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You likely have heard the term “sustainable packaging” tossed around quite a bit. Understanding what sustainable packing is can help you to make informed choices for your business. There are some critical mistakes that are made in the supply chain, but none larger than maintaining the status quo simply because it is always how business was done.
Unfortunately, supply chain audits to unveil improvements are not done as often as they should be done, especially when it comes to packaging. Learning about sustainable packaging than performing an audit can be a very revealing process.
The push for sustainable packaging is huge right now. Government regulations are moving toward requiring sustainable packaging, consumers are demanding it and the environment needs it but what is it?
Let’s Define Packaging
Most products depend on two types of packaging the internal packaging (the immediate packaging that the product is housed in) and external packaging (the shipping, storage and transportation packaging). Packaging also has marketing value. Containers and packaging are charged with protecting the product from the point of production to the end user. It is an important part of any supply chain.
Unfortunately packaging also accounts for tons of waste each year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the US “Containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 77.9 million tons of generation in 2015 (29.7 percent of total generation).”
Reducing the amount of waste that your packaging generates starts with “sustainable packaging”. A lot of people confuse recyclable packaging with sustainable packaging. While they do have many traits in common, they are not the same. Let’s look at the differences between sustainable packaging and recyclable packaging.
Recyclable Packaging Vs Sustainable Packaging
Many forms of packaging are recyclable, but that does not mean that they are forms of sustainable packaging. Sustainable packaging is packaging that is recyclable but more importantly this type of packaging reduces the overall strain on the environment during the entirety of the process. Sustainable packaging offers the following benefits over recyclable packaging:
- Less energy used in the processing of the packaging
- Less energy used to recycle the packaging
- Sourced form resources that are sustainable
Recycling packaging does not have to meet the above criteria, as a matter of fact those materials that are recyclable can cause more stress on the environment. For example, plastics can:
- Require a great deal of energy to create
- Require a great deal of energy to recycle
- Use a great deal of fossil fuels
Fossil fuels are a limited resource, that means that there will be a point when there simply are not any fossil fuels left. Tapping into the reserve of fossil fuels is damaging to the environment and can negate the effect of recycling.
Ultimately the largest difference between sustainable packaging and recyclable packaging is the life cycle of the packaging and what it takes to create that packaging.
Lets Look at the Benefits
Corrugated cardboard is one of the most popular container options but while it is recyclable it is not necessarily sustainable and certainly does not return the ROI on your packaging investment that you deserve.
Corrugate cardboard is recyclable, typically it is used once and then either recycled or winds up in the land fill. Creating corrugated cardboard is also a complex process that requires a great deal of energy. Two negatives are registered when using corrugated cardboard. The amount of energy that is wasted in the processing and the “one and done” use probability.
Sustainable packaging options deliver the ROI that you deserve and do a better job of protecting the environment:
- Reusable packaging
- Longer life expectancy
- Less stress on the environment
- Less processing for recycling
Sustainable packaging means that you buy less of it because it can be reused repeatedly and still provide the same level of safety, security and durability for your goods. It has a long-life expectancy which means it can stay in the supply chain longer.
Sustainable means it takes less energy to produce the packaging and that it is fully recyclable without having to negate the benefits by using a ton of energy to recycle.
What does this all add up to? The bottom line is that sustainable packaging is a win-win situation for both your enterprise and the environment. It is a cost-savings measure that improves public perception of your business that also reduces the stress on the environment.
A Bad Example of Sustainable Packaging
The fact is part of the “sustainable” movement is to reduce the amount of packaging that it takes for a product to be protected and reach its end user safely. An example of sustainable packaging that is not that quite sustainable is the use of containers that require additional shipping materials to protect the goods.
Lets look at a wood crate for example. A wooden crate comes in a standard size, it is not flexible, which means that your warehouse must work with the crate’s limitations. This standard size crate likely will require additional packaging materials like Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap or paper packaging to take up the “extra space” in the crate.
This type of recyclable container loses the good benefits of recycling when other materials must be added to keep products safe and secure. The good is negated by the amount of packaging that it requires to use this container.
Of course, there is also added costs when your packaging is not sustainable and not flexible. You are paying for additional packaging materials, and dedicating labor to managing those materials. Just because an option is a recyclable option does not mean that it is the sustainable option that your business needs.
Sustainability is an option that checks off the list of reduce, reuse, recycle nicely and meets the demand of your specific goods. Crates, boxes, shrink wrap and more are all wasteful materials that drain the environment and drain your budget.
