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Flexible Packaging: It’s Not JUST Plastic

Did you know that flexible packaging is not just plastic? It can be made from one material or a combination of materials such as paper, plastic, and aluminum foil. Packaging created with a combination of these materials is known as multi-material packaging. 

While flexible plastic packaging and multi-material packaging often get a bad “wrap” due to its limited end-of-life management options and end markets for recycled material, these packaging types still have many benefits that are often overlooked.

Flexible and multi-material packaging contributes directly to the reduction of food waste because the materials of the package work to maintain freshness and prevent food from spoiling. Furthermore, packaging that uses a combination of materials is more durable, but also lightweight, so it’s convenient for you while still protecting the products inside of the packaging. 

Not only is this packaging convenient for us shoppers, but it also has many environmental benefits. Flexible packaging sends less material to landfills when compared to traditional forms of packaging since it uses less to begin with. Because it is lightweight, it also uses less energy to produce than other packaging types, less water to manufacture, creates fewer greenhouse gases, and it uses far fewer trucks and fuel to transport.

With all of these amazing benefits, many still have negative views of flexible and multi-material packaging because it is not always able to be recycled. In the U.S., about 50% of flexible packaging can easily be recycled through in-store drop-off programs as it is single material, but multi-material packaging present more of a challenge with today’s technology and recycling facility infrastructure. 

However, recyclability is only one factor in the sustainability of a package. According to the U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy, the most preferred method for waste management is source reduction or using fewer resources to produce and reuse the packaging. Furthermore, there is a tremendous amount of work being done to get this packaging into the recycling stream. To learn more about the progress the industry has made to recycle flexible and multi-material packaging, check out the Materials Recovery for the Future Pilot Projects and the Hefty®EnergyBag® Program.

Before giving all plastic products a bad wrap, remember that flexible packaging gives back to the environment. It takes fewer resources to make – less water and less energy, and it produces less greenhouse gas emissions, and takes less petroleum to transport. It even sends less material to the landfill compared to other recyclable packaging and saves on food waste. Visit our blog to learn more about the benefits of flexible packaging here.

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