Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

Virtually each and every products we obtain arrives in some type of packaging, and most people really don’t imagine about the place it might conclusion up after it is discarded. If packaging is not correctly disposed of, there can be significant penalties.

When we toss packaging in the trash, we reduce the organic means it has. There is this kind of a wide range of packaging products out there that it can be difficult to know irrespective of whether they are recyclable. Extensively employed products such as plastic, glass, metals, polystyrene (Styrofoam), or paper can normally conclusion up in landfills, leading to significant harm to the natural environment. To include to this complexity, the sorts of products recycling applications will acknowledge generally differs.

But is there a possible alternative to this dilemma? Packaging is derived from purely natural sources and, preferably, we want to be in a position to benefit from these natural means as numerous instances as probable to make new solutions, so supporting a round economy.

Quite a few eco-aware consumers are on the lookout for techniques to live fewer wasteful lives, by deciding upon merchandise that are greatly recyclable in today’s recycling infrastructure, built with recycled articles, or by producing attempts to reuse the packaging they have already ordered.

Let us choose a closer appear at the concerns to consider with popular packaging products.


Glass is composed of natural entities, this sort of as sand, soda ash, and limestone. When melted together at an particularly superior temperature, these entities variety a liquid that afterwards cools and solidifies into glass. Glass has been all around for hundreds of several years, and currently 20 million tons of glass products are designed every single year in the United States on your own.

The Pros of Applying Glass

A single of the greatest pros of glass is that it is 100 per cent recyclable. Although the quality of some other products can degrade with every cycle, glass utilized for foodstuff and beverage storage can be reproduced with no these reduction. Glass also has a swift recycling turnover fee. In accordance to the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), recycled meals storage glass can be back again on keep shelves in as very little as 30 days.

A further perk to employing glass is that it is non-toxic. Glass is no cost from dangerous chemical substances, and it really should have no adverse outcome on your saved foods products and solutions or your well being.

Recycled glass, or “cullet,” can also aid the surroundings by minimizing emissions, limiting the intake of raw materials, and saving vitality.

The Downsides of Utilizing Glass

Glass is particularly large as opposed to several other packaging components such as plastic, steel (when employed in tiny portions), and fiber, building it heavier to transportation for each device.

Moreover, like most packaging components, only a portion of glass packaging will get recycled. In 2018, the Environmental Defense Agency (EPA) calculated that only 31 per cent of all glass in the United States was recycled—with most of the remainder ending up in landfills and the organic atmosphere, where it will choose countless numbers of yrs to decompose. In addition, some curbside recycling packages all-around the country have decided to exclude glass containers from their record of satisfactory products for selection.

Glass is also a major, fragile content, which can make transporting it in substantial quantities challenging.


Plastic is a polymer that arrives from distinct organic elements, these kinds of as all-natural fuel, oil, coal, minerals, and vegetation. In an act termed polymerization, these products are refined into ethane and propane, heated at substantial temperatures to split down into ethylene and propylene, and later rearranged into distinct plastic polymers. It also is significant to know that there are several various plastic resin sorts. On a plastic merchandise you can appear at the Recycling Identification Code (RIC), which delivers a numbering process stamped on to a products to differentiate among the resin types.

Plastic output has only been about for a minor more than a century and has proliferated in its use. According to the EPA, in 2018 plastics era in the United States was 35.7 million tons.

The Professionals of Using Plastic

From a delivery standpoint, plastic is a excellent option for small business use. As a resilient, versatile, and light-weight materials, plastic is incredibly adaptable and can be employed for a assortment of packaging applications. Sure resin styles are decided on for their unique houses to include particular styles of products. Plastic is pretty useful to protect and protect goods when lowering body weight in transportation, which aids conserve fuel and lower greenhouse fuel emissions.

The Drawbacks of Using Plastic

When plastic packaging finds its way into our waterways and larger sized bodies of water, it poses a danger to wildlife as a choking hazard to a lot of animals. Trash from plastic packaging, as with all litter, can also influence aquatic plant daily life. The EPA states that floating trash can block out sunlight and deplete oxygen levels in the ocean, all of which are required for underwater photosynthesis.

