Sustainability 101: What are virgin plastics?


Do you really feel a little bit shed when individuals describe particular ecological sustainability subjects and also aren’t certain where to begin when it involves discovering more? Sustainability 101 is a blog site collection that you can look to for info concerning various ecological terms that might show up at the workplace, throughout conversations with close friends, and also also at your yearly vacation celebration.

This blog site was composed by Nicole Kenney, Program Supervisor, Lasting Product Packaging, and also Drew Phan, Product Packaging Designer.

A woman and a man's photos, side by side
L to R: Nicole Kenney and also Drew Phan

As component of contemporary life, the majority of the items we purchase can be found in plastic product packaging. When you purchase something with plastic product packaging, you’re possibly not knowledgeable about what kind of plastic it is. There is reused plastic, which is when reused little bits of plastic are recycled right into plastic items. And also there is additionally virgin plastic, additionally called virgin plastic polymers, which according to a 2022 report, suggests “freshly produced material created from petrochemical or biomass feedstock made use of as the raw product for the manufacture of plastic items and also which has actually never ever been made use of or refined in the past.”

Basically, virgin plastics are produced from formerly extra products, which suggests they can take a larger toll on the atmosphere.

Given That the 1950s, plastic has actually overwhelmed the product packaging sector by supplying affordable and also light-weight defense for items. Plastic product packaging is commonly readily available in the kind of traditional foams, bags, and also clamshell trays. Over the years, this has actually caused an international accumulate of plastic air pollution, given that these products are not constantly handled properly at end of usage. Although plastics are located in all significant local strong waste groups, in the USA the containers and also product packaging group had one of the most plastic tonnage at over 14.5 million lots in 2018 alone (EPA Resource # 1). That amounts the weight of over 300,000 grey whales. The large quantity of waste has actually caused expanding understanding around the influence of product packaging and also raised consumer need for lasting options.

At the exact same time, an item has little to no worth if it gets here harmed. Cisco’s Product packaging Design department believes holistically when it involves developing Cisco’s product packaging with sustainability in mind. We are reconsidering product packaging and also are sourcing alternate products to plastic. Our method consists of getting rid of plastic bags in our product packaging any place feasible. As an instance, we have actually gotten rid of plastic product packaging from our power cables, causing a decrease of over 10 million bags every year. Job is underway to use the exact same initiatives throughout extra element groups.

Layout for Recyclability

Where we can not entirely eliminate plastic product packaging, we should pick options with a smaller sized ecological impact. This suggests selecting recyclable products that are conveniently divided and also commonly approved in curbside reusing streams. When these products are recuperated, they can be damaged down and also re-processed right into the feedstock for the following round of product packaging.

As an instance, our plastic thermoform pillows are made from the exact same high-density polyethylene product as milk containers and also can be approved in the exact same plastic curbside reusing stream. * According to the United State Epa (EPA), HDPE (High Thickness Polyethylene) is just one of one of the most regularly recycled plastics in the USA (EPA resource # 1).

When it comes to plastic bags in our device sets, initiatives are underway to use fiber-based paper envelopes and also corrugated sleeves that are recyclable. Paper is presently the most effective option due to the fact that it is one of the most recycled product in the USA (EPA resource # 2).

Pick Recycled Products

Recycled products are various from recyclable products because recycled product packaging has a portion of product inputs that have actually currently been damaged down and also recycled after usage. By integrating even more recycled web content right into our product packaging, we save useful sources and also minimize greenhouse gas discharges contrasted to making virgin products. Selecting recycled products additionally advertises recycling by enhancing the need for recycled products.

We are concentrating our power on recyclable and also recycled plastics due to the fact that, regrettably, naturally degradable and also compostable plastics aren’t well fit for usage in the electronic devices sector.

Eco-friendly and also bio-based are terms made use of freely to explain plastics made from plant resources. The greatest problem for these products is that it is not constantly clear for how long it will certainly consider these plastics to damage down. Considering that they are frequently not licensed compostable, they can possibly leech toxic substances right into the dirt. (SPC resource # 3)

When it involves compostable product packaging, the united state Federal Profession Payment (FTC) Eco-friendly Guides describe that this product packaging has to be licensed with “proficient and also dependable clinical proof that all products in the item or bundle will certainly damage down right into– or enter into– functional garden compost securely and also in concerning the exact same time as the products with which it is composted” (FTC resource # 4). This benefits natural waste like food scraps, turf cuttings and also lawn waste. However presently, the much shorter life span of compostable product packaging makes it far better fit for food product packaging than the electronic devices sector.

A round method

We are progressing to an extra round design in which we minimize the sources we eat and also the waste we create. With this technique, we attempt to focus on products with recycled web content; layout items for source performance; and also assist in fixing, remanufacturing, and also reusing to expand item life. That’s why we have an objective for 100% of brand-new Cisco items and also product packaging to include Round Layout Concepts by 2025. ** Utilizing recycled products is an instance of among our concepts.

By seeking our objective to include Round Layout Concepts, we can make use of much less virgin product, and also eat much less product in general. Lowering our product packaging carbon impact will certainly drive development in the direction of Cisco’s product packaging objectives (Resource # 5).

As we take the essential actions to install Round Layout Concepts right into our product packaging profile, it is very important to keep in mind that every option has tradeoffs– there is no one-size fits all remedy. Accomplishing circularity is a repetitive procedure– what is ideal for today might not be what’s ideal for tomorrow. However if we stay dexterous and also pursue success, we can remain to relocate a favorable instructions in the direction of a round economic situation.

Follow our Product packaging Design group’s trip as we remain to progress our round product packaging profile (Resource # 6).


* Inspect your neighborhood town for even more information.

** In 2022, we had actually carried out a soft launch of a brand-new racking up device that examines circularity in items and also product packaging. We made use of the soft launch to review 13% of brand-new items and also product packaging, and also located that 33% of them effectively satisfied our round layout standards. This amounts 4% of overall brand-new items and also product packaging launched in 2022 conference round layout standards. In very early monetary 2023, the racking up device was officially released throughout all organization systems, and also we anticipate deep space of brand-new items and also product packaging examined to boost in monetary 2023.


  1. Plastics: Material-Specific Data | US EPA
  2. Paper and Paperboard: Material-Specific Data | US EPA
  3. Public_SPC-Position-Statement_Biodegradable-Packaging.pdf (
  4. Environmental Claims: Summary of the Green Guides | Federal Trade Commission (
  5. Environmental Goals – Cisco ESG Hub
  6. Cisco Sustainable Packaging – Cisco




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