As more and more consumers become environmentally conscious, it’s vital for businesses to embrace sustainability in their packaging. In fact, this should be a priority among businesses across all niches, as statistics show that more than half of the consumers worldwide take sustainable packaging into consideration before buying a product. According to a Future Market Insights analysis, sustainability is the most important driver for intelligent packaging growth.

Brands need to continually improve their packaging to make it more sustainable throughout the supply chain. While efforts to switch to renewable energy and practicing recycling are top of mind, now it’s time for brands to turn their attention towards packaging. The question is how do you make your packaging sustainable and stand out? Here are five sustainable packaging trends to watch out for in 2022.

1. Less is More

Materials used in product packaging impact the environment in some way. Common packaging materials such as paper, aluminum and glass use many natural resources like water, minerals and energy. Manufacturing these materials also generates air emissions, including heavy metals.

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

Minimalism is the key to reducing the packaging material. Minimalism embraces natural looking product art, free from clutter and complicated visuals. The trend involves simplifying features, such as using one strong typography, and one bold color for the entire packaging design. Sporting minimalism may also include using high contrast elements on top of simple, uncluttered backdrops and featuring clear labelling and branding throughout the design.

Simplified product art engages consumers without distractions and helps clearly communicate the brand story through the packaging design. Additionally, simplified packaging also enables a product to stand out on the shelf from competing brands with busy and overwhelming graphics.

2. Recyclable Packaging

In order for packaging to be recyclable, it needs to satisfy three simple criteria: be separable, labelled correctly and clean. Companies have to encourage their customers to actually recycle these products as some people may not be aware. 

Recycling is one of the oldest tricks in the book to protecting the environment. As long as done regularly, recycling can reduce the size of landfills, conserve natural resources, and help people save more money. A Future Market Insights (FMI) upcoming market intelligence report on Flexible Packaging Paper Market global packaging industry finds that, due to rise in plastic waste caused by packaging, market players around the world are now focusing on biodegradable and recyclable packaging material.

In 2022, Businesses to ditch the use of plastics and invest more in starch-based biomaterials, biodegradable packing peanuts, corrugated bubble wraps, and organic fabrics. These are considered green materials that effectively protect products from different elements.

The following are some trending eco-friendly packaging alternatives:

  • Biodegradable Packaging Peanuts: New York has recently reinstated a ban on the use of Styrofoam — which has been a standard in loose-fill packaging for fragile or otherwise sensitive items — helping to prevent movement and cushion against shocks. The closest thing to this packaging classic are biodegradable air peanuts. These work in the same way as Styrofoam, but don't pollute the environment and are also less expensive.
  • Air Pillows Made of Recycled Material: Inflatable air pillows are another great eco- and cost-saving alternative to Styrofoam or bubble wrap. Available in a variety of sizes, they are ideal for filling voids in boxes or providing cushioning around packed items. They are small bags, which can be inflated, and therefore, when used as packaging, consist primarily of air. This cuts down on the amount of plastic used in their production and means they can be shipped with minimal packaging when compared to other cushioning materials.
  • Constarch Packaging Cornstarch is an organic material that has made in-roads into the eco-friendly packaging industry. Derived from the corn or maize plant, it has plastic-like properties, which can be used in many contexts that have traditionally relied upon plastics.

3. Biodegradable or Compostable Packaging

It’s common for consumers to throw away the packaging after using or consuming the product. Regardless of the material used, this habit can harm the environment as the materials can threaten wildlife and pose risks to human health.

By 2022, the popularity of biodegradable or compostable packaging is expected to increase. The goal of biodegradable or compostable packaging is to allow second life for packaging instead of it harming the environment.

One of the most common examples of biodegradable or compostable packaging is to use plantable seed paper boxes. This type of packaging will produce beautiful plants once thrown away into soils and gardens.

The move towards biodegradable packaging in the food & beverage industry is mainly driven by the need of the industry to maintain environmental standards of the business, states a report by Future Market Insights (FMI). Thus, the food industry is adopting various biodegradable packaging to reduce the use of plastic. The following are a few examples:

  • Glass containers: Reusable, recyclable and durable material that’s also easy to clean and use as transportable food packaging. Glass food and drink containers include water bottles and bento boxes. 
  • Bamboo: Bamboo is biodegradable and possesses many desirable traits for food packaging, as it’s durable and heat resistant.
  • Rice husk: Rice husk is a byproduct of rice farming that’s low cost, renewable and biodegradable. One study, has shown that rice husk possesses bio-adsorbent properties, which means that it absorbs pollutants from its surrounding environment. Products made from this compound include sealable lunch boxes and shatterproof serving bowls.

