Flexible vs Rigid Packaging – which is more sustainable?

When a brand creates a product, they need to decide what kind of packaging they will use to protect and preserve it. Flexible and rigid packaging are the two main types of packaging that most businesses consider – and packaging is not a decision to be taken lightly!

The volume of packaging used worldwide has continued to grow as a larger range of products become available. This packaging contributes to the total amount of domestic waste and can be seen as damaging to the environment. Therefore, it’s so important that business owners look at ways to reduce packaging and the impact it has on the environment, while maintaining the necessary qualities.

What businesses need to consider

When choosing the right packaging, arguably one of the most important things to consider is how much protection the item needs. Every product needs to be transported from the factory, to the shop, and then to the consumer without getting damaged. For example, if you are looking for loose tea packaging, you must find something that will protect the tea’s freshness and prevent it from getting crushed.

A product’s packaging should also prevent any spillages and contamination. It should be easy to handle and easy to merchandise on a shelf – along with having enough display space for the perfect branding and all the required information.

So, flexible or rigid packaging?

There are many types of packaging out there, but flexible and rigid packaging are the two main types that most businesses consider. Flexible packaging usually comes in the form of lightweight bags and pouches. It’s commonly used for food and cosmetics and softer products that aren’t easily damaged. Flexible packaging can also be printed on and altered easily, allowing brands to adapt them to suit their needs and branding. Flexible packaging also costs a lot less to manufacture and transport.

Rigid packaging, on the other hand, usually comes in the form of cans, boxes, and glass bottles. It’s suitable for fragile items or things that need that little bit of extra protection – like weed jars that protect the contents from moisture and oxygen, for instance. It is naturally heavier and more expensive to manufacture but provides much better outer protection for the products inside. For this reason, it’s often used to package high-value items – therefore the increased manufacturing cost is still minimal in comparison to the product inside.

What about the environment?

Of course, in today’s society, it’s not enough to simply package and brand your product well. Brands need to consider their environmental impact and be mindful about over-packaging. Consumers are more eco-aware today than ever before, and recognize that over-packaging is bad for the environment. Some plastic containers can be seen as more eco-friendly due to them being easy to clean, therefore being easily reusable. There are a lot of corrugated plastic container manufacturer that produce these reusable versions to help with becoming more eco-friendly. 

So, with this in mind, is flexible or rigid packaging better for the environment? Firstly, flexible packaging takes up less space in transport, reducing the number of vehicles used and fuel consumed. Making the change from rigid packaging to flexible packaging could result in up to 95% less packaging. The difficulty is that flexible packaging is often made up of a combination of materials that make them difficult to recycle – however this is something that many packaging companies are working to rectify.

Rigid packaging, on the other hand, can take up significantly more room in transit. It would take a whopping 26 trucks to transport empty glass jars, yet only one truck to transport the same number of lightweight empty pouches. On the plus side however, rigid packaging is often much more widely recycled.

The future

Of the two packaging types, flexible packaging seems to be the preferred option for brands recently. In fact, the flexible packaging industry is predicted to grow by 3.95% and reach a value of $299 billion by 2024. Flexible packaging allows brands to reduce their costs, whilst also reducing their CO2 and carbon footprint. It also means that they can improve their brand image with consumers, offering products with less packaging and answering the sustainable approach that consumers want.

According to the Future of Global Flexible Packaging, flexible packaging has been one of the fastest-growing packaging sectors over the past 10 years, thanks to increased consumer focus on convenience and sustainability, and this rapid development will continue to accelerate.’

Ultimately, brands must choose the packaging that works best for their product – but in today’s society, sustainability must be high on the agenda. Brands have a responsibility to lead the way and to provide consumers with all the right tools in order to make more sustainable choices.

At Tyler Packaging, we specialize in flexible packaging solutions made from paper and plastic that are suitable for human food, pet food, garden & leisure and industrial products. Our range includes pre-made pouches, bags, and sacks which can be easily customized to suit each individual business’s needs.

As well as having a large number of packaging solutions for businesses to choose from, we go further with our service. We offer a 3D online service where the final product can be visualized before ordering and a stock management system to make sure the packaging is ready when needed

To find out more about flexible and lightweight packaging or to enquire about how we can help your business get in touch on 01926 651451, email [email protected] or visit www.tylerpackaging.co.uk.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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