Packaging waste continues to be a major concern here in the U.S. and across the world. With so many products moving through the supply chain, the packages used to deliver these products can have a sizeable effect on the environment. Throwing packages away instead of recycling them and generating product packaging from scratch will only make matters worse, boosting carbon emissions and polluting the planet with toxic, non-biodegradable materials. You can reduce your company’s effect on the environment by reducing your packaging waste. From recycled materials to reusable storage containers, you can save money throughout the manufacturing process and show your support for the environment. Learn more about how your company can make a difference.
What Is Packaging Waste?
Packaging waste refers to any material used in the packaging of a product, including food, consumer goods and medications, as well as the storage materials used to transport these products that end up in the trash or a local landfill. According to the EPA, containers and packaging make up around 30 percent of all municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 77.9 million tons of generation in 2015. That shows just how important packaging waste can be when it comes to protecting the environment.
While around 53 percent of generated packaging containers are recycled in the U.S, many products are disposed of, with plastic, aluminum and wood packages having some of the highest landfilled rates. Recycling these products or using less packaging in the first place are two of the best ways to reduce packaging waste.
How to Reduce Your Company’s Packaging Waste
If you’re ready to do your part to reduce packaging waste, you’ll need to rethink how you keep your products safe throughout the supply chain. Your products may be packaged several different times as they move from the supplier to the manufacturer to the retailer. Reducing waste means reducing product packaging and investing in recycled materials at every stage, not just what the consumer sees in the store.
Use these tips to reduce your company’s packaging waste:
1. Use Less Packaging
Let’s refer to the saying, “reduce, reuse, recycle”. There’s a reason “reduce” is the first on that list. You won’t need to recycle as many materials if you’re using less packaging in the first place. Find ways to reduce the amount of materials your products require in the first place. This may mean altering the design of your packages to make them more secure so that you won’t have to use as many materials on the inside of the package. Putting your products in a smaller container will also do the trick. There’ll be less room for your products to move around so that you won’t need as much package filling.
Limiting your product packaging helps you save money on your packaging costs and the cost to deliver and transport these items. Heavier packaging can increase energy use by up to 80%. Look for ways to reduce these materials as much as possible.
2. Use Recycled Materials
Now, let’s move onto the last two Rs on the list. Making your product packaging from recycled materials can help you reduce your packaging waste. You won’t be generating these products from scratch, which reduces carbon emissions. And your packages will be recyclable so that they won’t end up in the local landfill.
As you move your products through the supply chain, you can also invest in reusable storage and shipping containers. You won’t have to buy new containers every time you need to send out a new order, and you won’t be disposing of as many packaging materials.
Lastly, you can even encourage your customers to reuse your product packages. If you create a well-made package that can stand the test of time, your customers may upcycle these items and use them for something other than their original purpose. Glass jars can be used to store office supplies and other objects. And certain kinds of boxes can be used as storage containers.
3. Consider Biodegradable Packaging
If you need to throw away some of your product packaging or your customers have a habit of throwing these materials away instead of recycling them, consider investing in biodegradable packaging. This means these materials will degrade naturally over time instead of taking up precious real estate in a landfill.
Glass, plastic and other packaging materials can take thousands of years to degrade. But certain kinds of paper can degrade faster than organic products like apple cores and fruit rinds. Look for packaging materials that will degrade naturally, such as recycled paper waddling rolls for extra cushioning, compostable liners and disposable paper bags.
4. Create a Company-Wide Recycling Program
Your company is bound to dispose of certain product packaging materials throughout the manufacturing process. Your suppliers will send you your ingredients and supplies, and you’ll need to unpack these items before you can turn them into a finished product. Your employees will also likely have excess materials on their hands that will need to be recycled. That’s why you should create a company-wide recycling program. Teach your employees how to dispose of these materials properly without just tossing them in the trash can.
You can also create strict guidelines for the manufacturing process so that your employees don’t let unused packaging materials go to waste. Find ways to reuse or recycle these items and make it easy for your employees to do so. Having a dedicated recycling center onsite with clear instructions can take the stress out of recycling on the job. Make this an essential aspect of your operations, and you’ll reduce your packaging waste in no time.
Reducing packaging waste starts with finding the right packaging materials for your products. If you choose durable materials, you can use less packaging altogether. Recycled materials help you reduce your carbon footprint. And convincing your customers to reuse or recycle these materials keeps them out of the local landfill. Change your approach to product packaging and find ways to keep your products safe using as few materials as possible.
David Madden is an efficiency expert, as well as being the Founder and President of Container Exchanger. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, IBC totes, and industrial racks. He holds an MBA as well as a certificate from Daimler Chrysler Quality Institute for completion of six-sigma black belt training.
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