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sustainable packaging

What Packaging is Environmentally Friendly? Breaking Down Sustainability Terms

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Sustainability means meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable packaging, also known as eco-friendly or green packaging, is defined as being easy to recycle, safe for individuals, safe for the environment, and made out of recycled materials.

Many packaged products are advertised with environmental sustainability jargon, such as “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable” or “compostable,” without companies elaborating on the claims, and consumers are rightfully confused.

What exactly do each of these sustainability terms mean, and how do these claims reflect the type of product packaging you’re getting? Read on to find out.

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Biodegradable and compostable both describe a package’s end of life – but while all compostable materials are biodegradable, not all biodegradable materials are compostable. Biodegradable means that an item can decompose into its base elements through microbial activity over time. Compostable describes a material’s ability to biodegrade in a short time period in a controlled composting environment.

These sustainability terms are used interchangeably, which adds to consumer confusion. The biggest difference is that biodegrading occurs naturally, while composting is a human-driven process.

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What Does Biodegradable Mean?

When a biodegradable material reaches the end of its life cycle, bacteria and other organisms in an ecosystem will begin to break down the product. Gradually, the material will decompose, or biodegrade, in natural environments and will eventually be converted into components such as carbon dioxide and water.

Examples of Biodegradable Products

Most biodegradable packaging materials are made of cardboard, paper, cornstarch, and bioplastic. Examples include label stock, board stock, corrugated boxes, packaging peanuts and envelopes.

Many biodegradable packages consist of bio-based materials, though there are a few exceptions. When in doubt, it’s best to ask your material supplier directly to ensure the materials align with your sustainability initiatives.

How to Measure the Biodegradability of a Material

OECD 301B is the main way to measure a material’s biodegradability. This international testing method measures how quickly a material will break down in water over a period of 28 days. If a material passes the OECD 301B test within the 28-day timeframe and within 10 days of reaching 10% biodegradation, it’s categorized as “readily biodegradable.”

How to Properly Dispose of Biodegradable Materials

Composting is usually the best way to dispose of biodegradable materials, though you can safely toss biodegradable waste in the trash. It’s also important to note that conditions like temperature, water, light, oxygen and bacteria impact the time it takes for products to biodegrade. Materials that can safely biodegrade in nature or a home compost heap will take much longer to biodegrade in a landfill.

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What Does Compostable Mean?

Compostable materials will quickly biodegrade in a home or industrial composting environment. In order for a product to be classified as compostable, the material must biodegrade naturally without leaving visual remnants or unacceptable levels of toxic residues.

When comparing compostable vs. biodegradable materials, remember that while all compostable materials are biodegradable, not all biodegradable materials are compostable.

Examples of Compostable Products

Compostable packaging materials are derived from fossils, trees, sugar cane, seaweed, cellulose fiber or other renewable resources. Common examples include paperboard, paperfoam, bamboo fiber, coatings, inks and additives.

How to Measure the Compostability of a Material

The ASTM D6400 and ASTM D6868 standards are often used to evaluate the compostable characteristics of plastic and fiber-based packaging materials. ASTM D6400 measures if plastic or plastic-based products will “compost satisfactorily” in municipal and industrial aerobic composting facilities.

Meanwhile, ASTM D686 measures whether or not packaging materials with attached biodegradable plastic film or coating compost in the same kinds of facilities.

How to Properly Dispose of Compostable Materials

Compostable packaging materials – including those made of plastic – can be composted in a commercial or industrial composting facility. If this kind of facility isn’t located nearby, it’s best to throw compostable materials in the garbage since they often aren’t recyclable.

There are only a few industrial composting facilities around the world, which means a lot of brands are greenwashing their environmental claims by saying a product is compostable when it realistically cannot be composted. Home compostability is a more realistic standard which SmartSolve materials meet, meaning the packaging materials can decompose into nutrient-rich soil in a home compost bin. The ideal conditions for composting are warm temperatures, moisture, plenty of oxygen and nutrients.

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What Does Bio-Based Mean?

