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Plastic-Free Alternatives in Distribution and Retail



With the modern supply chain relying so heavily on packaging materials such as hard and soft plastics as well as packing peanuts and bubble wrap, it can be hard to see how making the switch to more environmentally friendly options could even be feasible in larger operations. With the options out in the world today, making the switch to more renewable and environmentally friendly options is not only feasible but in many cases can be beneficial. As more and more customers demand sustainability when shopping for products both online and in-store, the potential to build customer loyalty and raise profits increases. Considering alternate plastic-free packaging options can allow companies to avoid unnecessary excess plastic, and as more sustainable packaging technology advances, it can become a more viable option to implement into the global supply chain.

Out of all plastic pollution in the world, plastics used in packaging generates the most waste, even more than construction/building and textiles. While it is sometimes hard to see how some goods packed in hard or soft plastic containers and bottles may need them based on what the product is, everything from t-shirts to shampoos have different options for what kind of packaging can properly store them. Hard plastic containers can easily be replaced with cardboard boxes which, once it has fulfilled its purpose, can be either recycled into new material or can be composted. Reusable containers have also seen a rise in use over the years, glass and metal jars or bottles enables the consumer to store product without spending money on wasted plastic or other material and then clean them for use with another product. More and more stores have been popping up recently in North America and Europe that cater to those consumers that want to take their environmental consciousness to the next level by selling products with no packaging at all. These Zero Waste grocery stores offer everything from food to hygiene products like shampoo and toothpaste without any plastics or other packaging where the customer can either bring their own reusable storing devices or buy products that are designed to be zero waste. One of the biggest advancements in the movement away from plastic packaging is vegetable or hemp plastics. These plastics are made from a plant-based material that while it can biodegrade in 80 days, is still capable of containing a wide range of products including liquids. This makes it possible to cut back on many single-use plastics such as water bottles.

In the home of the consumer, single-use plastics for things like food storage can be easily replaced by an array of alternatives. These include paper bags, reusable containers and hemp, and vegetable plastics. Grocery stores themselves have made strides to reduce their environmental impact while at the same time improving profits with initiatives such as charging for customers to use plastic bags, promoting people to change to reusable bags. More grocery stores are also beginning to offer customers the option to bring in their plastic grocery bags to be recycled. Most stores also offer bulk bins for customers to reduce their packaging needs and get more reasonable amounts of product. Grocery stores are also beginning to offer more varieties of bulk foods than just candies and flour.

When the contents of a package are fragile, the manufacturers must take precautions to ensure their product stays intact during the shipping process until it reaches the consumer. Packing peanuts and bubble wrap have become an expected solution when it comes to keeping things safe during shipping. Companies such as amazon and lush, however, have opted for more sustainable and equally protective alternatives. Starch-based packing peanuts, like the ones used by lush, produce the same cushion-like environment their foam counterparts provide while also being biodegradable and can even be dissolved in water. Amazon packs many of its products with rolled-up paper, and other companies use shredded paper which keeps your products just as safe while being recyclable.

The environmental impact of plastics on the global scale today is undeniable and change towards a more sustainable way of packing products is not only possible and profitable in some cases, but it also necessary for our future to look to these more renewable alternatives. Technology on the products mentioned above and others is moving fast and becoming more efficient every day. With environmentally friendly products and company ideals being looked at more favourably by consumers, companies that align themselves with them have the advantage to build strong loyalty with their customers and have the potential to increase their profits. Customer education is essential to ensure that products and packaging changes are positive. With changes like these being made every day, we can not only do something good for business, but we can also do something good for the planet.

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