In the often-vexed discussion around natural products versus manmade, food packaging is generally at the top of the list for debate! As consumers, we are urged to buy fewer packaged goods, and then if we do buy packaged goods, to prioritise the purchase of products in natural packaging where possible.
There’s also the addition of dedicated council recycle bins to households is part of the campaign to lessen landfill – with a clear message to recycle as much of our packaging as we can.
Naturally, these concerns have spilled into the takeaway food sector, where much of what we buy is in single use containers, made of many and varied materials.
So, which is better – paper or plastic?
Paper, as a ‘natural’ product is what most would assume, but it’s not that simple. It’s not just the actual product that needs to be looked at – manufacturing processes for example also contribute to the carbon footprint of an item, and that is less obvious at first glance.
Here is a rundown of some of the pros and cons of paper and plastic packaging.
- While paper is a natural product – mostly made using wood from sustainable forests – the manufacture of it uses considerable quantities of power, which generally means fossil fuels. There is also a lot of water used in its production.
- Paper products that aren’t composted or recycled and end up in landfill break down anaerobically. According to the US Paper Life Cycle project, this produces methane, a greenhouse gas.
- Paper can be recycled to make other paper products, such as toilet paper and cardboard. However, there can be varying amounts of environmental costs, depending on the methods used to do so.
- If you are looking at different paper coffee cups for sale with a view to using them in your green marketing strategy, you need to ensure they aren’t lined with plastics that prevent them from being compostable.
- Many types of plastics can be recycled to make building materials and other packaging products. However, many can’t, so when you are considering customising cups and researching comparative costs of printed plastic cups wholesale, it’s important to be sure of the type of plastic used in the different cups on offer.
- When plastic ends up in landfill, it doesn’t break down, so it tends not to release any greenhouse gasses. However, it’s a major contributor to the growing issue the scale of landfill and environmental litter around the world.
- While there is an increasing availability of bio-plastics manufactured from natural products, which is reassuring consumers, the environmental costs of manufacturing can be similar to that of paper products.
- Public perception, due to aggressive marketing of natural products, can be skewed away from plastic, so if you opt to use plastic packaging, you may find you will need to run an awareness campaign to win over some of your customer base.
Until manufacturing and recycling processes evolve to offer more sustainable options, it’s clear that the pros and cons of plastic versus paper packaging will continue to be fairly muddy.
For most business owners, the choice can boil down to what is more financially viable. So, do your research, look at which product can best represent your philosophy – business and environmental, and then be prepared to stand by your choice with facts for those customers who ask.