Packaging is probably the toughest part of a product to get a handle on, both as a consumer and as a producer. It requires a lot of education, grasping of nuances, and the ability to make trade-offs.
Although packaging is highly salient as we can hold it in our hands and we see it go into the bin every time we consume something, it is nonetheless not the first element to worry about if you want to be more sustainable. Start with thinking about your food sources and food waste. Your best bet is to go vegan, buy products deemed food waste like apples with brown spots on them, and eat everything in your fridge.
I asked myself, for a long time, what is the most sustainable packaging I could deliver my Cool Beans Foods products in. Plastic has a bad reputation, glass has a good reputation. But reality is, it depends. Glass is actually quite energy-intensive, some studies say you have to re-use it at least 20 times to be more sustainable than plastic. Within plastic, there are many kinds. PET is more resource-efficient than other plastics, but it is not microwavable. Bio and compostable plastics sound great but waste handling varies so much by location, and some of these plastics need to be chemically broken down, so that it’s not certain that the place you live in can handle these. Some of the most compost-friendly packaging cannot handle wet foods.
The best rule of thumb, if you want to reduce your environmental impact via packaging, is to choose packaging that avoids single use.
So that’s why after all this research, I decided that recycled PET was the most sustainable option. Because it’s recycled over and over, we already know that it’s not single use, but rather, circular. Because it’s PET, we already know it’s resource efficient. And recyclable. The only drawback is, not a lot of different sizes available, and, it cannot be heated in the microwave.
After all this, if you have any questions or comments, email me to find out more. I’m not a packaging guru but I know people who are.