Costco Updating Packaging to an Eco-Friendly Style

June 24th, 2010 · 13 Comments

We’ve all bought something, whether at Costco or another retailer, that came in one of those frustrating, plastic clamshell packages.  And probably more than one of us got a cut trying to break into the package and retrieve the item.  They’re annoying and dangerous, plus, all that plastic isn’t very good for the environment.  From the branding aspect, the labeling is usually obscured somewhat by all the clunky plastic packaging.  So, no one likes those packages and now Costco is doing something about it!

Natralock Packaging from MWV

Natralock Packaging from MWV

With the help of packaging company MWV and their Natralock product, Costco will be rolling out new packages on at least five high value items.  Natralock is made with paperboard that contains up to 30 percent recycled content, uses less plastic than traditional clamshell packaging, and features a compact bubble for product display.  This new packaging will allow customers to get in easier, while using environmentally friendly materials that can easily be separated from the plastic and recycled.  Since Natralock is tear-resistant, it will also keep those amongst us with sticky fingers from walking out of the store with something they didn’t pay for.

“It’s all about doing the right thing for our members and the world we live in,” explains Scott Carnie, General Manager of Costco East Coast Packaging. “At the core of our company philosophy is the implicit understanding that each of us must conduct ourselves in an ethical manner every day. That includes protecting our natural resources. In fact, the Costco Employee Code of Ethics states we will exceed ecological standards in every community where we do business and provide products to our members that will be ecologically sensitive.”

From the customer’s perspective, the Natralock packaging can easily be opened with a normal pair of scissors and since there’s not as much plastic the majority of the packaging can be recycled.  With the old clamshell packaging, you had to try to cut through that heavy seamed edge, if you could, and then the majority of the package was plastic so it couldn’t be recycled.  But for me the real problem was always the frustration of just trying to liberate my purchase; like a little plastic prison cell for products.

The key component in the Natralock packaging is paperboard (Coated Natural Kraft paperboard, to be exact), which is made using recycled materials and in turn can also be recycled.  The Natralock packages are made by placing items in a “bubble” that is made from APET (amorphous polyester), which is much preferred environmentally over  current plastics, the bubble is then sandwiched between two pieces of paperboard and sealed.  Voila, packaging that you can get into!   The new packaging is also good for product branding and information because there’s a much larger area surrounding the product that is made of paper.

“Consumers are holding the retailer, rather than the manufacturer, increasingly accountable for over packaging,” states Mike Skrovanek, MeadWestvaco’s general manager for Natralock. “Retailers like Costco can use their clout to make the retail packaging changes consumers are now demanding. Costco has been a very progressive partner willing to look at new ideas, to make changes for a positive environmental performance.”

All in all, the new packaging sounds like a better solution for manufacturers, consumers, Costco, and even the environment.  I like that Costco is taking a leadership role in getting better packaging for product, as well as environmental issues.

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13 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Perry Kincy // 2013.01.25 at 8:18 pm

    My question is does Costco Packaging rise to the level of “gross negligence” which allows treble damages in many juridictions for injuries sustained while attempting to open your purchase.

    I think it does. I wonder how many hands and legs have been sliced to the tune of necessary amputation while trying to open their packaging. Shameful to try and save a few cents and subject your customers to the loss of a limb as they attempt to access thier purchases.

  2. 2 PhilB // 2010.07.09 at 8:29 am

    My wife doesn’t feel quite as strongly about Costco as I do … she does the shopping there. I only use Costco for the photo printing service. Other than that I try to stay out of the place. It gives me the creeps.

  3. 3 KfromD // 2010.07.09 at 5:58 am

    Phil, If I felt the way you do there’s no way I’d shop at Costco.

    The milk packaging isn’t great, but for us it’s because it’s too easy to spill. Some of the eco-friendly packaging like the caps on the water bottles are not-at-all friendly as they have become very difficult to open.

