Best Practices for Sustainable Packaging
For business owners who want to be kind to Mother Earth, using sustainable transport packaging is a simple way to be eco-friendly.
Small changes in the way you pack items for shipping can make a big difference in saving our planet while saving you time and money, says UPS, which ranks among the top 10 green supply chains in the United States. The company offers these best practices for sustainable packaging:
- Pack with Care. Packing items correctly prevents damage, which leads to fewer returns and less waste. And because your goods will only need to be made and shipped once, you’ll help save resources, too.
- Size and Shape Matter. Using the correct boxes to ship your goods minimizes empty space, reduces fill materials and paper waste and allows shippers to fit more boxes on transport vehicles.
- Use sustainable packaging & filler materials. Use items that are recyclable or reusable and that include recycled content. For large shipments, try reusable packaging such as plastic pallets and reusable crates, totes, or bins. For small shipments, try some of these eco-friendly products:
- Boxes made from recycled cardboard
- Bubble wrap
- Non-toxic foam
- Biodegradable twine
- Biodegradable starch peanuts
- Recyclable green anti-static peanuts
- Earth-friendly air pillows
- Retention packaging (bands)
More about reusables
Reusable transport packaging includes eco-friendly pallets, racks, bulk containers, hand-held containers and dunnage that move products efficiently and safely throughout the supply chain, according to the Reusable Packaging Association. Reusables are made of durable materials such as metal, plastic or wood and is designed to withstand the rough handling of a typical logistics system, the RPA says. For example:
- Traditional boxes have a shelf life of 1-5 trips; hand-held containers can last 5-10 years.
- Standard wooden pallets last 1-5 trips; reusable alternatives are built to last 5-10 years.
- Plastic pallet wrap has a 1-trip life span; reusable pallet wraps and bands are built to last 1-5 years.
- Traditional bulk containers and drums can withstand 1-5 trips; reusable industrial containers have a shelf life of 5-10 years.
- Conventional dunnage (void fillers) last 1-3 trips; protective reusable dunnage is built to withstand wear and tear 1-5 years.
Companies that use reusable packaging can save time, money, energy and materials, the RPA says. Reusable packaging containers generate 29% less total greenhouse gas emissions; require 39% less total energy; and produce 95% less total solid waste on average, according to the RPA. In one case study, Toyota Logistics Services, a division of Toyota Motors, saved $3.5 million annually by switching to reusables, rather than using wood and cardboard transport containers. The company also reported a 75% reduction of waste, with over 120 tons of resources diverted from the landfill each year.
To learn more about reusables, or to determine if it is right for your business, visit usereusables.org. And for information about UPS’ sustainable packaging practices, visit their webpage about the Eco Responsible Packaging Program.