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7 Types Of Eco Friendly E-commerce Packaging

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cartoon of a sustainable package delivered on a doorstep

In today's increasingly digital world, e-commerce has become a booming industry. With the convenience of online shopping, however, comes the issue of packaging waste. As consumers, businesses, and governments become more aware of the environmental impact of traditional packaging materials, there has been a growing demand for eco-friendly alternatives. In this article, we will explore seven types of eco-friendly e-commerce packaging that are revolutionising the industry.

Table of Contents

The Benefits of Eco-Friendly E-commerce Packaging

Eco-friendly e-commerce packaging offers numerous benefits for businesses and the environment.

Carbon Emissions

Firstly, it helps reduce carbon emissions by using sustainable materials and minimising on waste.

Sustainable materials, such as recycled cardboard and biodegradable plastics, have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to traditional packaging materials. By opting for these eco-friendly alternatives, businesses can play their part in mitigating climate change and promoting a greener future.

Properly optimised eco-friendly e-commerce packaging will also focus on minimising waste. Many sustainable packaging solutions are designed to be reusable or recyclable, ensuring that they do not end up in landfills. This approach helps to conserve resources and reduce the overall environmental impact of packaging waste.

Brand Reputation

Secondly, eco-friendly e-commerce packaging enhances brand reputation by demonstrating a commitment to sustainability.

In today's environmentally conscious world, consumers are increasingly drawn to brands that prioritise sustainability. By adopting eco-friendly packaging practices, businesses can showcase their commitment to reducing their environmental footprint and preserving the planet for future generations. This demonstration of corporate social responsibility not only attracts environmentally conscious consumers but also helps build a positive brand image.

When businesses actively engage in sustainable practices, they inspire others to follow suit. By leading the way in eco-friendly e-commerce packaging, companies can influence industry standards and encourage other businesses to adopt similar practices. This ripple effect can lead to a significant positive impact on the environment as a whole.

Better for Business Longevity

Thirdly, eco-friendly e-commerce packaging appeals to eco-conscious consumers who prioritise green shopping practices.

As people become increasingly aware of the environmental challenges we face, there will be a growing demand for sustainable products and packaging. Eco-conscious consumers actively seek out businesses that align with their values and make conscious efforts to reduce their environmental impact. By offering eco-friendly packaging options, businesses can tap into this expanding market segment and attract a loyal customer base.

Eco-friendly packaging also serves as a powerful marketing tool - by highlighting the use of sustainable materials and environmentally friendly practices, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors and position themselves as leaders in sustainable e-commerce. This marketing advantage can translate into increased sales and give customer loyalty a boost.

The Challenges of Finding Sustainable Packaging Solutions

One of the main challenges businesses encounter when searching for sustainable packaging solutions is the availability of suitable materials. While there is a wide range of eco-friendly materials to choose from, not all of them may be readily accessible or cost-effective for businesses. For example, packaging made from biodegradable materials such as cornstarch or other cellulose plant-based materials may be more expensive compared to traditional packaging options. Additionally, the production and sourcing of these materials may not be easily scalable to meet the demands of large-scale e-commerce operations.

Then there is the consideration of costs. While eco-friendly packaging is becoming increasingly popular, it often comes with a higher price tag (however this price increase trend may be changing thanks to recent economic and consumer pressure). This can be a deterrent for businesses, especially smaller ones with limited budgets. However, it is important to note that investing in sustainable packaging can have long-term benefits, such as improved brand reputation and customer loyalty. Finding a balance between cost and sustainability is crucial for businesses looking to implement eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Meeting regulatory requirements is also a significant challenge when it comes to sustainable packaging. Different countries and regions have varying regulations and standards for packaging materials, recycling, and waste management. Businesses operating globally or shipping products internationally must navigate these regulations to ensure compliance. This can involve extensive research and understanding of the specific requirements in each market, which adds complexity and potential barriers to finding suitable sustainable packaging solutions.

Despite these challenges, businesses can take advantage of advancements in technology to find innovative and sustainable packaging solutions. For example, there have been significant developments in the field of bioplastics, which are derived from renewable resources and have a lower environmental impact compared to traditional plastics. These bioplastics can be used to create packaging materials that are both durable and compostable, offering a viable solution for businesses looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

While businesses face challenges in finding sustainable packaging solutions, the landscape is evolving with advancements in technology and increased awareness. The availability of suitable materials, cost considerations, and regulatory requirements are all factors that need to be carefully considered. However, by embracing innovation and responding to consumer demand, businesses can find eco-friendly packaging solutions that not only meet their needs but also contribute to a more sustainable future.

