EcoEnclose believes in a future where humans and the earth are thriving together, where humans are a net positive contributor to our planet and humanity. In this future, leading eCommerce brands are a sustainable and regenerative force for the environment.
We see this future driven by a circular economy and regenerative materials production. We imagine a day when goods are endlessly recycled or reused and that any virgin materials are made from regenerative resources whose production strengthens soils, waterways, habitats, air quality, and local communities. In this future, every single piece of packaging can be and is recycled, so no materials and resources are wasted, and no packaging ends up as litter and in the oceans. In this future, the energy-fueling manufacturing and distribution of these products and packaging is from renewable sources.
We have two main components of our vision for sustainable packaging.
Materials Circularity: Endlessly Recycled and Reused
The average American goes through 4.5 lbs of waste daily, of which 30% is packaging. Most of the world’s packaging is made with plastic, aluminum, glass, and paper. In 2019, the rate of post-consumer waste in packaging among the largest brands in the US was just 6.2%. After being used just once, about 50% of this packaging is then landfilled, destining these raw materials to be wasted forever.
Our envisioned future is drastically different. In this future:
- Packaging is constantly being reused as often as possible before being recycled into new packaging materials.
- Recycled post-consumer content is ubiquitous, leading to all recycled goods getting purchased, reclaimed, and remanufactured.
- True recycling (rather than downcycling) is economically preferred. Consumers and companies are achieving a 100% recycling rate.
- Source reduction is an innate part of all product development and packaging decisions.
Achieving this long-term vision requires investments across every aspect of the recycling and remanufacturing supply chain. First, manufacturers, product companies, and packaging companies must invest in capabilities and equipment that enable them to use as much recycled content, and post-consumer content in particular. Consumers must be fully educated on how to recycle effectively and incentivized to recycle everything they possibly can. Finally, materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and other single-stream recyclers must invest in the equipment, people, and processes that allow for the cleanest and most comprehensive sorting possible.
We recognize that business actions alone cannot achieve this vision. Legislative action, community investments, and consumer advocacy are also essential.
EcoEnclose’s primary role in achieving this long-term vision is to invest in constantly increasing the recycled content and post-consumer waste rates in our offerings, promoting high rates of recycling, and encouraging reuse whenever possible. However, we know there is more we can and must do:
- Supporting and encouraging our EcoAlly community to increase recycled content rates in all of their products and supplies.
- Educating and incentivizing end consumers about reuse and recycling.
- Working with public agencies and other community organizations to increase recycling infrastructure investments.
- And more.
Regenerative: Net Positive Source Materials
Even as we strive toward endless circularity, we understand that new, virgin source materials will need to be created. We see a future in which all virgin raw materials are regenerative.
Regenerative goes many steps beyond “renewable.” Regenerative materials are ones whose production improves the environment and strengthens local communities - through long-term carbon sequestration, an empowered and well-paid workforce, improved soil health, and more.
Regenerative agriculture is becoming increasingly popular and setting the stage for this concept to take hold across other industries. This type of agriculture (compared to industrial and intensive agriculture) focuses on building up topsoil, increasing biodiversity, and improving the water cycle. Examples of regenerative agriculture in action are plenty - watch the Biggest Little Farm for some immediate inspiration.
Today, packaging materials can be made of inputs - ranging from nonrenewable such as mined metals, sand, and fossil fuels to renewable but currently highly degenerative such as corn and sugarcane to potentially regenerative such as trees, hemp, mushrooms, and agricultural waste.
EcoEnclose is looking to build a packaging future in which any virgin inputs are made with readily renewable source materials that are produced in regenerative ways, and can ultimately be reused and recycled.
EcoEnclose’s primary role in achieving this long-term vision is in our exploration and development of packaging solutions and materials, especially when fully recycled content is not yet a good option. We also research regenerative materials for non-packaging applications, knowing that this information can help our EcoAllies develop their product. Finally, we seek to engage with industry associations and community organizations, and legislative action can drive innovative regenerative production methods.
We are far from the above vision. Today, EcoEnclose and other environmentally progressive businesses and citizens are primarily focused on reducing the negative and not necessarily aiming for positive ecological and humanitarian impact.
We believe our vision for the future can become a reality as more individuals, businesses, communities, and governments move from a disposable culture toward one in which people make holistic, thoughtful decisions and investments. These investments are rooted in respect for the human and natural resources that go into how something is created and used and where something ends up after its initial use.
Our Sustainable Packaging Framework helps drive every one of our decisions to ensure that our actions, big and small, gradually move us towards this long-term vision.