at Sourceful

Making it easier for brands to make better packaging choices.

Use Sourceful data to make
better packaging choices

Understand your footprint

We use the latest science and data to help you understand your impact across the full life cycle, enabling better choices.

Reduce your footprint

We help you choose the right packaging for both brand and planet by using granular data insights on product options to.

Offset the rest

We partner with best-in-class carbon removal partners to give you a hassle-free offset. And we automatically offset all international logistics, too.

Communicate your impact to customers with confidence

Responsible sourcing

Vetting suppliers gives us transparency into the manufacturing process and each suppliers’ operations. This means we’re confident in the quality and sustainability of our products.

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Full life cycle assessment data

Detailed assessments to help you understand the impact of your packaging with a gold-standard methodology independently verified to ISO standards.

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In-house sustainability experts

Powered by seasoned sustainability professionals, with experience from world-renowned brands, our team are available to help you improve the impact of your packaging.

Speak to our experts
Carbon removal

More than planting trees.

Hassle-free offsets
We make it possible for any brand to take stand-out climate action, with a one-click offset
Exceptional projects
We work with independent experts to find and vet the highest quality permanent carbon removal projects
No hidden fees
We pass on 100% of your contribution to our project partners and match it
Our Approach
Sustainability is our foundation.
Here’s how we’re delivering packaging for the planet.
Our Approach

Our planet needs change from every industry. Climate change, amongst other environmental crises, is demanding that every sector transforms how it does business. Packaging is no exception. And actually represents a unique opportunity for impact - it’s needed in pretty much every industry and improvement is actionable now. But responding to this challenge as a brand is daunting. What does more sustainable actually mean? Which solutions will deliver results without compromising on function? How reliable is the supply chain of these new materials? Our aim is to empower brands to navigate this new world and deliver sustainable change without compromise.

It starts with transparency. If we want to deliver real impact, we must also show it. This is why we built our own carbon data engine; to give brands complete visibility into the full life cycle emissions of every product. It’s also why we partner with universities to test our products and make verified claims. Without transparency, it’s impossible to know which direction is the best direction. Or which packaging solutions deliver the biggest leap forward. Instead, we’re left to rely on the latest supposed ‘green products’ that might be backed by patchy statistics. We want to turn the tide and champion transparency as a path to taking climate action.

We’re proud of our progress, but we’re not satisfied yet. Cutting packaging emissions by 20-50% doesn’t need to take 10 years — it’s possible today. This year, for example, we delivered new packaging for Hylo that reduced their packaging carbon footprint by 29%. We also published a study with leading academics on the true environmental impact of compostable plastic packaging, helping brands steer clear of solutions that could actually increase their emissions. Whilst these milestones are important, this is only the beginning of creating positive change at scale. And we want the progress we’re making today to be the industry standard, not the exception.

Our ultimate aim is zero carbon emissions, zero waste packaging. Put simply, this is what is needed to address climate change and waste pollution. However we recognise that we’re not there yet. So we’re investing in the solutions available now, that put us on a path toward zero, not the distracting solutions that don’t. By accelerating the transition to better packaging, together we can have a positive impact at scale.

Sourceful Insights
Sustainability resources
Mattia Dell'Ova
White Paper
Why the full life cycle matters
Data is the foundation of sustainability. It shows us the extent that our climate is changing. It’s the vital information that combats greenwashing, which nearly half of all green claims in the EU are guilty of.
Aug 30
Aug 30
Climate Change

Why the full life cycle matters

Data is the foundation of sustainability. It shows us the extent that our climate is changing. It’s the vital information that combats greenwashing, which nearly half of all green claims in the EU are guilty of [1]. It’s the backbone of the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports (e.g. [2]). And it’s the foundation of every Life Cycle Assessment.

Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) are a powerful, science-based tool for estimating the potential environmental impact of products, processes, or services throughout their life cycle [3]. For a full LCA, teams will typically look at data from five life cycle stages:

  1. Raw materials extraction
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Secondary packaging & transport
  4. Product use
  5. Final disposal

Missing one or more life cycle stages, however, directly affects the quality of the assessment. Leading organisations are on the same page. For example, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) [4], the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) [5] in the UK and the European Commission for the EU all underline the need for high-quality data across the full life cycle to avoid making misleading environmental claims.

