October 15, 2019

Target switches to sustainable replacements for polystyrene packaging


Target makes the switch to sustainable packaging solutions and materials

Companies abandon EPS packaging

Target switches to sustainable replacements for polystyrene packaging – More and more companies are announcing sustainability campaigns that involve substantial changes to their packaging solutions. Industry leaders like IKEA, Dell Computers, and Walmart are switching to sustainable packaging materials. This means finding alternatives to the unsustainable EPS packaging designs that lead to massive amounts of plastic waste pollution. 

One driving force for these advancements is the growing trend of state and local governments passing legislation against the use of EPS packaging material. For example, Maryland and Maine’s State Congress banned polystyrene packaging material within the food packaging industry earlier this year. 

They mark only the beginning of the trend against polystyrene. Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, and Vermont’s state legislature are currently debating similar bills that would prohibit Styrofoam material from packaging. Additionally, New York City, Los Angeles County, and San Francisco have active bans on polystyrene containers. 


Target goes sustainable

In 2017, Target announced a strong commitment to sustainability, with special attention on improving their packaging and its impact on the environment. Chief Sustainability Officer, Jennifer Silberman, remarks, “We know our guests pay attention to packaging and its impact on the environment.” And as a result, Target presented a bold eco-friendly packaging strategy featuring goals for sustainability. 

Reusing and recycling materials is a key component of their approach to improve their impact on the environment. Target created the How2Recycle label in 2013 and began using it to educate consumers and ensure products are properly recycled. As of 2019, the Target brand features the How2Recycle label on 5,074 SKUs. 


Making the switch away from polystyrene packaging

Target’s sustainability initiative features an integral goal “to eliminate expanded polystyrene from our owned brand packaging by 2022.” Target’s released report elaborates on their shift away from EPS, illustrating why polystyrene packaging is unsustainable and pledging Target’s effort to quit using the material. 

“It’s a pain to recycle, both for our guests and our distribution centers,” the report reads, and “it can be harmful to manufacturing workers’ health. “We’ll work…to find better options for our packaging, taking into account the performance, cost and availability of materials.” 

Target’s 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report details their sustainability efforts and successful implementation of eco-friendly solutions. They developed an EPS-free packaging approach in 2018 and expect to begin rollout of a sustainable solution in 2020. 


Reducing waste by removing EPS

Further, the company set progressive goals for reducing waste from landfills, including cutting back pollution from their EPS foam packaging. Target pledged to “divert 75 percent of retail waste from landfills by the end of 2018” and successfully hit that mark, achieving a 75.7% reduction in retail waste ending up in the environment. 


Much of that came from removing EPS foam from their packaging process and replacing polystyrene packaging with sustainable materials. Beginning in 2016, Target sustainability teams developed 160 enhanced packaging designs that utilize less material and more recycled content. These packaging designs represent a significant improvement over polystyrene packaging solutions.


The importance of a circular economy

Another integral piece to Target’s sustainability initiative involves establishing a circular economy for their packaging network. “We believe a circular economy is one of our biggest opportunities to design a sustainable future,” states Target’s 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report

Establishing a circular economy means focusing on which materials to use and prioritizing durability, repairability, and recyclability of every design. Target is taking the first step by leaving behind Styrofoam packaging for more reusable and recyclable materials, which are capable of supporting such an ecosystem. The retail brand can then focus on recovering, reusing, and recycling products within a sustainable closed loop system.


EPE’s closed loop ecosystem

EPE utilizes eco-friendly polyethylene and polypropylene packaging materials as critical elements in our Packaging Recovery Ecosystem (PRES)™. We design innovative and sustainable packaging solutions, engineered for recovery and reuse as part of an environmentally sound closed loop process. 

By implementing sustainable replacement materials for polystyrene, EPE successfully maintains a sustainable, low waste, circular ecosystem that provides high performance packaging solutions at reduced freight costs and at the lowest environmental impact.

Talk to one of our packaging professionals today and make the switch from polystyrene to our innovative, eco-friendly packaging solutions.