They cannot withstand being reused, are unrepairable and rely on a complex process to recycle. They are not the solution; they are very much part of the problem. Don’t be fooled into thinking simply because your packaging is recyclable that, that is enough, it is not.
A Good Example
To further expand on the definition of sustainable packaging let’s use the wooden pallet as an example. The wooden pallet has been around for a long time and can be found in just about every warehouse. It is a favored option worldwide for storing and shipping goods, but even the favorite option can be improved upon to make it a more sustainable option that reduces the amount of packaging you need.
One of the problems with the wooden pallet is that historically it has been used as a “part of the packaging process” which means that other packaging has been used along with it. Shrink wrap and other banding and wrapping materials have been used to keep goods affixed to the pallet and to keep them from shifting during the process. This additional wrapping and securing negates the “greenness” of a pallet system.
Today, there is a better way to use a pallet, that could cut out the need for cardboard boxes and additional shipping materials. Fully recyclable pallet collars can be used to create a “pallet box” that is fully height adjustable, secure and comes with a long-life span.
Pallet collars are simple solutions to reducing your firm’s overall carbon footprint, cutting costs and getting the ROI that you want from your packaging. They also can improve:
- Safety for your products when shipping or storing
- Avoiding unauthorized entry into your palletized goods
- Overall handling in the warehouse and during transportation
- Load management
Durable pallets and pallet collar combinations can help to keep your goods safe while they are being shipped or stored with much less additional materials. These secure “pallet boxes” also can be a deterrent to unauthorized entry.
Reducing costs using pallets and pallet collars does not stop with the cost savings of the containers themselves, you can experience lower labor costs because they are an easy to manage option that require a person not a team of people.
One of the best “side effects” of choosing this type of sustainable packaging is the control that you will have over your packaging. They are durable and can be stacked, they are flexible so you do not have to send shipments and pay for air to be shipped and they are standardized so they can go anywhere a pallet can go. Read on to learn more about pallets and pallet collars and their sustainability.
How Do Pallet Collars Work?
Of course, it is vital that sustainable packaging does not require additional equipment or machinery to be installed. Pallet collars require no tools, no additional equipment or machinery and can typically be managed by one person.
These hinged planks come folded flat and ready to use. They are simple to manage and have the added benefit of being easy to store so you do not have to worry about delegating space to their storage. The pallet collars add walls to the pallet and can be stacked as high as necessary or as short as necessary to secure goods without additional packaging materials.
They allow the warehouse to get the custom crate that is needed for shipping and storage without having to pay custom prices. Since the pallet collars and pallets can be customized to your specific product needs, it means that you do not have to add any packaging materials to keep the goods from shifting around.
Flexible packaging is not all pallet collars combined with pallets have to offer. This option is fully recyclable, repairable and can stay in the supply chain for an expected 10 years. It delivers the life expectancy that far exceeds other options and has less of an impact on the environment. Consider the following:
- Wooden pallets can be fully repaired
- They can easily be reused indefinitely
- They are easy to source
- There are ample recycling options
If a stringer on a pallet cracks, it can be replaced and restored to its full level of durability. Repairs are simple. It is encouraged that a pallet return program is set-up so that your wood pallets remain in your supply chain for years.
There are billions of pallets in circulation at any given time. You can buy them new; you can buy them used and you have a wide range of resources to choose from. They are relatively inexpensive and deliver a tremendous amount of return on your investment.
Imagine a packaging solution that will help you to reign in costs while delivering the options that you need to move toward a greener solution for your packaging. Sustainable packaging is the packaging option that “sustains” your business with flexible solutions that are also cost effective while lessening the impact on the environment.
The Environment Wins, You Win
The best part of using sustainable packaging is that everyone wins. Your business improves its reputation with the public and other parties in the supply chain, your impact on the environment is greatly reduced and there is savings available.
Having the option to take control of your shipping and storage packaging is clearly a winning option especially when it comes with years of potential service from the same packaging. You will reduce the amount of waste that your business generates. Of course, less waste also means less expense for your firm.
Sustainable packaging is more than just a trend it I the wave of the future. Regulatory bodies around the globe are responding to pressure from watchdog groups to tighten regulations on packaging and savvy consumers are paying a great deal of attention to every process in the supply chain. You can make the changes now on your own terms instead of waiting for the laws to be implemented that will force the changes.