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Summer is officially underway, and everything is ‘greening up’ outside. Some businesses experience a little slow down in summer, and that may be a great time to take stock of packaging strategies. A packaging audit can help identify areas of strengths and weakness in your strategy and reveal opportunities to improve performance. In this “season of green”, it may be beneficial to examine your packaging strategy from a sustainable perspective.
The Three R’s
An easy way to conduct a simple sustainable audit is to look at your packaging related to the three R’s of eco-friendly packaging: Reduce; Reuse; Recycle.
Some packaging processes can benefit from an audit by revealing older and possibly inefficient ways of doing things. You know – the organizational inertia that says, “we do it this way because that’s the way we’ve always done it!” Maybe there is room for improvement.
Look at all your packaging, including consumer-facing (retail), bulk shipping product to retail, etc.
- Is there opportunity to reduce the amount of packaging? If your goal is material reduction, would a thinner substrate for a package label still function properly while accomplishing your sustainable objectives? If this is not possible with the label, can the liner thickness be reduced? In a shrink-sleeve scenario, maybe you can move from a 50 micron film to a 45 micron option.
- How much packaging can be reused – either by consumers or suppliers? For example, Blueland Cleaning Products makes spray packaging consumers can reuse by filling the empty bottle with water and adding a Blueland concentrate tablet to create the cleaning solution. And there is the example of HP ink cartridges that are refillable.
- Are the materials being used for your packaging recyclable, or recycle-ready? There has been a lot of development around recyclable label materials over the past few years, producing many more options for a variety of packaging. AWT offers many of these.
If you begin looking at your packaging strategy through the filter of the three R’s, you may discover a lot of areas where improvements can be made. For example: You may have flexible packaging that is produced with older material specs that may be able to be replaced by a recyclable/recycle-ready material (recycle!).
Additional Green Stuff
Evaluating packaging with the three R’s in mind will get you thinking about efficiency, especially when regarding material reduction strategies. There are more non-material things you can do to gain efficiency and bolster a sustainable program. For example, did you know a supplier managed inventory (SMI) program is a sustainable production method? Think of it this way: Putting packaging production on an SMI track can prevent large inventories of packaging with obsolete messaging or graphics.
Other production methods can also reap sustainable benefits. Packaging with similar color attributes can run concurrently on one press in certain situations. Combining two press runs into one has obvious sustainable benefits.
AWT’s experts can help with a more detailed audit of your current packaging and put your strategy on a greener path. But this simple audit exercise can help get the gears in motion.