To quantify the impact of not assessing the full life cycle, we ran our own tests using our proprietary LCA engine. Here’s what we found: focusing only on a product’s raw ingredients can conceal between 25-70% of the product’s emissions. Put another way, selective reporting on a product’s emissions will never lead to accurate claims. The full life cycle matters.

Third parties: an extra layer of security

We’ve seen how LCAs rely heavily on the quality and completeness of data. But to ensure the highest standards of accuracy and consistency, third parties offer an extra layer of security. These include standards like ISO 14040 and 14044 and methodologies like the Product Environmental Footprint created by the European Commission.

A proprietary methodology

To go one step further, we developed our own LCA methodology. This allowed us to go beyond the static nature of a normal LCA and instead build an engine that could assess billions of product variants from different suppliers, giving results in real time whilst not compromising on accuracy. After building our engine, we commissioned an external panel of LCA experts and academics to review it to verify that our model conformed to the leading ISO standards.

It’s this rigorous homegrown approach that’s allowed us to develop a catalogue of science-backed products that in turn empower brands to make measurable progress. And it’s allowed us to support those brands in communicating that progress confidently with their customers.

What does the data say?

Our approach to LCA allows us to pinpoint both a product’s carbon hotspots and the biggest opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint.

We’ve found that the production of packaging components, international transport and disposal represent the majority of a packaging product's footprint. Let's dive deeper:

1. Production of packaging components

This stage, which includes the extraction, transport, and refinement of materials, typically accounts for the majority of the life cycle impact (for example, c.70% of our Eco Mailer Box’s total carbon footprint). An example of how we’ve reduced these emissions is custom sizing. By making custom sizing available for our packaging boxes, we’ve empowered brands to remove the empty and wasteful space that has become standard in the packaging industry. We estimate that this can reduce the total carbon footprint of a mailer box by around 8%.

2. Transport

Freight is carbon intensive, especially international air shipping which can represent up to 90% of the life cycle of packaging. But opting for sea freight instead can lower that number by 60%, which is the case with our recycled mailer bag. Whilst this is the best situation, we know that time is a significant constraint for brands, making sea freight often unfeasible.

We launched split delivery as a solution; a freight option where brands can choose how much of their order to send via air and sea. This allows brands to meet short-term demand whilst benefiting from sea freight’s significantly lower emissions. If a brand ordered 20,000 units and sent 10% by air freight, they could reduce their carbon footprint by up to 50% compared to sending the entire shipment via air.

3. End of life

End of life (also known as disposal) is an often overlooked but significant life cycle stage. Even for a cardboard box that can be easily recycled (71%, 2021 UK data, [6]), disposal still accounts for c.15% of its total carbon footprint. Disposal also varies dramatically between materials, making it a crucial part of any comparison. For example, whilst cardboard’s recycling rate in the UK is 71%, flexible plastic’s is unfortunately only 6% [7]. This pushes disposal to account for c.21% of our recycled LDPE mailer bag’s emissions.

Always consider the full life cycle

For an accurate account of a product’s emissions, the full life cycle is essential. This is why authorities like the CMA and ASA require businesses to be clear on which stages of the life cycle they’ve included when making claims about a product’s environmental impact. Gold standard claims will always look at the full life cycle and selectively reporting on emissions will result in unreliable and dubious claims. This will put you at risk in a world that is demanding action and clarity.

With the full life cycle in hand, however, you can measure and track real progress, identify the best opportunities and communicate confidently with customers.

  1. Abnett, K. (2023). EU proposes clampdown on companies using fake ‘green’ claims. Reuters. Available here [ proposes clampdown on companies using fake 'green' claims,-By Kate Abnett&text=To use such labels%2C a,under an environmental labelling scheme]. (Accessed: 21 Aug. 2023).
  2. IPCC (2023). Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. doi: 10.59327/IPCC/AR6-9789291691647.
  3. PRé Sustainability (2020). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) explained. Available here [] (Accessed: 21 Aug. 2023).
  4. Competition & Markets Authority (2021). CMA guidance on environmental claims on goods and services. Available here [] (Accessed: 21 Aug. 2023).
  5. Committee of Advertising Practice (2021). The CAP Code. Available here [] (Accessed: 21 Aug. 2023).
  6. DEFRA (2023). UK statistics on waste. Available here []
  7. WRAP (2021). Recycling your customers’ plastic bags and wrapping. Available here []
Albert Howard
White Paper
Compostable plastic packaging: the perfect solution for plastic waste?
To achieve net zero and limit the worst of climate change, we have to rethink our reliance on plastic.
Sep 18
Sep 18
Compostable Packaging
Climate Change

To achieve net zero and limit the worst of climate change, we have to rethink our reliance on plastic.

