Sustainability is taking on greater importance in packaging as awareness grows of the negative affect the thriving plastics market is taking on the environment. People are demanding change and companies are taking notice. Sustainability is good business because it saves costs and saves the environment. It’s importance will continue to impact future supply chains and spur on the development of innovative solutions.
The Material Used
The main raw material of paper, trees, are grown and harvested in a carefully controlled and sustainable way. Approximately 13% of the world’s wood harvest is used to make paper, according to FAOSTAT 2018 (The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations). The rest is primarily used as fuel or for other industrial uses such as construction and furniture.
The good news is that there are actually more trees now than there were 50 years ago. European forests, where most of the raw material comes from, have grown by an area the size of Switzerland in just 10 years.
Paper is one of the most uniquely renewable and sustainable products around. It can be recycled up to 7 times, conserves natural resources, saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, keeps landfill space available, and reduces our dependence on oil-based plastics. Both biodegradable and recyclable, paper takes from a week to a few months to degrade into substances like CO2, water, and biomass.
Several companies are increasing their commitment to paper packaging, transitioning from plastics to paper wherever they can. In a 2019 Brand Owner Packaging Study by consulting firm L.E.K., “nearly 85% of those surveyed made at least one significant shift in substrate material in the past two years, most commonly because it improved the ease of recycling the packaging for their products.”
However, sustainability is not just about the material used for the packaging. The average box is too large for its contents. A reduction in excess volume reduces the number of truckloads needed to ship product, saving a great deal of money on diesel and reducing carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
Dimensional weight (DIM) is used to calculate shipping cost of a bulky, lightweight package. If the package takes up more space than the weight it captures in rates, you will pay for the space. Smaller packages cost less to ship.
Surprisingly, this is why in many supply chains plastic reusables are actually the significant contributor to sustainability. The real way to find out is by doing a full circular (closed-loop) life cycle analysis of the supply chain, comparing single-use versus reusable packaging to see whether disposable or recycled packaging maximizes sustainability. This means looking at:
- What materials are used
- How much material is used
- The cost of the materials used
- How the materials are made and converted into product
- How the product is used over and over again until unusable
- Whether the material is recyclable or part of a recycled materials mix for the next generation of packaging
Specialists at Trinity Packaging Supply can help you make this determination for your unique operation.
Companies are becoming increasingly creative in finding solutions that save money and the environment when it comes to packaging. Here are some examples:
- Automated box-forming machines that cut down one of the box dimensions to size, eliminating void that would have had to be filled with primarily plastic or paper void fill
- Technology that keeps product like electronics in the middle of the box, eliminating the need for any void fill or cushioning material
- Polyethylene foam produced from sugar cane with potential for a negative carbon footprint
- Foam fill made from vegetable starch, which is compostable and entirely biodegradable and water-soluble
- Chem-cycled boxes used for transport of perishable and temperature sensitive products that look just like the traditional EPS (Styropor) boxes but are made by thermochemical processes out of previously unrecyclable yellow bin bag material
- Insulated recyclable paper pad (dunnage) that protects temperature sensitive and perishable goods
- Collapsible, conical, and nestable containers, some with flexible dunnage inside, that save truckload return trip space and eliminate wasted trips, saving considerable fuel
- Software to track reusable packaging across the supply chain
Sustainable industrial packaging is taking on ever more importance in the supply chain because of cost containment and a reduction of environmental impact. Call Trinity Packaging Supply at (856) 520-8332 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us help you uncover how to make your business a more sustainable operation in 2020 and beyond.