Everyone wants to limit their environmental impact.
For businesses, this is more than just a moral imperative, as measures like the Plastic Packaging Tax influence approaches to choosing and using products. It can also be a financial imperative as increasingly eco-conscious consumers prefer to spend, or work with, businesses demonstrating sustainable practices.
Here are three ways businesses can adapt their packaging solutions to reduce their environmental impact at every step of the customer journey:
Goods ready for shipment – Review your product configurations
Packaging more products in the same space can deliver significant positive environmental impact in the long run.
More products loaded securely onto a pallet requires fewer pallets, less transportation and less emissions over time. More products comfortably packed into a box requires fewer boxes, less void fill and less tape as well as less transportation over time. Both of these options will require less time and resource on packaging overall, for both the business shipping and the business receiving goods, making operations more efficient.
At this stage, too, reviewing the base materials of packaging can improve the environmental credentials of solutions. Identifying where products made from 100% recycled materials can be used instead, or where less packaging can be used in the first place, while offering the same function and performance
, can improve overall sustainability.
Goods in transit – Lower your packaging weights
As well as looking at the credentials of the materials used for packaging, looking at their wider impact on shipment processes is essential. Achieving a low packaging weight, particularly for high volume shipments, will improve the overall environmental impact of your packaging and delivery processes, requiring less transportation and limiting emissions.
Getting just the right thickness and volume of packaging materials is essential here.
Businesses shouldn’t be tempted to solely go for thinner or lighter products for their packaging in a bid to reduce shipment weights. This can lead to more packaging products being used to achieve the required protection, creating unnecessary resource wastage and cost, and inadvertently pushing up package weights to achieve the required protection for products. Or, using too little packaging can risk damage to products during shipments, creating costs for replacement goods and further shipping.
Understanding what protection is required, what packaging products can achieve this, and what configuration of loading and packaging goods is needed, is key to lowering packaging weights.
Goods reach end-user – Improve recyclability by using the same medium
Using the same medium of packaging further limits negative environmental impact once a delivery reaches the end-user.
For goods being posted to consumers, for example, paper tapes affixed to cardboard boxes improve the recyclability of packaging. Similarly, paper void fills allow the whole package to be disposed of, and recycled, together. Making the process as easy as possible for end-users encourages good environmental practices. Where using more than one medium is necessary, ensuring the products can be easily separated is best – for example, wrapping cardboard boxes with a plastic wrap, rather than plastic tape affixed to it.
In commercial settings, the same principle applies – paper labels stuck to pallet wrap films mean the packaging is ‘contaminated’, making it harder, or requiring more energy intensive processes, to be recycled. As well as reviewing the packaging processes for senders, understanding the behaviours for those receiving goods is key to limiting the environmental impact of packaging.
Prioritising the functionality of packaging
Often the most environmentally-friendly solution is the option which is, first and foremost, efficient and effective.
As always, the primary requirement of packaging should be that it does what is required of it – protecting goods. Even when focussing on improving the sustainability of packaging processes, this should be the start point for reviewing packaging solutions.