Recyclable Packaging: Meaning, Varieties, Pros, and Cons

Nick Mirev
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    Virtually every product sold has some form of packaging. However, the packaging industry is one of the main polluters worldwide. That’s why the demand for recyclable packaging solutions has increased significantly in recent years. From sustainable eCommerce packaging to biodegradable food packaging solutions, manufacturers constantly introduce new packaging options for businesses. Although some of these solutions increase the cost of goods sold, a lot of business owners prefer to invest in recyclable packaging as they aim to lower the ecological footprint of their products and services. Governments all over the world have introduced legislation aimed at reducing waste. That’s why companies need to invest in sustainable alternatives if they want to keep their place in the market. In this post, we’ll shed some light on different recyclable packaging options. If you’re interested in the packaging industry and its latest developments, make sure to also read the articles on packaging costs and packaging trends.

    What Is Recyclable Packaging

    The term recyclable packaging includes different types of packaging materials and solutions that can be reused or recycled. In recent years, demand for such products has increased a lot. Even though they often come at a higher price, many businesses prefer to use eco-friendly and recyclable packaging compared to polluting alternatives. Even though companies in the food and beverage industry as well as other markets are switching to sustainable options, packaging is still a major source of waste worldwide.

    Key takeaway: Paper, metal, and glass are the three most popular recyclable packaging options. Most types of plastics can also be recycled. As food packaging is one of the main polluters worldwide, governments and institutions are introducing more strict laws and regulations aimed at the environmental impact of packaging materials.
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    Recyclable Packaging Varieties

    There are various eco-friendly packaging solutions on the market. Some of them are suitable for food and drinks while others are more commonly used in eCommerce packaging.

    Paper and Cardboard

    Paper is one of the most common materials for different types of packaging. It’s also one of the most recycled materials. Cardboard boxes are commonly used for secondary packaging. They can be reused by customers for storage. One of the main benefits of paper as a recyclable packaging option is that it is also biodegradable. It will naturally break down within a few weeks. Paper is also cheap and it can easily be turned into custom packaging.


    Glass is infinitely recyclable. That means it can be recycled over and over again without loss in quality. Glass containers are primarily used for beverages and food products. Glass is also popular as a primary packaging solution for cosmetics. One of the disadvantages of glass packaging is its weight. It can contribute to significantly higher transportation costs if you purchase wholesale packaging of glass jars or bottles compared to plastic alternatives.


    Aluminum and steel are among the most commonly used metal recyclable packaging materials. Their durability makes them suitable for various applications. Lower ecological footprint can be achieved by using recycled metal.

    Certain Plastics

    Although it takes plastics centuries to decompose naturally, most varieties on the market are recyclable. Their main advantages are the low price and durability. The big disadvantage is that they often get thrown away by customers and not recycled.

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    Pros and Cons of Recyclable Packaging

    Advantages of Recyclable Packaging Options

    The main reason why businesses should use recyclable packaging solutions is sustainability. Recycling reduces the pollution levels. Commitment to eco-friendly policies can also be used as part of a business’s marketing strategy. An increasing number of consumers take corporate social responsibility into consideration when buying products or services.

    Although recyclable packaging is often more expensive than single-use packaging, it can result in profit increases and cost savings as well. For example, businesses that focus on eco-friendliness might be able to access markets with strict regulations that are not available for other competitors. Using recyclable packaging materials also leads to reduced disposal costs.

    In the past decades, governments around the world have been focusing on policies mandating more sustainable practices. That is especially true for packaging, as it is one of the major polluters. Therefore, investments in eco-friendly and recyclable packaging will likely be mandatory in the near future.

    Disadvantages of Recyclable Packaging Options

    Small businesses in the eCommerce niche or other industries might have difficulties incorporating eco-friendly packaging solutions because of their higher prices. Nevertheless, thanks to services like contract packaging, the packaging process can be outsourced.

    In the US, there’s a very good recycling infrastructure. However, that’s not true for all parts of the world. In countries where recycling infrastructure is limited, investments in sustainable packaging alternatives are not so popular.

    Biodegradable packaging slowly increases its market share compared to recyclable packaging solutions. Although biodegradable options are not harmful to the environment, they can rarely be reused.

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    Frequently Asked Questions about Recyclable Packaging

    Packaging is one of the biggest industries worldwide. That’s why BlueCart has multiple articles related to this topic like the one about packaging tips for shipping. Make sure to also check the answers to popular questions regarding recyclable packaging below.

    What Are Other Eco-Friendly Policies to Incorporate?

    The switch towards sustainable economic growth can be achieved in multiple ways. Let’s examine some green policies that businesses can introduce.

    1. Renewable energy and energy efficiency. Solar photovoltaic systems can be great to lower utility bills for both businesses and households. Combined with energy-efficient lighting and appliances, they can significantly reduce the ecological footprint.
    2. Use eco-friendly cleaning products. Distributors of wholesale janitorial supplies offer a variety of cleaning solutions that are eco-friendly and manufactured in a sustainable manner.
    3. Shop locally and limit food waste. A large portion of the food produced is not consumed. Buying food from local producers and reducing food waste can be great for the environment.
    4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Do you really need to buy it? If you already have it, can you reuse it instead of throwing it away? If not, can it be recycled? Answering these questions can help a lot in the battle against pollution.

    What Packaging Materials Are Unsustainable?

    Although sustainable packaging is one of the popular trends in the packaging industry, a lot more needs to be done to reverse the trends of pollution. Here are a few packaging materials that should be avoided as they are not eco-friendly and sustainable.

    1. Polystyrene. Packing peanuts are a good example of products made from non-recyclable polystyrene. This type of plastic is also used for single-use cups and other products. It’s commonly referred to as styrofoam.
    2. Multi-layered plastic (MLP). These packaging solutions include various materials such as plastics, paper, and aluminum. They are much harder to recycle as the packaging layers need to be broken down.
    3. Single-use plastic bottles or other items. There are multiple biodegradable alternatives to plastic packaging that can be used instead of single-use solutions.

    Is Biodegradable Packaging the Same as Recyclable Packaging?

    No. There are significant differences between the terms biodegradable and recyclable. Biodegradable packaging materials are the ones that break down easily in the environment. Recyclable materials can be turned back into raw materials and used again to make new products. Some biodegradable options are also recyclable. Paper and cardboard are the two most obvious examples of eco-friendly packaging materials that are both recyclable and biodegradable.

    In recent years, compostable solutions have become very popular as well. Compostable goods take less time to break down in the environment. The main benefit of compostable materials is they can be used to enrich soil. Examples include yard waste, dead flowers, untreated wood, and products made of pure cotton.

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