Make a green choice with sustainable packaging
As environmental responsibility and sustainability continue to increase in importance in e-commerce and the transport industry, there is a rising demand for sustainable packaging solutions. The way in which you pack and ship your goods has a major impact on the environment. So how can your company pack goods in a greener way and what really makes packaging sustainable?
E-commerce is growing at a rapid pace and this places even greater demands on more sustainable processes all along the logistics chain. The transport industry is working effectively to reduce fossil emissions and is investing heavily in innovation. The packaging industry also plays a key role in this and is seeing a growing demand for sustainable packaging.
We have spoken to RAJA, one of Europe’s largest packaging suppliers. They see that the needs and demands for sustainable packaging are growing and their customers are asking lots of questions about this. In this article, they share some good advice and examples of what defines sustainable packaging, what the greener packaging trend looks like, and what you can do to send your goods in a more sustainable way.
What defines sustainable packaging?
First and foremost, the packaging must consist of recycled material and it must be recyclable. In addition, plastic and paper packaging that is sustainable must carry an environmental label indicating that it actually has been recycled and is recyclable. It is not only cardboard packaging that is made from recycled material, many plastic products are as well.
It is also important to use the correct filling materials for your shipment. For example, paper decomposes more readily than plastic, but is usually more expensive because it weighs more and costs more to produce. Bubble wrap is not used as widely these days, but there are other types of plastic, recycled plastic, that weigh less and are thus cheaper. Paper that can be inflated is also an alternative and provides effective cushioning. Find out here which filling material RAJA recommends as best for your products.
It is important to bear in mind that even if the actual packaging is recyclable, it only becomes circular and reusable when it has been sorted for recycling by the recipient. It might therefore be a good idea to inform your customers about the sustainability aspect of the packaging and how they can recycle it correctly.
– We suggest you include an informative note to your customer reminding them to recycle or reuse the packaging, and how good this is for the environment: "How you can recycle or reuse me," says Cecilie Buck Rustad, customer advisor at RAJA.
Paper or plastic?
A range of factors will determine which type of packaging and filling materials you should use. There is an ongoing discussion in the packaging industry about whether paper or plastic packaging is the most sustainable. It is very important to be aware that both have their pros and cons.
– There is no correct answer, and both paper and plastic will continue to exist. A lot of work is required to make both types of material as sustainable as possible. What is most important is that the material is degradable and recyclable and has been produced from recycled material. Quality is also a key factor and the quality of plastic has become very good. There is very strong plastic available today that can be recycled multiple times, says Cecile.
However, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. It is usually possible to recycle paper up to 8 times. After that, the fibres in the paper become too worn out to be useful. Paper packaging often also results in increased carbon emissions, as many trees are required to produce paper. Plastic, on the other hand, can be recycled for ever and used multiple times. So plastic is not as bad as you think. However, it is important that the plastic packaging is actually recycled and that it gets recycled in the correct way.
The green transition
There is a strong focus on climate and the environment throughout Europe today, and RAJA has experienced a dramatic rise in demand for sustainable packaging solutions in many countries. There is a clear and growing demand for sustainability from both consumers and businesses. Our own consumer surveys from Bring Research also show that the environment and sustainability are becoming increasingly important for both online customers and online stores. More and more online customers are consciously choosing to purchase from online stores that have a clear environmental and sustainability image.
The packaging industry is constantly developing products that are smarter, more innovative and more sustainable. You should make sure you know about these products and use them. If your company uses sustainable packaging, you should make this visible to your customers. Many people want clear information about the sustainability efforts of the company that they are intending to purchase from. This information may result in a customer choosing to purchase from you instead of from a competitor that, for example, does not use sustainable packaging for its goods.
How can you package goods in a more sustainable way
As well as using sustainable packaging, it is also important to pack goods in smarter ways. It is important to use the right quality and quantity, and the right type of packaging for the goods you are shipping. Do not pack too much into a box, otherwise it will be too heavy and may burst or break.
Avoid using excessive amounts of stretch wrap and tape. The quality of stretch wrap these days is so good that one layer is enough.
If there is a lot of tape on the box, it is harder to recycle the box because the tape has to be removed first. Paper tape might be a good alternative. Paper tape does not have to be removed as it can be recycled together with the box. Paper tape is made from unbleached paper, does not contain silicone and adheres well.
The packaging specialists at RAJA also point out that it is important to use a box that is the right size for the goods you are shipping. If you use a box that is too large, a lot of unnecessary filling material will be required to pad out the extra space and protect the product. This is neither sustainable nor particularly cost effective. This type of smarter packaging also helps to reduce the environmental impact of transport activities. Catherine Löfquist, Sustainability Manager at Bring, confirms this:
– Packing goods in a smarter way to reduce unnecessary voids inside the boxes, means that each vehicle can be loaded with more boxes. This reduces the total number of kilometres travelled, which is good for us, for you, for your customers and above all for the environment!
Another good example of this is to use cardboard that is just the right thickness for the box to be able to transport your goods.
– This can save you a lot of money if you are shipping large quantities in a year. We can help customers choose the right dimensions, says Cecile. We always recommend that our customers avoid overusing packaging. An adequate amount is best for the environment and for quality, creates a positive customer experience and delivers significant cost savings too.
Last but not least, the quality of the packaging is extremely important. Don't focus exclusively on the cost per box, for example. Although it might be tempting to use the thinnest and cheapest boxes, think about what you are shipping and if you want the boxes to be reused.
If you use good quality packaging, it can be reused to transport any return goods.
The more times you can reuse a box, the better it is for the environment. Then when the box is no longer fit to be used for deliveries, it can be reused as filling material.
Cecile reminds us that there are many different types of smart boxes with various smart features. These include an adhesive strip for easy return and an auto-lock bottom that does not need taping.
– Although the unit price will be slightly higher if you choose smarter boxes, the packaging process will be much easier. They make the job simpler and faster, ultimately saving you time and money!
We hope this article will inspire you and help you pack and wrap goods in a more sustainable way. Good luck!
How to pack and wrap goods in a smarter and more sustainable way:
- Only use packaging that is marked with an eco-label. This means that it is degradable, produced from recycled material and can be recycled.
- Encourage your customers to recycle or reuse the packaging. We suggest you include a note informing them how to do this.
- Choose filling materials that are sustainable and suitable for the goods you are shipping.
- Focus less on paper vs. plastic and more on choosing packaging that is biodegradable, recyclable and made from recycled materials.
- Pack the right amount of goods in each box and use the right size for the contents. Avoid unnecessary empty spaces in the box.
- Do not use too much tape and stretch wrap. One layer is sufficient and too much tape makes it difficult to recycle the packaging.
- Reuse the boxes for returns, and when they are no longer fit for that purpose, use them as filling material.
- Choose good-quality boxes as they are usually stronger and can be reused time after time. Smarter boxes save you time during the packing process.
- Make it visibly clear to your customers if your company uses sustainable packaging.
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