Our Packaging Framework In Action
Examples of Tradeoffs We've Made
Ultimately, a framework is only valuable if it helps a person or company make decisions, particularly those that are difficult and complex. Here are a few examples of how our Sustainability Framework has helped us make some hard choices.
Facestock Options and Adhesives of Our Stickers
Introducing the Zero Waste Liner was a no brainer. A 100% recycled, curbside recyclable release liner (in a land of silicone coated, virgin, unrecyclale liners) is a clear sustainable step forward.
Then we were faced with the question of facestocks. We started by only offering 100% recycled, uncoated paper facestocks. Uncoated paper is recyclable with paper and naturally biodegradable. Then we learned that many of our customers were adhering the stickers to their poly mailers. When paper stickers are put on poly mailers, they are a minor contaminant for reclaimers (and if all of their inputs contained paper stickers or labels, the contamination would become problematic).
This led us to consider a BOPP facestock as well. The BOPP facestock is currently virgin material, which made this a difficult decision for us. Ultimately, however, we realized how important to was for us to offer an option whose end of life matches that of our poly mailers and now offer BOPP alongside our uncoated paper facestock option.
Then came the question of adhesives. Do we focus on cost, recycle-compatibility or certified compostable? When talking to our customers, many of whom were intrigued by a compostable-specific adhesive, this seemed like a hard decision. When looking at this question through the lens of our framework, it was a much easier decision - go with the adhesive that is as compatible in the recycling process as possible and that also has enough tack to adhere to 100% recycled boxes and mailers.
The good news for folks looking for compostability is that adhesives make up such a small percent of an items overall weight that they rarely effect the overall item's ability to compost. But when faced with a tradeoff, the choice to prioritize recycle-compatibility was clear.
We Recommend Water Activated Tape Over Our Cello Tape
EcoEnclose carries water activated tape and two types of pressure sensitive tape, including one that is certified compostable with a cellulose facestock (our Cello Tape). When we are asked which one a company should use, we almost always recommend our Water Activated Tape first.
This surprises some people, especially since one of our WAT options is fiber reinforced and therefore is not biodegradable or compostable.
We prefer Water Activated Tape because it results in a significantly stronger bond than pressure sensitive tapes. This means you can use less tape (reduction of overall materials) and there is less chance of a box being damaged or tampered with in transit.
Additionally, while boxes can almost always be recycled with their tapes on them, water activated tape adhesive and facestock is more friendly to the paper repulping process than our Cello Tape. The fiberglass in the tape is screened out when the boxes are repulped.
We Carry Recycled Paper and Recycled Plastic Options
There has been an exciting move among companies to reduce their plastic use and some have actually set goals to eliminate all plastic use. We are sometimes asked why we carry any recycled plastic packaging at all given that our framework focuses on "readily recyclable" and recognizes the importance of "naturally biodegradable."
We have found that there is no one materials that perfectly meets all elements of our sustainability framework.
Our paper options are recycled, curbside recyclable and naturally biodegradable.
But our recycled poly options all have a lower carbon footprint than their paper mailer counterparts.
Additionally, we recognize that the demand for recycled paper is already very high, and therefore our role in creating demand for recycled plastic is actually more important and impactful than with recycled paper. We hope that by carrying recycled poly-based options, and pushing our manufacturing partners to keep increasing the recycled content and post-consumer waste percentage, we can actually help create industry-wide momentum.
Paper Is Our Gold Standard for a "Compostable Mailer"
Our decision to not offer a PLA+BPAT compostable poly mailer is one that is rooted deeply in our sustainability framework - our focus on recycled content and recyclability, domestic and well audited supple chains, and our concerns about corn and designing for compostability.
We know that it would be really easy to start offering a compostable poly mailer and that if we added it to our line, it would be a big boon for business.
But every day we make decisions and run our business in ways that may be a knock to our bottom line, but align with our principles and are the right thing to do for the planet.
When companies come to us asking for a compostable mailer our response is: We strongly recommend a paper mailer as the only compostable option available right now that meets our sustainability framework. Our paper mailers are 100% recycled, naturally biodegradable (so if they end up as litter, they will decompose and cause minimal harm to nature), curbside recyclable, and could be composted (though composters much prefer you to recycle them).
We Do Not Stock Shipping Boxes
Many packaging providers offer a myriad of stock shipping boxes in set dimensions. If we did this, we know we could increase some of our margin, reduce our lead times and perhaps get more sales. But doing this would have two ramifications: (1) Our customers may be much more likely to choose boxes that are bigger than they need to be, causing them to ship more air and wasted space. (2) We would hold more inventory of boxes, which would mean we'd have to expand our warehousing space and the room dedicated to storing stock boxes.
Because the consequences of stocking boxes does not meet our framework, we have made the decision to continue only producing boxes on demand, based on the sizes and specifications our customers need.