The rise of e-commerce has led to a growth in the use of plastic for packaging - from the bag or box the order arrives in, to the individual bags the clothes and accessories are packaged in, everything is made up of plastic.
Even when brands try their best to use sustainable packaging, it is likely that plastic packaging was used further up in the supply chain and they’re not necessarily aware of it. Items are often shipped to the brand’s distribution centers, shops, or to other parts of the supply chain in plastic packaging, to prevent them from being damaged.
With the emergence of online shopping and increase in the number of clothes purchased every year, we’re also witnessing an increase in plastic packaging used by clothing brands.
It is important to keep in mind that eco-conscious consumers not only care about sustainable production but also about sustainable packaging. For brands that truly wish to embrace sustainability as a core value, a number of alternative packaging options are available.
Compostable packaging is made from plant-based materials and can break down at the end of their lifecycle, providing the earth with useful nutrients. However, that doesn’t mean one can dispose off their compostable packaging anywhere they like.
As the name suggests, it has to be disposed off correctly and added to a composting bin after use. Many brands attempt greenwashing in this context, going so far as to use the word ‘compostable’ when they really mean biodegradable. In case of compostable packaging, brands should ideally share special instructions regarding the disposal of their packaging.
One problem that is yet to be resolved is that the production of compostable bags is time-consuming, costly, and there is insufficient infrastructure in place to make it a standard across the fashion industry. However, as more brands begin to recognize the merits of compostable packages, we can expect more investments to solve these challenges in the not-so-distant future.
Partly recycled or 100% recycled packaging is gaining traction with eco-friendly brands. There are, in fact, a number of packaging choices that one can explore which includes paper bags, bioplastics, and cardboards.
It’s not unjust to raise the claim that paper and cardboard packaging are not water resistant, but that too can be resolved. Paper packaging with mineral coating is being adopted by industry leaders like L'Oréal. Such containers keep the contents safe from getting wet and dry very quickly when exposed to water.
While the sustainable packaging movement is a commendable one and the options mentioned above are all better than plastic, minimalist packaging can also be a solution to the plastic problem. Brands should start using compostable or recycled packaging, but this should be complemented with a reduced usage of packing altogether. The decision makers should begin to ask the question: “Is this piece of packaging absolutely necessary?”
Online orders are quite often packaged in far more layers than strictly required to prevent exposure, and in many cases, for aesthetic purposes. This also applies to the size of the package.
When you’re shipping a product, the package should be able to hold the product safely but it doesn’t need to be big enough to fit three of those in there. A major step in controlling plastic pollution would be to get rid of this excess packaging.
Benefits of using sustainable packaging
Our efforts to make the apparel industry sustainable would remain incomplete unless we pay equivalent attention to products and packaging. It's time to make a change and this change could begin with you.