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Sustainable Packaging

Ideas with Flair: Sustainable Packaging

With all the information available on the Internet about sustainable packaging options, it is often difficult to determine what is feasible. Green packaging for one product might not work well for another product, and it is often difficult to sift through all of the information out there to determine what will work best for your product.

Sustainable is defined as capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing ecological damage. With regards to packaging, not only does this include structures that may be recyclable or made from renewable resources, but it also includes the energy inputs used to create the package, to transport the package, and to store the package.


To be sustainable, we need to look at the three notorious “R’s.” Often people consider only the Recycle option. But we shouldn’t forget the Reduce and Reuse components, as well.

Many products are truly overpackaged. For instance, bags and pouches are sometimes too big or gauges too heavy for the needs of the product. The main reason for a package is to protect the product. Package specifications should achieve that goal — and not much more — if we are truly interested in sustainability. Sometimes, products are over-packaged to convey a message of high value to a customer. However, reducing gauge and dimensions reduces the amount of energy used to make the package and also the amount of plastic entering landfills. Stand up pouches provide a great example of the Reuse portion of the three “R’s.” They are often made with a reclosable zipper, creating a reusable package and reducing the need to repackage leftovers.

Paper vs. Plastic

Flair can manufacture paper/film-laminated packages. The paper can be rotogravure printed and even overcoated so it does not smear or smudge. The film that the paper is laminated to can be selected so it gives the needed properties (oxygen barrier, etc) that the product requires. If a clear film is used, shaped windows can be incorporated into the package for a unique look.

Packages created from paper are not necessarily more sustainable than those made from plastic. In the U.S., the largest contributor to most landfills is paper and paper products. Today’s landfills are mainly anaerobic because they are so tightly packed. Since organic substances degrade in aerobic conditions, any breakdown occurring in landfills today is very slow. Studies have shown that newspapers in landfills can sometimes still be read 50 years later! It’s a common misconception that paper/film laminations are more environmentally friendly than 100% plastic laminations. Paper/film laminations are often heavier than plain film laminations, and the entire package stream needs to be considered when choosing a package that is environmentally friendly.

Biodegradable Films

Flair has the capability to make bags and pouches from biodegradable films. We can reverse print PLA and laminate that to biodegradable film. Minimum run quantities are higher than conventional structures. Flair is researching methods to achieve a 100% compostable bag or pouch; however, the structure must be carefully reviewed to ensure it provides the appropriate amount of protection for the intended product. In cases where a barrier to oxygen is needed, Flair will often incorporate a layer of foil in the pouch, making a package that is about 80% biodegradable.

Note: Care is needed during graphics development to make sure U.S. labeling laws are not violated.