How to Reduce Packaging Waste

Minimize Your Waste: Strategies for Reducing Packaging Materials

Increasing the sustainability of your packaging operation and lowering your costs at the same time are important goals, and the easiest way to obtain both is to reduce packaging waste. According to the EPA, packaging materials make up about 30% of all waste generated in the United States each year. Despite efforts to recycle and reuse, much of those materials end up in landfills. To minimize your environmental impact and contribute to waste reduction, follow these strategies for lowering the amount of packaging materials you use with your products.

Properly dimension your products

One of the most inefficient things you can do is to use a box or bag that is far too big for your specific item. Not only does it waste packaging materials, but it also looks odd to the end user and increases the dimensional weight of your product, adding to shipping costs. It’s important to measure your products accurately and to use a container that is as small as possible, while still adequately fitting and protecting your item.

For large volume operations, we recommend investing in an automated dimensioning system. This software precisely determines the optimal package size based on the dimensions, weight, and durability of your product. These systems help make sure that you are only using as much packaging materials as is necessary for the item.

Consolidate shipments to reduce packaging waste

Instead of shipping orders individually or sending multiple boxes to the same customer for a single order, we recommend consolidating your shipments. Pack multiple products into a single container and consider delaying shipments a day or two if it will help in sending items that aren’t time-sensitive to the same customer, so you can combine multiple products into a single shipment. This practice reduces the packaging required for each outgoing load from your site and can lead to a significant reduction in waste and lower shipping costs.

Down gauge your plastic packing material

Similar to using the smallest possible bags or boxes that will still be effective for your product, we also suggest using the thinnest plastic packaging materials possible. Whether you’re using stretch film, bags, or any other type of poly option, you may be able to reduce the gauge. Down gauging not only lowers your material costs, it also helps you reduce packaging waste, minimize shipment weight, and shrink your emissions footprint.

Consider using on demand bubble wrap

If you’re shipping fragile products that require void fill packing material for protection, try using on demand bubble wrap. With a bubble wrap machine, you can control how many bubbles are created and how much they are inflated, allowing your wrap to offer more or less protection as needed, instead of a one size fits all approach. For example, larger electronic products may not need small, tight air bubbles that require a lot of plastic. They could be adequately protected by larger bubbles with a higher air to plastic ratio.

When you use on demand bubble wrap as your packing material, you’re creating the exact amount of protection required for your item and will reduce packaging waste that adds to the costs of your operation and hurts the environment. In addition, the footprint of un-inflated bubble takes up far less room in a truck compared to traditional material, thus lowering your carbon footprint.

Implement packaging automation

Using automated machines is one of the best methods to increase packaging efficiency and reduce packaging waste. Compared to manual packing, which is subject to human error, machines will efficiently fill bags or boxes completely and consistently, reducing the chance of unneeded void space that may cost you more in terms of materials required and dimensional weight. Automation can be a significant upfront investment, but it will ultimately help you save overall by using less packaging and increasing your operation’s throughput.

Use biodegradable or recyclable options

If you’re trying to reduce packaging waste, then we recommend choosing materials created using recycled content or that won’t end up in a landfill. Recycled options are great for lengthening the lifespan of previously used products, lessening your dependence on new materials. This includes the energy, resources, and emissions required to produce them. Manufacturers are also making advances in developing biodegradable and compostable solutions.

However, it is important to note the limitations of some eco-friendly options. Not all biodegradable materials qualify as compostable, and some may not be recyclable. Compostable materials meet a strict set of guidelines, whereas biodegradable materials do not. The choice between recyclable and biodegradable or compostable is based on many factors, such as your product, brand vision, and end user demographics. When deciding on boxes, mailers, or containers, consider the options, including recycled materials.

Order your packaging materials in bulk

By placing bulk orders for your boxes, bags, and other packing material, you reduce the amount of packaging that is required to ship those materials in. Purchasing in bulk also reduces your cost per unit of packaging, helping you save.

If you have any questions about increasing packaging efficiency or how to reduce the amount of packing material your operation currently requires, contact our team.

Ready to reduce your packaging waste?

With over 75 years of expertise, Packline is your go-to partner for innovative and sustainable packaging solutions. Whether it’s automation equipment or custom services, we have the right solution for you.