0 comments / Posted on by Jayne Clark-Denyer

It’s all well and good creating organic, sustainable products using natural materials, but if you’re shipping them in un eco friendly packaging, it defeats the object somewhat. The ethos behind Organically Epic’s toothbrushes (and all of our own-brand dental care products coming up), encompasses a want to provide an eco friendly toothbrush that is not only good for your teeth and gums, but is also good for the planet.

We pride ourselves on the fact that our Organically Epic toothbrushes are eco-friendly from box to bristle.

But…..  what are the other packaging options for other products such as skincare, hair care body care and tanning?  Not everything can be packaged safely and effectively in a cardboard box. Eco Friendly and sustainable options may not be what they seem when you delve little deeper into packaging manufacturers practices and materials

Glass bottle

Glass

Glass is touted one of the most eco-friendly man made materials available for a number of reasons. Glass has a very long life and doesn’t break down without external erosion, and it’s also recyclable. Glass can be reused in a number of ways, from being remade into bottles and jars to repurposing it as insulation.

It looks lovely, feels lovely and some say the ingredients are kept fresher in glass as well.

However, glass as a packaging material is heavy, not exactly practical when you’re shipping a product around the world as it can be broken easily! no one wants to open their new toothbrush or skincare product to find shards of glass inside!

This also adds to the cost of shipping because of the weight of glass, not exactly easy on the pocket for the consumer.  There are also evidence to suggest that not all glass can be recycled due to the differing colours and differing ways that each item is made.  Not all glass is made in the same way.

It’s also more expensive than plastic to recycle, however when it is recycled, it is recycled back into glass, there is no compromise on the integrity of the material compared to recycled plastics.  Because of the weight in shipping it can account for more pollution in its manufacture shipping and recycling. It’s also been said that because of it’s weight, again, and the heat needed to break it down, glass creates 6 times more global warming gases than plastic.

When we are told continually that Glass is the most eco friendly packaging option out this makes for shocking reading right?

Plastic

Plastic is one of the more obvious options for packaging, not least of all because it’s the most widely used.  Yet it’s also one of the most widely condemned.  

The problem with plastic is that, despite efforts to recycle, not all of it goes into our recycling systems, ending up landfill and mind bogglingly, in our Oceans, Seas and Waterways.

Up to 13 million tonnes of plastic makes its way into the ocean every year, killing wildlife and

destroying eco systems.  This doesn’t even factor in that plastics are an oil-based products,

so plastic production contributes to fossil fuel pollution of the atmosphere, taking precious resource unnecessarily from the Earth

That said, not all plastics are equal.  Not every plastic uses fossil fuels and not every plastic is single use.  I’ll break it down slightly below…. Get it, break it down???

Recycled Plastics

Recycled plastics are plastics that have been recycled from another plastic item.  Simple.  This is the reuse and reduce principle.  Plastics have been made, using up resource so instead of throwing them away, we are making them into something else.  Many large brands package their products in recycled plastics.  Environmentally this makes sense.  If something has been used once then make it into something else and use it again, and again, and again.  Conserving energy replacing the need for manufacture of new plastics.

Bio Plastics

Some say that bio plastics are future of the plastic industry, and I would be inclined to agree.

Made using natural materials such as sugar cane to be made into sugar cane polymer.  A seemingly plastic bottle, tube or tub (it can be made into anything) that has all the plus points of plastic ie, lightweight, safe to use in the bathroom, easy to ship & easy to print on with little to little to none of the negatives of oil based plastics.  Sugar cane polymer is made using the sugar cane wastage from the food industry and can in some cases be carbon neutral.  It is endlessly recyclable too!

However, bio plastics are often marketed as being biodegradable.  I hate to burst anyone’s bubble here but they are not biodegradable. They are still a polymer so putting them in the compost or landfill in the hope they will biodegrade is not the way forward and detrimental to the environment.

Used and recycled properly however, bio plastics have all the makings of an innovative industry leader.

Some heavy industry hitters are using bio plastics for their product ranges and some even allow you to send back the bottles so they can send them back to the manufacturer for recycling.  A full circle service so to speak.

Biodegradable Plastics

Magic right? Well, another bubble is about to be burst here…..there is little to no evidence that biodegradable plastics actually biodegrade as we would expect them to. Often breaking down into smaller micro plastics that are just as bad for the environment. They would also require lab grade conditions for them to break down.  Not being put into landfill where there is little to air or light for anything to breakdown.

There’s a lot of mystery and clever marketing that goes on with regard to so called biodegradable plastics.  From our extensive research and speaking to packaging manufacturers in the UK they have confirmed that the technology isn’t there yet for product packaging.  They would break down too quickly for it to be viable.

My worry mainly with biodegradable plastics is that they would us a lot of energy and resource for them only to be used once.  Which would be great for say, floss for your teeth, but not for packaging.

 

Cardboard and paper

Cardboard and paper are the most logical for packaging our toothbrushes as they remain one of the most recyclable and biodegradable materials available. Recycled paper reduces the need for deforestation, which helps to protect natural habitats and reduce the carbon footprint of manufacture. It can also be made into a huge variety of things, from greetings cards to loo roll!

It’s lightweight, which helps to keep postage costs down and helps to prevent moisture from infiltrating the product, ensuring your toothbrush is in the very best condition by the time it reaches you.

Where it can be used for packaging it’s quite wonderful.  Often teamed up and containing a glass bottle to stop any breakages it can look very pleasing whilst also being practical.

But it also takes up a lot of energy and resource from the Earth in the form of heat and water to make cardboard and paper.  That’s why recycled and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper is the cream of the crop.  Sustainable and ethical.  Using the least amount of resource as possible.

There are some wonderful paper and cardboard manufacturers who are investing millions in their recycling departments making sure they are FSC Certified and sourcing materials from a 100 to 300 mile radius thus cutting down on emissions as well.

In summary

So, as you can see, what’s the best packaging isn’t as easy as it seems.  It isn’t as easy as glass being the Queen of packaging.  You can have plastic, glass or cardboard packaging and be sustainable.  It just depends on how it is manufactured.  We advocate a reduce and reuse lifestyle at Organically Epic so the devil in our eyes, and many others, is single use plastics.

We use cardboard for our toothbrushes to make sure that the packaging can either be composted or recycled depending on the customers lifestyle and requirements and we will be using a combination of cardboard and glass for our upcoming products.  Bio plastic also intrigues me with it’s efficacy and eco credentials.  Carbon Neutral and endlessly recyclable, what’s not to love.

There are even some amazing manufacturers globally using wind and solar power exclusively to make their plastic packaging.  So where people are getting their packaging from needs to be taken into account as well.  Our Eco by Sonya certified organic skincare, tanning and body care range are in partnership with a wonderful Australian packaging manufacturer who does just this, they use exclusively solar power for all of their recyclable packaging.

Our BARR Sweden brand uses the best glass packaging available in Sweden and our French brand, Karethic use the best most sustainable recycled materials supplier in France.

We would love to have the best, most ethical packaging around.  Who wouldn’t? however, when that isn’t possible, we and the brands we distribute are working closely towards the next best, most innovative packaging available.  Science is fluid and new sustainable options are forever being launched.

It’s down to us as a brand to search out the best options available whilst also offering value for money for our clients and customers.  It’s down to us, as individuals, all to hold our governments accountable with regard to recycling practices – asking and demanding for better for ourselves, our families and Mother Earth.

Jayne x

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