01 February, 2021
- 448 million tons of plastic were produced in 2015; 161 million tons were used for packaging
- In 2015, only 14% of plastic packaging was recycled
- 40% of all the plastic produced is used in packaging, – that’s one use plastic.
- The yearly amount of plastic waste in the oceans is set to double by 2030
- In 2016, less than 20% of the world’s plastic waste was recycled
According to a Greenpeace projection, we’re on the way to produce even more.
Source: Green Peace
Now more than ever before is time for everyone to take action towards creating biodegradable and sustainable packaging.
Electronics companies are no exception.
This article will focus on electronic packaging, however, if your company uses a different product, feel free to apply these concepts in a different way.
We have compiled a list of biodegradable packaging materials very suitable for your electronics packaging, plus examples of the companies already using them successfully.
- Biodegradable Packaging Materials for Electronics.
- Electronics Packaging Design: 5 Sustainable Designs.
- Sustainable Packaging Success Stories
- Sell More by Creating More Environmentally Friendly Products
- How Does a Bad Packaging Choice Affect the Environment?
- Do Electronics Contribute To Packaging Waste?
- What Should Electronic Manufacturers Do to Reduce Packaging Waste?
- Plastic Clamshells, The Worst Of Offenders in Electronics Packaging
- Biodegradable Packaging Frequently Asked Questions
Biodegradable Packaging Materials for Electronics.
– Mushroom Packaging
This sustainable packaging uses non-food agricultural waste plus mycelium. Mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, serves as a natural glue to keep all the material together.
This material is 100% compostable. When in touch with moisture and soil microbes, it’ll start biodegrading.
Dell, in partnership with Mushroom packaging, designed a high performance and biodegradable packaging made out of mycelium and hemp for Dell’s servers
To make your very own environmentally friendly electronics packaging, you can get in touch with Mushroompackaging.
Geami is a disposable and recyclable combination of kraft paper and tissue, that when in use with the wrapPack manual converter, you can quickly wrap a product without the need of any tape.
Digikey uses it as part of its effort to create more environmentally friendly electronics packaging. Geami is an alternative to bubble wrap.
To find out more details about how to get this recyclable packaging material option into your operations, you can click here Ranpak
– Green Cell Foam
Another highly sustainable packaging option. Green cell foam is made out of corn, which makes it highly compostable.
This biodegradable packaging is perfect for keeping your electronic products safe. The green cell foam company can customize this green packaging material to meet your needs.
Echo360 sales recording units in a sustainable packaging that includes protective pads made out of Green Cell Foam made.
Here’s the link to the company behind this green packaging option Green Cell Foam
– Molded Pulp
Molded pulp has been in the market for a while, and most people know it as the material used to carry eggs.
The only materials required to make molded pulp are recycled paper and water.
There’s no need to add any chemicals to the process, which makes this product recyclable and biodegradable — putting it in the category of environmentally friendly electronics packaging materials.
BenQ gives us a look at what creative design can do for you. They created a full molded pulp packaging for its projectors, making it an excellent example of an electronic product that uses 100% recyclable packaging materials.
Different companies offer molded pulp services, here’s a link for you to get in touch PulpMolding
Electronics Packaging Design: 5 Sustainable Designs.
To further inspire you we have selected 5 ideas which will help you to make your next electronics packaging as environmentally friendly as possible.
– Fully Recyclable Package for Headphones, by Sennheiser
This recyclable electronics packaging uses recycled cardboard. There’s no need to use plastic clamshells.
– Kindle DX, 90% made of recycled materials, by Amazon
Delivering an elegant unpacking experience but still emphasizing the use of environmentally friendly materials.
– Molded Pulp Packaging for Cellphone, by Microsoft
It was a short-lived Microsoft smartphone but is a perfect example to illustrate how recycled egg trays made of molded pulp can work on packaging sensitive electronics.
