Packaging

The Better Packaging Co. Interview: Sustainable Packaging

The Better Packaging Co. are providing a sustainable solution to the growing eCommerce packaging problem. The Ecobahn caught up with founder Kate Bezar to discuss how online retailers can make a difference through their packaging choices.

Founded by Rebecca Percasky and Kate Bezar, sustainable packaging company The Better Packaging Co. saw the rise in eCommerce as both a problem and an opportunity. Concerns for the environment due to the vast amount of packaging generated by online shopping was the starting point and inspiration for The Better Packaging Co.

Portrait of Emma and Kate from The Better Packaging Co.
The Better Packaging Co. founders Rebecca Percasky and Kate Bezar

Carrying the most stringent independent certifications, their compostable home packaging, made from corn and non-toxic, compostable resin, will biodegrade and it’s even worm friendly. The Better Packaging Co.’s commitment to operating within a circular economy model means that care is taken at every stage in the product lifecycle to minimise the impact.

Although only founded in March 2018, Better Packaging Co. customer list already include Rip Curl, L’Oreal, Karen Walker, and AllBirds, to name a few. With month-on-month growth of 15% and an expanding catalogue of sustainable packaging options, Better Packaging Co. are driving the sustainable eCommerce packaging charge.

We caught up with Founder Kate Bezar to discuss her thoughts around sustainability in the eCommerce industry, and how online retailers can utilise sustainable packaging options for their business.

What were your previous experiences of packaging waste in eCommerce? 

I hadn’t had experience in eCommerce packaging per se, but I used to publish my own magazine and refused to send copies to subscribers in plastic wrap. We used recycled paper envelopes instead, which did 90% of the job. The remaining 10% would get a tad wet, but I thought that was a small price to pay.

Before Better Packaging, Rebecca and I both worked for StarShipIT, a company that developed technology to enable eCommerce companies to fulfil their orders more efficiently. Rebecca was COO, and during her time there, she became cognisant of the amount of waste that was being generated by the world’s increasing eCommerce sales. 

How did this influence you in starting The Better Packaging Co.?

As a side project, Rebecca decided to investigate whether or not there were more sustainable options out there for eCommerce packaging, something better than the single-use plastic satchels that have been used for decades. When she put the idea to me, I was in, boots and all!

What advice would you give for any online retailers considering a more sustainable packaging option?

Start somewhere, anywhere. Look at how many layers of packaging you are using and try to eliminate any that aren’t absolutely necessary. If you don’t want to, or can’t afford to make a complete switch, think about adding a sustainable packaging option at check-out and ask people to pay for it themselves. One of our customers did this and found 90% of people chose the sustainable packaging option.

“Think about adding a sustainable packaging option at check-out and ask people to pay for it themselves. One of our customers did this and found 90% of people chose the sustainable packaging option.”

Kate Bezar, Founder, The Better Packaging Co.

Also, do your research. There is a LOT of greenwashing out there and companies making dubious claims. Our packaging carries certifications which are very important in ensuring that it is as sustainable as it claims to be. 

Hand-holding-comPOST-sustainable-packaging
The Better Packaging Co. comPOST Packs

How much impact is made by making a straightforward change to a more sustainable packaging option?

There are 65 billion eCommerce parcels sent every year. Most of those (cookbooks, t-shirts and tooth-whitening kits) come in a heavy-duty, single-use plastic satchel and often also in bubble wrap. It all adds up. In just 18 months, we have prevented approximately eighty tonnes of single-use plastic being produced – I say ‘we’, but that’s not us, that’s thousands of retailers all choosing to do better! It all adds up. 

“There are 65 billion eCommerce parcels sent every year, in just 18 months, we have prevented approximately eighty tonnes of single-use plastic being produced”

Kate Bezar, Founder, The Better Packaging Co.

What are the products created by The Better Packaging Co. and how do they differ from regular jiffy bags?

We now have seven main product lines. Most well-known are our comPOST Packs, also known as ‘Real Dirt Bags’. These are matt black, soft, come in seven sizes, and are home compostable. They are also just as durable, tough and waterproof as an ordinary plastic mailer. We have just brought them out in a new colourway – a minimalist stone called ‘In the Buff‘.

The Better Packaging Co Black comPOST packaging
The Better Packaging Co. comPOST Packs

As a replacement for a traditional polybag or garment bag, we produce comPOLY Bags. They are not as transparent as a plastic poly bag, but we have lots of retailers using these from the point of manufacture to protect their goods. Our zip lock (comZIP) bags are also great for preventing damage to individual items.

The Better Packaging Co. comPOLY packaging
The Better Packaging Co. comPOLY Bags

Need a bit more protection? Our comPOSTubbles are padded like a regular bubble bag.

We also have compostable courier and barcode labels (comPOSTlabels) suitable for thermal label printers. 

The Better Packaging Co. comPOSTubbles against window
The Better Packaging Co. comPOSTubbles

Where do you see the future of eCommerce packaging and do you feel reusable packaging is a viable option?

We would love to think so. We are currently trialling a re-useable courier satchel which we call SWOP (the Sustainable Way of Packaging). It requires systems thinking, and a considered full lifecycle approach to ensure that it genuinely does have a lower carbon footprint than something that can be used a couple of times (as our current satchels can). While our comPOST Packs require no process change from a retailer’s point of view, the SWOPs will. End recipients will also need to be educated and be willing to change their behaviour – it’s definitely a more involved transition, but one we believe will be worth the effort.

Image showing Swop Cycle Reuseable Packaging
The-Swop-Cycle-Reuseable-Packaging-The-Better-Packaging-Co

How do you see global eCommerce evolving? 

eCommerce is not going anywhere. The flow of goods across borders is now truly global. We sell to more than 42 countries ourselves. It will only continue to grow, and with it, the 3PL industry.

As The Better Packaging Co. is an eCommerce business, what are your thoughts around sustainable logistics and the future of this?

We believe in warehousing products as close to our customers as possible to reduce the impact of shipping them to and fro across the world. This is where 3PLs come in. Of course, this also has to be balanced with the increased inventory required in multiple locations. 

We ship bulk product by sea as much as possible – very rarely by air and offset all. 

What are your views around Carbon offsetting and any plans for The Better Packaging Co.?

We are in the process of offsetting our operations and aim to become a carbon positive organisation.

If done correctly offsetting can incentivise better choices. For example, when the value of a rainforest as a carbon sink exceeds its value, in dollar terms of course, as somewhere for grazing cattle, only then will it be safe from exploitation.

What are your views on the current Extinction Rebellion movement?

We agree that we are facing an unprecedented global emergency and that unless our behaviour and systems alter dramatically, then, as Extinction Rebellion states “Life on Earth is in crisis”. Their approach to bringing about those changes does differ from ours, but we need many different strategies and solutions. We need everyone to find their way to help bring about change – big or small, loud or quiet.

Better-Packaging-Co.-Kate-and-Rebecca-in-garden
The Better Packaging Co. founders Rebecca Percasky and Kate Bezar

Thanks to Kate and The Better Packaging Co. team for taking the time to share their thoughts. Full details can be found at https://www.betterpackaging.com/ and get in touch with the team here to discuss your packaging requirements.

Further Reading: Sustainable Packaging Insights: Eco-Revenue. Read More