How to Reduce Waste in Your Product Packaging

Reduce waste in product packaging

Sustainability is top of mind for many of today’s consumers. At a time when packaging materials make up over a quarter of our landfills, companies have a huge role to play in reducing waste.

While many people do their best to recycle, that system is far from perfect and often hard for the layperson to understand. Every material is a little different, and you can only recycle something so many times. It also puts the onus of sustainably discarding these materials on the consumer. A more practical approach would be to use fewer materials that need disposal in the first place. This approach to sustainable packaging can benefit the planet, consumers and your bottom line.

The Benefits of Sustainable Packaging Materials

While helping the planet is itself a worthwhile goal, sustainable packaging materials have advantages that extend into profitability, consumer acceptance and even your legal position. Some benefits of eco-friendly packaging include:

  • Meeting consumer demands: Today’s shoppers are very eco-conscious, with 72% of them saying they actively buy more environmentally friendly products than they did five years ago. By switching to more sustainable materials, you can position yourself as an eco-friendly organization and partner in the fight against climate change. You can boost your reputation and appeal to environmentally focused buyers.
  • Reducing costs: Packaging costs money, so wasted materials hurt your bottom line. They can also increase package weights and consequent shipping costs. Many European countries even have extended producer responsibility (ERP) legislation that requires producers to fund organizations or programs that recycle, collect or otherwise manage packaging. These laws are gaining steam in the United States and may increase costs for businesses with superfluous packaging.
  • Staying ahead of laws: Many states and jurisdictions are implementing laws limiting the use of materials like plastic. New York, for instance, has banned polystyrene foam containers and packing peanuts. A sustainable packaging approach can provide some resilience and help you stay ahead of eco-friendly legislation that could be disruptive.
Ways to reduce packaging waste

4 Ways to Reduce Packaging Waste

Sustainable packaging is a multifaceted approach. We can help the planet in many ways, from reducing the amount of material that reaches landfills to minimizing the carbon footprint of the vehicles that transport packages. Here are some tips on how to reduce packaging waste and do your part for the planet.

1. Avoid Over-Packaging

If you’ve ever received a huge box with a tiny item rattling around inside, you’ve seen over-packaging at work. It’s an understandably frustrating experience for customers and a wasteful approach for companies. It creates more waste for the customer, who is now responsible for proper disposal. It can also feel somewhat tone-deaf for consumers who work hard to be sustainable and then face companies creating excess waste. Eliminating over-packaging can help improve your reputation and prevent the costs of unused materials.

Usually, over-packaging occurs due to misalignment between your product catalog and the materials available at your warehouse or third-party logistics (3PL) facility. Staff may need to use incorrectly sized materials to accommodate small products. Then, they must make up for the large size with filler items like air pillows or packing peanuts to prevent damage during transit. Over-packaging can also occur in primary product packaging.

To prevent over-packaging, evaluate your warehouse or 3PL processes. Keep your SKU catalog well-updated with accurate product measurements, and ensure you or your 3PL provider has a range of container sizes available.

2. Use Eco-Friendly Materials

Recyclable packaging is great, but we can only recycle materials a finite number of times. Biodegradable and compostable materials, on the other hand, can return right back to the earth after being used. As technology has advanced, biodegradable packaging has become much more common and affordable, making it a viable option for many businesses and products.

While other materials need high-tech recycling plants to be reused, biodegradable and compostable packaging can break down in simple compost bins and sometimes even landfills. Look for these more sustainable packaging materials, which you can find for many different components such as cardboard, filling material and mailer bags.

Other ways you can use more sustainable packaging materials include:

  • Avoiding plastic: Eco-friendly materials are especially important as replacements for plastic, which doesn’t break down well in the environment. Even if recyclable, some plastics require special facilities, and many consumers aren’t aware of the limitations of recycling. Wherever possible, try replacing plastics with environmentally friendly paper-based products like corrugated cardboard. They are typically recyclable, affordable and easy to source.
  • Buying certified paper products: Paper-based products use renewable materials even if they aren’t biodegradable or compostable. To minimize their impact on forests, look for products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). These certifications attest to sustainable practices across different aspects of working with fiber-based products, such as chain of custody.
  • Using recycled materials: Ideally, you can use boxes that are both recycled and recyclable. These materials promote end-to-end sustainability by making the most of these resources, and they show your customers that you’re committed to the planet.

3. Opt for Return-Ready Packaging

Many packages are treated as single-use, but this approach can add friction to the returns process. For example, if a customer has to tear open a bag or box to get to their product, they would need to find a new one to return the item. They create more waste, have an inconvenient experience and may even increase the risk of damage during transit.

Instead, you can help them by using packaging that supports reuse and easy shipping. You might opt for a box that doesn’t need tape, such as a C-Series box, or a mailer with an adhesive strip built in.

4. Streamline Your Packaging Design

Even small packaging elements can add up when you use them repeatedly. Take a close look at your packaging, and see if there are any areas where you might limit your materials. For example, could you eliminate filler by using a smaller box? Could you rearrange item placement to maximize space? Can you reinforce your box in one area rather than opting for a thicker board overall?

Consider working with a sustainable packaging company that understands the details of the box design. At Custom Boxes Now, for instance, we can help you build a package with as little material waste as possible.

Create custom packaging from Custom Boxes Now

Start Building More Sustainable Packaging Today

Whatever kind of products you sell, eco-friendly packaging is the way forward. Whether you want to use fewer materials, make it easier for customers to recycle or support sustainable initiatives in some other way, Custom Boxes Now has the expertise and capabilities to help. We offer a wide range of sustainable boxes, including 100% recyclable corrugated cardboard boxes in various styles.

Explore our capabilities online, or reach out today to discuss how we can help you do your part for the planet!