Bio-based products are made from renewable plant or animal feedstocks at the beginning of a package’s life cycle. The terms “biobased,” “renewable” and “biotic” are used interchangeably.

Most bio-based materials are biodegradable, and some are compostable. On labels, the percentage of bio-based materials listed reflects the quantity of renewable materials that were sourced to make the product.

Examples of Bio-Based Products

The most common examples of bio-based materials are fiber-based packaging, paper and adhesives that originate from trees, wheat straw or bamboo. Others include bioplastics, which are made from materials like food waste, sugarcane, corn starch, potatoes, mushroom roots and algae. PLA, a bioplastic made from corn, is often used in compostable food packaging.

How to Quantify a Material’s Bio-Based Content

The bio-based nature of a product is tested against the ASTM D6866 standard which quantifies a material’s bio-based content. This standard uses radiocarbon analysis to determine the content of solid, liquid or gaseous samples.

Currently, a material only needs to contain 20% renewable materials to be called a bioplastic, which means the other 80% could be made of fossil fuel-based plastic resins or synthetic additives which will not degrade. SmartSolve is working to create a bio-based substrate containing 100% bio-based content.

How to Properly Dispose of Bio-Based Products

If bio-based products are also biodegradable and compostable, they can be composted or brought to a biogas plant to be used as renewable energy. Many bio-based packaging materials can also be recycled, including bio-based plastics. When recycled, bio-based plastics are collected by recyclers and brought to a recycling plant. After being processed, they can be reused.

One downfall of bio-based products is that not all types can be recycled in the same way, and recyclability often depends on the facility. For example, bio-based paper is recyclable as long as the facility can recycle paper.

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SmartSolve’s water soluble materials are comprised of bio-based wood fibers that are sourced from FSC Certified forests. Our paper-based materials are non-toxic, biodegradable and approved for both home and industrial composting.

There is still progress to be made across the industry to make product packaging more eco-friendly, and we see a future full of innovation to help companies reach their sustainability goals and reduce our environmental impact. Get in touch with our team to discuss how our water soluble materials can help you go beyond recycling.

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SmartSolve Sponsors SPC Impact 2022

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SmartSolve was a proud sponsor of SPC Impact 2022, the flagship open event from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. This April, the SPC held their first in-person event since the pandemic began, and more than 700 packaging and sustainability professionals gathered to collaborate and share insights on sustainable packaging.

Josette Lee represented SmartSolve at the conference, and we’re sharing the takeaways she brought back to our team.

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SmartSolve was the presenting sponsor for the April 5th panel, “Reaching A Perfect Trifecta: Brands’ Goals, Manufacturing Innovation and Recovery Infrastructure.” In this session, brands and manufacturers spearheading creative initiatives shared their perspective on sustainable packaging solutions.

Consumers today have a more sophisticated understanding of packaging sustainability, which has accelerated the pace in which brands evolve their packaging. This has a trickle effect on packaging manufacturers and converters, who need to develop solutions at the speed and scale brands need, while still ensuring the recovery phase meets recyclability and/or compostability criteria and a great consumer experience. Attendees of this session were able to hear ways to come up with the best solutions when managing supply chain elements from industry leaders at the SPC, Conagra Brands and WestRock.

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A number of beauty and personal care brands have deployed reusable and refillable packaging programs around the world, and sustainability in the beauty world was large focus at SPC Impact 2022. Lee shares, “I was really impressed with the focus on clean beauty and the discussion about refillable containers changing the scope of the beauty industry. There are so many amazing properties with powder, and many brands could benefit from SmartSolve’s water-soluble packaging as they formulate new products like refill pouches.”

Sustainability leaders in the beauty industry are trying to change the game of how single-use sampling and packaging is used, and a combination of reusable and zero-waste packaging looks like the future.

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SmartSolve Booth at SPC Impact 2022 Event

SmartSolve’s interactive booth at SPC Impact gained a lot of attention with the demonstration of our water-soluble label material. SmartSolve pressure sensitive labels, unlike traditional labels, possess the unique added advantage of quickly and easily dissolving when coming into contact with water and agitation. The labels dissolve in 30 seconds or less in any water temperature, leave behind no adhesive residue and are perfect for reusable containers.

