Most fashion items go through packaging and unpacking several times before they reach the consumer, leading to large amounts of unnecessary discarded plastic packaging. Unfortunately, most packaging also ends up as waste in landfills and incinerators, contributing to fashion's greenhouse gas emission problem. Clothing also poses a huge landfill problem, furthering the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry. Fashion is still considered the world's largest polluting industry after oil and gas.
Compostable packaging is sustainability's next frontier
Companies are continuing to find ways to ameliorate fashion’s environmental waste problem. One solution gaining traction is composting. Compostability is a very new conversation in the fashion industry, and while the topic of biodegradable materials is a hot one right now, compostable is biodegradable, but biodegradable isn’t always compostable. Biodegradable materials go through a lengthy process to break down to their natural elements, while compostable materials break down in optimal conditions.
New companies, like TIPA, focus on 100 percent compostable alternatives to plastic, encouraging better end-of-life for packaging. TIPA’s sustainable products both replace plastic for use and nourish the Earth through composting. Other companies are also looking at compostable alternatives to materials like leather.
Stella McCartney launched a collection made from mushroom leather in 2001. MycoWorks, a mushroom leather production company, is also becoming a big player in the compostable material space. While fibers are a big conversation in the sustainability space, the packaging is getting more spotlight lately.
According to Michael Wass, vice president of TIPA, only 4 percent of recyclable packaging was actually recycled last year, so there is a need for a new solution. “Recycling is important for the products where it is a good solution, but flexible packaging is very challenging to recycle effectively,” Wass said to FashionUnited. “Composting has an inherent value at the end of life, so if you can get compostable packaging to turn into something valuable, that solves the challenge that comes with recycling. In recycling, recyclers collect things they often can’t sell.”
To create their compostable packaging, TIPA sourced materials from certified compostable polymers, sourcing available raw material. Many known brands, including Scotch & Soda and Gabriela Hearst, have adopted TIPA’s packaging.
Conventional plastic bags don’t have a sustainable end of life, and flexible packaging is one of the most common forms of litter. They are had to capture and easily blow off landfills. Compostable packaging provides a sustainable solution in the supply chain.
Compostable packaging can also be put in a compost bin or sent to a composting facility, where it can be quickly broken down into organic materials. While there is the question of how a sustainable and compostable company can scale, TIPA has found an eco-friendly approach to doing so.
They do as much sourcing and production locally as possible, reducing CO2 emissions from shipping. Consumers getting their packaging are getting a domestically sourced and produced solution. With supply chain issues running rampant, a domestic production solution is welcome by retailers. With 53 percent of clothing consumers believing companies should reduce plastic usage, compostable packaging is the future.