Compostable plastic in packaging is key to fashion sustainability
With the fashion industry’s use of packaging being responsible for 26% of the total plastic created globally each year, switching to sustainable options is an obvious step. There is also increased pressure to reduce this waste due to new legislation against single-use plastics, and from consumers, who are demanding such changes. Brand creativity and innovation, as well as public and private sector cooperation are key to making a real difference.
So far, the main efforts of fashion brands are to encourage consumers to reuse disposable bags, provide reusable bags, replace plastic packaging with paper and encourage recycling or use packaging and recycled plastic bags.
While it’s positive that brands are trying to do something, a lot of that effort isn’t really making a difference.
Fashion blogs are abuzz with the seemingly endless ways consumers can reuse the plastic bags brands use to ship their products. But even if a plastic bag is used many times, it never really goes away and will remain with us – like all plastics – for hundreds of years, turning into microplastic that pollutes our soils, our seas and even in the body. human, presenting serious ecological and sanitary threats. Nor is recycling the solution that many consumers and brands are hoping for; only about 11% of soft plastic – the material typically used for transporting goods – actually gets sent to recycling programs; the rest is not recycled due to contamination and poor economic incentives. It is often cheaper to produce new plastic – and many items made from recycled plastic also require new plastic.
Additionally, while fabric and paper bags are often beautiful and look “natural”, they are also not ideal solutions; because they require the use of trees, large volumes of water and involve a polluting manufacturing process. From a practical point of view, they do not keep the goods clean and dry enough during the shipping process.
Compose a sustainable packaging solution
A long overlooked but growing solution is to use compostable bags and wraps. Composting organic waste dates back to many ancient civilizations, including the Neolithic over 10,000 years ago, and the Egyptians and Greeks. Composting has always been a way to improve soil health and crop yields. Today, with soil erosion and climate change, composting is even more critical – both to produce enough food for a growing world population and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are one of the main contributors to global warming. When items, including food and garden scraps and packaging materials, are composted instead of going to landfill, they prevent methane from being released into the environment.
Therefore, more brands should consider compostable packaging. Brands like Apiece Apart, Pangaia and Gabriela Hearst have already taken this step. This type of packaging, which breaks down into valuable agricultural compost when disposed of in composting facilities or in home compost heaps, can be used to ship items to consumers, wrap items purchased in stores and by brand logistics teams to store and ship materials and finished products. items throughout the supply chain. Generally, compostable plastic is transparent and flexible, offering many of the same benefits as its traditional counterpart.
Brands that use compostable plastic should ensure it has been tested; is certified; and comes with clear instructions for consumers and other users on how and where to compost it.
But this cannot happen in a vacuum. Local authorities must offer a home composting collection that accepts compostable packaging; in other words, composting needs to become a bigger part of waste management. For consumers, getting certified compostable materials to a place where they will actually be composted should be as easy as throwing away other types of waste. Brand warehouses and other points in the supply chain should also work with composters to process their compostable waste.
The potential of compostable materials represents a significant opportunity for brands. As global composting rates increase, compostable packaging will become the ultimate solution, not only for reducing plastic pollution, but also for feeding the earth. By embracing compostable packaging, the fashion industry has the potential to make a lasting impact on the environment.
About the Author: Daphna Nissenbaum is CEO and co-founder of TIPA Corp., a leading developer and manufacturer of compostable packaging, founded in Israel in 2012. Prior to launching TIPA, Nissenbaum served as CEO of the Caesarea Center for Capital Markets and Risk Management at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.
Daphna holds an MBA specializing in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from IDC Herzliya (Graduated with Honors) and a BA in Economics and Software Engineering from Bar Ilan University.