This statement is more urgent than ever, but the problem with plastics is unfortunately much bigger than just climate change. In reality, plastics also directly threaten human health and endanger habitats when leaked into the natural environment. Paradoxically, one of the main culprits of this damage is also claimed by some as the next green solution  — compostable plastics.

To unpack this new material, we conducted a study on the environmental impact of compostable plastic bags, to find out if they truly offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional materials like paper, fossil plastics and recycled plastic. In this article, we’ll focus on one part of the study: the damage that leaked compostable plastics have on our ecosystems.

The consensus on compostable packaging is unclear

The biodegradable plastics market is projected to expand 2-3x between 2021 and 2026 [1]. And at Sourceful, we’ve seen firsthand the escalating demand for compostable packaging. But whilst many brands are running towards compostable plastics, the consensus is still murky, with other companies (like Tesco and Abel & Cole) publicly distancing themselves from them. We wanted to use our research to help fill the vital knowledge gap and build consensus.

Compostable plastics are often considered a green alternative because they degrade and so are often (incorrectly) assumed to effectively disappear in the natural environment. The theory is that this reduces the amount of plastic in the ocean and the risk of microplastics. But as with most things — it’s not that simple. Life cycle assessments (LCAs) have historically struggled to account for leaked waste and microplastics because of a lack of data, even though both play a major part in a material’s overall environmental impact.

To tackle this, we partnered with the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub at the University of Manchester. This gave us access to the latest labs, data on new and innovative materials and their in-house expertise — all invaluable to our study. Together, we investigated how traditional fossil fuels and compostable plastics behave when leaked. Here’s what we found.

The impact of leaked waste is twofold

One of the major environmental impacts of plastics (fossil and compostable), besides their carbon footprint, is their effect on the natural environment when leaked.

Leaked plastic waste generates both physical (e.g. animals ingesting microplastics or being entangled in larger pieces) and chemical risks (e.g. the leaching of toxic additives like plasticisers and flame retardants) to wildlife from the breakdown of plastic into microplastics and nano-plastics. Not only does the breakdown of plastics directly leach toxic elements but they can also act as a magnet for other environmentally harmful pollutants.

To make matters worse, leaked plastic waste has also been found to be directly connected to climate change. Researchers at the Ocean University of China found that microplastics reduced the growth of microalgae and the efficiency of photosynthesis, in turn degrading plankton’s ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere [2]. The knock-on effect is that the ocean itself cannot capture carbon as efficiently; an essential resource in our fight against climate change, given that it sequesters 30-50% of total CO2 emissions from human activity.

Compostable plastics and leaked waste

The longer a plastic takes to break down, the more likely it will be ingested or cause entanglement. Put another way, the risk of adverse effects increases the longer a plastic persists. To account for this, we assessed each material for its degradation time in freshwater, marine, and soil environments, and used that data to identify a leaked waste impact rating for each material.

Our study found that whilst compostable plastics do reduce the risk of some adverse effects (less risk of entanglement and a shorter period of microplastics), they are not a cure-all for plastic pollution. Compostable plastics can persist in the natural environment for over half a century, which puts into question the popular claim that these plastics are the next green solution. This matches up with the conclusions that Narancic et al. made in their study [3]. Here’s an overview of degradation times for fossil plastics and common compostable plastics:

  1. Fossil plastics take around 4-5,500 years to degrade in soil (with some studies suggesting this is even higher, at around 10,000 years); the worst and longest degradation time amongst all plastics. This is made worse by the common use of harmful additives [4].
  2. Compostable plastics like PLA take on average 1-63 years in soil[3] to degrade completely. In water, PLA does not degrade at all.
  3. Other compostable plastics like TPS and PHB take on average 4-6 months to degrade completely.

So compostable plastics do have a tighter degradation window than fossil plastics, and they also typically contain fewer toxic additives (such as flame retardants and stabilisers). But they still can have a significant degradation window, especially and unfortunately PLA, one of the most common materials used in compostable packaging (including coffee lids and bags).

