January 7, 2020

5 major developments in sustainable packaging from 2019


This past year witnessed breakthrough advancements in sustainable packaging

5 major developments in sustainable packaging from 2019 – The past year experienced groundbreaking environmental legislation, sustainable corporate initiatives, growing consumer movements, and eco-driven scientific achievements. All of which reflects a momentous shift toward new technologies and materials to improve the environmental impact of product packaging.

With 2019 in the books, we wanted to highlight these 5 major eco-focused developments in packaging and how they present hope for a sustainable future.


1. New York City bans polystyrene 

On January 1st, 2019, New York City began enforcement of a city-wide ban on single-use polystyrene foam packaging. Despite not being the most extensive polystyrene ban in the United States, NYC’s law represents a breakthrough for environmental policy. As the largest city in the U.S. and one of the most well-known places in the world, New York’s enactment of legislation against polystyrene marks a milestone for environmental protection and a significant step toward a future of sustainable packaging.

5 major developments in sustainable packaging from 2019


NYC’s ban ushers in a new age of environmental legislation, providing a notable precedent for states and cities to follow suit. Maryland and Maine took the next step and became the first states to pass bans that will go into effect in 2020 and 2021. New York City’s law is a political statement against polystyrene and unsustainable packaging as a whole and it forces companies to innovate and re-design packaging to adapt for a future that values environmental protection.


2. Amazon updates its Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) requirements

The second development is critically important as the e-commerce industry explodes with growth and produces a dramatic increase in packaging waste.

This past year Amazon instituted new standards to their Frustration-Free program, intended to improve the sustainability and ease-of-use for consumers of their packaging. Most importantly, Amazon added a chargeback of $1.99 per package to vendors not in compliance with their FFP system, starting September 3rd, 2019.

The Frustration-Free Packaging program “includes multiple sustainable packaging initiatives, such as moving small items from boxes to flexible mailers, optimizing [Amazon’s] selection of boxes to better address product size and weight, launching fully recyclable mailers, and working with [its] global Vendor partners to develop ready-to-ship packaging,” explains the e-commerce giant.

The implementation of chargebacks is a genuine step forward for both Amazon and the e-commerce industry, which faces the crucial challenge of reducing the increasing amount of packaging waste generated by online shopping.


3. Walmart announces its sustainability campaign to reduce plastic pollution

In February of 2019, Walmart revealed a massive sustainability initiative aimed at reforming its product packaging and reducing plastic waste pollution. Their campaign impacts 30,000 SKUs and is meant to both revolutionize Walmart’s brand packaging and facilitate suppliers improving their packaging as well.

In their announcement, Walmart committed to 100% recyclable, reusable, or industrially compostable packaging for its brand packaging by 2025. They are working towards achieving 20% post-consumer recycled content in their packaging by 2020 and will be using the How2Recycle label on 100% of food and consumable product packaging by 2022. Walmart will also work with its suppliers to eliminate non-recyclable packaging material across all merchandise packaging.

Walmart’s packaging initiatives come after direct urging from the environmental group As You Sow, which also successfully lobbied Target, Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonald’s to replace their EPS foam packaging.


4. Scientists create ‘infinitely recyclable’ plastic polymer

Scientific researchers at the Berkeley Laboratory released a report in April of 2019 in which they presented their discovery of a new polymer with the potential to revolutionize plastic recycling. The material is called polydiketoenamine, or PDK, and can be completely broken down to its core monomers easily and chemically re-assembled without any loss of quality.

As a result, PDK can be “upcycled” into new plastic quite easily, presenting the possibility for packaging that is ‘infinitely recyclable.’ As sustainability challenges dominate the packaging world, the invention of PDK could provide the scientific foundation for a world of sustainable technological innovations.


5. The rise of the Zero Waste Movement

5 major developments in sustainable packaging from 2019

The last of our 5 major developments in sustainable packaging from 2019 is the rise in popularity of ‘going zero waste’. The sustainability movement continues to evolve, with new ideas and consumer trends emerging. The last year saw the rise in popularity of the concept of living completely waste-free.

Environmental bloggers and social media eco-warriors posted photos online of their trash from a full year fitting into a single glass jar. They inspired consumers all over the world to think about their own waste creation and step-by-step to implement lifestyle changes aimed at reducing the amount of their trash.

The core principle of the Zero Waste Movement is simple – replace waste with reusability such that daily processes leave no waste behind. For a business, this relates to the idea of a circular economy, in which a company’s supply chain is entirely sustainable, waste-free – a closed loop.

Closed-loop packaging systems now dominate the eco-friendly packaging conversation, with more and more companies seeking to eliminate waste and strive to achieve the pinnacle of sustainability. In many ways, the emergence of the Zero Waste Movement is driving far-reaching sustainable initiatives across all industries.


Replace EPS designs with sustainable solutions

EPE USA remains at the forefront of sustainable packaging innovation and cutting-edge design. Our packaging concepts continue to replace polystyrene with more sustainable and higher-performing materials. EPE’s environmentally sound packaging solutions survive rigorous in-house testing, which ensures that our designs successfully reduce shipping damage while simultaneously minimizing our impact on the planet through material reduction and by replacing unsustainable materials with 100% recyclable materials.

In 2019, we became an official member of the Amazon Packaging Supplier and Support (APASS) network, which allows us to provide e-commerce SIOC packaging solutions that utilize 100% curbside recyclable materials – better known as Tier-1 FFP certification.

Further, EPE pioneered sustainable, closed-loop processes with our Packaging Recovery Ecosystem (PRES)™, which helps our customers employ a circular, reusable ecosystem for their packaging solutions. We look to continue our mission into the new year, providing packaging solutions at the lowest possible cost and least environmental impact to all companies looking to improve the sustainability of their packaging.

Talk to one of our packaging experts today and future-proof your product packaging.



Photo from Manhattan SWAB

Photo from The Guardian