Packaging is crucial as it protects the product from hazards that can occur during storage or the distribution cycle.
Packaging can be described as a synchronized system that encloses or protects products for transport, warehousing, logistics, retailing, and end-use.
Therefore, it is essential to have a good packaging system, starting with the packaging material itself.
There is a wide range of packing materials available in the market such as wood, cardboard, plastics, metal and more.
Types of Packaging Materials
The types of packaging materials used in the industry are extremely varied and they range from light and economical materials to complex reusable structures.
Packaging materials can be classified based on the number of materials they are formed of:
A mono-material is a product that is only composed of single packaging material. Products could be made out of paper, plastic, glass, fabric, metal, or other materials.
Because they only consist of a single material, mono-materials are typically easier to recycle than products made from different things.
They generally use less energy to recycle because these materials eliminate the need for material separation making recyclability easier to achieve.
The overall recycling process is, therefore, faster, more efficient, less energy-intensive, and more cost-effective.
A multi-material is a product that is formed by combining two or more materials like paperboard and metallised foil finishing.
They are often made up of a mix of paper, plastic, or foil and are not easily separated. The result is that they cannot be recycled easily and, in many cases, not recycled at all.
Mono-materials are important for the packaging industry as materials that cannot be recycled end up going to a landfill.
As packaging needs and waste is plenty, any reduction in landfill or increase in packaging that can be recycled will be beneficial to reduce the carbon footprint.
A list of the most common packaging materials used all over the world:
· Paper and Paperboard
Paper is used for making a large variety of thinner packaging products including labels, Kraft paper, paper bags, and more.
Paperboard is thicker and more durable than a standard paper material and is often used in primary packaging.
It is used for products like milk cartons, cereal boxes, and more. Fiberboard is used in both primary and secondary packaging of products and corrugated cardboard is a packaging material made out of fiberboard. Corrugated boxes are a major packaging material in the packaging industry.
Plastic is probably the most well-known packaging material with products like packing peanuts, clamshell containers, bottles, bags, film, flexible tubing, shrink film, and more.
It is flexible, lightweight, and durable and can be used to create food-safe, transparent, or opaque packing material.
It is also chemical and heat resistant. The problem faced with plastic is depending on the type of plastic being used it is extremely difficult to recycle.
Aluminium packaging is versatile and this material is highly resistant to corrosion. It offers excellent protection against light, ultraviolet rays, oils, and oxygen.
Aluminium is light and durable and can be used with laminates to provide extremely thin barrier protection for food and beverages.
It is frequently used to package food or medications due to its non-toxic nature and it is used to extend the shelf life of products.
Products like aluminium cans, foil, aerosol products, foil packaging, and more. Aluminium is recyclable.
Glass packaging still holds a significant market share within the packaging industry. It is particularly used in the food and beverage industry due to its nonporous, nontoxic material composition as it does not leak things into food and drink.
Glass is preferred by some companies because it is 100 per cent recyclable. It can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.
The main drawback of glass is that it requires a great deal of heat and energy to manufacture, making its production cost high and carbon footprint large. It also is difficult to transport glass containers as they are likely to break in transit.
Brands are interested to switch to more sustainable packing materials as this will make their packaging eco-friendly, sustainable, and easily recyclable.
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With the development of recycling systems and proper procedures to collect, sort and recycle, adopting eco-friendly packaging would help in saving the environment.