any, harmful toxins seeping into the ground.

So, it’s safe to say that plant plastics are a viable option, even for small businesses, but what else is out there?

Quite a bit, it seems, and it’s not just toward packaging either.

At the most simplistic level, we now have paper that is not only one hundred percent recycled but is processed in such a way to reduce the amount of chemical used to preserve it. You may have noticed the paper quality of paperback books has changed. The pages aren’t necessarily as smooth and the covers are more floppy. But this is a move on the part of publishers to reduce paper use and the amount of chemicals used to create the book in the first place.

We’ve also mentioned on the blog before about mushroom packaging. It’s still in its infancy and is at the investor stage, however the level of sustainability with it is staggering. Mushrooms are grown into a mould at the same density as cardboard, but with more natural padding. Once it’s been used, it can easily be discarded and decompose just like any mushroom does.

But, for an odd Segway, even meat products can be grown now in the name of sustainability. Using just a couple of cells from a chicken feather, you can now grow proper chicken in the lab that is exactly the same as the real thing.

We are fortunately living in a time where the drive toward sustainability is being taken seriously, therefore the money is finally being put aside to ensure that everyday packaging will conform to it in a cost effective way. We already sell many sustainable products at Packitsafe, so why not have a look? We can assure you they’re just as competitively priced as our competitors.


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published