How Green is Your Packaging?

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Brands have come under fire for using styrofoam for packaging and are seeking alternatives to enhance their green reputations. Just walk along any beach in the winter and it’s easy to see that it makes a mess of the environment.

The problem with presenting a so-called “green” solution during an economic downturn is the assumption of increased costs in manufacturing and shipping, a factor which doesn’t sit well with packaged goods giants including P&G.

The American Chemistry Council, a coalition of companies that includes Procter & Gamble Chemicals, ExxonMobil, 3M, Shell, Sunoco, and the Solo Cup company, has suggested that instead of switching to bamboo or other sustainable alternatives, polystyrene packaging (Styrofoam) is preferable as it can be burned for fuel.

Unconvinced, Dell has announced that its bamboo packaging, used as cushioning in its laptops and certain netbooks, is now compostable.[more]

Dell began using bamboo-based packaging last year. Bamboo grows up to 24 inches per day and reaches full harvesting maturity in three to seven years, significantly faster than hardwoods.

Although Dell’s bamboo packaging is now compostable, it is not recyclable (yet). Dell, Georgia Pacific and Environmental Packaging International are in the process of certifying the packaging for recycling.

Green Island, NY-based Ecovative Design also created EcoCradle in 2007. The packaging material boasts the strength of styrofoam, but it’s grown (rather than manufactured) from agricultural byproducts like cotton seed hulls and buck wheat hulls, and a derivative of mushrooms helps to bond it together.

One advantage is that EcoCradle packing materials won’t persist in a landfill. It is anaerobically compostable, so it will also break down without the presence of oxygen.

Are green packing materials a smart alternative that enhances brand value? Post a comment and share your thoughts on our green marketing debate this week.

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