Our Top Sustainable Packaging Picks from Expo West 2023
From innovative home compostable packaging to refillable bottles made from ocean-bound plastic, there was a lot to see this year at Expo West. We’re rounding up the brands that caught our eye with their commitment to packaging sustainability at Expo West 2023.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Home compostable trays and Terracycle recyclable wrappers
GoMacro is a plant-based, organic snack bar brand with a mission to make a positive impact on the world and be ‘Bigger Than A Bar’. We met with the brand’s Head of Marketing at the show and was impressed to see his genuine passion for doing better as a brand. GoMacro's commitment to better-for-planet packaging and sustainable farming practices is not a bolted on strategy - it's truly a core part of the brand.
Why we ❤️ GoMacro’s packaging
- All wrappers can be recycled through GoMacro’s partnership with TerraCycle®, which diverts wrapper waste from landfills and offers consumers a prepaid national recycling program. Through the partnership, Terracycle processes the wrappers back into raw material that can be used to make items like park benches, playgrounds, and deck material. While we don’t love that each bar is individually wrapped, we can understand the rationale for an on-the-go snack bar and like that GoMacro goes the extra mile to ensure consumers have an easy(ish) way to recycle their wrappers
- All trays are made from 100% recycled material and are actually home compostable (most ‘compostable’ packaging is industrially compostable and most consumers have limited access to industrial compost sites), meaning that consumers can throw the trays into their home compost bin and they will degrade.
- All glues and inks used are nontoxic and will not impact recyclability or repulpability
100% recycled bottles made from ocean-bound plastic
Zen WTR surprised us - there were seriously a TON of water brands at the show but alkaline Zen WTR not only had a crisp, clean taste but is doing about as best a plastic bottled water brand can when it comes to optimizing the holistic sustainability profile of their packaging.
Why we ❤️ Zen WTR’s packaging
- Made from 100% recycled ocean-bound plastic, which is plastic that is rescued from at risk coastal environments so that it does not pollute the ocean. They claim that every Zen WTR bottle prevents up to 5 virgin resin bottles from polluting the ocean
- Zen WTR is the first bottled water to be plastic negative, which means they invest in programs that support the recovery and recycling of plastic waste from the natural environment equal to 200% of their annual plastic footprint
- BONUS: 1% of total sales is committed to ocean conservation and recycling education and advocacy through their 1% for the Oceans initiative
Browse bottles made from up to 100% PCR from vetted suppliers here
Easy tear-off label on recyclable cup
Siggi’s signature Icelandic Yogurt cups are not particularly revolutionary, but knowing that labels can often be a major culprit in making an otherwise recyclable container not recyclable, their easy tear-off label and clear consumer directions for recyclability is a thoughtful yet simple approach to maximizing the end of life outcomes for their packaging.
Why we ❤️ Siggi’s packaging
- Cups are made from recyclable, lightweight polypropylene plastic
- Easy tear-off label and clear consumer disposal directions on pack make it easy for the consumer to separate the plastic cup from paper label so that the packaging can actually be recycled
Upcycled orange juice in 100% PCR bottle
Happy Moose is a relatively new brand that we discovered at the SKU accelerator booth. Talking to the brand’s founder, he is seriously committed to bottling ‘the world’s best orange juice’ while ‘sending nothing but love back to the one-and-only, Mother Earth’.
Why we ❤️ Happy Moose’s Packaging
- 100% PCR bottle - while it’s becoming increasingly common for brands to include PCR in their packaging, we applaud Happy Moose’s commitment to launching with PCR as a new brand and particularly when the color of their juice (truly the brightest OJ we’ve ever seen!) is such a differentiator. Note : We’d want to take a closer look at the label to ensure it’s not impacting recyclability
- BONUS: The juice itself comes from upcycled produce, which means that ‘perfectly ripe’ fruits that would otherwise be thrown away are rescued and reused
Source packaging made from up to 100% recycled content here
PERSONAL CARE & WELLNESS
Refillable bottles made from ocean waste plastic and refill pouches supporting ocean clean up
True Grace’s mission is to provide nutrient-dense products that regenerate the health and well-being of people and planet. Can confirm that they are truly walking the walk through their packaging, regenerative agriculture practices, and partnerships.
