The term environmentally-friendly packaging refers to any changes that manufacturers make that lessen the impact of these materials on the environment. Packaging materials can have a huge impact on the environment, particularly those that are disposed of immediately or those made of plastic that do not break down. Implementing environmentally-friendly packaging practices can include using recycled or biodegradable materials, reducing the amount of packaging for a product, or adopting reusable or refillable containers. It can also include reducing the waste and emissions that are produced in the process of manufacturing the packaging materials.
Packaging material makes up a large percentage of the waste since it often has no useful purpose once a product is purchased. Often made of plastic, these materials can linger in landfills for thousands of years. In many areas, packaging waste is damaging the environment by hurting wildlife; animals can become entangled in it or become ill after ingesting it. This type of waste does not break down and enrich the soil in the same manner as organic materials do. In many places, there is no room to store it; in some areas, it is dumped into the ocean and disrupts the aquatic ecosystem.
In response to this problem, many groups concerned about the environment have been advocating for companies to increase the use of environmentally-friendly packaging, also known as sustainable or green packaging. The term environmentally-friendly packaging often refers to materials that are less harmful than those that were previously utilized. This is sometimes misleading because the packaging materials may still be harmful, just less so. In other cases, the changes represent genuine improvements.
There are many ways that manufacturers can modify packaging materials to make them less harmful to the environment. One way to switch to environmentally-friendly packaging is to change the type of the materials. Manufacturers can switch to recycled packaging which lessen the environmental impact because the recycling process keeps materials out of landfills. Another possible change is to use biodegradable materials that will break down over time.
A relatively simple way to implement environmentally-friendly packaging is to reduce the amount that is used, so that less material is being thrown away. Another possibility is to increase the use of containers that can be refilled and reused, which can significantly reduce waste. In addition, packaging can be made more environmentally friendly by improving the manufacturing process. Examples include reducing the waste produced by factories and lowering the levels of harmful emissions manufacturing plants release into the air.