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Sustainable Food Packaging Can Reduce Waste by Over 60% — So Consider These Brands

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
April 5, 2022

When we think about eating for the planet, a couple things come to mind: We know locally-grown ingredients are more eco-friendly than foods shipped from across the planet, and we also know that the environmental toll of factory farming meat is greater than that of growing produce. What we don’t always think about, however, is the impact of the packaging our food comes in.

Read next: 5 Easy Ways to Eat More Sustainably at Home

Even if we avoid processed foods like boxed frozen meals or canned soups, we still end up throwing away or recycling a significant amount of food packaging daily purely from simple ingredients. In fact, every year, over 60% of the packaging waste in the United States comes from food and food products — that’s close to 200 million pounds! — and only a third of that gets composted or recycled.

Fortunately, there are companies focused on helping food manufacturers do better. Here, we examine forms of food packaging that are less wasteful, and give a shout-out to the brands that are using them. The following types of packaging are plastic-free, and many are compostable. That means they break down on their own rather than remaining permanent waste products. There are plenty of really classic forms of sustainable food packaging — mason jars and recyclable glass bottles are top of the list — but here, we’re focusing on the more progressive versions.

Compostable pouches and boxes

Health food brands like 18 Rabbits Organics and Alter Eco utilize compostable stand-up pouches made by elk packaging. You may have seen these packages when buying granola, quinoa, or rice at your local health food store. Because elk custom-makes their products to suit each company’s individual needs, every brand is able to ensure their desired look and feel is achieved.

Organic brand alara uses park 2 nature’s compostable boxes for their line of cereals. These boxes look and feel similar to what you expect from a traditional food box, but rather than sit in landfills endlessly, these biodegrade instead. 

You might not have considered the bag your coffee comes in, but any step that can be taken to avoid growing landfills is a wise one. Coffee company One World Coffee Roasters opts for BioBag to sell their coffee to consumers. It’s completely compostable, and keeps coffee just as fresh as conventional plastic and metal-lined coffee pouches do, but all the raw materials used for it are renewable.

Paper foam

Tea brand Pukka uses PaperFoam for their tea boxes, as does champagne producer Veuve Clicquot. It’s biodegradable, and has a 90% reduced carbon footprint over standard paper products. Paper foam is made of industrial starch, natural fibers, and water, which is then formed into a paste and baked in a mold. The result: A paper package that is undetectable from less eco-friendly options. 

Recycled wine bottles

Reusing and recycling wine bottles is common, but creating new wine bottles out of recycled old wines is not. That’s exactly what Gallo Glass does, and if the name is familiar to you as a wine brand, that’s because they’re one and the same. E&J Gallo began in the 1950s and continues to sell wine, but unlike most other wine companies, they’re also strongly focused on sustainability. They use energy efficient furnaces to make their recycled bottles, resulting in 80% reduced emissions. They sell recycled wine bottles in all the various shapes needed for different varietals of grapes. 

Read next: The Top 11 Plant-Based Items at Trader Joe’s Nutritionists *Love*

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