National Business Development Manager at Antalis Packaging, JOHN GARNER, examines the challenges facing businesses to have an efficient, profitable and green packaging operation…
Social media coupled with widespread coverage of shows such as the BBC’s ‘Hugh’s War On Waste’ saw 2016 as a year where an increasing number of retailers came under fire for their packaging. Companies are placed in a tricky situation with packaging. On one hand, consumers often praise Apple for the beautifully designed packaging their latest phone/laptop comes in, whilst others have criticised the company for irrelevant, over-the-top packaging. This raises the question – which side is right? The answer: both are.
Modern packaging exists for two reasons – to protect the contents as well as providing a much-needed communication channel between the company and the consumer. Yet, packaging comes at a cost, both commercially and to the environment, especially with regulatory change in recent years aimed at reducing the environmental impact. In addition to the physical packaging cost, businesses also have to pay levies such as those outlined in the UK Packaging Waste Regulations in 2007, with the current landfill tax rates expected to increase in April 2018.
As such, with packaging becoming an increasingly integral part of the business, firms are having to balance doing their bit to reduce waste – increasingly seen as important to consumers – using robust packaging that adequately protects the product so that it arrives in perfect condition.
There are a number of way to overcome such challenges. Five areas worth considering are quality, type, size, mix, and communication.
In 2016, two-thirds of household waste was sent to landfill or incinerated – meaning customer confusion is still a major problem the industry has to overcome. Printing icons or recycling messages on the materials used, like corrugate boxes, can help by educating end-users on how to recycle the packaging. By not only highlighting what can be recycled but also by avoiding mixed-material packaging there is a better chance that customers will be able recycle correctly.
In addition, the average cost of waste is usually over 4% of a business’ turnover, yet proven waste minimisation initiatives can easily reduce this by 25%. By educating staff and raising awareness about your business’ waste policy and procedures, you can ensure the whole company is committed to reducing waste.
A key complaint about modern packaging is the mix of materials, leading to customer confusion regarding what can and can’t be recycled. When rationalising your packaging, make sure you choose products made from similar materials that can be recycled together. Good examples are paper and corrugate. This makes it easier for you and your customers to store packaging to dispose.
The old proverb ‘buy cheap, pay twice’ is very relevant when it comes to packaging. Cheaper and lower quality materials can easily tear, rip or puncture before leaving the warehouse. A better option is to pay a little extra for a higher quality product that doesn’t break or become damaged during the packing process. Make sure you are using the right approach. A DIY distribution company cut waste by 75% after switching from a heat shrink pallet securing method to a semi-automatic pallet wrapper, with the appropriate stretch film.
If you’re using a machine, then make sure you have the right machine-consumable combination. For example, corrugate boxes with a case erector or stretch film used on a pallet wrapper. One of our clients recently had an issue with an old unreliable case erector that was damaging boxes during build. In fact, 50% of the corrugate that went through it ended up as waste. After installing a new machine, the number of boxes being scrapped has been completed eliminated.
A common cause of packaging waste is surplus stock, which eventually is thrown out. To avoid this, analyse sales patterns to prevent over-ordering. Also look at making the switch to just-in-time delivery systems to ensure you only store the minimum amount of stock required.
It may sound obvious but a simple trick is to rationalise your packaging to include the right range of products and box sizes to prevent overuse. An automated box-sizing machine can help here by eliminating the need for void-fill all together. By measuring the void in a box, it creases and folds the edges down to fit the contents snuggly, removing the need to use excessive void fill around a product that is much smaller than the outer box. You could even choose to move to single unit packaging. For example, The Book People eliminated 50% of their packing materials after installing the IPack automated box sizing machine, leaving only the box to be disposed of.