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How to Use Less Packaging

No Comments    |    , ,     |    November 28, 2022    |    Reading time 7 minutes
How to use less packaging

Ecommerce is booming and the boom shows no signs of slowing down. In the current climate consumers are tightening their purse strings, but they’re still buying stuff and they’re still buying it online, a habit change exacerbated by the global pandemic. Even in the midst of recession, studies have shown that consumers will continue to look to on-line platforms to make their purchases, but at the same time, they’re well aware that doing so can have a negative impact on the environment in terms of over-packaging and CO2 emissions.

Buying online means that customers can’t use their bags for life; they can’t decide to buy loose products rather than those wrapped in plastic; they can’t take their own bottles and containers to be refilled. They can’t eschew plastic for biodegradable alternatives. It might appear at first glance then, that consumers have very little say when it comes to the packaging their products come in. But in actual fact, they do.

Photo of someone using too much packaging or their business
Use less packaging to keep your customers happy, and reduce your impact on the environment.

The amount of packaging used by ecommerce companies is a key factor in a consumer’s decision-making process. Time and time again, studies evidence how customers are far more likely to buy from a company if they feel that company is serious about using less packaging. What’s more, according to an article in The Times, consumers are even prepared to pay more for a product if it has sustainable packaging and they will reject it completely if the packaging is excessive, sustainable or not.

Using more efficient, streamlined packaging, therefore - and not just recyclable packaging - indicates that a company is serious about their customer’s concerns surrounding sustainability. And they have to be, because this factor is linked increasingly to economic benefits. This report actually commissioned by the fashion industry – but which makes interesting reading for anyone with a business who wants to understand the link between building a strong, loyal customer base and using less packaging.

It might sound contradictory for a packaging company to be drawing attention to the fact that less is more, but ecommerce is never going to be able to do away with packaging, especially over the next few years when ecommerce is forecast to increase by almost 25%.

And packaging is still a vital component of that: products must be delivered in pristine condition with minimal risk of being broken, contaminated or damaged in transit. Convenience and reliability are the bedrock of ecommerce from a customer’s point of view, but it looks like sustainability should also be added to the list and sustainability now means two things: packaging that can be recycled, but also far less packaging in the first place.

So, in order to attract the new customers who will be part of this 25% increase as well as retain established ones, ecommerce businesses need to get serious about using less packaging. If they do, they’ll reap the financial rewards.

We hope though, that it doesn’t just come down to money. Like anything else, packaging can and should be more thoughtful, more environmentally friendly and far less wasteful. It has of course been around for thousands of years and like everything, it continues to evolve. Nowadays a wide variety of packaging is attainable, affordable and specialised. Still, ecommerce businesses need to be aware of the latest developments in order to assure their customers that they are up to the challenge of using less packaging whilst still achieving optimum results. This approach will benefit everybody.

Top 4 Tips for Using Less Packaging

Any packaging company worth your consideration and money will want to work with you so that you can choose the packaging that’s right for your pocket and your product. It’s the Goldilocks philosophy – find something that’s not too big and not too small, but just right. So ‘just right’, that spending money on excessive material – tape, cardboard, padding, wadding, stuffing, airbags, peanuts, shred, honeycomb, polystyrene - isn’t required.

So, here are our top tips for minimising packaging and maximising your customer base and your bottom line.

1: Ensure Packaging is the Right size

Packaging must be the right size for your product whether it’s simply a generic container that’s a good fit or a bespoke design. Packaging that’s the right size means your product will be protected securely during transit. It negates the need for void fill which can be fiddly to use, cumbersome to store, costly to buy and worse, excessive. At The Packaging Club, we have a type of packaging to suit every product without you needing to use airbags, bubble wrap, polystyrene peanuts, wadding, foam or scrunched up paper.

Find the right size packaging for your business.

OPTIONS: FlyPak, peel and seal envelope wraps and mailers, cardboard boxes of varying sizes (simple, double walled or crash lock), cardboard postal tubes

2: Re-useable packaging

Ensure your customers know that your packaging is not only efficient, but that it can also be reused and or recycled. This may be obvious to you but highlight it if necessary to take away any doubt or uncertainty. Re-usable packaging means less packaging needs to be manufactured in the first place and when it does finally reach the end of its life, it can biodegrade or be composted. It’s not just about using less packaging; it’s about producing less as well.

Plastic has its place but it renders packaging and packaging products non-biodegradable. Peel and seal mailers and boxes can now be manufactured without any plastic at all. Even packing tape can be branded and still be fully recyclable. Paper based pallet strapping can be just as strong as plastic strapping if heavy boxes need to be reinforced. Switching from bubble mailers to padded paper mail bags will reduce your plastic consumption even further. You’ll end up impressing yourself as well as your customers.

OPTIONS: Peel and seal mailers, packing tape, pallet strapping, padded paper mail bags

3: Consolidate

It might seem obvious, but an excellent way of using less packaging is practicing consolidation. When there are two orders going to the same place, it makes sense to put both in the same box and save on packaging materials, postage costs and your carbon footprint. Consolidation is becoming increasingly popular even when products vary enormously. Anyone familiar with Amazon knows that they try and offer their customers this option, however assorted and eclectic an order might be.

Image of lots of different sizes of postal packaging for an article called "consolidating packaging to save money"
Consolidation is an obvious step to help you use less packaging

Consolidating successfully – especially for smaller differently shaped items like beauty products - means coming up with packaging designs so that the necessity for multiple packages and packaging that’s too big and requires void fill can be avoided. Our nifty little FlyPak box addresses these issues. FlyPak is simple to store, erect, seal and send. It’s the outcome of clever, innovative design resulting in a construction which enables it to hold products of different sizes safely and securely. Less packaging, less hassle and less expense.

OPTIONS: FlyPak, cardboard boxes, cardboard postal tubes, pallet strapping

4: Train your Staff

Packing is an art. It’s always amazing how much you can put in a suitcase if you know how to do it well and packaging products is no different. But the key phrase here is ‘know how to do it’.

Train staff to use less packaging when shipping customer orders
Train staff to use less packaging when shipping customer orders

If you're fortunate enough to have staff working for you in your business, you can’t expect them to understand instinctively why interlocking side tabs or restricted lateral movement is so important, nor understand why doubling up on tape when packing orders isn't always the right thing to do.

With the appropriate explanation as to why it’s important and training as to how to accomplish it, they too can become masters in becoming time, money and planet saving packaging experts.

In this article, we’ve talked about four ways in which you can use less packaging. Keep an eye on what the competition is doing as well however and you may come up with even more ideas to reduce your carbon footprint and attract customers. Check out these exceptionally clever, practical, multi-functional packaging ideas here. It’s worth mentioning Puma is also leading the field in coming up with packaging concepts that are sustainable, useful and attractive. They’re an industry giant determined to tackle this major stumbling blocks consumers have with on-line consumerism: unnecessary environmental harm through wastage.

Within the packaging industry itself, we’re tasked with getting items from A to B safely and securely in a box. But through innovation and creativity, we can do our bit to ensure that it’s quality that counts, not quantity.

To check out how to spend less on packaging by using less packaging, follow the links throughout this article, or click here. Alternatively, give us a call and see how we can make your packaging more efficient, saving you money today.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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