There’s a lot of talk and promises floating around these days regarding flexible and compostable packaging. It seems that every expo, show, or industry newsletter has some display, pitch, or article about it. More often than not, this information is riddled with deception and poor execution. These failures obscure the actual advances that have been made in the world of flexible and compostable packaging.
First, let’s get the facts straight.
Traditional flexible packaging is not recyclable at a sustainable scale.
Laminated flexible packaging is garbage and is not recyclable at all.
Compostable packaging (if manufactured correctly) is backyard compostable.
At an expo I attended this fall, one brand owner made a striking comment: "I'm making products – for lactating women – to help aid in their children's health. These same products are packaged in bags that their children will have to deal with when they are older. Something needs to be done."
This is a very real problem. Almost every film package you buy in a grocery store today is going into a landfill – at best. It's our responsibility as manufacturers, brand owners, and consumers to be aware and do what we can to aid in a more sustainable future.
So why aren't all film bags compostable?
Compostable packaging is considerably more expensive than traditional packaging, and most people, brand owners and consumers both, simply aren't willing to pay a premium now to fix the problems of the future. Even brands – who say they are committed to a sustainable community – are manufacturing products (importing from China, no less) – that cannot be recycled.
Brands have a choice, but most are choosing to place their margins over the opportunity to help pioneer the future. In other words, they don't consider it to be their responsibility and are therefore leaving it up to consumers to lead with their wallets. Regardless, it’s happening.
Compostable Packaging is the future – it really is. It has to be. One only has to go to Google Images and key in “ocean” and “plastic." The pictures literally don’t require an explanation. We could go on and on about it, justifying anything that we want, but the fact is there ARE solutions. Education, petitions from consumers to brand owners, and a clear path forward in manufacturing are just a few of the things that we can do – right now.
The point is not that compostable packaging is perfect (it isn’t) or that it will immediately solve everything (it won’t). But it still makes a difference. A sustainable future is everyone’s responsibility and this is one of the ways we can – and must – change the world. We've come a long way, but we have a long way to go.