In your lifetime, you’ve probably ordered a lot of things online. Like, a lot. We know we have! Especially during the pandemic, ordering most (if not all) of what you buy seems unavoidable. Maybe you even have quite a stack of boxes building up in your hallway.
This week’s blog is all about packaging—the boxes, bags, and packing foam that brings us our new favorite pair of jeans, an exercise bike, or a porcelain ornamental chicken for the kitchen table. What happens to packaging when it’s thrown away, and what can we do to make it more sustainable?
We’ve talked about different kinds of waste here before, so we won’t rehash things too much. The important thing to note here is that a lot of things that are thrown away aren’t recycled, but end up in landfills to just… hang out for the next few decades.
The Environmental Protection Agency (aka our friend the EPA) maintains a fact sheet about packaging waste that includes years of data. In 2018, the EPA estimated that the US produced 82.2 million tons of container and packaging products, which accounted for 28.1% of all municipal solid waste (MSW) recorded.
Around 50% of that was recycled, which meant it either went on to be packaging for a different product, or was turned into something else entirely. Unfortunately, that leaves a significant portion of waste remaining. Of those 82.2 million tons, 37% ended up in landfills.
Fortunately, a lot of packaging is made from recyclable materials (mostly cardboard). Unfortunately, a lot of it is still ending up in landfills. We could probably do better, right?
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is an incredible resource for anyone wanting to learn more about being an active consumer or if you’re designing packaging for a product of your own. They define sustainable packing as anything that “can be transformed into a closed loop flow of packaging materials in a system that is economically robust and provides benefit throughout its life cycle.”
One of the first principles of sustainable packaging is just using less packaging. This is where people can really put their brains together and come up with good engineering and design solutions that make secure packaging with less. It’s also something consumers can help out with, like with consolidating orders, or by offering to wait a few days to ensure every part of an order is shipped together. Sites like Amazon make this really easy, as it lays out what part of an order is being fulfilled by a different vendor, and something there is an option to ship in as few boxes as possible.
For those of you with your own business, check out the company Boox. Instead of sending out your products in disposable packing, Boox sends you reusable boxes that can be sent back and passed on to the next customer!
Another sustainable solution is plant-based packaging. Thanks to some amazing engineers and scientists, there are more plant-based options than ever. These are different from recyclable materials because they can be composted, which is a much faster turnover process than recycling with much less waste. Even better, they’re typically made from agricultural bi-products. This is a very two-birds-one-stone option. We’ll be talking about composting in our next blog post, so stay tuned!
All of this is why Stojo is joining Slash Packaging—an organization and database dedicated to sustainable packaging. More than an organization, even, Slash Packaging is a movement that advocates for companies of all shapes, sizes, and categories to be more transparent about their packaging processes.
The core of Slash Packaging’s ethos is to make packaging information readily available to consumers, and their method for doing so is by standardizing the page URL where this information can be found, no matter the website. Try it out on your favorite site, or you can also search the organization’s own page for a list of companies that have joined the movement.
Slash Packaging’s movement is good for everyone—consumers, companies, and the planet. It helps companies like Stojo keep their promises, and consumers can stay informed about what kind of companies they support. It’s also a movement that believes in progress, not perfection. We, like everyone else out there, are trying our best to navigate the best way to be sustainable while still providing top-notch service to the people who buy our products.
We’ll be adding a /packaging page to our site soon, and we’ll let you know when that happens. So check back in, and keep us accountable!