Why we ❤️ True Grace’s Packaging
- Their hero bottle is designed for refill - and True Grace executes on that intention with clear refill messaging on pack to educate the consumer
- Every refill pouch purchased results in an equivalent amount of plastic removed from the ocean through their partnership with ReSea Project. TLDR on ReSea Project - it’s an ocean clean-up effort that employs local fishermen in Jakarta, Indonesia, to pull plastic out of waters near where they fish at a fair wage. Win-win!
- The refillable bottle is made from Ocean Waste Plastic (OWP™) which includes PCR as well as plastic rescued by the ReSea Project
Looking for refillable jars, bottles, and sticks? Check out options from top vetted suppliers here
Plant-based tampon wrappers & applicators
Flo is changing the game for women worldwide with period care products made for the people + planet. Minimizing environmental impact in single-use product categories is particularly important given the amount of waste inherent to individually wrapped products. While their ‘biodegradable materials’ claim could be misleading because the holistic packaging is unlikely biodegradable, most of their packaging is in fact derived from bio-based materials.
Why we ❤️ Flo’s Packaging
- Pad, liner, and tampon wrappers are made from a compostable plant cellulose
- Applicators are made from a sugarcane derived biopolymer that is 95% plant-based
- All outer packaging and period pints are made from FSC-certified recyclable cardboard
Browse bio-based packaging options here
Home compostable upcycled bamboo box
SOLIDU was a real standout at the show. Their shampoos, conditioners, and body butters are formulated without water and packaged in entirely compostable boxes. Innovative packaging, great formulas, and a genuine commitment to sustainability - we love to see it.
Why we ❤️Solidu’s Packaging
- Made from starch, bamboo, and charcoal, SOLIDU claims their packaging can be backyard composed in 45 days and is useful for soil due to the starch
- Instead of using virgin bamboo, SOLIDU produces this box using bamboo offcuts from the production of bamboo chopsticks
- Labels made from paper not plastic making the entire box compostable, with messaging on pack asking the consumer to remove the paper label and recycle it to improve the box’s speed of degradation
- ‘Try Me’ size boxes are made from grass fibres and cellulose, and are also compostable. Trial-sized packaging can be particularly challenging since most components are too small to be recycled, so we like that they’ve gone a different direction to improve end of life
Paper barrel deodorant stick
Last but certainly not least is Lafe’s new paper barrel deodorant stick. We spoke to the man, the myth, the legend – Lafe Larson – at his expo booth and was impressed with his personal commitment to ensuring that Lafe's continues to take incremental steps to improve the sustainability of their packaging. The paper barrel deodorant stick is a great start.
Why we ❤️Lafe’s Packaging
- Lafe’s transitioned to an easy-to-use paper barrel packaging to lightweight their packaging while ensuring it remains recyclable
- This particular barrel component is well designed and actually easy-to-use as a consumer (I’ve tried some other brands that are not)
Source deodorant sticks made from bio-based materials or with up to 100% PCR here
The naughty list
We’ll spare these brands a namedrop and instead reach out to each brand individually, but we also wanted to highlight some of the worst offenders at the show. Specifically, the most common baseless, BS, greenwashing claims we’ve seen on pack. If any of these sound like you, please reach out and let us help you be better.
X ‘Recyclable’ claims on aluminum cans…with paper labels
Many smaller brands start this way because they can’t meet MOQs for direct print. They include claims on pack about aluminum being ‘endlessly recyclable’ and how they are ‘minimizing their footprint’. But here’s the thing… aluminum’s beginning of life impact on the environment is not great and it mostly gains ground in end of life. Why? Because aluminum is commonly recycled... the combination of paper + aluminum is not.
X ‘Recyclable’ claims on non-recyclable tubes
This one drives us nuts. Most tubes are not readily recyclable in North America today…even if they are monomaterial. We don't have the infrastructure to recycle them so directing consumers to throw them in their recycling bins actually does more harm than good.
X And the ABSOLUTE WORST… a ‘Plastic-free’ claim on a cardboard gum box… shrink wrapped in plastic. No further comment.