As more and more consumers become environmentally conscious, businesses need to look at eco-friendly alternatives to keep them on side.

In e-commerce, the story is no different. Many customers will simply not buy from online stores that won’t ship their orders in eco-friendly packaging.

Approximately 165 billion packages are sent in the US each year and all of the bubble wrap, plastic tape, and styrofoam peanuts used to protect the items inside, have to go somewhere.

Whether you’re a billion-dollar e-commerce group or a sole trader on eBay, here’s a list of eco-friendly shipping supplies you should switch to.

Eco-Friendly Bubble Wrap

EcoEnclose Corrugated Bubble
Image © EcoEnclose

Bubble wrap brings many of us great joy when we receive a package. There’s something very satisfying about popping those little pockets of air.

But after you’ve had your fun, that bubble wrap (well, now I guess it can just be called wrap) will sit in a landfill forever. Or it might be incinerated, releasing toxins into the air which are harmful to human health.

Bubble wrap can sometimes be recycled with other plastic films including grocery bags, bread bags and the small plastic bag your newspaper might sometimes come in. Most customers don’t know this though and they’ll need to check their local recycling plan for details.

Postal stores around you may also accept bubble wrap which they will then reuse, reducing the demand for new bubble wrap. But they’ll only take it if you haven’t popped the bubbles!

The best option is to not put bubble wrap in the hands of the customer in the first place and luckily, there are a lot of alternatives to choose from!

EcoEnclose manufactures Corrugated Bubble, a massively eco-friendly and highly customizable alternative to bubble wrap.

Corrugated Bubble is comprised entirely of 100% recycled cardboard made entirely from post-consumer and post-industrial waste. Therefore, it’s 100% recyclable and biodegradable.

You can order Corrugated Bubble as sheets in a size of your choice. This makes it great for businesses that send their shipments in custom or specific sized boxes.

Eco-Friendly Packing Tape

eco-friendly shipping supplies from ecoenclose
Image © EcoEnclose

Traditional packing tape can hinder recycling efforts and its incineration releases pollutants into the air which are harmful to humans and the environment.

Thankfully, paper tape is widely available and can even be pre-printed with your branding.

Gummed paper tape (also known as Kraft Tape or Water Activated Tape) is the only tape that is 100% recyclable and biodegradable. It’s approximately the same price as plastic tape (if not cheaper) and comes in a number of widths.

Paper tape uses a starch-based adhesive making it fully recyclable and biodegradable. However, paper tape which is reinforced with fiberglass is not recyclable or fully biodegradable.

You can find paper tape at Amazon and hardware stores across the US. You may also want to use a paper tape dispenser but if you’re okay with using scissors and a spray bottle, that works too!

It’s worth noting that paper tape does not stick to plastic tape so if you reuse boxes, you’ll need to remove all of the old tape first.

Eco-Friendly Packing Peanuts

Styrofoam packing peanuts are detrimental to environmental health. After disposal, they are sent to landfill where they barely decompose or they end up floating around our oceans.

Biodegradable packing peanuts are the answer. They typically dissolve in water and leave behind no nasty chemicals or pollutants.

ULINE is currently selling a 20 cu. ft. bag of biodegradable packing peanuts for $20. This is roughly the same price, if not cheaper than styrofoam peanuts! It makes sense to switch, for the environment and your wallet!

If you want a smaller amount, Amazon usually has some decent deals.

Eco-Friendly Poly Mailers

Image © BreakTrail

Poly Mailers are widely used in e-commerce, especially to ship clothing.

They can typically be recycled (once the shipping label is removed) along with other plastic films like bubble wrap and plastic grocery bags – just look out for the recycle logo. Collection bins can usually be found at supermarkets and grocery stores.

However, a huge amount still ends up in landfills because customers just don’t bother recycling.

So what’s the solution?

A number of compostable mailers are available on the market. They are 100% biodegradable and will decompose, unlike regular plastic poly mailers.

noissue sells compostable mailers in a variety of sizes and they’ll even custom print them with your branding.

BlackTrail also sells compostable mailers, available to buy on Amazon.

The best value, though, has to be the Unlined biodegradable mailers sold by Bubblefast on Amazon.

They work out to be a bit more expensive than regular poly mailers but your customers will appreciate your use of eco-friendly shipping materials and you’ll be saving a huge amount of plastic from going to landfills!

Eco-Friendly Shipping Labels

eco-friendly shipping supplies from ecoenclose
Image © EcoEnclose

It may come as a surprise to you but your shipping labels probably aren’t eco-friendly. The backing paper is traditionally coated with silicone to allow you to remove the label easily. This makes the paper incredibly difficult to recycle so it inevitably ends up in landfills.

But recyclable labels do exist and they’re available in a number of sizes and formats to seamlessly fit into your current workflow.

EcoEnclose manufactures zero-waste shipping labels in both 4″ x 6″ rolls and 8.5″ x 5.5″ sheets.

They use a thin UV coating instead of silicone as the release liner. The thin coating means the backing paper is still able to be recycled.

The labels also feature a recycle-friendly adhesive.

A pack of 200 8.5″ x 5.5″ labels (at 2 labels per sheet) runs at $32.00. To get the best value out of zero-waste shipping labels, you may need to upgrade your shipping set-up to include a thermal label printer that takes rolls instead of sheets.

And by using a thermal label printer, you’ll also be saving resources because you won’t require ink.

Packing Tips

  • Use the right size box. Using a box that is too big is just extra cardboard that needs to be recycled.
  • Keep fillers to a minimum. Use just the right amount to keep the order safe but avoid adding too much. When it comes to producing less waste, everything helps.
  • Don’t protect stuff that doesn’t need to be protected. That t-shirt or photography reflector doesn’t need any bubble wrap.