Sustainable Packaging Materials

In this guide, the packaging experts at Impak Retail take a closer look at sustainable packaging and why you should consider it for your products. Not only will sustainable materials help the planet — but they may also help you earn more customers and spend less on packaging overall.

Read on for a crash course on sustainable materials for packaging, and partner with us for industry-leading sustainability solutions.

What is Sustainable Packaging?

Like other products designed to minimize impact (or even benefit) the environment, sustainable packaging is designed for an eco-friendly footprint. This can be accomplished in several different ways, including choosing sustainable materials that are recyclable, biodegradable, or nontoxic—as well as simply reducing the amount of material used for your packaging.

The Benefits of Using Sustainable Packaging Materials

Before diving into the DNA of sustainable packaging—as well as its many shapes, sizes, and innovative designs—let’s first look at its many benefits.

Protecting the environment. The most obvious benefit of sustainable packaging is its environmental impact—or lack thereof. Traditional packaging materials such as plastic, Styrofoam, and certain types of cardboard contribute to the pollution of soil and waterways and can lead to a number of negative impacts on wildlife and humans. By choosing sustainable packaging that’s biodegradable or recyclable, you’re stopping harmful waste from entering the environment in the first place.

Keeping your customers—and earning new ones. Due to education, scientific advancements, and increased activism, more consumers care about sustainability than ever before. If your product packaging isn’t sustainable, customers make take notice and choose not to shop with you. Alternatively, if you make sustainability integral to your brand, you may find yourself with new, eco-minded customers.

Saving you money. Though it’s not always the case, going sustainable can save your business money. Certain recycled materials are cheaper than new ones, and less material is certainly cheaper than more of it. As you weigh the benefits of packaging with sustainable material, keep cost savings in mind. You might be surprised at what you can save.

What Are the Different Types of Sustainable Packaging Materials?

With new innovations and insights from traditional solutions around the world, there are now more sustainable packaging material choices than ever before.

Here are just a few of the most popular options:

Recycled cardboard. This sustainable packaging material is made from reclaimed cardboard boxes, paper scraps, and other post-consumer or post-industrial cardboard waste. By reducing the need for virgin pulp, recycled cardboard conserves natural resources like trees and water. Manufacturing recycled cardboard is also energy-efficient, as the process typically uses less energy compared to starting from nothing. It’s also widely recyclable and biodegradable, contributing to a circular economy where materials are reused or returned to nature.

Bioplastics. These sustainable packaging materials can be made from several renewable resources — including cornstarch, sugarcane, and algae — offering an eco-friendly alternative to conventional plastics derived from fossil fuels. They often have a lower carbon footprint due to their plant-based origins and their ability to sequester carbon during growth. Certain types of bioplastics are also compostable, breaking down more quickly than traditional plastics when processed in industrial composting facilities.

Bamboo. This fast-growing sustainable material is exceptionally durable, biodegradable, and requires minimal processing and pesticides — making it both eco-friendly and cost-friendly. Bamboo packaging is often used for containers, cutlery, and even fabric-based pouches. Its lightweight nature and strength make it ideal for a variety of uses, from food and beverage packaging to cosmetics. By opting for bamboo, both you and your customers can contribute to reducing deforestation and waste.

Organic Cotton. This all-natural sustainable material is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, making it a more sustainable choice compared to conventional cotton. It promotes soil health, and water conservation, and reduces harmful runoff, contributing to a healthier ecosystem. Packaging made from organic cotton is not only biodegradable; it’s also reusable — something that single-use plastics are not. By choosing organic cotton, you can support environmentally responsible agriculture and reduce your ecological footprint.

Glass. This age-old sustainable packaging material is endlessly recyclable without loss of quality. Made from abundant natural resources — most commonly, sand — glass containers can also be cleaned and refilled multiple times, extending their lifecycle considerably. Unlike some plastics, glass does not leach chemicals into the products it contains, making it a safe option for food and beverage storage. It’s an excellent choice for footprint-conscious brands and both eco- and health-conscious consumers.

Sustainable Packaging Options Offered by Impak Retail

As one of the industry’s premier providers of innovative packaging solutions, Impak Retail is proud to offer two SCS-certified, sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic packaging.


Collected from coastal pollution found on beaches and waterways, OceanPoly® is one of the best uses of the plastic waste that fills our global ocean. OceanPoly® mailers are made with 50% recycled content and contain a minimum of 25% post-consumer recycled marine plastics. This durable material makes for excellent, attractive packaging that can be recycled through store drop-off programs.


RethinkPoly™ is another eco-conscious option for e-commerce brands that rely heavily on poly mailers. Lightweight, made of recycled material, and recyclable, RethinkPoly™ is a custom packaging line from Impak that is less expensive than its cousin, OceanPoly®. Visit How2Recycle to find the closest store drop-off location of over 18,000 nationwide listings.

Beyond the Materials: Designing Packaging for Sustainability

While your material selection makes up the bulk of your packaging’s sustainability score—it’s not the only thing involved in making a package sustainable. In fact, the choices you make in the design and manufacturing of your packaging materials can go a long way in improving your brand’s overall sustainability efforts as well as offer the client an eco-friendly unboxing experience. Here are a few smart design angles to consider making your package more sustainable.

#1 – Size. It sounds simple, but it’s important to remember. Less material used means less material created. Even the most sustainable materials have a carbon footprint, so using less of them will benefit the planet. It may also benefit your spending in several areas, including material costs and shipping rates.

#2 – Reusability. Packages designed to be reused by the end consumer are great ways to contribute to a circular economy. When a package takes on a second life, it eliminates the need for a second package to be purchased. Likewise, when packages can serve as storage solutions, they help reduce the need for new storage products.

#3 – Branding. A package being reusable, recyclable, or even biodegradable is one thing. Getting consumers to properly reuse, recycle, or dispose of it is another. This is where your branding comes in. With sustainability-focused copy and imagery, you can get your customers to make the right choices with your packaging. (You may even attract new customers with this eco-branding.)

Bring Your Brand into the Future with Impak

Is your brand packaging part of the eco-friendly revolution? Impak Retail is committed to using sustainable materials in our packaging design and manufacturing processes. Contact us today to learn more.