Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

Pretty much every item we obtain comes in some type of packaging, and most people really do not assume about exactly where it may possibly end up once it is discarded. If packaging is not effectively disposed of, there can be significant consequences.

When we toss packaging in the trash, we get rid of the purely natural means it contains. There is this kind of a range of packaging materials accessible that it can be hard to know regardless of whether they are recyclable. Broadly utilized products this kind of as plastic, glass, metals, polystyrene (Styrofoam), or paper can usually close up in landfills, creating major harm to the ecosystem. To increase to this complexity, the types of merchandise recycling packages will accept normally varies.

But is there a possible option to this problem? Packaging is derived from purely natural resources and, preferably, we want to be in a position to use those normal means as lots of occasions as attainable to make new solutions, so supporting a round financial state.

Numerous eco-conscious individuals are searching for methods to stay fewer wasteful lives, by deciding on products and solutions that are greatly recyclable in today’s recycling infrastructure, manufactured with recycled information, or by earning efforts to reuse the packaging they have now purchased.

Let us take a closer seem at the concerns to think about with widespread packaging elements.


Glass is composed of pure entities, these kinds of as sand, soda ash, and limestone. When melted collectively at an extremely superior temperature, these entities kind a liquid that later on cools and solidifies into glass. Glass has been all around for hundreds of yrs, and these days 20 million tons of glass products and solutions are built every single year in the United States by itself.

The Pros of Employing Glass

1 of the most significant strengths of glass is that it is 100 percent recyclable. Though the high quality of some other materials can degrade with every single cycle, glass utilized for meals and beverage storage can be reproduced with no these types of reduction. Glass also has a fast recycling turnover fee. According to the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), recycled meals storage glass can be back again on retail store cabinets in as tiny as 30 days.

An additional perk to applying glass is that it is non-poisonous. Glass is no cost from dangerous chemical substances, and it ought to have no adverse impact on your saved meals products or your health.

Recycled glass, or “cullet,” can also assist the environment by minimizing emissions, limiting the consumption of raw supplies, and saving electricity.

The Negatives of Employing Glass

Glass is exceptionally hefty in comparison to several other packaging materials such as plastic, steel (when made use of in tiny portions), and fiber, building it heavier to transportation per device.

In addition, like most packaging products, only a fraction of glass packaging will get recycled. In 2018, the Environmental Safety Agency (EPA) calculated that only 31 p.c of all glass in the United States was recycled—with most of the remainder ending up in landfills and the all-natural ecosystem, where it will take 1000’s of many years to decompose. In addition, some curbside recycling applications all-around the country have decided to exclude glass containers from their list of acceptable items for selection.

Glass is also a heavy, fragile content, which can make transporting it in large portions complicated.


Plastic is a polymer that arrives from diverse normal elements, these as natural gasoline, oil, coal, minerals, and vegetation. In an act called polymerization, these elements are refined into ethane and propane, heated at large temperatures to split down into ethylene and propylene, and later on rearranged into different plastic polymers. It also is crucial to know that there are quite a few distinctive plastic resin styles. On a plastic product you can search at the Recycling Identification Code (RIC), which supplies a numbering system stamped onto a product to differentiate concerning the resin styles.

Plastic creation has only been close to for a tiny around a century and has proliferated in its use. According to the EPA, in 2018 plastics generation in the United States was 35.7 million tons.

The Pros of Making use of Plastic

From a shipping standpoint, plastic is a wonderful possibility for company use. As a durable, adaptable, and lightweight material, plastic is exceptionally versatile and can be used for a wide range of packaging programs. Specified resin forms are picked out for their special houses to include distinct kinds of items. Plastic is quite useful to secure and protect products when cutting down weight in transportation, which helps help save gasoline and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

The Downsides of Employing Plastic

When plastic packaging finds its way into our waterways and much larger bodies of drinking water, it poses a menace to wildlife as a choking hazard to numerous animals. Trash from plastic packaging, as with all litter, can also affect aquatic plant lifetime. The EPA states that floating trash can block out daylight and deplete oxygen degrees in the ocean, all of which are needed for underwater photosynthesis.

