Decoding Eco-Friendly Packaging: explaining the most common terms

As consumers become increasingly environmentally conscious, the demand for eco-friendly packaging options has surged. Terms like recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable have become buzzwords in the packaging industry. However, these terms aren’t interchangeable, and understanding the differences between them is crucial for making informed choices. In this article, we will decode the various eco-friendly packaging terms and their implications.


  1. Recyclable Packaging: Recyclable packaging is designed to be collected, processed, and remanufactured into new products. It can be made from materials like paper, cardboard, glass, or certain plastics that have established recycling systems.
  • Materials: Common recyclable materials include paper, cardboard, glass, and some plastics with recycling symbols (e.g., PET or HDPE).
  • Process: Recycling involves collecting, sorting, cleaning, and reprocessing materials.
  • End-of-Life: Recyclable materials are diverted from landfills and can be turned into new products.


  1. Home Compostable Packaging: Home compostable packaging is designed to break down in a typical backyard compost pile or bin, without the need for specialized industrial composting facilities.
  • Materials: Home compostable materials are similar to compostable ones but are formulated to break down more readily in home composting systems.
  • Process: Home compostable materials degrade within a reasonable time frame in the presence of common composting conditions, like heat and moisture.
  • End-of-Life: These materials can be composted in your backyard, reducing waste sent to landfills.


  1. Industrial Compostable Packaging: Industrial compostable packaging is meant to be processed in specialized composting facilities, which provide the ideal conditions for rapid decomposition.
  • Materials: Industrial compostable materials often include PLA plastics and other compostable polymers.
  • Process: They require the controlled conditions of industrial composting to break down fully.
  • End-of-Life: These materials should be sent to industrial composting facilities and may not break down as effectively in home compost piles.


  1. Biodegradable Packaging: Biodegradable packaging refers to materials that can break down naturally over time, but the term is less specific than “compostable” and doesn’t guarantee a timeframe or specific conditions.
  • Materials: Biodegradable materials can vary widely and may include traditional plastics with additives that facilitate degradation.
  • Process: The rate and extent of biodegradation can vary based on environmental conditions.
  • End-of-Life: Biodegradable materials can break down in various environments, including landfills, but the timeframe is often longer than compostable materials.


  1. Reusable Packaging: Reusable packaging is designed for multiple uses, extending the lifespan of the packaging and reducing the need for single-use alternatives.
  • Materials: Sturdy materials ensure the longevity of reusable packaging, allowing it to withstand multiple uses and contribute to a reduced environmental impact.
  • Process: Reusable packaging relies on consumers returning and reusing the same packaging, emphasizing an extended life cycle and reduced waste.
  • End-of-Life: Unlike single-use alternatives, reusable packaging does not have a predetermined end-of-life after one use. Proper disposal and recycling options are available after its extended use.


  1. Upcycled Packaging: Upcycled packaging utilizes discarded or waste materials to create new packaging products, providing a second life to materials that would otherwise be discarded.
  • Materials: Upcycled packaging utilizes reclaimed materials, such as recycled plastics, repurposed textiles, or reclaimed wood, showcasing creativity in sustainable design.
  • Process: The upcycling process creatively repurposes materials with less energy consumption compared to traditional recycling, emphasizing sustainability.
  • End-of-Life: At the end of its life cycle, upcycled packaging can often be reintegrated into the upcycling process or repurposed for other applications, contributing to a circular approach.


Understanding the distinctions between recyclable, compostable, home compostable, industrial compostable, and biodegradable packaging is crucial for making sustainable choices. Each term carries unique implications, and the choice of eco-friendly packaging should align with specific environmental goals and local waste management capabilities. By decoding these terms and embracing the diversity of sustainable packaging options, we can collectively contribute to a greener and more environmentally responsible future.


Due to this multiplicity of customization and different uses, it is advisable to rely on experts in the field, and PAPERS is your ideal partner for the design, conception, and creation of the most suitable flexible packaging for your product.


Why choose us?

  • Customized solutions: We specialize in personalized solutions that perfectly adapt to your needs and brand.
  • Sustainability: Our commitment to eco-friendly alternatives aligns with your sustainability goals.
  • Industry experience: With over 30 years of experience in the flexible packaging market, we guarantee compliance with industry standards, along with constant research to offer ever-improving quality and technical properties.
  • Dedicated support: Our team is ready to assist and support you in every phase of the project.


PAPERS: Your Partner in Flexible Packaging Excellence

Other news
that may interest you
Dear Customers,   our Team wishes you a warm and heartfelt Happy Easter, with the hope that you will enjoy carefree moments, filled with joy…
Read more
In the competitive world of retail, packaging plays a crucial role in attracting consumers and preserving the quality of products. Choosing the right flexible packaging…
Read more
In an era where sustainability and environmental consciousness are paramount, the packaging industry is undergoing a transformation. One significant development is the adoption of monomaterials…
Read more