We are all working towards a cleaner and more sustainable packaging cycle, but the movement involves more than just new, eco-friendly product structures. We need to obtain and share the most accurate information possible with our customers and end-users.

Our shared goal is to ensure all packaging is ending up at the appropriate facility. To achieve this goal, consumers, food and consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and packaging suppliers all need to work together and do their part.

As consumers, we need to be aware of what programs we have in our cities and what our respective recycling and composting depots are capable of. As food and CPG producers we need to clearly and appropriately label our products so they can end up at the right facilities. Finally, all packaging providers must ensure they’re providing the most accurate information about their product’s own properties.

 

 

What are the options available for sustainable flexible packaging?

NatureFlex/BioPBS: Backyard compostable pouches are bags that can, under ideal conditions, be broken down in a backyard compost bin. There are currently two structures of NatureFlex, metallized and clear. Both are certified OK compost HOME by TUV Austria, and the clear structure is also certified for industrial composting. Please note that “home compost” does not necessarily refer to curbside collection. These bags can also be returned to store drop-off locations when available in your region.

Kraft/PLA: Industrial compostable pouches are bags that need to be composted in a designated composting facility as they require higher temperatures and stable conditions to break down into organic products. These pouches are made of renewable products like corn, reducing the environmental impact of production.

MDO PE: Mono-structures are plastic pouches that are made up on only one type of plastic, compared to the standard multi-layered laminated bags.

We recommend that you verify the recycling/composting regulations and capabilities of your municipality.

 

Chart for Minimum order quanities, printing methods, end of life and curbside pick up avaibility of compostable and recyclable structures.

Challenges with Regulations: End of Life of Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging is not suitable for all products. When it comes to any sustainable packaging, we only recommend these bags for dry, shelf-stable (non-refrigerated or frozen) products due to the lower barrier. 

The other caveat to sustainable packaging is that there are no composting facilities in Canada that are presently accepting any compostable packaging. The bottleneck in the system is the lack of regulations and labeling on compostable packaging, along with the fact that it’s very challenging to tell the difference between compostable packaging and regular plastic. If non-compostable materials make it into composting facilities, there is a detrimental environmental impact, therefore composting facilities need to be extremely careful with what they accept. With a lack of regulations and consumer education programs, to avoid any possible contaminants, they are not currently accepting any flexible packaging, even if certified. Unfortunately, there is presently no timeline available related to when these regulations will be in effect.

In Canada, Natureflex/Bio PBS is a backyard compostable structure, but it’s important to keep in mind that these bags are not accepted in the local curbside green bin, and despite certifications in Europe, Asia, and Australia, there isn’t a North American certification for flexible backyard compostable products yet. These bags also generally have a much larger minimum order quantity of 40,000+ per SKU depending on the pouch size.

Monostructure pouches have a minimum order of approximately 40,000+ per SKU depending on the pouch size. These pouches, along with all other flexible packaging, are not blue bin recyclable. Presently, the only place to return flexible packaging in North America is in local store drop off locations. 

Ultimately, it’s important to educate your consumers about the end of life systems of your packaging to ensure these structures end up in the correct locations. If you need help determining if sustainable packaging is right for you, our packaging experts can help.

Resources for Sustainable Packaging

Recycle BC: https://recyclebc.ca/flexiblepackaging/

Vancouver: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solid-waste/recycling-programs/food-scraps-recycling/residents/green-bin/Pages/default.aspx#

Calgary: https://www.calgary.ca/waste/residential/compostable-bags-liners.html

Toronto: https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/recycling-organics-garbage/houses/what-goes-in-my-green-bin/

Montreal: https://www.eeq.ca/en/eco-entreprises-quebec-cautions-against-compostable-and-biodegradable-plastic-packaing/

Halifax: https://www.halifax.ca/home-property/garbage-recycling-green-cart/green-carts-leaf-yard-material 

End of life systems of sustainable packaging podcast: https://thepackheavy.podbean.com/e/63-current-end-of-life-systems-for-flexible-packaging-with-colin-isaacs-owner-senior-sustainable-development-analyst-at-cial-group/