Most consumer products come with packaging. However, beyond its protection, information and marketing purpose, packaging has a very short lifespan. So what can be done to minimise its impact on the environment? Is eco-friendly packaging even possible?
At L'Empreinte, we say yes. In addition to being a necessary shift for the coming years, eco-friendly packaging has a promising future, as consumers become increasingly aware of their environmental footprint and that of the products they buy. Here are some tips on how to make your packaging more sustainable.
There is a wide choice of possible materials, so it is best to choose the most durable ones: this is the first element to consider when designing a package. Cardboard is the obvious choice and has the advantage of reducing production costs and being environmentally friendly.
It is usually made from already recycled fibres, which helps to limit deforestation. "Thanks to our expertise, we know how to turn cardboard into an elegant material while recycling no less than 1,300 tonnes of paper per year, the equivalent of 22,000 trees", says Luc Janson, Partner and Vice-President of Marketing and Business Development at L'Empreinte.
For liquid and perishable contents, cardboard is not always a good option, but designing a plastic package does not mean giving up on environmental protection. For example, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a type of plastic that is fully recyclable, yet very strong and light.
There are many things you can do to limit the ecological impact of your packaging during its manufacture: choose sustainably produced paper, recycle what will not be marketed, filter chemicals and wastewater, or opt for a less polluting printing method.
Like L'Empreinte, you can choose FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper, a Canada-wide paper chain of custody certification that ensures environmental sustainability throughout the chain, guaranteed by an annual audit.
Paper waste can find a second life by being recycled. "We recycle residual materials, i.e. surplus production, with our partner Cascades, which enables us to make new paper pulp", explains Luc Janson. As for the solvents, varnishes and water needed for printing, Omega Recycling Technologies' state-of-the-art distillation process allows for 95% recovery. Nothing is lost, everything is transformed!
The printing method also plays an important role in the ecological footprint. In addition to preferring biodegradable inks (of vegetable origin for example), it is possible to go for UV printing, which requires no solvent for drying: the ultraviolet lamps automatically dry the ink. There is therefore no drying by oxidation, no alcohol that evaporates, no pollutants in the air. What's more, this innovative technology uses less energy.
Energy is at the heart of sustainable development. Working with a partner who makes the right eco-energy choices also determines the impact of packaging on the environment. For example, at L'Empreinte, the factory's ventilation system recycles the hot air generated by the presses and redistributes it throughout the premises, reducing heating consumption. In the future, a similar system will be adopted for water.
Both the manufacturers and the printers can also offset their emissions by joining programs that reinvest certified carbon credits in sustainable development projects such as reforestation. By joining NatureLab.World's program, L'Empreinte has offset its building and service vehicle emissions for the year 2021 and received a Verified Carbon Standard (VERRA) certification.
Green technologies are constantly evolving, and new solutions are constantly emerging, as Luc Janson explains: "We sometimes go looking for technologies that are not yet 100% perfected, but we improve them with our partners to further our ecological practices". It is thanks to this commitment that L'Empreinte has achieved carbon neutrality.
For packaging to be environmentally friendly, it is not enough to rethink just the item, but also its entire production process. Materials, recycling, technology, energy, partners: sustainability choices are made at every stage of the process and are all elements that will make your packaging truly eco-friendly, beyond mere appearances.Back to Trends