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Innovative Packaging

2010 March 25

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, one of my green resolutions for the year has been to strive for “waste free lunches.” So far, I have not used any plastic sandwich bags and I have been using reusable containers regularly both for my daughter’s and my lunches. So, as I was grocery shopping last week looking for greener options, I came across a bag of chips that was made of “100% compostable packaging.” I was completely surprised by their green claim. Nonetheless, I read the label on the bag and visited their website for additional information. According to the company, the package is plant-based which makes it completely compostable. The company claims that the bag will disappear in less than four months after placing in a composter. Incredible! The only drawback that I found was that the bag was very noisy. Frankly, that’s a small price to pay when you consider how the bag can help reduce waste.

There are numerous environmental benefits to composting. While certain food scraps and yard trimmings are usually what you think of when adding contents to a composter, these packages add a whole different dimension.

Increasingly, more companies are developing new technologies to green their products. Another innovative green effort to replace Styrofoam in packaging and construction also uses biodegradable material developed from the mycelium of benign fungus.

Every day we see how more companies are using technology to go green. Not only are some of these companies trying to be good corporate citizens, they are realizing that green contents and marketing definitely sell. Hopefully, we’ll find innovative solutions to many of our environmental challenges.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

32 Responses leave one →
  1. Jackenson Durand permalink
    March 25, 2010

    Acerca del autor; un bueno idea, naciónes copiaran para un ejemplo del sotenibilitad: “Todos para transformaciónes, nada para océanos”.

  2. Bror Wingard permalink
    March 25, 2010

    I like the direction that manufacturers are taking especially when it is of their own accord (not forced to by law). The tides are changing and the long term impact of a company on the environment are becoming an important aspect to a companies bottom line.

    While reading the post, I recalled growing up when dry cereals (I must have been hungry) were packaged in a waxpaper bag that was inside a cardboard box. A rather environmentally friendly package and one that was rather user friendly (the bag was easily opened and simply rolled down to seal). Today the cardboard packaging remains although the inner bag is now plastic (very non-user friendly, hard to open cleanly unless cut and does not seal without a clip or other fastener).

    Maybe we will see that revert back to the way it once was.

  3. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 25, 2010

    Sometimes, when I was young, I followed my Mom to the traditional market on Sunday. At that time, my Mom brought braid bamboo bag and contained banana leaf packages.

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 25, 2010

    Yes, interesting sort of packaging. Totally “green”‘ and biodegradable. It’s possible the private sector can learn from previous practices.

  5. Vicki permalink
    March 26, 2010

    I am looking for a green solution to a packaging concern I have. As a small manufacturer of personal care products, I package all of my products in readily biodegradable materials. However, I have not found the right container to hold liquid soap. I have heard that there may be a test pilot for this receptacle, but can not find any information on it. Can you update me on the development or the availability of an earth friendly liquid holding container that will replace plastic?

  6. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 26, 2010

    Vicki,
    Don’t have info at hand, but will look into it.
    Glad you’re actively seeking green packaging solutions.

  7. Al Bannet permalink
    March 26, 2010

    “Hopefully, we’ll find innovative solutions to many of our environmental challenges.” Maybe even including overpopulation? But we already have that solution — family planning clinics and the legal right of each woman to decide if and when to birth one or moe children. Only religious dogma and greed for growth stand in the way.

  8. Linda permalink
    March 26, 2010

    I’ve recently seen soft drink containers of spun aluminum; don’t know if that would work for your soap (or be economic) but if so, aluminum is highly recyclable, as well a re-useable. Let customers buy larger “refill” size containers so they can continue using the smaller container.

  9. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    March 26, 2010

    I am glad that large corporations are beginning to take environmental issues seriously. I hope many more will soon develop 100% compostable packaging for their products. They can if they want to. I also saw in this month’s Water Issue of National Geographic Magazine an ad by one of the major insecticide makers that they now have a commercial insecticide on the market that works and is made from a flower instead of being engineered with dangerous manmade chemicals. There is a tiny inkling of change by big corporations. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  10. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 28, 2010

    Michael,
    I’m convinced that the big corporations are just waking up to the idea that going green benefits their bottom line.
    Lina

  11. Sam Rubanga permalink
    March 29, 2010

    Trully beautiful innovetion otherwise we where going nut with these crazy making a kill manufactuiring choking polyethene bags. Well done who else is behind those innovations.

  12. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 29, 2010

    Sam,
    I’ve been noticing more and more companies developing green packaging alternatives. I’m hopeful that with technology, we will see greener manufactured goods.

