It is often possible to reduce the amount of packaging that you use. For example, you can potentially replace polystyrene with cardboard fittings. Specialist bags, such as those which are ESD safe, can be eliminated by using anti-static boxes (such as Corstat). Often, when you analyse your packaging, you can begin to identify additional items that are not always necessary.
However, “reduce” can also mean looking at the amount of material that your packaging uses. Working with an experienced packaging designer on a value engineering brief can often reveal that you can use a lighter-weight material without affecting performance. Similarly, it may be possible to introduce different pack designs that are more efficient in their use of material.
Besides the environmental benefits of reducing your packaging (or material) use, there are several other business advantages.
These usually include lowering your ongoing costs through purchasing less material and items, improving packing times by eliminating certain products, lower transport costs due to lighter weights, and easier recycling for your customers.
Many businesses and individuals believe that recyclable packaging is the most sustainable. And whilst recycling packaging is crucial (particularly for corrugated packaging), surprisingly, reusable packaging can often be more environmentally friendly in the longer term.
The energy – and cost – involved in recovery, sorting, recycling, and manufacturing new packaging materials can often have considerably more of an environmental impact than simply using the same packaging over many trips.
As such, it is essential to consider whether reusable packaging, such as Correx totes or Euro containers, would be the most sustainable option for your business.
Besides environmental improvements, reusing your packaging can reduce mid- to long-term costs. As it is often made from plastics or more durable materials, returnable tote containers are typically more robust and durable, better protecting their contents. You can typically enhance your reusable packaging with various divers and inserts.
Suppose it is not possible to reduce your packaging use or switch to reusable packaging. In that case, ensuring your packaging is recyclable and ideally recycled is crucial.
For example, using corrugated cardboard fittings instead of plastic-based inserts can make it significantly easier for your customers to recycle your packaging. Incidentally, this is also likely to improve customer satisfaction.
Using recycled and recyclable packaging can also help avoid the plastic packaging tax and potentially reduce any fees you may incur as part of the Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR) legislation.
If recyclable packaging is the best option for your product or application, then communicating this is vital. Including recycling symbols on packaging, such as those from OPRL, RESY or even the PAP 20 symbol (for cardboard packaging), improves clarity for your end users (and therefore recycling rates) and highlights your eco credentials.