The Quest to Create a More Sustainable Packaging Supply Chain

30th April 2022

Lifestyle Packaging team look at ways of creating a more sustainable packaging supply chain.

Delivering a sustainable packaging supply chain is not something that can be achieved overnight. Indeed, because of the many processes involved including manufacturing, it is a marathon rather than a sprint. However, it is most definitely a race worth running as there are many benefits to be gained from initiating green strategies within the packaging supply chain including cost savings and improved brand reputation. With that in mind check out the post below that goes into more detail on how this can be achieved.

Initiating green strategies within the packaging supply chain

Greening your packaging supply chain is a progressive process, one that requires evaluation of the current situation, along with changes across various areas.

Step 1: Evaluate your supply chain

The first step is to evaluate or audit your current packaging supply chain to identify any current issues with sustainability. (see the section below on measuring sustainability to help you with this). The good news is that many will be blindly obvious such as reducing the fuel used to ship packaging material, which is always something that can be worked on.

However, some sustainability issues within your packaging supply chain may only come to light through in-depth investigation. Indeed, this is particularly the case when it comes to the way that your packaging is manufactured as this process could include poor work conditions and practices, as well as the use of toxic chemicals, or resources that have been sourced in an unsustainable way.

Step 2: Switch to a circular supply chain

Once you have identified the sustainability issues within your packaging supply chain you can begin instituting changes. The first of these is to add some stages to the chain, creating a more circular process that reduces waste.

Therefore the process will look like the second example rather than the first.

Materials > manufacture of packaging > shipping of packaging > use of packaging > disposal of packing as waste

Materials > manufacture of packaging > shipping of packaging > use of packaging > recycling the products > sending them back to the manufacturer for reuse.

Indeed, by either encouraging recycling of the packaging created, or allowing it to be used again much less waste is created. Not to mention all the resources that are preserved because the first two parts of the process no longer need to happen.

Step 3: Reduce fuel consumption

Of course, even when using a circular supply chain, shipping of packaging still needs to happen, and this uses up lots of fuel and causes C02 emissions. Fortunately, there are ways of making the shipping part of your packaging supply process more sustainable.

One of the most important of these is to make sure that drivers are educated in ways to conserve fuel, something that reduces costs as well. Swapping to a more sustainable logistics service can also help here, look for one that invests in vehicles specially designed to use less fuel and that avoid dead mileage on their return journeys. 

How to measure sustainability

To introduce more sustainable practices into your packaging supply chain you have to understand how to measure it as a variable. Indeed, it is not as simple as finding the packaging that is the best for the environment, but additional factors such as social and financial responsibility need to be considered as well.


Social responsibility

The first of these factors is social responsibility. How socially responsible your packaging is will depend on things like how the people involved in making it are treated. In particular, ensuring that everyone has fair and safe treatment, and has their human rights respected is vital. This means that from the people involved in harvesting the initial resource, to the drivers that unload the pallets, everyone needs to be treated fairly.


Environmental responsibility

Then there is the factor of environmental responsibility. This is about making sure that each step in the supply packaging chain avoids harm to the environment. Of course, this can be a complicated thing to get right, especially if you work with many providers and suppliers as you will need to make sure they do things like minimizing waste, reducing their energy consumption, and avoiding working with polluting chemicals.


Financial responsibility

Last of all, if your packaging supply chain is to be truly responsible it needs to apply this to the financial factors as well. This not only means the particular needs of your business, but also making sure that regulations are upheld, and that risk is mitigated via insurance and financial planning.

What materials are the best fit for your product?

Now you know how to measure sustainability within your supply chain, you can choose more sustainable materials. This means considering which of these will be the best fit for both your product and your sustainability goals.

Include recycled content in packaging

One way of doing this is with the inclusion of more recycled materials into your packaging. The good news is many may be suitable for your needs including recycled paper and card, recycled plastics from old water bottles, and recycled glass.

By choosing these recycled materials you will be preventing waste from going into landfills, and saving on the energy used to collect, and process new materials for packaging.

Consider the recyclability of the final product.

Another consideration you should make is the recyclability of the final packaging product. For instance, some types of packaging are easier to recycle than others such as corrugated cards, and kraft paper.

Then there are packaging types that can be disposed of in sustainable ways without having to use recycling services at all. For example, Cornstarch packaging will break down into small amounts of C02 and water over several months so it can be added to a compost heap. Similarly Mushroom packaging. Uses agricultural waste and fungi to create packaging that will safely biodegrade in compost heaps.

However, while these sustainable packaging options may be ideal for primary packaging of some products, for others they are only suitable as secondary packaging. This is particularly the case when it comes to liquids, especially premium liquids that will need to be kept for a long time by the user like perfume, cosmetics and medicines. After all, packaging that begins to degrade in a few months will result in expensive products all over their bathroom surface or nightstands.

With that in mind, the best sustainable primary packing option for perfume and cosmetics brands are glass bottles and jars. This is because they can be made safely, responsibly and sustainably from recycled glass, while also being relied upon to perform their function over the long term. Then when your customer is done with the product they can choose to reuse them in their home as decorations or for storage, or easily recycle them as glass is one of the four most common resources domestically worldwide.

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