10 February 2022

Name And Shame: Non-Biodegradable Packaging Materials


Non-biodegradable packaging is a buzz-phrase we’re all familiar with. However we spend a lot of time talking about the specifics of the materials that are biodegradable, good for the planet and generally environmentally friendly. But what about the ones that aren’t? Here are the Top 3 packaging materials that aren’t biodegradable and why they aren’t 😈 – and the alternatives that will give you the same result but with a more eco-friendly material πŸ˜‡Β 


  • Packing Peanuts

😈 These are the polystyrene small foam cylinders that you use in your cardboard boxes to cushion your products during shipping. They have been used since the 1960’s and are trusted for safely distributing products, however due to their size and material makeup they take a long time to decompose.Β 

πŸ˜‡ In the 1990’s, starch-based peanuts were invented as a more eco-friendly alternative. Biofoam is the name coined for the range of sustainable alternatives available on the market. As explained by Science Direct: Rigid biofoam composites are constituted by polymeric foamsobtained from functionalised vegetable oils in conjunction with synthetic/lignocellulosic fibres. Rigid biofoam composites are emerging as alternatives to traditional sandwich composites because of a higher potential for biodegradability and sustainability for ecofriendly design.


  • PVCΒ 

😈 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) packaging is the flexible packaging pocket that holds your delivery address and invoice on your shipping, it is the thin protective layer on your bank and loyalty cards, it’s the cling film that holds together all your products on pallets. It is the 3rd most widely manufactured polymer and because of its flexibility, transparency and relative inexpensiveness – it is used widely across all sectors. This product is unsustainable not just for the fact that it’s plastic, but also because half of the PVC used is created in China using coal to begin the process of heating up the initial solution.Β 

πŸ˜‡ Depending what you want to fill the packaging with, there are lots of different alternatives out there. The best option – as Good On You say: Believe it or not, natural rubber/latex (as opposed to synthetic rubber) used to be the go-to material before PVC came along.


  • Flexible Packaging

😈 Different to PVC, traditional flexible packaging is made from a combination of different plastics including:

– Polyolefin (POF)

– High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

– Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

– Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE)

– Polyethylene Terephthalate

This packaging is great for travel products, single-use products, test samples etc. Due to the waterproof nature of the end material, flexible packaging can hold liquids which is why it’s popular for products such as serums, creams, face masks, scrubs and shampoos/conditioners. However just because they use 60% less plastic and have a lower carbon footprint due to being shipped flat or rolled up; this doesn’t take away from the complex nature of the manufacturing process for this packaging and its form as a single-use product which leaves it with limited recyclability.

πŸ˜‡ Due to the popularity with consumers and corporations alike, flexible packaging is seeing an increase in movement for sustainable alternatives. Whereas before 80% of flexible packaging was unfit for recycling – there are now options for making a closed loop for this packaging option. The closest alternative has been created by Notpla – it is made from seaweed, is totally transparent and flexible as well as water-tight. As Bostik say: To fit a Circular Economy flexible packaging must be collected, sorted, regenerated and recycled at scale. For this to occur, most of today’s flexible packaging must be redesigned from multi-materials structures into mono-material ones for which recycling streams are in place.


Want to know more about packaging materials? Check out our blog post Top 5 Sustainable Materials: For Product Packaging and keep an eye on our social media for information, tips and trending topics in the sector.