Grounded Packaging: Simple & Transparent Packaging.

Grounded Packaging provides a simple and transparent approach to sustainable eCommerce packaging. The Ecobahn spoke with co-founder Ben Grant to discuss how retailers should approach making better packaging choices.

Grounded Packaging provides eCommerce retailers with sustainable packaging solutions, combined with a consultancy approach to analyse and provide bespoke packaging solutions.

Taking a simple and transparent approach, Grounded Packaging act almost as a sustainable packaging marketplace. Providing the best available sustainable packaging options from a range of factories and manufacturers, Grounded Packaging offers the ability to provide bespoke solutions to meet a range of packaging requirements.

Grounded Packaging sample sustainable packaging options

With full transparency regarding both the materials used in a product and the actual process required at end of life, a further key selling point is their ability to work closely with retailers to provide a bespoke solution. By understanding both a retailers current processes and desired level of sustainability, Grounded Packaging looks to provide the latest options, with a pipeline of future developments in sustainability.

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The Ecobahn caught up with Ben Grant, co-founder of Grounded Packaging, to discuss the sustainable packaging industry in more detail, and to find out the advice Ben would give to any eCommerce retailer considering a new sustainable packaging option.

Can you provide some background to Grounded Packaging?

Grounded Packaging started off looking for solutions to problems posed by the soft plastics industry.

Ideally what we were looking to do was develop sourcing and supply chain tools around interesting technologies and materials that allow businesses to move away from virgin, unrecyclable plastics to alternatives that both reduce reliance on petrochemicals and present improved opportunities for recycling.

Grounded Packaging Company Principles

Initially, our company has been very focused around home compostable films and laminates for use in the food and e-commerce industries. As we have developed and understood the problems and materials in greater detail, we have moved towards using a more extensive range of materials that are both recycled and recyclable in order to present a range of truly ‘circular’ packaging alternatives that encourage innovation at both the beginning and end of the product or material life cycle.

What are the main challenges with creating a truly ‘sustainable’ packaging product?

There are plenty of challenges in this space. Packaging is a complicated industry when you get into it, and there is no one material in any space that truly solves every problem. The available materials presently tend to address one part of the problem; for example, the materials that the packaging is derived from, or end-of-life options. There are very few that present a truly holistic solution from a full life cycle assessment or chain of custody perspective.

For example, a lot of the single-layer home compostable films still are heavily petrochemical-based. Although they present a really exciting opportunity for organic recycling at end-of-life, they are still reliant on fossil fuels which is a critical aspect we’re trying to remove or reduce.

Ben Grant, Co-founder, Grounded Packaging

As a predominantly single-use product, controlling the exact end-of-life is out of your hands. What issues does this present for Grounded Packaging?

In a lot of cases, packaging provides an essential role in the supply chain.

However, there is still a lot of unnecessary use of packaging, so we try and take a relatively holistic view when talking to a customer. Evaluating their current usage, the potential impact of shifting to new materials and the likelihood of it ending up in the desired location from an end-of-life perspective.

Essentially what we’re trying to do is help redesign to use less material where possible and also promote a shift towards innovative materials that encourage new or improved end-of-life recycling infrastructure. Whether that be organic or a more traditional repurposing of plastic resins.

How do you see Grounded Packaging, and ‘sustainable’ packaging in general, evolving in the coming years?

There will be a significant shift in the way businesses approach packaging and evaluate new materials and models for re-use.

Plastic has become a dirty word, and as a result, businesses are keen to try and remove them. Still, in doing so, they only consider one or two variables, and I think what we will see emerging is a more holistic or life cycle assessment to guide best practice decision making. 

From a material perspective, we are particularly excited about a couple of emerging technologies that allow for close to 100% bio-based films created from rapidly renewable materials or organic waste product, that are home compostable and highly degradable in several scenarios.

In the next 3-5 years, we will see a few genuinely circular and sustainable models emerge, and that’s when you start to see some wholesale change.

Ben Grant, Co-founder, Grounded Packaging

What advice would Grounded Packaging give to an online retailer considering a ‘sustainable’ packaging option today?

We are trying to facilitate and promote a relatively holistic view which is broadly outlined below:

  • Removing and redesigning for unnecessary packaging/plastics
  • Looking to reduce the number of materials used in existing formats
  • Introducing recycled or bio-based content into the current materials to move away from virgin petrochemical content
  • Moving into more interesting/innovative solutions like home compostable films/laminates where appropriate

In going through this process, we look at manufacturing processes and externalities, carbon footprint, the end-of-life opportunities for recycling or composting, and we create a reporting framework for our customers based around that. 

What are the main challenges and hurdles to overcome for an online retailer when trying to make packaging more sustainable?

There are two key challenges as we see it:

  1. Cost– Plastic is an extremely cheap commodity, and currently, pricing does not account for the negative disposable and proper recycling costs. As such businesses are presently conditioned to buying this valueless commodity product, and changing to better alternatives often means reasonable cost increases. The true cost of the materials needs to be accounted for in the economics of the product, but that can be a hard shift to make.
  2. Conflicting information- Untangling a web of conflicting information and accurately evaluating the costs and benefits of a particular material or change to the supply chain, and then subsequently making a decision they can be confident in and report on. This is obviously one of the critical things we are working to create a solution for. 

Full range and contact details for Grounded Packaging can be viewed here

Further Reading: Pre-Cycling for eCommerce: Future of Recycling. Read More