Admittedly, it is still hard to know the exact time it takes for a plastic to decay; the field of estimating polymer lifetimes is still relatively new. But we do have enough comparative data to give us an indicative hierarchy of materials that we can use to assess performance and inform decisions.

Compostable plastics do slightly reduce the risk of microplastics because of their shorter degradation times. But our larger study showed that compostable bags emit 1.5-2x more greenhouse gas emissions over their full life cycle than virgin fossil plastics. In addition, given they are still relatively new, there are uncertainties about the unintended consequences that could come from their use. ****This begs the question: are the reduced risks from leaked waste enough to offset the increase in carbon footprint? For now, we don’t think so.

What does this mean for my packaging?

It’s clear that we need to move away from fossil plastics. And in their current state, compostable plastics are not the next green solution. So, what’s the answer?

First, brands should follow the waste hierarchy. Can this packaging component be removed? Can we use less materials without compromising function? How can I design this product so it’s easy to recycle?

Second, brands should prioritise responsibly sourced paper if possible, which typically has the lowest impact of any material. Its full life cycle emissions are low, and there’s no risk of microplastics if leaked. That’s not to say it’s perfect; forests are often mismanaged and producing and recycling paper still generates emissions, uses large amounts of water and potentially also harmful chemicals. This is why certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are so important.

Paper isn’t also appropriate for every use-case and product, like liquids. This is why we stress prioritising paper if possible. Packaging should always be carefully matched with the product, and blanket rules rarely result in success.

For more information about this study, email


Thanks to Dr. Guilhem de Hoe and Dr. Chloe Loveless from the University of Manchester for leading the collaboration.

Our study focused on the typical compostable plastics currently seen on the market (PLA, PBAT, PHA and TPS). Our study did not include a nascent group of materials classed as unmodified natural polymers, which we’re interested in exploring in the future.

  1. MarketsandMarkets. (2021). Biodegradable Plastics Market - Global Forecast to 2026.
  2. Zhang, C., Chen, X., Wang, J., & Tan, L. (2017). Toxic effects of microplastic on marine microalgae Skeletonema costatum: Interactions between microplastic and algae. Environmental Pollution, 220(B), 1282-1288. [Link]
  3. Narancic, T., Verstichel, S., Chaganti, S. R., Morales-Gamez, L., Kenny, S. T., De Wilde, B., Padamati, R. B., & O’Connor, K. E. (2018). Biodegradable Plastic Blends Create New Possibilities for End-of-Life Management of Plastics but They Are Not a Panacea for Plastic Pollution. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(18), 10441-10452. [Link]
  4. Chamas, A., Moon, H., Zheng, J., Qiu, Y., Tabassum, T., Jang, J. H., Abu-Omar, M., Scott, S. L., & Suh, S. (2020). Degradation Rates of Plastics in the Environment. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 8(9), 3494-3511. [Link]
Rachel Kevern
How to reduce packaging waste (7 simple ways)
Packaging has a waste problem. The good news is that things are changing, and you can be a part of it.
Jul 24
Jul 24

Whether you’re running a business or running to the supermarket, you’ll know that we’re surrounded by packaging. And that the waste generated from packaging and other products is a serious, global problem.

The good news is that things are changing. There’s a huge customer demand for more sustainable products and businesses are striving to meet it. So, whether you’re on the buying or selling side of the equation, here’s a list of seven simple ways you can reduce your packaging waste.

3 ways to reduce packaging waste (for businesses)

  1. Optimise your packaging design
  2. Design for reuse and recycle
  3. Improve your supply chain

1. Optimise your packaging design

Reducing waste can start before your packaging has even been created — at the design stage. You want to make sure you use just enough materials to protect your product and nothing more.

For starters, this means thinking about your product’s shape and size. Can you reduce your packaging dimensions so that it fits more snugly? Packaging that’s the right size means using fewer materials and creating less waste. It also means less empty space, so you can ditch any excess cushioning, like polystyrene inserts or air pillows. And you can ship more of your product in one go, reducing transport emissions.

Whilst we’re talking about reducing excess, think about where else you can optimise your design. For example, could you avoid using ancillary (supporting) materials like sleeves, without affecting your packaging’s performance? Or could you reduce the amount of tape you’re using to seal your boxes by switching to a self-locking crash lock box?

