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We’ve all heard the warnings about worldwide environmental volatility and climate change on the news and web, and consumers are waking up to the threats. They’re demanding sustainable products and packaging that’s eco-friendly, and companies are responding with development of green, safely biodegradable goods. At the same time, consumers’ busy lives require convenience in reducing their carbon footprint, and the market is ready to give them what they want. Here are the most exciting developments in sustainable packaging that are trending right now.

1. “Greening” Your Morning Coffee

Single serving cups of coffee have been all the rage for a couple of years, especially throughout the U.S. and Europe, and this multi-billion industry shows no signs of slowing down. Though convenient for today’s on-the-go consumers, they also generate a huge amount of waste: the most popular pods are made of plastic and aluminum, materials that aren’t easily recycled, especially in urban areas. Fortunately, the coffee pod companies are employing more sustainable packaging methods, developing “greener” products that can be recycled. In some cases, the pods can even be composted.

In 2014, you can expect to see an explosion in products comprised of biodegradable materials, and marketing departments are poised to highlight the benefits. The Wall Street Journal reports that nearly 9 billion coffee pods are sold every year, demonstrating how grave the waste problem can be without taking the initiative to develop more eco-friendly packaging.

2. Using Plant-Based Plastics

Technology that delivers plant-based plastic is becoming more advanced and production is on the rise. Many companies, including giants like Coca-Cola, Nike, World Wildlife Fund and Nestle, are spearheading efforts to show the market that it’s possible to produce plastics from sustainable resources. Even better, plant-based plastics can be manufactured efficiently and cost-effectively. Businesses across the consumer product spectrum are incorporating more renewable resources in their packaging, turning away from less sustainable materials with the intention to abandon them altogether. Trends in bio-plastics and other technology are demonstrating that there is promising potential to eliminate petroleum-based packaging, using such simple commodities as feed and sugar cane.

3. Doing More with Less

While efforts to phase out less sustainable packaging are gaining ground, other companies are taking a step further to develop products that are lighter, more compact and manufactured with fewer materials. You’re no doubt aware of the damaging effects of plastic water bottles on the environment. In response, several bottled water brands have transitioned to reduce the plastic levels in their packaging without compromising structural integrity.

Other efforts have shown promise as well, with Heinz delivering a pouch-packaged version of its signature ketchup to consumers infatuated with reducing their carbon footprint. The latest innovations in sustainable packaging enable manufacturing companies to save on production and pass the savings on to customers. It's expected that the trend will gain ground and increase in the coming months.

4. Packaging with LiquiGlide

Researchers and engineers at MIT made news in 2012 by revealing a simple, yet revolutionary product that would change the food packaging world. LiquiGlide was a product intended to capitalize on the sluggish economy, enabling consumers to get every last drop of condiments or other food products out of bottles and jars. This product is food-safe and provides a slippery coating that’s applied to the inside of a receptacle, allowing its contents to magically glide out with no need to pound the bottom or store it upside down.

A secondary advantage of LiquiGlide is that it keeps more food waste out of landfills. The technology makes it easier for consumers to recycle empty containers without the hassle of washing the bottle.

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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