What Is Eco-Friendly Packaging?

A supermarket offering products in eco packaging.
A supermarket offering products in eco packaging. (Image: Carsten Koall/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Eco-friendly packaging may also be called "sustainable" or “green” packaging. As defined by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, eco-friendly packaging is safe for individuals and the environment, is easily recycled, utilizes renewable energy, uses as much renewable or recycled materials as possible and requires the least amount of materials and energy as possible. Examples of eco-friendly approaches include making packaging from plant materials such as flax and discontinuing the use of some non-recyclable materials, such as PVC and other plastics.

EPA Encouragement

The Environmental Protection Agency encourages companies to move toward eco-friendly packaging and has many online resources to help businesses make the transition. The EPA's suggestions complement and often mirror the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s definition, from evaluating whether there is a need for packaging at all, to removing any toxic components such as those found in certain glues and inks. The bottom line is that eco-friendly packaging is not merely recyclable or made from recycled products -- it also in general uses fewer resources overall. For example, making packages with higher recycled content reduces deforestation; making them smaller requires fewer shipping trucks, saving fuel.

Consumer Popularity

According to the New York Times, consumers are rewarding this environmental attention to product packaging. Businesses small and large are paying attention, with major industries forging coalitions to help one another reduce packaging waste. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, for example, has set a member goal to collectively reduce landfill waste by 4 billion pounds between 2005 and 2020; as of 2011, it saw a reduction of 1.5 billion pounds.

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