SmartSolve water soluble labels compliment the recycling “wash” process, leaving behind pure granulate with no adhesive residue, and improving the recyclability of PET plastics. The wash water from the test label variables indicates that the labels break down in the process and are removed from the surface of the PET flake.

“Overall, it was a great event with talented speakers. Vendors are reducing the amount of plastic used in containers and some are using biodegradable material on the outside of the plastic, but SmartSolve’s booth definitely stood out the most for its innovation,” says Lee.

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The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is a membership-based collaborative that believes in the power of industry to make packaging more sustainable. Their mission is to bring sustainable packaging stakeholders together to catalyze actionable improvements to packaging systems and lend an authoritative voice on issues related to packaging sustainability.

The SPC is the leading voice on packaging sustainability, and its members – including SmartSolve – are passionate about creating packaging that is good for people and good for the environment.

The SPC defines sustainable packaging as “beneficial, safe and healthy for individuals and communities throughout its lifecycle; meets market criteria for both performance and cost; optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials; and is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles.”

If you’re interested in utilizing water-soluble materials to achieve more sustainable packaging processes, get in touch with SmartSolve today.

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Breaking Down Water-Soluble Paper

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Hand Dipping Water Soluble Paper Into Pool of Water

Water-soluble paper is at the core of everything we do at SmartSolve. This completely dispersible paper product has a wide range of uses across a diverse spectrum of businesses and industries. SmartSolve’s versatile dissolving paper helps organizations from a variety of markets reach their sustainability goals effortlessly.

Read on to learn some of the secrets behind this disappearing paper and ways dissolvable paper can benefit your business.

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Water-soluble paper is an advanced paper technology that can dissolve quickly in water, or biodegrade more slowly in a moist environment. Dispersion can occur in 30 seconds or less with a large amount of water and agitation, or it can be slowed by controlling the amount of moisture in the environment. SmartSolve’s dissolvable paper is printable and available in a variety of sizes to fit businesses’ needs.

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SmartSolve’s dissolving paper is made from a paper-based material that’s largely composed of cellulose, a very finely-ground wood pulp sourced from FSC-certified forests, and other compostable ingredients. During manufacturing, a locking mechanism forms between each individual fiber. When exposed to water, the locking mechanisms release, allowing the tiny fibers to separate and biodegrade.

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Water-soluble paper can be used the same as any other paper product – just with the added benefit of solubility. Popular uses for this product include:

  • Hang tags and labeling that will dissolve without any adhesive residue leftover.

  • Container labeling, with the ability to wash off the previous container label and apply new.

  • Personal care products such as soaps, body wash and any other dry formulations.

  • Soluble pattern paper for quilting and other sewing projects.

  • Single-use saturated soap or colorant sheets.

  • Dissolvable seed strips or packets for germination.

  • Secure, dissolvable documents for government organizations and institutions.

  • Novelty dissolving paper for toys, games, schools, churches, magicians and other marketing ventures.

  • Tearable packets or dissolving packaging for granulated products and soap-making.

  • New product innovations being brought to the market which emphasize sustainability and functionality.

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SmartSolve’s water-soluble paper is 100% biodegradable and dispersible in water, exceeding the marine standards for biodegradability. Because our materials are a non-toxic, environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional paper, businesses use dissolvable paper as an easy and efficient way to meet their sustainability goals.

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The wide variety of uses for water-soluble paper is what makes this product one of SmartSolve’s most popular materials. Our dissolving paper is functionally printable with any type of ink, using any type of printer, including press, flexographic, inkjet and laser printers. However, just because you functionally can print with any ink on SmartSolve paper, doesn’t mean you should. You will want to assess if the inks you’re using match your desire for sustainability. For example, it’s not ideal to print with oil-based inks, since oil does not dissolve in water. Because this versatile material is eco-friendly, making the switch to water-soluble paper for projects and campaigns can also boost consumer confidence and attract new customers who support sustainable brands.

