Are Samples & Single-Dose Packaging Proving to be a Challenge to Sustainability?

Are samples and single-dose packaging proving to be a challenge to sustainability?

A recent survey revealed almost 8 in 10 people in the United Kingdom approved of banning plastic sample sachets. Also, 80% said the government should do more to address their impact on plastic pollution. As a nation that relies on single-use plastic sachets, it’s no surprise that the majority demand change.

Take a fast-food restaurant, for example. Customers could help themselves to endless sachets of condiments without thinking about where they would end up and their impact. Although many well-known businesses and brands have made great strides to eradicate non-recyclable plastic sachets, their use is still widespread.

Here, Origin explores how samples and sachets are creating an environmental challenge for businesses and how many are searching for solutions.

Which industries use single-dose sachets?

The use of single-dose sachets is still widespread worldwide for many reasons. In most cases, these reasons typically point to cost and convenience.

For example, it’s far more convenient (and often more hygienic) for a fast-food restaurant to offer condiments in plastic sachets than having a sauce bottle or dispenser. This is especially important given how popular meal delivery services have become. For them, sachets are much cheaper than plastic or paper containers with sauce. Similarly, in Indonesia, 5.5 million sachets are used in detergent daily. Because of the humidity, detergents are packaged in multi-layered, single-use packaging to protect them.

It’s no secret that emerging countries make heavier of these single-dose sachets due to their convenience and low cost. However, these are the same countries that often lack waste management infrastructure, meaning that these single-use sachets often end up in landfills.

In more economically developed parts of the world, single-use plastic sachets are also used for convenience. In hotels, single-use cosmetics and toiletries are preferred for hygiene purposes, while another sector that overuses single-use plastic sachets is the health and beauty industry.

For example, non-recyclable, single-use sachets are used for face masks to seal in the moisturising solution. Product samples are also distributed in these sachets at public events and in gift sets.

Legal loopholes

In a bid to tackle the challenge of single-use packaging, lawmakers have been scrambling to create water-tight legislation. Over the years, we’ve seen additional charges for single-use carrier bags and the sale of reusable bags in supermarkets, and a move towards paper straws and cups in fast-food restaurants.

While significant progress was made, one area was ignored – condiment sachets.

The environmental organisation, A Plastic Planet (APP), drew attention to a single-use sachet exemption in a recent UK bill.

Their latest campaign, “Sack the Sachet“, touched on how governments and businesses enforced bans on items like plastic straws, bags, and cotton buds but failed to eradicate sachets.

This is despite the fact that 855 billion plastic sachets are used annually across the globe – enough to reach the moon 189 times if placed end-to-end.

Sian Sutherland, the co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said “in recent years, the government and businesses have heavily enforced bans on plastic straws, cotton buds and even bags”.

However, plastic sachets remain unchecked. The result? Habitats around the globe are littered with contaminated packets – prompting swift action to close the loophole.

More than 50 business leaders, politicians, and campaigners signed an open letter in 2020 that urged the UK Parliament to address the use of plastic sachets by seeking to invoke the Environment Bill 2020. It was signed by prominent names in the industry like environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, the UN secretary special envoy for the ocean Peter Thomson, and Iceland Foods managing director Richard Walker.

Fortunately, eco-friendly alternatives are readily available – but we must be willing to make the switch.

What is being done about single-use plastics and sachets?

While single-use plastics and sachets are still used globally, brands are replacing non-recyclable packaging with more sustainable products.

In 2019, Premier Inn announced that they’d be removing all unnecessary single-use plastics from their hotels by 2025. They also said they’re looking to “remove hundreds of millions of unnecessary single-use plastic items, like sauce sachets and nappy bags and will be reducing our food and textile packaging”.

We’re also seeing more beauty brands introducing and promoting refillable packaging as part of their long-term strategy for cutting waste. Instead of buying another bottle, you can buy a larger container and use biodegradable pouches filled with product to top up the main container at home.

This strategy is also becoming more common in food and drink products. For example, the switch to reusable water bottles.

In the UK alone, 44% of people that frequently use a reusable bottle made the switch in the last 2 years, while 18% switched in the last year. Instead of throwing away water bottles, we’re seeing more people ditch the disposables and refill their more durable personal bottles.

Sustainable solutions from Lifestyle Packaging

Interested in finding out about Lifestyle Packaging’s recyclable and reusable alternatives to single-use sachets – and how they can boost your brand’s footprint and eco reputation?

View our range of innovative, recyclable Snappd sachets and recycled plastic bottles. Alternatively, chat with our expert team to find out how we work with you to build bespoke packaging solutions.

Don't miss a thing from Lifestyle Packaging.

Fill in your details below to be added to our mailing list.