– Recycled paper packaging and shipping box, by Litl Webbook
An electronic packaging that’s environmentally friendly as it’s made from recyclable paper and that also serves the purpose of shipping box without using any foam or plastics.
– Bamboo Biodegradable Packaging, by Dell
Dell created highly recyclable and compostable bamboo cushions to package their Mini10 and Mini 10v netbooks.
As you can see, it’s possible to design electronics packaging that is biodegradable and sustainable.
Sustainable Packaging Success Stories
1-When HP decided to start using virgin fiber from responsibly managed forests for fluting and liner; they were able to decrease packaging materials by 29%.
The packaging reduction translated to savings of 3-5 million USD yearly in shipping costs.
2- Coca Cola, though not a technology company, has saved around 180 million USD a year by embracing biodegradable packaging.
Sell More by Creating More Environmentally Friendly Products
According to Global Web Index, 61% of consumers in the US are willing to change to more environmentally friendly brands.
How Does a Bad Packaging Choice Affect the Environment?
Littering might be the most obvious; packaging becomes trash, which is unpleasant to see and might become dangerous for different animals.
Packaging materials such as cardboard and plastic are indeed the main constituents of litter. If they’re not biodegradable, it’ll take many years for them to decompose, while they’re at it, they’ll release chemicals into the soil or water.
A lot of the packagings find their way to rivers, lakes, and oceans. Consequently, wastewater is discharged by factories that manufacture oil-based packaging materials.
As such, if the packaging is not biodegradable, it will cause considerable damage to marine life.
The manufacture of miscellaneous oil-based materials used in packagings, such as adhesives, coatings, and inks, is a source of hydrocarbon pollution.
As we move into a more significant digital age, where electronic devices are vital for our everyday functioning, we’ll continue to increase the amount of packaging waste.
It becomes imperative for any socially responsible company to consider two things when it comes to the packaging of electronic products.
- Increase the amount of environmentally friendly materials used for packaging.
- Reduce the number of packaging components.
Do Electronics Contribute To Packaging Waste?
Electronic products tend to be quite delicate and therefore need more protective packaging than most other products, making this an interesting challenge.
Most companies pack electronic products in plastic clamshells or cardboard/paperboard boxes. The more accessories they have, the more packaging will be needed to keep it all together.
Please take a look at the following packaging for a Huawei cellphone; it perfectly illustrates how many electronics are packaged nowadays.
There’s one box, three additional cardboard pieces to hold accessories, and the cellphone itself. Plus plastic wrappers around the USB cable and headphones, and even a tiny plastic bag containing an adaptor.
While Huawei does an excellent job of using certified recyclable packaging materials, this doesn’t guarantee that, in all instances, these materials will find their way to a recycling plant. Most of the packaging of many electronics will end up in some landfill.
As the electronics market keeps on developing, companies continue to manufacture more electronic products.
According to information from the world economic forum, in 2017 alone, 1.47 billion smartphones were sold, and by 2020 there could be as many as 2.87 billion, and that’s just smartphones.
With the advent of 5G, the internet of things industry seems to be getting ready for a significant jump, and we could see as many as 50 billion IoT devices in use by 2020.
There’s one thing all of these electronic products have in common; they come in packages of different sizes and different materials.
What do people usually do with the packaging of their new electronic devices? They throw it away.
What Should Electronic Manufacturers Do to Reduce Packaging Waste?
First, they should focus on incorporating biodegradable and recycled materials into their electronic packaging design.
Some environmentally friendly packaging materials are:
- Recycled cardboard and wrapping sheets
- Biodegradable packing peanuts
- Cornstarch packaging
- Mycelium and hemp packaging
- Molded Pulp
- Paper Tape
- Green Cell Foam
Secondly, reduce the number of packaging components.
Choosing biodegradable packaging made of materials that are recyclable and preferably recycled already, is excellent to make your packaging environmentally friendly. It would help if you also cared for reducing the amount of packaging you’ll use.