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With the ability for customization and environmental benefits, it’s easy to see why SmartSolve’s dissolvable paper has become so popular. Our dispersible paper comes in a variety of sheet sizes and weights. Plus, we offer a wide range of water-soluble printing, adhesive and packaging materials to meet your organization’s needs.

If you’re looking for sustainable, water-soluble paper or labeling solutions, get in touch with our team today and learn how our products can work for your business.

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Harry’s Re-Imagines Razor Packaging With Water-Soluble Pouches

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In 2020, more than 158 million people in the U.S. used disposable razors, and that number continues growing each year. Because razors are sharp and made of mixed materials, they (and the plastic packaging they typically come in) are not recyclable and end up in landfills.

Harry’s was created to be different from other shaving companies, and in their Miami for Design Week showcase, they demonstrated how packaging can be another standout feature of their personal care products.

Harry's SmartSolve Dissolvable Razor Pouch

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Popular shaving brand Harry’s made a splash on Instagram with a post featuring their “magically appearing” razor. The video shows their product pouch being held under the faucet and dissolving to reveal a new razor concept made from 100% recycled material.

Harry’s worked with SmartSolve to create their branded water-soluble pouch for this project. Their goal was to bring science and design together to make a zero-waste package for their permanent razor handle.

Frank Zaremba, Designer at Harry’s, shared, “The event went great and people really loved the experience of running the packaging under the faucet! It was one of our biggest hits for Harry's on Instagram ever.”

While this product is not currently available for purchase, consumers are abuzz about this razor that is not only made from 100% recycled materials, but can also be recycled again after use. There’s also a lot of chatter about the dissolvable packaging it comes in.

Harry's SmartSolve Dissolving Pouch Under Water Reveals Razor

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SmartSolve’s water-soluble pouches, also known as dissolvable pouches or sachets, are made of bio-based wood pulp fibers that disperse completely in water with no adhesive residue. The pouch shape is retained by a heat-seal coating, and once it comes in contact with water, the dispersion process begins. The adhesive completely dissolves while the wood pulp fibers begin to separate and return to their original bio-based state.

The 3X15 pouch material from SmartSolve has passed the GD4 flushability tests used to certify toilet paper and wipes, meaning the material is safe to go down the drain. The dissolved pouch material is also safe for the environment and fish, meeting marine biodegradation standards and the EPA’s Ecological Risk Assessment.

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The personal care and beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging worldwide every year – most of which is not recyclable. Cardboard takes about 2 months to decompose in landfills, while plastic can take up to 1,000 years, with some types never decomposing. SmartSolve’s dissolvable packaging gives brands the potential for zero-waste practices and provide an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastics.

Beyond environmental considerations, water-soluble pouches provide unique branding capabilities. When brands leverage SmartSolve’s water-soluble technology and share their products on social media platforms, they’ve seen a major boost in engagement. In addition to Harry’s, female personal care brand Daye has seen massive success on social media from campaigns featuring SmartSolve’s flushable, “disappearing” pouches, exposing a global audience of eco-conscious consumers to their products.

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According to Flexible Packaging, “One sustainable packing trend to watch out for in 2022 is the use of lesser materials. Businesses are steering away from using excessive materials in their packaging and only using materials that actually serve a purpose.”

Harry’s dissolving razor packaging is just one of many applications for SmartSolve’s water-soluble materials. Get in touch with our team or request a sample to see what our pouch solutions can do for your brand.

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Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider founded Harry’s in 2012 because they were tired of overpaying for over-designed razors. They wanted simple, high-quality products at a fair price and decided to do something about it. Harry’s flagship product is razors with blade refills that come in a recyclable box.

Harry’s launched its subscription service in 2013 and has grown to offer shave, body, face and hair products for men. As part of their mission to stand out from other men’s brands, they donate 1% of sales to charitable organizations promoting better mental health care for men. Follow Harry’s on Instagram for updates on how they’re re-imagining razors and other everyday household items.

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