Recycling Packaging Materials 101 

When you’re choosing the type of packaging to use, you want to make sure that this is one that’s really good for the earth. There are a ton of different materials, each of which have a major impact on this. Choosing the right items can make or break a business, so make sure you know what you need to do to be sustainable before you get started. 

First, how long do these take to break down? 

This all depends, but here are some of the most important things to remember when choosing items. Below are some of the items and how long they take to fully break down: 

  • Paper: 2-6 weeks 
  • Cardboard: 2 months 
  • Plastic bags: 10 to 1000 years 
  • Plywood: 1-3 years 
  • Aluminum cans: 80-200 years 
  • Tin cans: 50 years 
  • Glass: 1 million years 
  • Plastic bottles: 450 years 

See how some of these take much longer than others? Many times, people don’t realize that there are so many downsides to using non-paper packaging resources for you to use, and you should, with that said, always look for stuff that can be sustainable, eco-friendly, and also good on the budget too! 

Paper and paperboard packaging

With sustainability, the key item for you to use is to focus on anything that’s paper, or paperboard. Beverages are usually the ones that contribute mostly to the packaging that’s made of paper, and more and more food items are going into paper packaging too. This is something that’s not only better for the planet, but also quite cost effective too. 

Both brown and white packaging are both very easy to recycle, you just have to throw it into bins that accept this. But packaging that’s been dyed or coated is a bit harder, since the coating must be separated, which is why more companies are shying away from this. 

Packaging Coating 

This is something that’s made directly from polymers, and this coating is great for making a package look a lot more glossy, brighter, and even smoother, and also protects your ink. Lamination is one that offers plastic coatings over packaging, making the appearance better, and protects the inner packaging.

Another popular one is aqueous coating, which is a kind that’s water-based, and typically is used for sealing ink. With the different kinds of finishes, this is the more eco-friendly alternative to lamination, but lamination is better for protection, as it is water-based. 

But aqueous solutions for coating are becoming popular, since it just washes off with water, and then, you can recycle it. Another one that people tend to use is UV coating, where it has a UV attachment to the top. But, in general, lamination is not as eco friendly as other means, because plastic is very difficult to recycle on its own, so you may want to look for the water-based, or the soy-based polymers too. 

If a paper or a paperboard product has lamination that’s petroleum-based, it’s not allowed to be recycled, because it can’t easily be removed. 

Recycling cardboard 

The process to recycle the cardboard and the paper products that you may have as your packaging is actually quite simple. You just have to separate them, and then, when it’s time to recycle, they basically un-bale everything that’s there, which is basically where water mixes with this, makes a pulp, and then gets filtered. 

Within this process, the fibers and waters are also treated with surfactants, and also other ink particles. Bleach and other items may be used. Some people also get lucky with soy-based items, as it doesn’t damage the paper as much. 


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