Sustainable packaging is packaging that specifically aims to reduce the environmental impact and harm created by packaging in a supply chain. There are various factors that can make packaging eco-friendly, but overall, sustainable packaging prioritizes the use of materials or principles of design that strive toward creating and maintaining a greener, more balanced environment. 

When we talk about sustainable packaging, the circular economy and life cycle of packaging materials are important aspects of the design process. The circular economy is a system of production that addresses climate change and global pollution by reforming the linear characteristics of economic productivity. In other words, instead of a “take, make, and waste” system of production, the circular economy promotes a loop in the life cycle of the products we create and use – removing the “waste” aspect by extending a product’s function or life even after its use.  

Sustainable packaging is packaging that participates in this circular economy, as it is designed to eliminate waste, minimize a supply chain’s greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately, encourage reusability or recyclability at the end of the packaging material’s life cycle.


So, what exactly makes packaging sustainable? Some important factors to consider are the materials that the packaging is made from, the packaging design, and what the packaging’s end-of-life cycle looks like. 

Packaging Materials: Sustainable packaging prioritizes materials that are renewable, responsibly sourced, and/or recyclable. Examples of common, sustainable packaging materials include paper and cardboard. Created from wood pulp, paper, and cardboard are derived from raw materials that are renewable and can be responsibly sourced from sustainable forestry initiatives.  

Packaging Design: Sustainable packaging should optimize a package’s design to remove excess space and eliminate the use of unnecessary packaging materials. Design-based changes in sustainable packaging not only can reduce packaging waste, but also promote both material and transportation efficiency, which can minimize a supply chain’s carbon footprint by cutting down on the amount of resource extraction that occurs, as well as the number of trips needed for shipment. 

End-of-Life Cycle for Packaging: Given the buildup of packaging waste in landfills and the environment, sustainable packaging should prioritize an eco-friendly end-of-life cycle for the packaging materials after use. For example, packaging that is curbside recyclable, compostable, or reusable can achieve an end-of-life cycle for used packaging material that does not cause or add to environmental harm. 

Simply put, sustainable packaging can encompass a variety of different things. The biggest takeaway is that all forms of sustainable packaging shoot for the same goal: protecting the product and the environment while reducing the environmental impact created by packaging in a supply chain.

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Want to learn more about

The Future of Sustainable Packaging?

We have created some resources to guide you in your transition to sustainable packaging:

Sustainably Packaged Magazine

Orora’s magazine dedicated to Sustainable Packaging insights, trends & ideas. Available in both Print and digital versions.

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Sustainable Packaging Podcast With Cory Connors

Cory chats with industry leaders about sustainable packaging options, new products, and how we can improve packaging sustainability.

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Sustainable Packaging Sourcebook

Our Sustainable Packaging Sourcebook is coming soon! Register for access to check out our ever growing sourcebook of new sustainable packaging technologies and materials.

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