4. Flexible Packaging

Flexible packaging is a means of packaging products through the use of non-rigid materials, which allow for more economical and customizable options. It is a relatively new method in the packaging market and has grown popular due to its high efficiency and cost-effective nature. This packaging method uses a variety of flexible materials — including foil, plastic and paper — to create pouches, bags, and other pliable product containers. Flexible packages are particularly useful in industries that require versatile packaging, such as the food and beverage, personal care and pharmaceutical industries.

Businesses have to consider the dimensions of their products. They need to make sure the packaging isn’t too big or too small to ensure that the product inside remains in tiptop condition.

2022 is the year where flexible packaging will become more common. This type of packaging requires less energy and water to manufacture and gives businesses the freedom to customize. This means that no matter the dimensions of a product, flexible packaging can be used. 

Flexible packaging is also reusable as this comes with zip locks and seals. Instead of disposing of the packaging after using the product inside, consumers can reuse it to store dry goods at home.

The materials used in flexible packaging are easy to manipulate and combine into innovative and customizable styles, such as:

  • Sample Pouches: Small packets composed of film and/or foil that get heat-sealed. They are typically pre-formed for easy in-house filling and sealing.
  • Printed Pouches: Sample pouches on which the product and brand information is printed for marketing purposes.
  • Sachets: Flat packets made of layered packaging material. They are frequently used for single-use pharmaceutical and personal care products. These are great for trade shows to distribute samples.
  • Printed Roll Stock: Unformed pouch material with product information pre-printed on it. These rolls get sent to a co-packer to get formed, filled and sealed.
  • Stock Bags: Stock bags are simple, blank formed bags or pouches. These can be used as blank bags/pouches and can have a label in order to promote a brand.

5. Use Of Eco-Friendly Inks

Contrary to popular belief, the raw materials used in the product packaging aren’t the only things harming the environment. The ink used to showcase brand names and product details can also damage the environment.

Petroleum-based inks are commonly used in product packaging but are actually considered hazardous waste. This type of ink contains heavy metals, namely lead, mercury and cadmium. These are toxic and are dangerous to both wildlife and humans.

In order to stay ahead of the competition in 2022, companies are refraining from using petroleum-based inks in their packaging and are instead looking for greener alternatives. For example, many companies are opting for soy-based or vegetable inks as these are biodegradable and less likely to release any toxic chemicals when manufactured or disposed of.

The following four prominent sustainable inks are commonly used for packaging:

  • Water-based inks: Contain lesser amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and simple ingredients. They’re popular for highly absorbent substrates, like corrugated paperboard. 
  • Soy/vegetable inks: Typically either derived from an organic compound, like corn oil or soybeans, and they're designed to print in a way that significantly reduces the release of VOCs.
  • UV inks: Dry almost instantly under a UV light and release 99.5% less VOCs. Plus, curable inks eliminate the need for additional coatings and protectants unlike conventional volatile inks.
  • Algae inks: Has a negative carbon footprint and is said to reduce carbon emissions by up to 20%. It's also resistant to UV light.

Brand Image Doesn’t Have to Suffer

Sustainable packaging can be both luxurious and ethical. Brands such as Gucci and Burberry have proven that creativity and design ownership aren’t forfeited when creating a sustainable product. Materials such as stone paper, bamboo paper, biodegradable seals and organic cotton woven printed labels are just some of the ways fashion brands can meet their sustainable goals. We’ll see more luxury brands follow this trend as today’s customers want to work with brands that care about the environment as much as they do their products.

Adapting to Trends Early is Key to Long-Term Success

Adapting to sustainable packing trends in 2022 is a win-win for all parties involved. Through sustainable packing, consumers get to use products that cause little to no harm to the environment while allowing your business to earn more and attract more consumers.

Undeniably, sustainable packaging will become mainstream in 2022, and the sooner brands and businesses can adapt to sustainable packing trends, the better chances the business has to succeed in the industry.