1. Make it Reusable

When it comes to eco-friendly e-commerce packaging, one of the most effective options is reusable packaging. This type of packaging is designed to be used multiple times, reducing the need for single-use packaging. By implementing a circular economy approach, businesses can minimise waste and create a more sustainable future.

Reusable packaging can take various forms, from durable plastic containers to cloth bags or even collapsible corrugated cardboard boxes. These materials can withstand the rigors of shipping and handling, ensuring that they can be used repeatedly without losing their effectiveness.

Reusable packaging promotes a more sustainable approach to e-commerce. With the rise of online shopping, the demand for packaging materials has skyrocketed. By embracing reusable packaging, businesses can play a vital role in reducing the environmental impact of the e-commerce industry. This shift towards sustainability not only benefits the planet but also enhances a company's reputation and attracts environmentally conscious consumers.

Reusable packaging can be customised to fit specific products, ensuring a snug and secure fit. This customisation not only protects the items during transit but also enhances the overall customer experience. Customers appreciate receiving their purchases in packaging that is not only eco-friendly but also aesthetically pleasing and well-designed.

Additionally, the use of reusable packaging can lead to cost savings for businesses. While the initial investment in high-quality reusable packaging may be higher than that of single-use alternatives, the long-term benefits outweigh the upfront costs. By reusing packaging materials, businesses can reduce their expenditure on packaging supplies, ultimately improving their bottom line.

It is worth noting that the adoption of reusable packaging requires a collaborative effort between businesses and consumers. Businesses need to educate their customers about the importance of returning and reusing packaging, while consumers need to actively participate in the process. This partnership between businesses and consumers is crucial for the success of a circular economy and the widespread adoption of reusable packaging.

2. Compostable & Biodegradable E-Commerce Packaging

For businesses looking to minimise their environmental footprint, compostable and biodegradable e-commerce packaging is an excellent choice. These types of packaging are designed to break down naturally over time, leaving no harmful residue behind.

Compostable packaging is made from organic materials, such as plant starch or cellulose, which can be safely composted in industrial composting facilities. It's fascinating to think about how these materials, derived from nature, can be transformed into packaging that is not only functional but also environmentally friendly. When compostable packaging is disposed of properly, it goes through a process where it decomposes and turns into nutrient-rich soil, which can then be used to grow new plants and crops.

Biodegradable packaging, on the other hand, can break down naturally without the need for specialised conditions. This means that even if it ends up in a landfill or in the natural environment, it will eventually break down into smaller pieces and be consumed by microorganisms. It's important to note that while biodegradable packaging is a step in the right direction, it is still preferable to use compostable packaging whenever possible, as it offers a more sustainable solution.

Using compostable and biodegradable packaging not only reduces waste going to landfill but also helps to conserve resources. By choosing packaging materials that can return to the earth, businesses can contribute to the restoration of natural ecosystems. The production of traditional plastic packaging requires the extraction of fossil fuels and the consumption of energy, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. In contrast, compostable and biodegradable packaging relies on renewable resources and has a lower carbon footprint.

Furthermore, compostable and biodegradable packaging can also have a positive impact on the consumer's perception of a brand. In today's environmentally conscious society, customers are increasingly aware of the need for sustainable practices. By using eco-friendly packaging, businesses can align themselves with these values and attract environmentally conscious consumers. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and a positive brand image.

It is worth mentioning that the use of compostable and biodegradable packaging is not limited to e-commerce businesses. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores can also benefit from these sustainable packaging options. Whether it's for shipping products to customers or for packaging items in-store, compostable and biodegradable materials offer a viable alternative to traditional plastic packaging.

We believe combining reusable packaging with materials that are also compostable or biodegrabale could be the holy grail for sustainable e-commerce packaging. Reusable packaging would reduce the demand for raw materials by increasing return cycles from the standard 2 to potentially over 200 delivery cycles, this would represent a 99% reduction in raw materials consumption for the e-commerce packaging industry.

3. Paper based E-Commerce Packaging

One of the most widely used and easily recyclable materials for e-commerce packaging is paper. With advancements in technology, paper-based packaging options have become even more durable and versatile. Paper-based packaging can be customised with branding, providing an opportunity for businesses to create a positive impression while being environmentally responsible.

The rise of paper-based packaging in e-commerce can be significantly attributed to a growing global consciousness about environmental sustainability, a trend further fueled by influential media presentations like the BBC's "Blue Planet" series. This series, among others, has vividly depicted the harmful impact of plastic waste on marine life and ecosystems, sparking a widespread public outcry against plastic packaging. In response, businesses, particularly in the e-commerce sector, have begun to adopt more eco-friendly packaging solutions, with paper-based materials emerging as a popular choice. This shift aligns with consumer preferences for sustainable and recyclable materials, reinforcing a brand's commitment to environmental responsibility.