Eliminating air and unnecessary materials can go a long way toward reducing your packaging waste. And if you’re unsure where to start, why not work with our team of experts? They can show you how redesigning your packaging can reduce your waste and even your costs.

2. Design for reuse and recycle

So you’ve optimised your packaging design to reduce waste. Now you can think about what happens to it after it’s been used. This is where recycling comes in. To design more sustainable packaging, use materials that are widely recyclable. Paper and card, for example, are easy to recycle, with a recovery rate of around 70% in the UK.

But recycling isn’t your only option. You can also design your packaging for reuse. This can be as simple as including a double peel and seal strip so that your customers can make returns without having to buy new packaging. You could also offer refills, where customers send back their empty packaging and get their products replenished. This has the added bonus of generating loyalty to your brand. Cosmetics retailer Lush is a great example of a successful refillable packaging scheme in action.

Overall, recyclable and reusable packaging means you can keep materials out of the waste stream for longer, whilst reducing your need for virgin materials: a win-win.

3. Improve your supply chain

Optimising your supply chain means taking a closer look at the stages your packaging goes through before it reaches the customer. And this extends beyond the design possibilities mentioned earlier. For example, an overlooked area in your supply chain might be transportation. You could reduce waste here (emissions and space) by consolidating shipments. This could also save you money on shipping costs.

Another way to reduce supply chain waste is by making sure you're shipping products in the right-sized packaging. We won’t call anyone out, but social media is rife with photos from frustrated customers who've received a hand-sized product in a box fit for a small child. In fact, the average box is 40% too big for its contents. This wastes materials and makes shipping less efficient — and means you pay more.

So, make sure you’ve always got a supply of the right-sized boxes to avoid shipping waste space.

4 ways to reduce packaging waste (for consumers)

  1. Use reusable items
  2. Choose loose and buy in bulk
  3. Look for climate-conscious packaging
  4. Communicate and collaborate with local stores

1. Use reusable items

We’re talking shopping bags, water bottles and your portable mug for that essential first cup of coffee. Every time you use your own reusable items, you’re saying no to single-use packaging. And there are plenty of businesses encouraging this, whilst generating brand loyalty at the same time. Like Costa Coffee, where using your reusable mug can get you a free drink in half the number of visits it would usually take. And who doesn’t love free coffee?

The great thing about reusable items is that they can last years with the right care. And with so many stylish, convenient and affordable options available, there’s no reason not to switch to reusable.

“‘It’s just one straw,” said 8 billion people.’ (source unknown)

2. Choose loose and buy in bulk

Pre-packaged goods can save you time during your supermarket dash. But, if you were to pile up all that when you got home, you might wonder if the convenience is worth all the waste. Instead, choose loose items you can carry yourself or in reusable bags. Not only does this help to reduce packaging waste, but it also means you only buy what you need, so you can avoid wasting food too.

And nowadays, the fruit and veg aisle isn’t the only place you can buy loose products. Supermarkets around the UK are installing refill stations for goods like nuts, pasta and even laundry detergent. So, you can also choose to buy non-perishable goods in bulk, saving you yet another trip to the supermarket and the emissions that come with it.

3. Look for more sustainable packaging

If you’ve got multiple brands selling the same item, go with the one with less packaging. And when packaging is unavoidable, choose the one that’s recyclable.

If there’s no recyclable option, you might even leave that particular product on the shelf. You’ll be amazed at what you can do without when you shop with a more sustainable mindset.

4. Collaborate with local stores

If you’re frustrated that your local businesses aren’t taking steps to reduce waste, tell them. Use customer satisfaction surveys or speak with community groups or your MP to express your opinion. You could even start your own petition and send it to members of your community to show that your ideas have public support.

When businesses know that the demand for more sustainable products and practices is there, they’re more likely to commit to changing.

Reduce packaging waste with Sourceful

Packaging waste is a major global problem that affects everyone. But there are simple steps you can take to reduce it. If you're a business owner, you can make a difference by optimising your packaging design, designing for reuse and recycling, and improving your supply chain. For consumers, bringing reusable items, choosing items with the least amount of packaging and demanding more sustainable options can be really impactful.

Here at Sourceful, we help brands switch to packaging that's more sustainable than traditional alternatives. Whether you’re looking for a responsibly-sourced mailer box or a recycled mailer bag, we’ve got a solution for you.

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