Tackling the Hottest Topic in Packaging – Sustainability - Global Trade Magazine
  October 5th, 2021 | Written by

Tackling the Hottest Topic in Packaging – Sustainability

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Almost every product needs a package. Whether that be a toilet shipping through UPS or a windshield shipping FTL into a vehicle assembly line. The world of packaging is full of trends, hot topics, and buzz words. One that has been a hot topic for the last 10 years is sustainability.

This article is going to look at the three pillars of package sustainability: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Let’s look at these three words through the BoldtSmith Packaging lens which focuses on creating optimized packaging solutions that lead to sustainable packaging practices.

Sustainability – Optimized Packaging

When seeking a sustainable packaging solution, it’s important to determine which R is applicable to your packaging goals.

Some products and supply chains are a great fit for recyclable/compostable materials. However, for those that are not, we focus on providing optimized packaging solutions that reduce the carbon footprint. This is where Reduce and Reuse come into play. Optimized packaging solutions lead to sustainable packaging practices because:

-Material: Selecting the best materials results in less material

-Freight: Eliminating air from master cartons leads to better freight efficiency which means less fuel burned

Is sustainability more than just a “feel good” marketing term that large corporations like proudly displaying on their websites and packaging? Keep reading and let’s find out.

Below are descriptions for what each of the three R’s are along with examples from projects we have completed in the past.

Optimized Packaging – Reduce

Reducing packaging materials has been a fundamental pillar in cost reduction. Reducing packaging materials also ties into package sustainability as this reduces the amount of trash being thrown away. This is relevant to all packaging materials whether that be corrugated, foam, aluminum, glass, etc. Eliminating materials that cannot be recycled is not always possible and open-loop supply chains will not allow for a returnable packaging system. This is where BoldtSmith Packaging looks to create optimized packaging designs that reduce the amount of materials used.

Read the below example on how we reduced the level of product damage while in parallel decreasing the amount of packaging material, costs, and freight.

Optimized Packaging Example – Reduce

A customer we have completed multiple projects for was having damage issues with their toilet’s shipping through a small parcel supply chain direct to consumer. They engaged us to develop a packaging solution that would reduce their damage from 12% to less than 1% while in parallel reducing material and freight costs.

Below is an overview of their current packaging vs our optimized solution.

Current Packaging

-Packaging Material Cost: $16.90 per unit

-Packaging Freight Cost: $383.76 via UPS Ground

-Annual Volume: 10,000 units

-Total Annual Cost: $4,006,000

-Damaged Units Annually: 1,200

Design #1: Non-Recyclable Packaging Solution

-Packaging Material Cost: $12.90 per unit

-Packaging Freight Cost: $310.08 via UPS Ground

-Annual Volume: 10,000 units

-Total Annual Cost: $3,222,800

Damaged Units Annually: 100

Cost Difference Annually: $783,200; Damage Difference Annually: 1,100 units

For this example, we designed an optimized packaging solution that dropped their damage rate by less than 1% while in parallel saving them just under $800,000 annually in packaging material and freight costs.

Sustainability variables to consider:

1. Elimination of 1,100 damaged units annually

-Repairs and adjustments

-Return shipment and reverse logistics

-Expedited shipments costs for new product

-New packaging for new product

2. Smaller master carton and interior dunnage reducing the amount of packaging material needed

3. Smaller master carton meaning less space taken up during shipping reducing carbon emissions

Optimized Packaging – Reuse

Closed-loop supply chains offer a great opportunity for utilizing a reusable packaging solution. A common scenario of reusable packaging solutions is manufacturing companies receiving sub-assembly components from a local company.

Common reusable packaging solutions can include:

-Plastic or heavy-duty wood pallets

-Plastic or wooden crates

-Bulk containers such as drums, and IBC’s

-Plastic totes and boxes

-Dunnage

Optimized Packaging Example – Reuse

A large door and window manufacturer reached out to BoldtSmith Packaging looking for us to optimize their packaging for all the inbound components they use to build the doors and windows. This included frames, glass, locks, jambs, etc. They receive these components from domestic manufacturing companies. Steps of the project are outlined below along with the findings.

1. Visit the assembly facility to review all packaging material and processes associated with unloading, handling, and storing the components.

2. Brainstorm potential packaging solutions and develop 3D concepts with budgetary pricing

3. Present concepts to our customer and all component suppliers

4. Create packaging designs and specifications and send for pricing from packaging suppliers

5. Create financial analysis comparing current packaging to returnable solutions

6. Create packaging samples for line trials, lab tests and ship tests

7. Adjust design based on testing findings

8. Implement!

At the end of the project, it was determined that 10 of the 12 component suppliers would be transitioned into a returnable packaging solution. This transition saved the customer costs associated with the packaging materials and labor efficiencies were gained while in parallel eliminating expendable packaging solutions from the supply chain.

Optimized Packaging – Recycle

Utilizing recyclable packaging materials is great and we love presenting recyclable packaging options to our customers. Recycling plays a crucial role in minimizing waste and preserving the natural resources of the earth. They are a great fit depending on the product, supply chain, customer base, and most importantly, budget. When outlining our projects, we like to obtain the customer’s goals of the project and so often are we given the below objectives ranked by priority.

-Decrease packaging material costs

-Decrease freight costs

-Decrease labor costs

-Decrease product damage

– “Oh and make it recyclable”

Transitioning from non-recyclable packaging materials that are effective and cheap to 100% recyclable materials can be a cost-effective change depending on the product and packaging. However, there are situations where these recyclable materials are not a great fit. This can be based on who the customer base is, the product type, the supply chain, budget for packaging, etc.

Optimized Packaging Example – Recycle

A large knockdown furniture company reached out to BoldtSmith Packaging looking to transition away from non-recyclable foam in their products. The furniture items are manufactured domestically and ship through both small parcel and palletized supply chains.

We developed packaging designs with and without non-recyclable foam, completed transit testing and created a financial analysis comparing the various solutions. What we determined is that for small parcel shipping, we were not able to cost-effectively transition away from foam. However, we were able to utilize 100% recycled materials for their palletized furniture products.

This was a great balance between remaining cost-effective while exploring sustainable packaging materials. Click the below link to learn more about optimizing furniture packaging.

Contact BoldtSmith Packaging to discuss what we can do for you.