How to Switch to More Sustainable Packaging

Recycling & Your Business

Did you know that until last year, at least half the world relied on China for processing their recycled materials?

As of June this year, the export of glass waste was banned in Australia. From July 2021, mixed plastics will join the list, followed by tyres in December. By 2022, there will be a complete ban on exporting recyclable waste. Australia can’t just dispose of their waste problem anymore — we are now faced with burgeoning stockpiles of recyclable waste, or lose them to landfill. This means businesses will now have an even more vital part to play in addressing the increasing waste in our country.

You’re probably wondering how, as a small-medium business owner, can I do anything to help? And, luckily, there are plenty of ways! Let’s dive into a few.

Virgin-products are cheaper than recycled materials. How can I be more sustainable with my packaging while on a budget?

One cost-effective method is, simply, to use less packaging materials and/or reduce the size of your packaging — as the saying goes: good things come in small packages!. Less packaging puts more money back in your pocket while placing less waste in the bin. Shrinking your packaging size not only reduces shipping costs, but it also lowers emissions. If your packaging costs more because it’s more environmentally friendly, you can look at ways to put these costs into your packaging by providing a stronger brand story to your customer (see more on this below).

Even avoiding mixed materials (eg. sticking to all paper or all plastic) helps! Because recycling is filtered into materials, if two different recyclable materials are fused together it means neither can go to through their unique recycling process.

How can I phase out my non-recyclable and non-biodegradable packaging for more eco-friendly products?

Transitioning to more eco-friendly packaging is something to be proud of! So, the best way is to be transparent with your customers. Let them know why you are taking these steps, how it will help the environment, then proudly document your progress. This is a great way to increase engagement, secure loyal and repeat business while encouraging people to be more understanding during a time of transition.

Before announcing your change, it’s essential to do your research, so you know your new packaging is not going to harm your products (or the environment). Order samples or place a small order the first time, speak to your peers, and shop around — so you can make sure the packaging you choose is the right fit.

How can I increase my environmental factor without losing my brand’s story?

One way to not lose your brand’s identity, via your packaging, is by weaving recycling into your brand’s story. Customers are willing to spend money if a product has a strong brand story, particularly when it’s a story that manages to incorporate them as buyers. If they know they are doing ‘good’ just by purchasing your product, you can leverage this into your packaging, your story and your costs.

The use of strong copy and great visualisation to get customers active in the recycling process is another great approach and makes recycling fun and collaborative! A great example is the Package Free Shop who use cute copy to promote recycling, venturing beyond those little circular arrows.

A more permanent option is to switch to reusable packaging (eg. material tote bags). Not only will get you more bang for your buck with branding, garnering free advertising with every use, it means there are fewer components requiring disposal.

What else can I do?

According to WWF, of the 3.4 million tonnes of plastics, we used throughout 2017 and 2019, only 320,000 tonnes were recycled (9.4 per cent), with more than half of that amount reprocessed overseas.

Consider the life of your packaging in every stage of its life, from manufacturing to disposal. Try and reduce waste all along your supply chain. If you are a brick and mortar store, offer on-site recycling of your packaging.

You can also become a member of APCO, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation. They set out how governments and businesses across Australia can do better when it comes to packaging and the impact it can have on the environment. Together we can make a difference!


Recycling today, for a better tomorrow,