By Teresa Del Re, NE Head of Marketing and Innovation at DS Smith
With consumer pressure at an all-time high, many brands are now putting sustainability at the heart of their packaging design and decision-making process. Thankfully, improving the sustainability of packaging does not necessarily mean a complete overhaul of packaging portfolios. Simple swaps regarding material choice or small tweaks to the shape or design can make a significant difference to the environmental impact of a packaging format.
In particular, exploring how packaging performs throughout the supply chain can often bring a fresh perspective. This insight can be used to make changes to design which can reduce the amount of empty space in a parcel and increase the number of packages fitting on a pallet, thereby reducing logistical costs and carbon emissions. Efficiency savings as such will boost both profits and green credentials.
One example of a DS Smith customer that has fully embraced this sustainable ethos is wine e-retailer, Garçon Wines.
The inventors of the world’s first flat wine bottle set out to improve consumer convenience and help reduce the 900,000kgs of carbon emissions associated with missed deliveries of wine in the UK. Following the success of its award-winning flat bottle postal pack, Garçon Wines in collaboration with DS Smith devised a game-changing secondary packaging format for its 10-bottle pack.
By packaging eight bottles vertically with two lying horizontally in the airspace around the bottlenecks, almost all unused airspace is eliminated. This significantly reduces logistics costs and cuts associated carbon emissions. In fact, a pallet loaded with 10 flat bottle cases could carry 1,040 bottles in comparison to just 456 traditional wine bottles with a standard pallet load. When using heavy goods vehicles that carry a standard 24 pallets, for a consignment of 50,000 bottles of wine this would reduce the need for five vehicles to just two, resulting in a 60% saving in carbon emissions and costs.
Together Garçon Wines and DS Smith have radically reduced the environmental impact of wine delivery by taking a fresh approach to secondary packaging.
It is vital that brands also do what they can to produce recyclable packaging that doesn’t rely on excess filler. The UK’s recycling infrastructure is under huge strain, partly due to the 1.9 billion parcels that are delivered directly to doors across the UK every year. Our recycling systems were designed in a pre-ecommerce era and are therefore struggling to keep up with the changing retail environment and burgeoning amounts of material in our homes.
In fact, according to The Tipping Point, DS Smith’s whitepaper on the state of recycling in the UK, household recycling increased by 235 per cent between 2000 and 2010 and unless drastic action is taken, the UK will miss its 2035 recycling targets by more than a decade.
As e-commerce has contributed significantly to the problem, it must be part of the answer too. One easy way forward is to simplify material choice and where possible, use corrugated cardboard.
Corrugated and paper packaging can be easily recycled – in fact, it is the most recycled material in the world. Approximately 82 per cent of all paper and cardboard packaging is currently recycled in the UK – the highest recycling rate of any material stream – compared to just 50 per cent of plastic.
Corrugate is durable, protects against moisture and is highly customisable and cost-effective. Online businesses don’t need to worry about how packaging will cope with being dropped or left on a doorstep in challenging weather conditions. If packages are made from corrugated cardboard, brands can have total confidence that they will be able to weather the 50 touchpoints of the average e-commerce supply cycle.
There is no time to delay. Reviewing your packaging portfolio in light of its environmental performance and if necessary, making design changes is of utmost importance. It will enable you to help steward the earth’s precious resources, reduce waste and carbon emissions and win the hearts of your customers.