E-commerce packaging is a huge source of waste, as well as a massive drain on natural resources.
We simply haven’t figured out how to provide the convenience we want without destroying our planet.
At Public Goods we get that we are part of that problem. But we’re trying not to be. With some guidance from you and the right packaging experts, maybe we can be part of the solution.
Many of our members ask about whether our packaging is sustainable. So, we wanted to offer a little digital unboxing of what we’re doing now and how we are trying to improve.
Before we get into the details, let’s clarify that the packaging we are talking about is boxes and materials inside the boxes that prevent products from becoming damaged or spoiled. We’re not discussing the packaging of the products themselves (bags for popcorn, plastic bottles for mustard, shampoo bottles, etc.). We’ll tackle that issue in a separate post.
Now, like a Public Goods box on its way to be recycled, let’s break it down:
What We Used to Do
Most of our old boxes were pieces of corrugated cardboard laminated with black printed sheets. People generally liked the look, but there was one problem: some recycling facilities had trouble processing boxes with black ink.
What We’re Doing Now
Currently we are shipping 100% recycled material boxes without the black ink printing. This change has ensured that anyone can recycle our cardboard.
Filler Material/Interior Packaging
What We Used to Do
To reduce plastic consumption, we substituted with paper whenever possible. Instead of relying on plastic bubble wrap to protect products, we pack boxes with Kraft paper padding that is easily recyclable.
We’ll admit, however, that we did use some plastic. To prevent leaks in liquid products, we encased them in bags made of polyethylene, the most common type of plastic. Fortunately we found a better solution.
How We’re Doing Now
Now, when we need to include wrapping in our boxes, the material is 100% compostable, both at home and in facilities that treat organic matter donations. Because of this upgrade, our boxes are now thoroughly sustainable: recycled cardboard, paper filling that can be recycled again, and wrap that can become valuable compost instead of sitting in a landfill.
Changing the Industry
One of our biggest challenges in implementing these improvements comes from the fact that the eco-friendly packaging industry is tiny right now. Because there isn’t much competition to drive down prices, it costs a lot of money to purchase the sustainable materials we want. Perhaps we can change that landscape, though.
“We see ourselves as a company that can create demand and ultimately make these products mainstream and affordable to all,” Ellman said.
In the meantime let us know what you think might work. From the beginning we have seen our members as collaborators in the product and packaging development process. We have been following relevant stories, research and businesses, but there could be something we’re missing.
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