It often feels as though plastic has become Public Enemy #1, and in the last 10 years, there’s been a huge push for people to reduce their use of plastic. Plastic straw bans and plastic bag bans are becoming more and more common. It might surprise you to learn that as plastic manufacturers, we are deeply concerned with sustainability and our impact on the environment.

Our company’s story begins way back in 1967, when plastics weren’t as commonly used as they are today. Located in Portland, long known as a center of environmental innovation, we’ve naturally been concerned with minimizing our impact on the environment for decades. In fact, we’ve been reducing, recycling and reusing long before it was popular or required.

We are passionate about the environment and we are passionate about plastics, and we don’t believe that these two passions necessarily have to contradict each other. While plastic waste is a serious issue, plastics in general benefit the planet in many ways, including:

1. Increasing Safety
Plastic packaging protects food products, beverages and pharmaceutical products from moisture and mold. While packaging is certainly our main focus at Indepak, we would be remiss if we didn’t expand on the safety issue.

For instance, using plastics in the medical field allows patients to be treated safely just about anywhere. Consider the world before plastic, when IV containers and syringes were crafted from glass. Transporting medicines and life-saving devices was difficult with these breakable materials, but with plastics, we can bring medicines and equipment into dangerous situations without risking breakage and contamination.

2. Reducing Waste
Did you know that it is estimated that as much and one-third of all produced food is wasted worldwide? That’s a shocking fact, especially when you think of how many people go hungry every day. Plastic packaging manufacturers, however, know that plastic can go a long way to reducing this waste.

At Indepak, we encourage our specialty food clients to consider sustainable options, such as clamshell packages that can be closed easily or tubs with lids, allowing consumers to eat just a portion of a food product and save the rest for later.

Additionally, modified atmosphere packaging, which uses gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide, can extend the shelf life of many fresh foods. MAP packaging can be used for everything from raw meats to lunch meats to cheeses to ready meals and much more.

3. Theft Prevention & Damage Prevention
How hard is it to open a cardboard box and take out a product? Not very hard at all. Now think about a sealed clamshell or a full face blister pack. It can be much more difficult to open these packages, as just about any consumer can tell you.

While there can be some frustration with the good old clamshell, there’s no denying that it keeps your products safe from tampering. The impact resistance also prevents damage during transport and damage if an item is dropped from a shelf. Plastic absorbs the impact, keeping your product and parts as safe as possible. When you think about lost revenue due to tampering or damage, using plastic definitely comes out as your best packaging option.

4. Reducing Fuel Usage
Plastics are lightweight and certainly not as heavy as aluminum or glass. Even those paper bags, which are so popular these days, weigh far more than plastic bags. Transporting heavier items requires more fuel, so using plastic for your packaging actually can reduce fuel usage overall.

Additionally, think about other ways in which plastic is used. Automobiles have many plastic components, and this can reduce their weight without reducing safety. Rubber and plastic are quite impact-resistant, which makes them an excellent choice for many automotive components.

Of course, you might counter with the thought that cars are heavier today than they were back in the 1950s, and this is true. But the design of today’s cars are far different and include many more safety features that add weight, such as seatbelts and airbags (made from plastic, naturally). So while the vehicles are heavier, plastic allows us to increase safety while minimizing the weight as much as possible, and this helps improve fuel efficiency.

So, how do we increase sustainability? We have several options for our clients to consider, including.

1. Trap Blisters – We are experts at creating different types of blister packaging, including trap blisters, which is a package that incorporates paperboard and plastic. Trap blisters are a great way to protect and display your product while also allowing you to reduce the amount of plastic needed to create the packaging.

2. Recyclable Materials – Virtually every material we use is recyclable, and some plastics are easier for consumers to recycle than others. For instance, PET, PETG and HDPE are accepted by most curbside recycling centers, and these plastics can be used for many products. Many other plastics we use, such as PVC, PP and OPS also can be recycled, to name a few.

3. Recycled Content – As seasoned plastic packaging manufacturers, we are able to work with a wide range of materials, including plastics that contain all or some recycled content. This can be a great option for your products, and we highly recommend that you showcase this commitment to the environment on your labeling, so that consumers are aware that you’ve chosen to use this sustainable option.

4. Starch-Based Bioplastics – These are plastics created from renewable sources, such as cornstarch. These can be used to create packages as well as plastic products. In some cases, these plastics are biodegradable or compostable or both.

5. Smaller Packaging Sizes – Because plastic is impact-resistant and highly protective, we don’t have to use a ton of excess material to create an attractive and protective package. Reducing the amount of material used is definitely a step toward sustainability, and our design team will work hard to keep material use at a minimum.

Of course, that still leaves us with the question of how to reduce the use of plastic and reduce waste in general. There are some easy steps that everyone can take, and you can even create a company-wide waste reduction initiative. Here are a few ideas:

Reusable Bottles
Provide your employees with a reusable water bottle and place large water coolers in your break rooms so that employees don’t need to use plastic water bottles. You also could place reusable filtered water pitchers in the company refrigerators.

Increase Recycling
Set up recycling bins to make it easy for employees to recycle different types of packaging. Place a chart near these bins so that employees can learn more about what items can be recycled and what cannot be recycled.

Buy In Bulk
Skip individual packaging. While individual packs of sugar, salt, pepper and other condiments are convenient, buying these items in a large bulk package is a more sustainable option. You can purchase a couple of reusable sugar pourers as well as salt and pepper shakers, and large containers of ketchup, mustard and other condiments.

Consider The Coffee
Those handy coffee pods are, well, quite handy, making it easy for employees to enjoy a quick cup of coffee. But, those little cups tend to get dumped into the landfill. There are solutions for this issue.

First, you can buy a couple of coffee pots and make coffee the old-fashioned way. But of course, that starts the debate about reusable vs. disposable coffee cups and the cleaning of cups and the coffee pot and who makes the coffee, etc.

You could, of course, just teach your staff how to recycle the pods properly. First, carefully remove the foil top and toss that into the recycle bin. Second, remove the grounds and the filter and place those in the regular trash. Lastly, toss the empty pod into the recycling bin. It takes just a few seconds to recycle one of these coffee pods.

Reduce Your Paper Use
Place a recycling bin by each printer so that it’s easy for employees to recycle. Encourage employees to print double-sided or to use programs such as Google Docs, which allows people to collaborate and edit documents online rather than printing each version of a document.

How We Can Help
As for packaging, if you’ve been searching for plastic manufacturers that offer a variety of sustainable options, give the team at Indepak a call. We can discuss your unique packaging project and come up with an attractive design that reduces environmental impact and stays within your budget.

We’ve been plastic packaging manufacturers for more than 50 years, and can create plastic clamshells, blister packaging, thermoform trays, plastic tubs with lids, and much more. We work with a variety of retailers as well as companies in the specialty foods industry, the electronics industry and the medical & pharmaceutical industry.