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Sustainable packaging trends in 2023

Gianni Linssen
Written by
Gianni Linssen
/ Published on
June 19, 2023
Sustainable packaging trends

Nowadays, sustainability is becoming more and more common. Many industries are looking for more eco-friendly methods of doing business. This goes for sustainable ways of packaging as well. With the increasing global consciousness towards sustainable practices, it is no surprise that consumer demand for sustainable packaging is growing at an unprecedented rate. According to the latest sustainable packaging statistics, 66% of all U.S. consumers, and 80% of adults under 34, are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. Participating in the circular economy is not just feel-good greenwashing; it is also good business that helps you edge out competition. The methods have changed a lot over the years. In this blog, we will look at some of the sustainable packaging trends we can expect in 2023.

Why are sustainable packaging trends happening?

Why sustainable packaging trends are happening is for one simple reason: protecting the environment. It is a well-known fact that the climate change is becoming more and more of a problem in the world. Thus, sustainability is becoming a greater priority. That is why companies are doing all they can to contribute to a better environment. One way of doing so is by improving sustainability in packaging. Since 25% of global emissions comes from consumer businesses, it is very important to think about ways to reduce those emissions. That is why sustainable packaging trends are the best solution.

Trends in sustainable packaging

Over the years, recycling has been one of the biggest trends in sustainable packaging for companies. Of course, this is still a trend, as recycling continues to be a great way of reducing waste. Yet, only recycling does not cut it anymore. That is why there are other trends in sustainable packaging that have been becoming more common, such as replacing plastics with paper and utilising reusable materials.

The 7R’s are a well-known topic for sustainable packaging trends. Together, they ensure that packaging can be done as sustainable as possible. The three words ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ are more commonly known throughout companies, but sustainable packaging has a more extensive list:

  • Refuse or reject packaging that is not sustainable
  • Reduce the number of materials needed for your packaging, or choose eco-friendly materials
  • Reuse or repurpose the used material
  • Renew by using renewable materials
  • Recycle all the packaging, so it can be reused
  • Replace the unsustainable materials used for packaging with eco-friendly alternatives
  • Rethink the way your packaging design works to make sure it is more sustainable


The sustainable packaging trends for 2023

Besides recycling, a few more sustainable packaging trends are being used by companies on a larger scale. These are five trends for sustainable packaging that are upcoming in 2023:

  1. Carbon labelling: this is an added label to the product, providing the consumer with additional information on the climate impact of what they consume. This helps consumers become more aware of the impact their choices make.
  2. Double-sided labels: another waste reduction strategy is the use of double-sided labels. By printing on the reverse side of a transparent laminate, brands can eliminate the need for a second pressure-sensitive facestock on clear packaging. This approach not only reduces the amount of material used, but also makes packaging more aesthetically pleasing and informative for consumers.
  3. Lightweighting and downsizing: Lightweighting involves using thinner containers and labels, reducing the material used compared to conventional methods. However, this strategy requires careful implementation to ensure that the packaging remains robust during shipping and product use. Downsizing, on the other hand, involves decreasing the overall size and volume of product packaging. This strategy can help eliminate excess waste in the circular economy, especially for products vulnerable to expiration or environmental degradation. It is important to communicate this strategy effectively to consumers, who might otherwise misunderstand the intent behind smaller packaging sizes.
  4. Bioplastics & biodegradable material: these materials are replacing the unsustainable plastics and other materials that cannot be reused. This entails the rise of bio-based, biodegradable and compostable packaging. Thanks to materials like rice husks, corn, cotton, wood, and even grapes, renewably sourced materials have skyrocketed in popularity. These materials not only come from sustainable sources, but are also capable of returning to the earth in a safe and timely manner when composted properly. This trend showcases the industry's creativity in finding novel, eco-friendly alternatives to traditional, environmentally harmful materials. In this blog, you will discover 10 types of biodegradable materials for packaging.
  5. Flexible packaging: this is a very inexpensive and efficient way of packaging as it offers customers customisable options for their packaging, made of flexible materials such as plastic, paper and foil. The reason this is one of the more popular sustainable packaging trends is that it can accommodate multiple types of products and can be customised very easily.
  6. Refillable/reusable packaging: this pertains to packaging that can be reused by companies after the empty packaging is returned by the customer. This trend of designing for reusability harks back to an era when milkmen delivered fresh milk in reusable jars. This practice is making a comeback, especially in specialty beauty, personal care, and beverage markets. Reusable packaging not only looks good, but also appeals to eco-conscious consumers, who are willing to pay a premium for products that help alleviate the guilt of packaging waste that shopping often entails. By being able to reuse the packaging multiple times, the environmental impact can be reduced greatly.
  7. Labels for reusable packaging: when it comes to reusable packaging, the labels need to be as durable as the containers themselves. Brands are now designing pressure-sensitive labels built to last far longer than labels on single-use plastics. These labels, which withstand repeated use, are not only good for the environment, but also provide consumers with the necessary product information over an extended period of time.
  8. Smarter waste reduction techniques: companies are thinking outside the box to limit packaging waste, using tools like linerless labels and innovative laminate solutions. While linerless labels may not be a silver bullet for every brand, for products with slower line speeds, they are worth considering. They offer a way to reduce waste without compromising the effectiveness of the packaging.
  9. Circular packaging platforms: brands are also exploring circular packaging platforms like Loop and Olive. These programs enable packaging exchanges between brands and their customers, promoting a zero-waste ideal. By reusing or recycling packaging materials, these platforms help to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of packaging materials, contributing to a more sustainable economy.
  10. Designing for end-of-life: brands are increasingly focusing on ensuring their packaging materials are compatible with recycling practices. For instance, combining paper packaging with plastic containers might seem like a good idea, but it can hinder recycling efforts. By considering the end-of-life of packaging materials, brands can ensure they are contributing to a truly circular economy.

Sustainable packaging trends are worth investing in

If your company is in need of more sustainable packaging, then it is important to really invest in it and do it right. Luckily, there are companies that specialise in sustainable packaging and can help you reduce the impact your company has on the environment. From cold seal packaging solutions to carton packaging solutions, anything is possible. It just depends on your product.

Despite the many advancements in green packaging products, recyclable materials are still the best way to support a sustainable economy. As recycling rates increase, items made from post-consumer waste (PCW) or post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials are more abundant than ever. Brands are saying "yes"to recycled plastic, recognizing its value in both environmental sustainability and consumer appeal.

The packaging industry is at a pivotal point in its evolution, with sustainability at the forefront of innovation and consumer demand. From smarter waste reduction techniques to design for reusability, bio-based materials, and recyclable packaging, the future of packaging is green. By embracing these trends in sustainable packaging, brands can not only meet consumer demand, but also contribute to a more sustainable world.

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