Paper-based packaging, unlike its plastic counterpart, offers several environmental benefits. It is biodegradable, often made from recycled materials, and can be recycled itself, reducing its lifecycle carbon footprint. Advancements in technology have enhanced the durability and versatility of paper packaging, making it suitable for a wide range of products. This transition is not just a matter of corporate environmental responsibility, but also a strategic business decision.

Companies adopting eco-friendly packaging are often viewed more favourably by environmentally conscious consumers, increasing customer loyalty and market share. In this evolving landscape, paper-based packaging represents a harmonious blend of environmental stewardship and economic pragmatism, marking a significant step towards sustainable commerce.

When it comes to paper-based e-commerce packaging, there are various types available in the market. One popular option is corrugated cardboard boxes. These boxes are made up of multiple layers of paper, providing strength and protection to the products during transit. Corrugated cardboard boxes are known for their durability and are commonly used for shipping a wide range of items, from electronics to clothing.

Another type of paper-based packaging commonly used in e-commerce is padded envelopes. These envelopes are lined with a layer of bubble wrap or padded material to provide cushioning and protection to the products. Padded envelopes are lightweight and cost-effective, making them a popular choice for shipping smaller items such as books, jewelry, and cosmetics.

For businesses looking for a more eco-friendly option, there are also paper-based alternatives to plastic mailers. These mailers are made from recycled paper and are designed to be tear-resistant and water-resistant. They offer a sustainable solution for shipping products while ensuring they are well-protected.

Not only is paper-based e-commerce packaging environmentally friendly, but it also offers a great branding opportunity for businesses. Customising the packaging with company logos, slogans, or even unique designs can help create a memorable unboxing experience for customers. This attention to detail can leave a lasting impression and enhance brand loyalty.

Paper-based packaging can be easily and inexpensively printed with important information such as handling instructions, product details, and even promotional offers. This makes it convenient for businesses to communicate with customers directly through the packaging itself, eliminating the need for additional inserts or leaflets.

seaweed used to create bioplastics

4. Bio-plastic based E-Commerce Packaging

Bio-plastic is a popular alternative to traditional plastic packaging. Unlike conventional plastic, which is made from fossil fuels, bio-plastic is derived from renewable resources, such as cornstarch or sugarcane.

This type of packaging offers similar qualities to plastic in terms of durability and flexibility, but with the added benefit of being biodegradable or compostable. By using bio-plastic packaging, businesses can reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and minimise their carbon footprint.

Bio-plastic packaging has gained significant traction in the e-commerce industry. With the rise of online shopping, the demand for packaging materials that are both sustainable and reliable has increased exponentially. Bio-plastic, with its eco-friendly properties, has emerged as a viable solution for e-commerce businesses.

5. E-commerce Packaging Printed with Eco-Friendly Inks

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

Printing on e-commerce packaging is a common practice for many businesses. It allows them to showcase their brand, provide important information, and create a memorable unboxing experience for their customers. However, the inks used in conventional printing processes can be harmful to the environment.

Imagine a world where every package that arrives at your doorstep is not only beautifully designed but also environmentally friendly. Thanks to the development of eco-friendly inks, this vision is becoming a reality.

Eco-friendly inks are made from natural, renewable resources such as soy, vegetable oils, or water-based pigments. These inks contain fewer chemicals than traditional inks, making them a safer and more sustainable choice for printing.

But the benefits of eco-friendly inks don't stop there. Not only are they better for the environment, but they also offer a range of other advantages. For instance, these inks are often biodegradable, meaning they can break down naturally over time without leaving behind harmful residues. This is especially important when considering the amount of packaging waste generated by e-commerce.

In addition to the above, eco-friendly inks have a minimal impact on air and water quality. Unlike traditional inks, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere during the drying process, eco-friendly inks are much cleaner. This means that businesses can print their e-commerce packaging without contributing to air pollution.

e-commerce packaging envelope made from corrugated cardboard, featuring expandable design to create box capacity for carrying products in shipping.

6. Shipping & Storage Efficient E-commerce Packaging (low carbon)

When it comes to e-commerce packaging, efficiency is key. By optimising the shipping and storage of products, businesses can reduce their carbon emissions and minimise packaging waste.

One way to achieve shipping and storage efficiency is by using packaging that is specifically designed to maximise space utilisation. This includes collapsible boxes, stackable containers, or packaging that can be easily disassembled.

Efficient packaging not only saves space but also reduces the number of trips required for transportation. By utilising packaging that can be stacked or collapsed, businesses can fit more products in a single shipment, reducing the number of vehicles needed and the associated carbon emissions.