  4. 4 PhilB // 2010.07.08 at 11:24 pm

    Oh, come on. Costco announced better packaging as far back as 2006. Their packaging continues to be a shameful, difficult, unfriendly, obscene mess. Rolling out “better” packaging on a few items is just a token gesture. It’s not like they don’t KNOW their packaging is worse than almost any other retailer. Products at Costco are deliberately packed in much larger “cards,” boxes and wrappers than elsewhere, for reasons known only to them. And yes, the boxes for milk — that’s just over the top and a huge step in the wrong direction! We will not continue buying milk there. I have written Costco several times about their packaging and never received a reply. We’ll see if they reply to the one I wrote today, and to the suggestion I filled out in the store, but I am not holding my breath. And we live in Austin also, and shop at the South Austin store. This milk thing could be the final straw. Going into their stores has always been an ordeal, from the snobbish attitude of the employees to the check-your-receipt-at-the-exit policy, but some of their pricing and products have made it barely worthwhile. But maybe not much longer.

  5. 5 Kerrey // 2010.07.05 at 8:32 pm

    I have been very upset that instead of individual gallons of milk, Costco now only carries 2 gallon packages, with 2 plastic gallons in a cardboard box! Insist on a 2 gallon at a time rule if you must, but the extra box is completely wasteful, and we will buy our milk elsewhere until Costco eliminates the extra packaging. With the amount of milk my family drinks, I’m sure Costco will notice pretty quickly, LOL.

  6. 6 Emily (Bentobloggy) // 2010.07.01 at 8:00 pm

    Speaking of being eco-friendly, I’ve been seeing this on Facebook recently – http://www.oh-no-costco.com/ They say that Costco is selling red-list fish like orange roughy and chilean sea bass.

  7. 7 neelie // 2010.06.25 at 11:35 am

    As much as I like shopping at Costco and other “big box” stores, I’ve often been appalled at the wasteful packaging.

    The cardboard “card” approach was always one of the worst. This is where there would be one little item held on by a hard plastic cover and attached to a gigantic slab of cardboard.

    Another bad idea is having two or more cardboard boxes of something (cereal, crackers, etc.) inside another heavy-duty cardboard box.

    I do hope Costco explores other ways to be more eco-friendly with packaging as there is a LOT of room for improvement.

  8. 8 Emily (Bentobloggy) // 2010.06.25 at 10:05 am

    What they need to change is the coupons that make the disposable razors cheaper than the refill cartridges. It’s a crying shame. I feel like the worst person in the world when I buy those instead of the refills, but the price difference is pretty wide. How can it be more cost effective for Gillette and others to manufacture disposables over just the cartridges??? It makes no sense and makes them look really earth-unfriendly.

    • 9 Kimberly // 2010.06.29 at 5:53 am

      Emily, that is exactly what my husband and I think every time we use the razors coupons too! How can it possibly be cheaper to sell the entire razor and not just the blade? And the blades are the exact same too! It makes not sense to me. And I agree, it does make them look less environmentally friendly.

  9. 10 Maria S // 2010.06.25 at 8:46 am

    I’ve gotten into the crazy habit of writing to both Costco and the manufacturer when I buy something there that is totally wasteful. I am TRILLED to see they are doing something about it!

  10. 11 Kimberly // 2010.06.25 at 1:07 am

    In the UK the Kirkland toilet paper comes in packages of 4, like normal packages from the grocery stores. I never understood the individually wrapped toilet paper rolls. I guess that is better in an institutional setting perhaps, like a restaurant or a school. I’d like it if it would come wrapped in paper, that could be recycled, instead of plastic.

  11. 12 Tweets that mention Costco Updating Packaging to an Eco-Friendly Style | Addicted To Costco! -- Topsy.com // 2010.06.24 at 5:56 pm

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  12. 13 Lissa // 2010.06.24 at 12:16 pm

    I also found that they’ve started packaging the Kirkland brand toilet paper with 6 rolls to a package, rather than packaging each roll individually. I like their TP, but felt unsettled with buying a product with all that wasted material before. Thanks Costco!

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