Posted on March 26, 2009 by Dennis Salazar

How to Avoid a Sustainable Packaging Dead End

In my opinion, there are some concepts and ideas in sustainability that are still not as well understood and accepted as they should be. Back in November, 2007 I wrote an article for Sustainable Is Good titled “The One Material Myth” .

The theme of that article was that in many cases, a combination of two, easily separated and sorted materials is a much better sustainable solution compared to one material that is not as eco–friendly or as easily recycled.

The key to that theory and statement is “easily separated and sorted”. Recently I have been seeing a rash of two material packaging products being sold under a green flag that are absolutely terrible in terms of sustainability. They are virtual green dead ends because the final outcome will always be a land fill.

Eco Dead End Products

bubble-mailersA terrific example of this is the cushioned or lined mailer envelope. The make and model is not important or whether the mailer is lined with foam or a bubble product. If the liner is fused to the paper, no one is going to separate and recycle either material so the whole mailer winds up in the trash. The mailer in the photo brags about its 100% recycled paper with 25% PCR. Don’t get me wrong.  I think it is wonderful that they are using recycled content paper. However I know the unsuspecting public is buying this product, thinking they are doing a good thing for the environment and not even realizing that since it is lined with a plastic bubble cushion inside, it cannot and will not ever be recycled.

A Great Alternative to a Box, in Theory

“Wait a minute – this is just the box salesman trying to sell more boxes”.  Not really.  If you have read this blog for any length of time, you have probably read about as many posts on our box alternative products  as you have about our Globe Guard 100% recycled (100% PCW) boxes. In fact, we have helped many large companies substantially reduce their corrugated use.

We even offer unpadded mailing envelopes on our web store and will special order padded mailers, custom size or printed. Please keep in mind, this is not an anti-foam or bubble post, this is an anti-anything that is not recyclable, especially on a product designed for one time use.

Protection and Ecology Can Co-Exist

If your product really requires cushioning – and you would be very surprised at how many green soft goods ship unnecessarily in a padded mailer – you have some very good, green options including:

1. Paper mailers with a layer of shredded paper for cushioning. 100% paper recycles well anytime and anywhere.
2. Mailers with plastic outer shell and plastic foam or bubble cushioning. Perhaps not the most “eco obvious” option but is 100% plastic and can easily be recycled.
3. Paper mailers with an ancillary paper packaging product used for cushioning.

Option #3  is growing in popularity because many of these mailers are hand loaded so wrapping the product, being shipped only when necessary, in a tissue or other cushioning or protective paper product can easily and quickly be accomplished.

Since most of these mailers wind up in mail boxes at homes, it is great when the end result can be easily recycled in any neighborhood curbside recycling program.


eco-friendly-packagingVisit the Globe Guard Eco Friendly Packaging Store for –

Eco Friendly Corrugated Boxes

and more!