Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Mailer Bag Materials

As a small shop owner, you know that one of the most important aspects of your business is creating a great first impression. The customer experience begins with the delivery of the product. Your choice of mailer is one of the most critical decisions you'll make for your business. Like you, we also went through the same journey of choosing which kind of mailer bags to use. In this article, we will be sharing our experience of the process, and which one we ended up choosing for Nightingale, a small children’s brand that we own.

Attention Turning To Eco-friendly Mailer Bags

Last year, the environment literally showed signs of healing as the world was locked down. Though these gains may have been short-lived, they have created a host of problems lurking below the surface.


Salesforce reports that digital sales (online shopping) have grown 71% in the second quarter of 2020 and 55% in the third quarter. The result is an increase in poly mailer bags, which will ultimately end up in landfills or incinerators.
There is however a silver lining in all of this. Buyers are aware of this problem, and according to a report by Global Web Index, 72% of online shoppers choose brands with sustainability programs over others because of what happened during the pandemic. Even the big brands are starting to recognize this upcoming trend.


An article from Forbes shared how leading companies are working on sustainable packaging options. Nestlé is starting to invest in non-virgin plastics. Coca-cola committed to using 50% recycled plastics for its PET bottles. Even Mars Inc, the maker of M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix is currently working on its new packaging that’ll also use recycled plastic.

The Different Types Of Mailer Bags Available

We know it can be overwhelming, so we've done the research to help you find the best material for your needs. We will discuss each one in detail later on in the article. Here is an overview of how these four mailing bag materials differ from one another.

eco-friendly mailer bag material comparison
What's More Sustainable: Recycled Poly Mailers, Paper Mailers, or Compostable Poly Mailers?

 

Choosing the Right Mailer Bag for Your Online Shop


As you've probably gathered, there are many factors to consider when deciding on the right printed mailing bags for your business. In this segment, we're going over a few more of them and how they can play into your decision-making process. Take a look at these considerations below:

  • What’s my overall goal as a brand?
  • What are the products I’ll put inside? 
  • What materials will help me protect my product inside?

Educating your customers on the best way to dispose of your shipping bags should be the first step when considering your packaging options. As states implement recycling and waste management differently, this can be a little challenging. But as a small shop owner, it's always great to do your share. Mailing bags should not end up in landfills. But sometimes, factors like failed waste management system, mistakes in waste segregation, and others. A lot of these mailing bags still end up in the trash. So, when choosing the right, sustainable mailing bags you should:

 

Shifting to Greener Options One Step at a Time

It is possible you may be tempted to revamp your entire process, but in the end, you might end up making it less eco-friendly and less effective.

  • Even if you order the minimum amount, it will be expensive. Consider how much of the margin will be consumed by the packaging.
  • When you don't know how to compost, recycle, and dispose of the materials properly, you won't be able to guide your customers to do the same.
  • There are several components in packaging, like bubble wrap, tissue papers, and shredded paper. It can be overwhelming to change everything at once. 

Before replacing all your supplies with greener alternatives, focus on one or two areas first. For example, if you were previously using boxes for packing materials, try replacing just one size with biodegradable shipping bags, then see how it goes before moving onto other sizes and products.

 

Test the Material’s Durability and Weight

Testing your product's packaging before it has to go through the rigors of shipping is a great way to make sure what you send out meets customer expectations. There are many ways to test how well a material will hold up to pressure or moisture, and to see if it will be damaged during transport. Mailer bags are usually better than cardboard boxes because they don’t get squished while in transit.

Which Type Of  Mailers Did We End Up Using?

Before setting up Impack, we owned a small shop called Nightingale. We went through our own process of finding sustainable mailing bags. The biggest discovery we made was that the problem isn't with the material. Recycling is the issue.

As we mentioned above, poly mailers are generally recyclable, but only a small portion of all plastic bags end up in recycling facilities. Paper and cardboard boxes were considered, but the adhesive stickers and plastic peepholes would complicate recycling. 

Then there are compostable mailing bags. Even though this is considered to be the greenest option, it's not ideal for closed landfills. Without oxygen, they won't break down at all. Composting is really not a waste disposable option for packaging. This process is really meant for food waste. It usually takes 9-12 months before compostable mailer bags, decompose. Some composting facilities are already rejecting some bioplastics. This is because ink and adhesive materials contaminate the soil. Although we have mentioned that there are suppliers for soy-based ink and adhesives, we still didn’t choose the compostable material.

 We opted for biodegradable mailer bags so that we can address the issue of when these shipping bags end up in landfills or natural environments. It’s not the perfect choice, but when we were deciding to switch, we were focused on making an impact on lessening the bags that are ending up in landfills. Biodegradable material when exposed to microbes, light, air, moisture, which is common in most closed landfills ﹘break down to natural elements.

Wrapping up Your Journey to Shifting to Eco-friendly Packaging

You’ve done the hard work of creating a product that represents your brand well. Now it's time to choose packaging materials that will represent your brand visually and materially. 

Wouldn't it be great if your mailer bags stood out in the sea of white plastic bags? It'll be even better if you choose something that represents what your brand really stands for. Consider materials that align with your goal.

 

Consider what the final destination is for your package and how these choices may affect the environment — not just in production, but also after they have reached their destination. Not all recyclable bags end up at recycling facilities, so don't forget this when considering your options.

By using eco mailer bags or other sustainable packaging solutions, small businesses can make a big difference too!

Considering going green with your packaging? Here are some of our mailer designs. Our Facebook group is also a great resource for owners of small shops to learn from each other's experiences.

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