  13. Alexa permalink
    March 29, 2010

    It’s great to see more compostable packaging solutions on store shelves. However, if the consumer doesn’t compost it when they’re done with it, will the packaging still break down more quickly than non-compostable material in a landfill environment? Without the regular turning of soil and a heated environment that composting provides, will it break down?

  14. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 30, 2010

    Alexa,

    You make some good points. I will ask one of our program offices to get some answers to your questions.

  15. Borislav Sabotinov permalink
    March 31, 2010

    An increased effort at developing decomposable packaging is good news. The United States produces 670,000 tons of garbage per day, or 244,550,000 tons per year. A sizable portion of rubbish is improperly disposed of on the streets and in wildlife while recyclable material is not thrown away in designated recycling bins. Although individual and corporate responsibility plays a key role in the preservation of our ecosystem, biodegradable packaging will assist national efforts at reducing land and water pollution.

    Approximately 14 billion pounds of packages, plastic bottles, tires, cardboard boxes, Styrofoam, unused materials, and other forms of trash are deposited in the ocean every year. According to the EPA, if only 100,000 people stopped their junk mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually. The 36 billion aluminum cans land filled last year are worth more than $600 million. One out of every eleven dollars Americans spend for food goes for packaging. Each of us uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year. (EPA 2008)

    Replacing Styrofoam plates and cups, which are not recyclable, with a decomposable substitute, would benefit the environment. This, coupled with additional efforts to create decomposable packaging, will reduce environmental damage. Companies are headed in the right direction and I hope that this trend continues to grow.

  16. Lina-EPA permalink*
    March 31, 2010

    Alexa,
    Part 2–I looked into your questions regarding compostabe packaging. Definitely have some interesting info to share in a future blog. Stay tuned.

  17. Khushi permalink
    April 1, 2010

    I have been very much into waste free lunch too this year. Just wanted to share a game called ‘Supermarket Package Hunt’ to do with kids I found in the article ‘Top 10 things to do with kids for Earth Day’

    Basically you rope the kids in to find ‘good’ packaging in the supermarket.

  18. hayda permalink
    April 8, 2010

    That is very good comment you shared.Thank you so much chat that for you shared those things with us.Im wishing you mirc to carry on with ur achivments.All the best.

  19. ariel permalink
    June 27, 2010

    hey i’m looking for a material to package my dishwashing liquid. But i think dishwashing liquid is highly corrosive on aluminium. Is that true? i cant find any info on that?

  20. cris2per permalink
    August 23, 2010

    I have been following you blog for quite some time now…..I just wanted to say how excited and happy I am for you. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  21. cris2per permalink
    September 13, 2010

    Its very awesome article,all the content is so beneficial and valuable for us.presentation of article is very good,so I will bookmark it for sharing it with my friends.Thanks for sharing nice and pretty post.

  22. Lina-EPA permalink*
    September 13, 2010

    cris2per,
    Glad you like our blog. We cover a wide variety of environmental issues. Keep sending your comments.
    Lina

  23. cris permalink
    October 27, 2010

    thank u

  24. Burak933 permalink
    June 6, 2011

    thanx for that:)

  25. cam balkon permalink
    August 10, 2011

    I have been following you blog for quite some time now…..I just wanted to say how excited and happy I am for you. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  26. has permalink
    August 12, 2011

    Replacing Styrofoam plates and cups, which are not recyclable, with a decomposable substitute, would benefit the environment. This, coupled with additional efforts to create decomposable packaging, will reduce environmental damage. Companies are headed in the right direction and I hope that this trend continues to grow.

  27. Mandy Mathis permalink
    September 5, 2011

    Mycelium fungus could be the new material that can be used as substitute for Styrofoam. However, they must ensure that they can mass-produce them as people have gotten used to using Styrofoam as insulators, packing material, and in food packaging, among others.

  28. ice cube machine permalink
    November 26, 2011

    Please do keep up the superb job.

  29. John permalink
    February 7, 2012

    Very interesting article! Thanks for the information!

  30. tani permalink
    February 15, 2012

    You make plenty of excellent points in this article however its almost impossible for me personally to concentrate on this article with the broken layout!

  31. Jonas permalink
    July 16, 2012

    Very interesting article.. I enjoyed reading it and will come back later.

  32. Ane permalink
    July 4, 2013

    This is a great idea, nowadays packaging plays a huge role in terms of the retail success of a product, and innovative packaging design can even boost the brand behind a given product. Thank you for share this :)

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