Sustainability is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the ability to meet current needs without putting future resources and the environment in jeopardy. In the packaging industry, sustainability has risen to the forefront of new product development. Product packaging has been vilified in the past for its inefficient use of materials, many of which are harmful to the environment. Fortunately, the packaging industry has taken notice, and has begun to introduce innovative, sustainable, solutions in product packaging. Here are a few that have been unveiled:

Plant-based Packaging

Nothing says sustainable like packaging made from plants. One company which has started to use this technology is the Coca-Cola Corp, which uses plant-derived packaging for its Heinz ketchup brand. The bottles are PET plastic, made partially from plants. Their content and creation uses much fewer nonrenewable resources than other PET bottles widely used as packaging. Currently, only 30 percent of the package is made of plants, but that should change as this eco-friendly packaging becomes more popular with other manufacturers. Machinery Star Ratings According to Packaging World, the U.S. Department of Commerce is working on a way to rate energy efficient packaging machines. Called MachineryStar, the program would allow machines that fit certain energy-saving guidelines to bear a special seal of approval from the government. The program would look for things like automated machinery idle, energy usage monitors, and machines with more accurate packaging processes. The seal would work like the EnergyStar program in promoting the machines.

Tubes Instead of Bottles

Cosmetics and personal hygiene manufacturers have discovered that tube and pouch containers are more efficient to fill, and more efficient to create than bottles. They reduce the amount of packaging needed for the products as well. Packaging Digest describes the research and development push to create machinery and processes to accommodate the various shapes and consistencies that cosmetic and personal hygiene products take. Moving from bottles to tubes will require machinery changes or modifications, and eventually the introduction of new machinery.

A sustainability focus in the packaging industry has already led to real positive changes in the way companies approach product packaging. Redundancies in overwrap have been eliminated, along with packaging that is much too large to fit the product. As the industry moves forward, consumers can look for more bio-infused packages that sport a different, but much more eco-friendly look.