This report is for businesses seeking to make improvements to packaging design by taking a systemic view of material choices to lower the environmental impacts of packaging.

With concerns about the devastation caused by plastic packaging when it enters our natural environment, businesses and citizens are often understandably seeking alternatives to plastic. However, it is important to consider that all packaging has an impact on the environment, regardless of its material composition. Decisions should be considered, taking account of a range of environmental factors. There is no single ‘right’ answer as to the best packaging material when it comes to the environment. The critical thing is that businesses are able to provide a robust case for the choices made for each and every item of packaging.

Why read this report:  

  • It Illustrates the complexity of material comparisons using indicative case study examples and highlights areas for consideration when looking to make improvements to packaging design. (It doesn’t provide recommendations for material choices); 
  • outlines the merits and limitations of taking a lifecycle assessment (LCA) approach to improve existing packaging; and 
  • identifies where in your business and supply chain you may want to look for opportunities that will help make the most significant impact to your packaging footprint.

Businesses should aim to reduce the overall environmental impact of packaging specific to their supply chains, rather than rely on generalised assumptions of what packaging formats appear to be ‘the best'.

    Further guidance and resources

    All businesses should be able to justify their packaging design and material choice. There are many tools available to help you do this including the LCA and background research approach outlined in this report. On top of that or even before you go down that route consider referring to key industry guidance on packaging design.

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    • Material alternatives report

      PDF, 1.23 MB