Businesses can consider implementing innovative packaging designs, such as "right-sizing." This involves using packaging that is tailored to fit the specific size of the product, reducing the amount of unnecessary material used.

For example, instead of using a large box to ship a small item, right-sizing allows businesses to use a smaller, more appropriately sized package. This not only reduces the amount of packaging material required but also minimises the empty space within the package, preventing the product from moving around during transportation and decreasing the risk of damage.

Efficient e-commerce packaging not only reduces waste and emissions but also improves the overall customer experience by ensuring that products are delivered in a timely and intact manner.

E-commerce businesses can collaborate with logistics providers such as 3PLs to streamline the shipping and storage process. By working closely with these partners, they can identify opportunities for improvement, such as optimising delivery routes to minimise distance traveled or implementing shared warehousing solutions to reduce storage space requirements.

7. E-Commerce Packaging with Integrated Retention

FlyPak ecommerce packaging reduces storage requirement as it's better for palletisation

Consolidation of dispatch materials is an effective way to minimise packaging waste. Integrated retention e-commerce packaging combines multiple packaging elements into a single design, reducing the need for excessive packaging.

Such as a package could include a box with integrated dividers to secure multiple items in place during transit, eliminating the need for individual wrapping. This type of packaging is not only eco-friendly but also helps to streamline the packaging process, reduce labor costs and improving operational efficiency.

Bespoke E-Commerce Packaging for Three Mobile

Integrated retention e-commerce packaging offers a range of benefits beyond waste reduction such as saving businesses from potential losses due to damaged goods, improving tamper evidence, all whilst enhancing customer satisfaction by delivering products in perfect condition.

The consolidation of dispatch materials also allows for better space utilisation. Businesses can reduce the number of shipments required, leading to fewer vehicles on the road and lowering carbon emissions through improved efficiency. This is particularly significant in today's world, where sustainability is a pressing concern.

Integrated retention features of FlyPak, a new type of e-commerce packaging

Establishing an Eco-Friendly E-Commerce Packaging Policy

Implementing eco-friendly e-commerce packaging requires a robust policy that aligns with the company's values and sustainability goals. It is essential to assess packaging needs, conduct research on available eco-friendly options, and collaborate with suppliers to make informed decisions.

Regular evaluation and updates to the packaging policy ensure that the business remains at the forefront of sustainable packaging practices.

What You Should Know About the Cost of Eco-Friendly E-Commerce Packaging

While eco-friendly e-commerce packaging may initially have higher upfront costs than traditional packaging, it is essential to consider the long-term benefits. Reductions in waste, improved brand reputation, and the potential for increased customer loyalty can make eco-friendly packaging a worthwhile investment.

Additionally, as sustainability becomes more mainstream, the cost of eco-friendly packaging materials is expected to decrease.


Eco-friendly e-commerce packaging is an innovative way for businesses to reduce their environmental impact while meeting customer demands. The seven types of eco-friendly packaging discussed in this article provide sustainable alternatives that improve brand reputation and appeal to eco-conscious consumers. By adopting these packaging solutions, businesses can contribute to a greener future and thrive in an increasingly eco-friendly marketplace.

Ready to take your e-commerce packaging to the next level? At The Packaging Club, we specialise in bespoke packaging solutions that not only elevate your brand but also align with your sustainability goals. Our custom printed packaging options are designed to create unforgettable branded unboxing experiences that resonate with your customers. With our expertise in packaging consolidation, we're committed to saving your business money on cost per unit and labor, all while delivering high-quality results.

Our partnership with the UK's top packaging manufacturers ensures that you receive unparalleled print quality and virtually unlimited production capacity. Whether you need high output lithographic printing for a premium finish or flexible digital printing for short-run campaigns, The Packaging Club has the technology to bring your vision to life. Our high-speed gluing processes streamline production, and our special finishing options like metallic foil and UV varnish add that extra touch of luxury to your packaging.

Most importantly, we understand the importance of sustainability in today's market. That's why we offer eco-friendly options including materials from certified sustainable forests, recycled fibers, and plant-based inks. We're here to help you exceed your CSR sustainability goals while impressing your customers with quality and creativity.

Don't let limitations stifle your packaging potential. Choose The Packaging Club for bespoke packaging made in the UK, tailored to your exact specifications. Learn more about bespoke packaging and how we can help you create an eco-friendly, cost-effective solution that sets your brand apart.

This article was written by...

Nathan Calvert

Nathan is Head of Digital at The Packaging Club. He has worked in the packaging sector for over 15 years across food, consumer electronics, FMCG ecommerce and more, both directly in-house or as a freelance consultant.

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