A bearded middle-aged man stands in front of an open cardboard box and arranges the contents inside. The box holds something wrapped in white cloth with a black label on top. The room around the man is filled with sealed cardboard boxes.
Using recyclable and compostable packaging can make a big difference in reducing your business's waste. — Getty Images/svetikd

If you run an e-commerce business, packaging is a necessary part of your day-to-day operations. If you’re looking for some eco-friendly alternatives, here are 10 options you can try.

[Read more: How to Make Your Business More Sustainable]

Biodegradable peanuts

Using packaging peanuts is a tried-and-true method of protecting shipped items.

Biodegradable peanuts are a great alternative for those looking for a more earth-friendly option. They are made out of natural materials like wheat and corn starch so they begin to decompose once they’re thrown away. This means they won’t spend years sitting in a landfill.

And since the materials used to make biodegradable peanuts are natural, they won’t harm humans, animals, or plants.

Recycled cardboard

Recycled cardboard is a great option for businesses because it can be used for boxes, envelopes, and even packaging for breakable items. Once a customer receives it, they can either reuse or recycle it. And it’s easy for businesses to source this material in large quantities and a variety of sizes.

[Read more: Big Brands’ Inventory Management Partners Share Top Tips to Slay Supply Chain Snarls]

Inflatable air pillows

You can use inflatable air pillows to protect products while they’re being shipped. These inflatable bags come in a variety of sizes and add very little weight to the package. They’re usually made from recycled materials, but they can’t be composted.

Bioplastics

Bioplastics are an alternative to using plastic packaging materials. These products are derived from plant-based materials like wheat straw, so they degrade much faster than regular plastics. They also produce fewer greenhouse emissions in landfills, so they’re suitable for composting.

Compostable mailers

Compostable mailers are a greener alternative to using traditional poly mailers. These mailers are made of recycled or regenerative materials, so worms can eat them when they’re placed in a compost heap. To be a certified compostable mailer, the bag must break down within 180 days of the customer receiving it.

[Read more: How to Find a Sustainable Manufacturer to Make Your Product]

Switching to compostable shipping labels can make a significant environmental impact.

Water-activated tape

Water-activated tape is paper-based packaging tape with an adhesive that’s activated by water. It bonds to the packaging material using gum instead of toxic chemicals.

Water-activated tape is actually stronger than plastic packaging tape. Plus, it won’t leave behind any sticky residue on the packaging materials, so it’s better for the environment and your customers.

Corrugated bubble wrap

Corrugated bubble wrap is an alternative to traditional bubble wrap and Styrofoam packaging peanuts. It’s made out of 100% recycled cardboard, and it can be recycled or composted.

Fiber packaging

Fiber packaging is produced using renewable or biodegradable materials. For instance, it may be made from reused newspaper, cardboard, or natural fibers. And fiber packaging is good for packaging food items since it can withstand high temperatures and is water- and grease-resistant.

Compostable shipping labels

Think about how many shipping labels you print off on a daily and weekly basis. Switching to compostable shipping labels can make a significant environmental impact. These labels are made from 100% FSC-certified recycled thermal paper so they’re nontoxic and compostable.

It’s completely fine if your customer leaves the label on the packaging after disposing of it. The label will break down in a home composting environment within 180 days.

Recycled cards

Many e-commerce companies send their customers a thoughtful card with their order to thank them for their business. You may assume the card doesn’t make a difference because it’s made from paper, but many come with a glossy coating that makes it harder for the material to break down.

By switching to 100% recycled materials, you’ll know these items can be composted without any problems.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published April 19, 2022