If you're taking steps to reduce your impact on the environment, make sure that you use biodegradable shipping supplies as well. Whether shipping a package is something that you do on a regular basis or once in a while, make sure that each package you send makes an impact on the recipient and not on their surroundings.
Traditional Shipping Supplies
More than likely, you've probably shipped a package or two before or you've received one and you're familiar with most types of packing material. Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, cardboard boxes and even crumpled paper are all fairly common materials.
The purpose of these materials is to help protect what you're shipping. For a long time, no thought was given to what impact these materials would have on the environment; companies were more concerned with getting packages to their destinations in one piece.
Problems with Traditional Shipping Supplies
The problem with some of the more traditional supplies is their incredibly long lifespan. Styrofoam peanuts can remain in the landfill for 10 - 20 years before they finally begin to break down, poisoning the wildlife around them. Plastic bubble wrap and inflated plastic bags also take years to break down into components that are hazardous to their surroundings.
The first efforts aimed at more environmentally friendly packaging, came in the form of paper products. Cardboard boxes with dividers, cardboard sleeves to wrap around objects and separate them from one another and crumpled newsprint, which could cushion objects, while dissolving in water were the answer.
While cardboard boxes and crumpled paper are more environmentally friendly, they don't always do an adequate job of protecting the contents of a package. So when you are shipping breakables and you'd like to reduce your environmental impact, you need to look beyond traditional shipping supplies.
Biodegradable Shipping Supplies
In addition to newsprint paper and cardboard sleeving, there are some new products on the market designed to both help protect your package during shipping, and protect the environment after their job is done. Consider some of the following the next time you're shipping a package.
- Peanuts made from cornstarch, which dissolve with water
- Biodegradable plastic wrapping
- Bio-bubble, 100% biodegradable bubble wrap
- Biodegradable mailing bags
- Biodegradable shipping envelopes that begin to dissolve just 2 - 3 months after being exposed to sunlight
Potential Concerns with Biodegradable Products
While products such as peanuts made from cornstarch will break down easily and leave no trace behind, there are some concerns surrounding biodegradable plastics. While today's biodegradable plastics contain far fewer chemicals that could be leached into the environment than those produced just ten years ago, some materials still contain enough chemicals to be a hazard.
This is because plastic will still contain polymers or polylactic acid, even when it is combined with starches to help the product degrade fully. Some concerns surrounding this are the amount of oxygen needed to break down the starches and the trace chemicals these polymers will leave behind.
If you must use plastic shipping materials, biodegradable shipping supplies are still the best option. If you have a choice of materials to use, natural materials such as peanuts made from cornstarch may be a better choice.
Where to Purchase Biodegradable Products
As more companies begin to offer biodegradable products, these supplies will be found more easily. In the meantime, most shipping companies do offer biodegradable shipping products alongside traditional products. Additionally, there are supply houses aimed solely at producing and selling environmentally friendly shipping products. A partial list of online retailers include:
The next time you need to ship a package, consider the use of biodegradable shipping supplies, in addition to biodegradable packaging. You can feel confident that your materials will arrive well protected, while you help to protect the environment at the same time.