How green is your distribution center? Your choice of packaging materials has a big impact on the overall sustainability of your operations. Here are a few tips to help you improve your environmental footprint—and maybe save some money in the process.
It all comes down to the "Four R's" of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Renew.
REDUCE the Volume of Packaging Materials You Need
One of the easiest ways to improve the sustainability of packaging and distribution is to reduce the amount of material that you use. This starts with selecting the right size box for your shipment. Boxes that are too large for their contents, in addition to using more corrugated material themselves, require a much larger volume of void fill material or cushioning to fill all that extra space and prevent items from rattling around.
The ideal box is just large enough to hold your items with the minimum amount of protective packaging needed for cushioning and shock protection. (If you're items are fragile, make sure you still have enough cushioning to prevent damage in transit.) In addition to reducing the amount of void fill material you need, a smaller box will also reduce your shipping costs.
REUSE Packaging Materials Where Possible
Another strategy for reducing packaging waste is to select materials that can be easily reused by you or by the final receiver. Reusing materials keeps them out of landfills and reduces the volume of materials that must be produced.
Your ability to reuse materials will depend on your operations. If you are shipping items back and forth between facilities, you may be able to reuse materials such as bubble wrap and cushioning pads to get more use out of them before they are thrown out. However, if your shipments are going to a consumer, you have less control over what happens to packaging materials after your items are unboxed. Most consumers dispose of packaging materials immediately unless they are needed for long-term storage of an item.
Choose RECYCLED or RECYCLABLE Materials
If reuse isn't an option, look for packaging materials made out of recycled or recyclable materials. Kraft paper rolls, newsprint, corrugated wrap and other paper-based void fill and cushioning products are highly recyclable, and often made out of recycled materials themselves. This makes paper a great choice for companies trying to stay green.
Some plastics are also recyclable, but they are less likely to be recycled than paper or corrugate materials. In some parts of the country, bubble wrap and plastic from air pillows can be recycled along with plastic bags at grocery store collection points. However, most plastic packaging material that makes its way to a consumer will not be recycled this way.
That doesn't automatically make plastic a bad choice. Many of the plastics used for packaging materials are made from recycled plastic. And products such as air pillows, which are made of very thin sheets of plastic, may use less material overall than paper void fill options.
Look for RENEWABLE Materials
Shippers now have new packaging options, including void fill and cushioning products made out of renewable and biodegradable materials. Many of these items are made out of sustainable plant-based raw materials.
Plant-based feedstocks are carbon neutral; using plant-based materials instead of petroleum feedstocks reduces overall carbon emissions. Unlike petroleum products, they are also completely renewable—just grow more!
Biodegradable packaging peanuts are a great option for loose fill. They are made of plant-based starches that disintegrate in water, without leaving any harmful residue behind.
PAD LOC® RENATURE Packaging Pads are non-toxic, biodegradable and compostable. Even better, they can be reused many times before you toss them in the compost.
Go Green with Packaging Materials from Pantero
Pantero has many options for green packaging materials. Ask us how we can help you make your shipping and distribution operations more sustainable.