For the packaging industry, the tides are most certainly turning. Fuelled by an increasingly discerning customer, created by the monumental rise of e-commerce and online shopping, packaging options that both please and perform have become more important than ever.
For retailers, the right packaging plays an important role in delivering products safely into customers’ homes and it also forms a key part of the experience of purchasing and owning a new product. Quality packaging is a true sign of a quality product, not just in the materials used, but in the ease of which the item can opened and disposed of.
For years a simple box filled with polystyrene or foam has been sufficient to ensure that goods arrive undamaged. However, this is no longer the case, and the undeniable growing demand for eco-friendly materials, and growing consumer awareness, is causing the public’s expectations for alternatives to rise. Simply put, what once did the trick, is no longer pleasing for those on the receiving end.
FINDING THE BALANCE
Discerning customers now want packaging they can dispose of easily. They want an ethical and sustainable alternative that will create less landfill, but at the same, something aesthetically pleasing. Traditional void fillers such as polystyrene and foam, require the consumer to separate the in-box protection and dispose of them separately from the box itself, which has become problematic for both the customer and the environment. It is a fact that online retail is driving cardboard packaging demand, which in turn is driving waste and excess, and so it is time to embrace the necessary change and explore the alternatives.
The challenge for retailers, is not only to keep the costs down whilst delivering what the public want, e.g. less and more compact packaging which can be recycled – it’s also about protecting the items that are being shipped. It is no surprise that standardisation in packaging is common practice due to high and ever-increasing costs. However, this typically sees items shipped in larger boxes than are often necessary, boxes which require even more in-box protection to prevent damage to the item being shipped. Yet, whilst this is performing the required role, it really is no longer pleasing and is clearly missing the mark.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
Without a doubt, paper based void fillers are better for the environment. Using one single material for both internal and external packaging, provides one solution, making it easier for the customer to dispose of.
Corrugated certainly offers an alternative to more traditional options – it ticks the recyclable box and is easily accessible for suppliers. However, it does often require complex designs and intricate folding to tightly pack the product, which needs to be assembled by hand in order to provide full protection. Because of this, it is unlikely to reduce the bottom line due to the volume of paper required. Despite that, it is still a step in the right direction.
Then we come to honeycomb board, which is an ideal packaging material both externally and as a void filler. Not only is it a cheaper option because less product is required to provide the same protection, it is lighter, which reduces transportation costs, and the cost to the environment is zero thanks to it being 100% recyclable. Honeycomb is also quick to install, can be easily and quickly machine cut to size and requires no manual folding – saving both time and man-power. Due to its nature, which make it strong and durable, the thickness and strength can also be increased without affecting the weight which also helps to keep the costs down.
Ultimately functionality, durability, cost and the environment all need to be considered when making packaging choices. It is time for the industry to listen to the consumer and to act accordingly. Everyone should be looking for new innovative packaging solutions made from environmentally friendly materials that are sustainable like jute, wool, cotton and paper. These alternatives are now readily available, the facts speak for themselves and it is time for change. Old habits may die hard, but we must take a stance and consider the long-lasting impact of our actions if we don’t.