5 Great Reasons Why the Sporting Goods Industry Needs to Change to Molded Fiber Packaging


The sports world is quickly becoming a major force in promoting eco-friendly practices. For the Tokyo Olympics, the IOC has adopted a broad sustainability program. It includes a zero-waste goal (reduce, reuse, recycle) and sustainable-sourcing guidelines. Other major sports bodies support the UN’s Clean Seas campaign, which aims to reduce plastic waste in our oceans. More than 8 million metric tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year.

These efforts underscore that brands in the sporting goods industry have many options to help the environment and boost their sustainability profiles. Adopting molded fiber packaging is a simple way for brands to become more eco-friendly.

5 Reasons to Start Transitioning to Molded Fiber Packaging Today

Molded fiber offers many benefits to sporting goods manufacturers. Let’s take a look at the top five reasons that molded fiber packaging is a perfect fit for sporting goods products.

1. To reduce the use of plastics

Widespread use of plastics in packaging materials began in the 1960s and expanded quickly. Today, millions of tons of plastics are used for both retail packaging and for shipping. Many plastics are recyclable, but only a small amount is actually recycled each year. In the U.S., for example, less than 10% of plastics are recycled. The vast majority of plastics used worldwide ends up in landfills or pollutes our landscapes and oceans.

Environmentalists point to reducing single-use plastics as a key environmental goal. For example, mass sporting events can generate up to 750,000 plastic bottles and 7 metric tons of waste. Across a wide range of activities, the sports industry can take steps to be a positive force to reduce plastics waste.

For their part, sporting goods brands can strengthen their eco-friendly profile by transitioning to biodegradable packaging made from sustainable materials. They can also satisfy rising consumer expectations about sustainable packaging. For example, the official ball for UEFA’s Euro 2020 competition has no plastic in its packaging. That because Adidas has pursued a range of environmental responsibility and sustainability efforts, including a focus on ending plastic waste. Likewise, Wilson Triniti tennis balls have 100% recyclable packaging.

For manufacturers seeking to reduce plastic waste, molded fiber packaging solutions are sustainable from beginning to end. They are made with recycled materials or sustainable, fast-growing natural fibers. They are also 100% recyclable and biodegradable and can be incinerated.

2. To improve brand perception

From golf clubs and tennis rackets to skates and skis, sporting goods come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and weights. As its name suggests, molded fiber can be custom-molded into forms to suit any product. It’s highly customizable into many shapes and textures for either retail or shipping packaging.

Molded fiber is a highly adaptable packaging material, ideal for retail-friendly packaging. It can be designed to provide smooth draft angles to provide a premium-quality feel for luxury sporting goods packaging. On the other end of the design scale, it can also be used for basic, eco-friendly packaging to highlight brand sustainability messages. For example, the retail packaging for Newton running shoes uses a simple shoebox made from molded fiber. The box outlines the shape of the shoes perfectly, making the package stronger than a standard shoebox.

3. To provide strength and cushioning

Molded fiber packaging has excellent protective and cushioning properties. It is sturdy enough to stand up to the weight of bowling balls and other moderately heavy sporting equipment. But it’s lightweight, helping reduce the amount of carbon emissions from transport.

Molded fiber also provides superior vibration and shock resistance for more delicate products, such as stopwatches and golf rangefinders. It can be manufactured in a wide range of colors, including multiple shades of black.

4. To take advantage of smart packaging technologies

Molded fiber packaging can also integrate smart technologies. Quick response (QR) codes, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, Bluetooth tags, and near field communication (NFC) chips can be embedded into the packaging. For example, a brand can include a link to a chatbot in a QR code. Customers can scan the code with their smartphone’s camera to ask questions about the product.

Smart technologies provide many benefits to consumers and businesses, including:

  • engaging customers, both at the point of sale and afterwards
  • providing product information and eco-friendly messaging
  • avoiding counterfeit products
  • assisting inventory management

By upgrading to smart, sustainable packaging, a brand can extend its reach and uplift its image, while also boosting its bottom line.

5. Presents a cost-effective alternative

Molded fiber is gaining in popularity because it is a cost-effective, eco-friendly alternative to plastics and other packaging materials. It can be nested and stacked, improves labor efficiency, and offers reduced storage, delivery, and disposal costs.

Adopting molded fiber packaging can also help sporting goods brands boost their bottom lines by avoiding costs related to regulations aimed at reducing plastic waste. For example, the European Union has adopted a plastic tax that provides manufacturers incentives to lower the amount of non-recycled plastic they generate.

A Greener Future

Molded fiber provides sporting goods brands a packaging solution to appeal to consumer preferences and achieve their own sustainability goals. The environmental benefits of adopting molded fiber packaging include minimizing waste, reducing water usage, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Packaging materials made with sustainable materials can help brands contribute to building a circular economy. It also provides the sporting goods industry a golden opportunity to use its influence — through both actions and its voice — to make a difference for the planet.

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