With the world more focused than ever on reducing waste and moving toward a sustainable future, Gnarly Nutrition recently joined the Responsible Packaging Movement. But how much of an impact does packaging really have on the environment?
Between talk about carbon footprints, fast fashion, and the many other environmental concerns making headlines today, it can be hard to know what changes make a real impact. And while sustainable packaging might seem like a small part of the picture at Gnarly, this type of change has big effects. Here’s why:
Why is packaging so important?
In the United States, the average person creates more than four pounds of waste every day. That number might surprise you, but if you take a look around, you’ll quickly realize how easy it is to create this much waste. Most foods bought today contain packaging of some kind, single-use products abound, and online ordering is at an all-time high. And while most packaging materials are opened and quickly discarded, they don’t simply disappear. This is the reason why the way we package products is so important.
As of 2018, packaging waste accounted for over 25% of all waste created each year in the USA, and that number is only growing. While an entirely packaging-free future might not be realistic, choosing better packaging materials can make a big difference in reducing landfill waste and ensuring clean land, air, and water.
Steel Vs. Plastic Packaging
The Facts: Plastic Pollution
It’s no secret that we have a plastic problem. This easy-to-make, ultra-durable material is the most common packaging product used today. And the environmental impacts of plastic are well documented. The effects of plastic pollution are widespread, with microplastic particles showing up in everything from marine animals to our own food. But if it’s disposed of properly, plastic packaging isn’t so bad, right?
Plastic vs. Steel Recyclability
Unfortunately, even when plastic doesn’t end up in the ocean or landfill, the end result isn’t exactly sustainable. Many types of plastic (although not all) can be recycled. But studies show that plastic recycling occurs at a very low rate. So, while plastic makes up the majority of packaging materials, less than 10% of plastic waste is recycled. And, while plastic recycling can help reduce packaging waste, it’s not a final solution because the quality of recycled plastic degrades each time it runs through the recycling process. Plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times before it’s no longer usable. After that, it ends up in a landfill (or worse, in the ocean).
These issues with plastic recyclability are one of the main reasons why steel is a preferred choice. Unlike plastic, steel is infinitely recyclable, which means that it can continue to be used indefinitely. And, steel is recycled at a much higher rate than plastic. Current studies show that around 70% of steel used today is recycled.
A cleaner solution
Working toward responsible packaging isn’t just about picking the most eco-friendly packaging material, it’s also about thinking long-term. It’s true: Steel does require extractive processes to produce. But, the fact that it’s both endlessly recyclable and is being recycled at a very high rate means that most steel in use today has already been recycled at least once. The process of recycling steel is much less resource-intensive than using new steel (or plastic). And, by sourcing packaging materials from local suppliers, the carbon footprint of steel packaging can be reduced even more. Unlike short-term solutions, the life cycle of steel will only get cleaner the more it’s recycled. So, while it’s not perfect, the long-term impacts of steel packaging suggest less landfill waste and a much longer lifespan.
Ready to join the Responsible Packaging revolution? Check out Gnarly Nutrition’s steel cans!