The 7 R’s of Sustainability

Consumers increasingly don’t want to accept the guilt of packaging waste. Packaging is frequently scrutinised and choosing the right eco-friendly solution can serve to increase the perceived value of your products!

However, it can be difficult to know which steps to take to make your business eco-friendly, not everything can be recycled or composted and time and cost restraints are another issue. 

That’s why we refer to the sustainable hierarchy based on ‘the 7 R’s of sustainability’ when consulting and planning with our clients for eco-friendly packaging solutions.

We aim to deliver a variety of eco-friendly recyclable, reusable, recycled and compostable packaging solutions. You can discover our wide range of sustainable packaging options here

The sustainable hierarchy
The sustainable hierarchy
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation's Waste Hierarchy. Retrieved from 'Quickstart Guide- Design for recovery; Reuse, Recycling or Composting' Version 1 (November 2019).


  • Rethink packaging that requires products to be individually wrapped with plastic or paper 
  • Find sustainable alternatives such as bioplastics- plastic materials produced from renewable biomass sources (recycled food waste, agricultural by-products, corn starch, wood chips, vegetable fats and oils etc)


  • Refuse single use plastics such as:
    • Plastic bags
    • Plastic cutlery
    • Straws
  • Refuse overpackaging where each product is individually wrapped


  • You can’t always recycle everything and recycling still uses lots of energy, water and other resources
  • Chemically repurposing new products from cardboard and other materials can also be resource intensive
  • Sometimes, you must reduce the need for that product or packaging in the first place
  • Reduction generally achieves the highest environmental value


  • Packaging that can’t be recycled but can be reduced includes:
    • Plastic bags
    • Takeaway non recyclable coffee cups
    • Bubble wrap
    • Polystyrene (foam)
  • Soft plastic can be hard to recycle as it is hard to collect in large volumes, tends to get stuck in machinery at industrial recycling centres and costs more to collect, separate and recycle


  • Transforming things normally thrown away into something useful 
  • For example:
    •  using old boxes for storage
    • Using paper bags as planters 


  • The general rule when it comes to eco-friendly packaging designs is that the longer a product is used, the less of an impact on the environment it has.
  • Although 40% of the world’s plastic is used on packaging, plastic packaging actually requires less fresh water to produce than paper packaging which contributes three times more carbon emissions into the air. Plastic packaging is therefore not necessarily bad if it can be reused.


  • Common packaging products that can be reused:
  • Reuse paper boxes and mailers for shipping
  • Cardboard can also be reused
  • Many recyclable plastics such as PET and HDPE can be re-used
  • Using the same plastic bottles or investing in reusables- glass, stainless steel


  • Recycling that keeps materials at their highest value for as long as possible  is preferable to organics recycling (rotting)
  • You can recycle:
    • Glass bottle and jars 
      • Some exceptions: soda-lime glass for food and beverage containers, Borosilicate Glass (Pyrex) for high temperature applications; Float Glass (windows); China glass, Pharmaceutical glass and house-hold glassware cannot be mixed in the recycle streams 
    • Cans 
    • Plastic bottles and containers
      • Plastic food containers are also easier to wash than paper packaging so the problem of contamination in the recycling process is reduced
    • Soft plastic
    • Food and beverage cartons
    • Paper and cardboard
    • Fibre-based products without food or drink residue


  • The ability to recycle depends on:
    • Its shape
    • Its size
    • Its weight
    • The inks used
    • coatings
    • Adhesives
    • Colourants (some dyes make plastic not recyclable)


  • You can’t recycle:
    • Food-soiled paper
    • Food packaging/film
    • Plastic bags- these can take thousands of years to break down in nature
    • Shredded paper
    • Styrofoam, foam containers or packaging
    • Tissue or wax paper
    • Bioplastic- no recycling facilities in Australia have the technology to recycle bioplastics


  • Composting is only for organic matter and is the perfect solution for packaging contaminated with food scraps as these materials can’t be recycled
  • Composting materials should be avoided if there’s already a well established recycling system
  • Rotting organic waste transforms it into nutrient rich soil
  • To avoid unnecessary contribution to landfill, correct disposal of organic waste is crucial
  • In Australia, there are currently only 150 commercial composting facilities and most aren’t located close to cities, therefore it is important to check whether or not composting is a viable solution in your area


  • You can’t compost:
    • Coated cardboard packaging (coffee cups, waxy lined paper cups, milk cartons, juice boxes)
    • food packaging with either a plastic or foil layer 
    • Bioplastic packaging and cellophane- unless its certified to be home compostable or industrial compostable
    • Paper with lots of colour printing or marker drawn inks as it contains heavy metals and other toxins that can contaminate the compost
    • Glossy paper


  • You can compost packaging:
    • when the packaging itself is certified as compostable
    • that is nutrient contaminated (i.e likely to be contaminated with organic residue (eg. food, grease etc)
    • where it will be difficult for consumers to remove organic residue from the packaging
    • when there are commercial composting facilities around (if it is only industrially compostable)



  • Some items can only be industrially composted:
    • PLA bioplastic products