Take a look at the following picture of the packaging of a smartphone. Notice how a headphones adaptor is placed in a plastic bag? Even though it is recycled, wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the bag altogether?
How about, instead of using that plastic bag, the adaptor was attached -using paper tape- to the surface of the piece of cardboard in the red square.
Or even better, why not create an aperture that will hold the adaptor, just like they did for the SIM eject tool.
The piece of cardboard in the red square is a compartment to hold documentation.
Could all of that paper- that most people won’t even bother to read- be left out from the packaging and include a QR code to direct people to the online version of the document?
There are small things one could do to reduce the use of packaging materials. Seeing we package thousands of electronics every day, this will make a difference.
Always keep in mind the different minimum package requirements for the product to be safe and meet standards of the market you’re going to sell it to.
Plastic Clamshells, The Worst Of Offenders in Electronics Packaging
Plastic clamshell packaging or any other kind of heavy oil-based plastic packaging. While this kind of packaging might be cheap to get, please keep in mind that plastic is one of the most harmful humanmade packaging materials.
Plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. The plastic bags we use for different everyday activities require from 10 to 1,000 years to go away.
Even plastic that decomposes quickly is an environmental hazard. As it starts breaking down, it releases toxic toxins that find their way into the soil and water, depending on where they’re decomposing.
You will, of course, have to determine whether any of the materials above are capable of keeping your product safe on their journey from the factory to the hands of the consumers.
The best way to find out details is to directly get in touch with companies that can provide you with environmentally friendly packaging.
Reducing the amount of waste we create is essential for our survival on this planet.
As the electronics industry expands, it becomes a matter of social responsibility and progressive business thinking to choose more environmentally friendly packaging as well as reducing the amount of it.
By choosing biodegradable packaging, you can rest assured that the packaging of your products won’t harm the environment.
If the packaging is not recycled, it will decompose in a matter of weeks without releasing any chemicals.
You can get in touch with companies that provide these biodegradable and recyclable products by clicking on the links in the following list.
- Formosa Flexible Packaging Corp -Taiwan- Compostable packaging
- Mondi- USA-Europe-Sustainable paper and cardboard packaging
- Natureworksllc- USA- Bioplastic made of plants for packaging
- Mushroom packaging- USA-Packaging made of mycelium
- Ranpak-Geami- USA-Asia- Packaging made of recycled paper
- Betterpackcages-USA-Asia-Recycled Paper Tape
- Atlanticpulp- USA-Molded pulp packaging
Biodegradable Packaging Frequently Asked Questions
What are some examples of Biodegradable Plastics?
Polyamide 11 or PA 11
PA 11 is produced from castor beans and comes with a combination of high-performance properties such as high thermal, chemical, and impact resistance.
Because of this, PA 11 is often used as a cost-effective replacement for metal and rubber in technical applications.
Example products would be components in many vehicles such as automobiles and aircraft.
PHA is a polyester that is made naturally in the world with bacteria’s ferment lipids or sugars.
As such, it has been deemed biocompatible, resulting in its application for medical purposes such as sutures, bone plates, and bone marrow scaffolds.
On top of that, it also sees use in single-use packaging for beverages, consumer products, food, etc.
PHA is Biodegradable and will degrade when it comes into contact with soil, compost, or marine sediment.
PLA or Polylactic Acid
PLA is a vegetable-based plastic material commonly consisting of cornstarch or sugar cane as a material.
When it comes to biodegradable packaging, PLA is often used for plastic films or food containers due to the ease of shaping it into almost any required shape.
PLA will naturally break down in a controlled environment; as such, it is classified as both a biodegradable as well as a compostable material.
What is the best practice for packaging electronics?
Best practice, as always, is to reduce the amount of packaging and use recycled and biodegradable materials whenever you can.
Finally, be sure to clearly label your packaging materials so that it is easier for the end-user to recycle.