Discarding the excesses of protective packaging

Author: Lucy O’Dea

About a year ago, a colleague posted a blog entitled What a waste!, in which she bemoaned the issue of excessive packaging.

Author: Lucy O'Dea

Some rights reserved by neilmerton

About a year ago, a colleague posted a blog entitled What a waste!, in which she bemoaned the issue of excessive packaging.

At the time I was in total agreement with her frustrations about the oversized packages that were being used for such small items.  In fact, I recall the reams and reams of bubble-wrap and filling paper that she had to pull out of the box, which covered the office floor, before she could find the actual product she had ordered.

But, as I’m slowly being introduced into the world of protective packaging, I’ve come to understand why products are despatched in packages that appears to us, a total extravagance and an appalling waste. And it’s not as extravagant or appalling as it first seems.

According to DEFRA, in 2012, we threw away over 23 million tonnes of household waste in the UK, of which, 10 million tonnes was from discarded packaging. Therefore, it’s easy to understand that looking from the consumer’s point of view, the excesses of manufacturers and retailers can be extremely frustrating. Not just from what we see as waste, but also the fact that we, the consumers, are left to dispose of all this waste packaging in our own domestic bins.

Looking at the situation from a completely different point of view, manufacturers and retailers have other concerns; their number one priority is to ensure their products remain safe and protected throughout transit, so they arrive in perfect condition. They are also aware of the need to maintain their corporate social responsibility to the environment while addressing the need to keep its operational processes as cost effective as possible.

The vast majority of packaging today is manufactured using recycled or reclaimed materials and what’s more, this itself is recyclable. So assuming we all responsibly dispose of this waste packaging, there is no detrimental effect to the environment. In addition, I now appreciate that standardisation reduces costs and increases efficiencies, not just in terms of packaging, but also in transportation and logistics. And, with a wide variety of environmentally friendly void-fill products to choose from, the use of larger boxes for smaller products isn’t the issue I once thought it was.

The Internet retailing business is not just here to stay, it’s booming. According to the Centre for Retail Research, the UK tops the chart for online sales which, last year alone, recorded sales of nearly £39 billion. And with a predicted 15.8% growth for 2014, the number of packaged goods is only going to increase. So, the more we understand about the fascinating world of packaging, the more we can appreciate what the sector is doing to both protect our purchases as well as our environment.

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