Not all plastics are commonly recyclable making use of today’s recycling infrastructure. It is challenging to differentiate involving the various styles of plastics to know which can be effortlessly recycled, and how. As an example, PET water bottles and HDPE detergent bottles are some of the a lot more typical and effortlessly recycled plastic packaging possibilities, but considerably less generally recycled plastics are quite possible to finish up in a landfill.


Resources like aluminum, tin, and steel are all utilised to offer and maintain items. They occur in numerous types, but most normally 1 will discover these metals in the type of cans, foil, or the metal located in multi-layered flexible pouches. The use of metals in packaging dates back to 1810, when the tin can was invented. It became a broadly employed variety of food stuff packaging as it permitted foodstuff to keep freshness though protecting against organic acids from producing.

The Execs of Making use of Metal

Steel packaging blocks outdoors elements this kind of as sunlight, making it possible for foodstuff to keep on being clean. It is a sturdy product that can protect its contents, and it will not break down as conveniently as some other components.

Whilst challenging and tough, metal can also effortlessly be labored into a assortment of distinct styles to accommodate a range of packaging demands. The lightweight composition of some metals, aluminum in particular, lets for lessen shipping expenses and lots of varieties of steel packaging use a substantial sum of recycled information to make the solution.

An additional gain to steel packaging is that it can be recycled infinitely at a cost-efficient, electrical power economical amount. According to the Aluminum Association, “Making recycled aluminum only usually takes about 5 percent of the electricity necessary to make new aluminum—reducing carbon emissions and saving dollars for firms and conclude individuals. As a end result, practically 75 p.c of all aluminum ever produced is nonetheless in use nowadays.”

The Drawbacks of Making use of Metal

As with other packaging that extracts purely natural resources, mining has an environmental influence by the extraction of uncooked ore from the floor. It is for this rationale that it is in particular essential to reuse and recycle metal packaging.

Fiber (Paperboard)

Fiber-based mostly packaging, also recognized as paperboard, is ordinarily produced from fibrous elements these as pulpwood, recovered paper, old corrugated cardboard (OCC), wheat straw, or other pure resources. This content has found an boost in need in the very last two a long time, obtaining doubled its creation in that time. The most frequent uses for paperboard are beverage cartons and foodstuff or candy packaging.

The Execs of Employing Fiber

Paperboard is typically developed from recycled materials, it can be recycled alone, and it can be biodegradable if it meets selected market expectations.

It is a flexible substance that can be effortlessly adapted to fit various requires such as cartons, cereal containers, trays, packing containers, huge bins, and much more. If your company offers with any products that are fragile, paperboard can be utilized as further padding to add a layer of security.

The Downsides of Working with Fiber

According to the EPA, paper containers and packaging at this time have a recycling price of just 20.8 percent. Paperboard and other fibrous packaging supplies at situations are not as sturdy as steel, plastic, or glass. This provides difficulties with delivery. It is not as conveniently stackable, it holds weaker barrier qualities than its competition, and it is additional inclined to humidity destruction. Equally, paper packaging doesn’t have superior barrier properties to increase item shelf lifetime when compared to metallic, glass, or plastic.

Getting all of this into thing to consider, is there any one packaging product that is greater than the rest? This is a elaborate question with a lot of variables. Every single kind of packaging has its advantages and shortcomings, but there is a place for just about every relying on the mother nature of your organization, what products and solutions you are marketing, how you are transporting them, and various other factors. It is value using a nearer glance at the packaging components your business is utilizing to assess their charge success, environmental friendliness, and the perfectly-remaining of your consumers.

Rubicon’s Packaging Recycling Answers

At Rubicon, we assistance organizations of all dimensions come across ideal recycling methods for all their waste streams to preserve as significantly substance out of landfills as doable and progress our mission to close squander.

If you have any thoughts, or are fascinated in finding out far more about Rubicon’s packaging recycling expert services, be sure to contact us currently.

Meredith Leahy is Sr. Manager, Round Economy at Rubicon. To keep ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be confident to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.