Not all plastics are readily recyclable utilizing today’s recycling infrastructure. It is complicated to differentiate among the various types of plastics to know which can be quickly recycled, and how. As an case in point, PET water bottles and HDPE detergent bottles are some of the extra frequent and easily recycled plastic packaging solutions, but significantly less generally recycled plastics are very probably to close up in a landfill.


Elements like aluminum, tin, and steel are all used to offer and maintain products. They come in many forms, but most normally one particular will come across these metals in the sort of cans, foil, or the steel uncovered in multi-layered versatile pouches. The use of metals in packaging dates back again to 1810, when the tin can was invented. It became a commonly made use of type of food packaging as it permitted meals to keep freshness though protecting against natural acids from producing.

The Professionals of Working with Metal

Metal packaging blocks outside the house factors these as daylight, letting food stuff to continue being contemporary. It is a sturdy material that can defend its contents, and it will not crack down as quickly as some other elements.

Whilst tricky and durable, metallic can also quickly be labored into a wide variety of different shapes to accommodate a array of packaging requirements. The light-weight composition of some metals, aluminum in particular, makes it possible for for lower delivery expenses and several styles of metal packaging use a considerable sum of recycled content to make the products.

A different advantage to metallic packaging is that it can be recycled infinitely at a value-powerful, electricity productive price. In accordance to the Aluminum Association, “Making recycled aluminum only normally takes all over 5 % of the electricity desired to make new aluminum—reducing carbon emissions and preserving cash for enterprises and conclude shoppers. As a end result, virtually 75 % of all aluminum at any time manufactured is even now in use nowadays.”

The Cons of Employing Metal

As with other packaging that extracts natural resources, mining has an environmental effects by way of the extraction of raw ore from the ground. It is for this reason that it is specially crucial to reuse and recycle metallic packaging.

Fiber (Paperboard)

Fiber-dependent packaging, also recognised as paperboard, is usually made from fibrous resources such as pulpwood, recovered paper, old corrugated cardboard (OCC), wheat straw, or other all-natural materials. This product has witnessed an raise in demand in the past two many years, possessing doubled its production in that time. The most prevalent uses for paperboard are beverage cartons and meals or candy packaging.

The Professionals of Applying Fiber

Paperboard is usually developed from recycled supplies, it can be recycled itself, and it can be biodegradable if it fulfills specific field benchmarks.

It is a adaptable materials that can be simply tailored to healthy a variety of desires these kinds of as cartons, cereal bins, trays, boxes, big bins, and extra. If your small business offers with any products and solutions that are fragile, paperboard can be made use of as additional padding to increase a layer of defense.

The Disadvantages of Using Fiber

In accordance to the EPA, paper containers and packaging currently have a recycling level of just 20.8 percent. Paperboard and other fibrous packaging elements at situations are not as strong as metallic, plastic, or glass. This presents complications with shipping and delivery. It is not as easily stackable, it retains weaker barrier properties than its competition, and it is additional inclined to moisture destruction. Similarly, paper packaging does not have fantastic barrier homes to increase product shelf life when as opposed to metallic, glass, or plastic.

Getting all of this into consideration, is there any single packaging content that is far better than the relaxation? This is a elaborate concern with numerous variables. Each style of packaging has its pros and disadvantages, but there is a area for each and every dependent on the character of your business enterprise, what solutions you are providing, how you are transporting them, and various other aspects. It is well worth getting a closer search at the packaging resources your organization is making use of to consider their expense efficiency, environmental friendliness, and the very well-becoming of your consumers.

Rubicon’s Packaging Recycling Answers

At Rubicon, we support corporations of all measurements come across ideal recycling answers for all their squander streams to continue to keep as significantly content out of landfills as attainable and advance our mission to conclusion waste.

If you have any questions, or are fascinated in understanding more about Rubicon’s packaging recycling expert services, please contact us these days.

Meredith Leahy is Sr. Supervisor, Circular Financial state at Rubicon. To remain in advance of Rubicon’s bulletins of new partnerships and collaborations all-around the earth, be confident to adhere to us on LinkedIn, Fb, and Twitter, or get in touch with us nowadays. 

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