Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Packaging Solutions for a Greening up Your Business

How important is public perception of your business? That is like asking “Do you want your business to turn a profit?”. Public perception of your business is tantamount to your success.

Of course the next question would be - “What do you need to do to endear your organization to the public?”. You do not need a degree in marketing to know that “trust” is the number one factor in building a relationship with consumers.

How do you build trust between your organization and consumers? You show the public that you care about their lives beyond what you are selling.

Sure if you are a household chemical company you want the public to think about how much better it is when their homes are clean BUT you also want them to know that your organization can see the bigger picture as well.

Recent studies have shown that consumer’s worry more about climate change and environmental issues than they did even 2 years ago. Consumers report feeling 25% more concerned about the environment then they did  two years ago.

Consumers have also reported that if they have an opportunity to purchase goods from a company that takes steps to reduce their effect on the environment they are 10X’s more likely to purchase from those organizations than from organizations that show no concern for the environment.

Of course taking steps to reduce, reuse and repurpose packaging is not only good for business but it is good for the environment which of course is everyone’s problem. The days are long gone when pollution and waste is just considered the cost of doing business. As climate change is becoming a more obvious threat the time to change the way we do business is now.

If you are not familiar with the 3R’s it is time that you became familiar with them.

Some Facts

There are many different reasons that reducing, reusing and recycling packaging solutions is the right way to go but none greater than the effects that industry has on the environment. 30% of landfill waste comes from packaging and it is estimated according to research published by Green Industries3.2m tonnes of the 26m tonnes of the household waste produced annually is packaging. 150m tonnes of packaging waste come from industry and commerce each year. For example in the UK: of the 15m plastic bottles used every day, much less than 3% gets recycled. Less than 1% of the billions of plastic bags used each year are recycled and the majority are used only once. European law wants us to recover 50% of all our packaging and to recycle 25%.

One of the most important of the three R’s that is going to help your organization green up is the “Reduce”. Using less packaging is one of the quickest ways to manage the amount of packaging that gets wasted.  Simple steps like using less layering in the packaging processing and choosing options that are more flexible can help. 

It is also important that packaging solutions do not contain toxins. Reducing does not only apply how much materials are being used in your packaging but how much toxins are used in the process to create the packaging. Many plastics are created using petroleum products. The reliance on petroleum products is not necessary to find packaging materials that are strong and reliable.

It matters where the packaging comes from and of course what kind of packaging it is. Minimizing the amount of material used and using packaging that is not toxic can help the environment and improve customer response.

​Using modes of shipping that require less packaging and using reparable pallets in the storing and shipping of items can help to improve your green quota as a business. 

Reducing the number of replacement packaging that you have to invest in is not only cost saving but is also good for the environment. It reduces overall the amount of carbon that is released to manufacturer the packaging.

Wooden pallets are a good example of using a packaging option that is reusable, reparable and that can be used for a full range of product packing, shipping and storing.

Utilizing wooden pallets can easily cut down on waste and when you couple them with pallet collars you are able to create flexible packaging that reduces the need for other packaging options. 

For example a wooden pallet that is fitted with reusable pallet collars reduces the need for plastic shrink wrap options.  Plastic wrap used on pallets to secure items is thrown away, it is not reused.

The Next R

The next R is “Reuse”. A key term that you need to learn is “closed loop”. Basically a closed loop packaging solution is a solution that never winds up in the landfill because it can be reused over and over. 

For example, back to the wooden pallet options, a wooden pallet can be used for shipping, storing, displaying, it can be repaired when needed and can wind up right back in the supply chain. 

At no point does a wooden pallet have to leave the supply chain. If parts have to be repaired or replaced every part that comes off can be recycled.

This closed lifecycle means that an item can be used and reused without limit. Other things that organizations can consider reusing include:

  • Filler
  • Using packaging that the consumer can reuse – such as containers that can be reused

Sourcing packaging that has the potential to be reused in other areas of the supply chain can be done with the right advice. It can be difficult to determine without a little expert input what packaging options are readily reusable.

The Final R

Recycle, of the three R’s this is the idea that most operations are already in tune with but there is always room for improvement. The EU is trying very hard to mandate that all packaging is recyclable including at the manufacturing, storing and shipping level. In other words shortly there will be no options other than using recyclable storing, shipping, packaging methods.  

What does it mean to use recycled packaging solutions? It can mean a few different things. It can mean that you packaging is recyclable, it can mean that you are sourcing your packaging materials from a supplier that used post-consumer materials in their packaging options. It can even mean that your end user is able to recycle your packaging material.

Somewhere along the lifecycle of the packaging it has to either be recycled materials or have a high percentage of recycled materials or it can be recycled up the supply chain.  The formal definition offered by the Green Industries Council is “A package or packaging material is considered to be "recyclable" if there is a widely available and economically viable collection, processing and marketing system for the product/material. In general order of hierarchy, packaging may be recycled in the following ways:

I. Recycling over and over back into its original packaging type (also known as primary or "closed loop" recycling

II. Recycling back into another recyclable, useful package/marketable product (also known as secondary recycling)

 III. Recycling back into another non-recyclable product (also known as "open loop" or tertiary recycling).

Packaging that can be recycled will soon be mandatory. There is not a lot of time left to make the choice on your own before the regulations will change and require that the packaging that you are using can be recycled at some point in its lifecycle.

When the time comes all of the packaging that you are using will be wasted. It will not be an option any longer to utilize packaging that cannot be recycled or that does not have a certain percentage of post-consumer materials.

Savvy business owners are making the changes on their own so that they do not get caught up in the mad dash when the regulations are handed down.  It is far better to take the steps BEFORE you have to take the steps.

Why Does It Matter

Even if you took off the table that consumers are moving toward a “greener attitude” when it comes to products and that adopting the 3Rs for your packaging will improve public perception about your business there are still immediate benefits to adopting the 3Rs when it comes to your packaging.

What is good for the environment is actually good for your cash flow. It is cheaper to respect the 3Rs when it comes to packaging. Less packaging that is highly functioning reduces overall costs.  Cost savings and being looked at as a “green company” by the public is a win-win situation.

If you are interested in improving the perception of your business and you want to move forward in a positive direction by doing your share to improve the effects on the environment but are unsure of what steps you need to take, ask for help.

You can get a professional that understands the packaging industry to advise you as to which packaging solutions will help to green up your organization.


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