Fact Checked

What Is Environmentally-Friendly Packaging?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

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.

Packaging made from recycled plastic can be environmentally-friendly.
Packaging made from recycled plastic can be environmentally-friendly.

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.

Modern manufacturers look for ways to reduce environmental harm from packaging.
Modern manufacturers look for ways to reduce environmental harm from packaging.

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.

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Discussion Comments


@Iluviaporos - That's nice in theory, but in reality it would be better if most packaging was just biodegradable and environmentally friendly and there was no other choice. I don't care how much you educate the public, there are always going to be those who either don't care, or would rather be selfish.

Usually I think people should be allowed to make their own choices, but when it comes to environmental issues, we should all be involved and all make the right choices because our choices effect every other person around us and around the world.

Earth friendly packaging shouldn't be a consumer choice. It should be the default.


@browncoat - The problem is that people are so germphobic, they probably will just throw out the edible packaging because it touched hands. Food packaging companies aren't saving money by putting plastic around every single thing they sell, so they must be doing it because the consumer prefers it.

I mean, I've even seen individually wrapped bananas at the supermarket and they already come wrapped in a biodegradable wrapper, so I don't think providing another one is going to make a difference. It's hearts and minds we have to change, not the wrapping itself.


I was reading about this recently for a school project and apparently the next big thing in food packaging is going to be edible packaging. They are currently trying out different ways to package food that will be safe and which you can just eat.

Obviously not the packaging that goes on the shelf, but so many things these days come individually wrapped it's ridiculous. This way you could have individually wrapped pieces of fudge, without a bunch of extra plastic bags to throw out.

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    • Packaging made from recycled plastic can be environmentally-friendly.
      By: gavran333
      Packaging made from recycled plastic can be environmentally-friendly.
    • Modern manufacturers look for ways to reduce environmental harm from packaging.
      By: Voyagerix
      Modern manufacturers look for ways to reduce environmental harm from packaging.