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Plastic Free Is Just the Beginning, Seek Out Sustainable Natural Fibers

Plastic Free Is Just the Beginning, Seek Out Sustainable Natural Fibers

Aug 17th 2021

Over the past year, we've been excited to see so many brands of all sizes adopt ambitious sustainable packaging goals. 

As more and more companies decide to go plastic-free with their packaging, we like to remind our community how important it is to see plastic-free as just the starting point and definitely not the holy grail of their sustainable packaging strategy. 

When going plastic-free, you want to avoid bioplastics (which should not be considered plastic-free as they don't address the challenges posted by plastic) and seek out natural fibers that are recyclable and naturally biodegradable.  This mostly means tree-based paper, though straw, bagasse and other fibers are fairly common paper sources as well. If you find that the functional qualities of plastic are essential to your business needs, we strongly recommend 100% recycled poly mailers as the most circular and eco-friendly option.

As you think about your paper-based packaging strategy, it is absolutely critical to source paper and other natural fibers as responsibly as possible. This is because so much virgin tree fiber comes from ancient and endangered forests, which are key to biodiversity, carbon sequestration, air quality, flood and drought control, and the well being of indigenous communities. 

If brands skip the step of thoroughly vetting the source material of their paper packaging, they may inadvertently be replacing plastic with an alternative that is even more damaging to the planet. How can you ethically and responsibly source your paper packaging? 

EcoEnclose is proud to be a Canopy Pack4Good partner, and we've adopted their guidance on how to prioritize source materials for paper. Click here to review our Canopy Pack4Good Sourcing PolicyCanopy is an organization dedicated to preserving ancient and endangered forests, by working with the forest industry’s biggest customers and their suppliers to develop business solutions that protect these last frontier forests. With Canopy's guidance, we have focused on the following (listed in order of ecological priority for us):

  • Post-consumer recycled content
  • Pre-consumer recycled content (i.e. post industrial content that comes from scraps in the paper making process)
  • Certified sustainable virgin content (ideally from FSC certified sources)

With Canopy's guidance, we are also exploring opportunities to develop paper based packaging made with agricultural waste, such as hemp or straw. 

We avoid all virgin paper whose sources are unknown. 

Canopy has put together a visual guide to sourcing paper as well.

EPN_PaperSteps

They also have a wide variety of valuable tools to help businesses make ethical and sustainable choices when it comes to paper packaging.