Eco-Friendly Packaging: Custom solutions for greener eCommerce fulfillment

Online retail has become a vital avenue for an increasing number of consumers. While some brands have seen lower costs as a result of this, others have had to adjust to new means of delivering items to their customers. As the reliance on eCommerce grows, shoppers are indicating that their clicks and purchases are becoming more environmentally conscientious. It’s no secret that each delivery has its CO2 footprint, thus it’s becoming more standard and commonplace for brands to invest in more environmentally friendly methods.

Consumers globally are increasingly agreeing with this sentiment, as 81% of shoppers worldwide strongly believe that companies have an ethical responsibility to the environment. More recent studies have also shown that 54% of customers consider sustainable packaging when choosing their products, with 83% of consumers aged 44 and below stating they would pay more for an item with sustainable packaging. From electric delivery vehicles to fiber-based compostable packaging solutions, there’s a growing opportunity for online retailers to decrease their carbon footprint and provide their customers with a guilt-free shopping experience.

Looking At Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging commonly refers to the source, development, and use of solutions with a low environmental impact and footprint. Such packaging is often be manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy. In addition to meeting market criteria for performance and cost, sustainable packaging uses materials classified as beneficial, safe, and healthy for both individuals and the environment during its lifecycle. When seeking solutions to help make the online purchasing process more sustainable, retailers must examine its manufacturing process, the lifecycle of the materials, and whether it is created to be effectively recovered and repurposed.

Improving existing practices to be more environmentally friendly can be often achieved by analyzing the efficiency of packages or the effectiveness of the materials used. Online packages will frequently consist of protective wrapping, additional wrapping such as bubble wrap, and internal product packaging. Currently, almost 60% of all eCommerce deliveries contain at least 25% bubble wrap, other plastics, or air, contributing to excess storage needs and the requirement for more vehicles leading to higher emissions.

The efficiency of materials used is also often overlooked. Instead of using the same type of packaging for every delivery, manufacturers can now develop better solutions such as increasing the strength of materials to provide the same protections for items with thinner boxes. This allows retailers to use fewer materials for most deliveries whereas, thicker, more resistant packaging can be reserved for multi-box or stacked orders where the integrity of each package must be undamaged.

Why Should Brands Consider Sustainable Solutions?

In addition to lowering the amount of waste produced by packaging, the components for sustainable packaging can lead to more efficient item storage. At a time where supply chains are dealing with increased demand for goods storage and transportation, consolidating storage space through sustainable materials can provide a necessary boost during peak sales periods. Smaller package sizes made from sustainable materials also tend to be cheaper thereby lowering overall shipping costs. Aside from its practical benefits, offering an eco-friendlier solution can help acquire more customers and boost loyalty with existing shoppers.

Excessive packaging can also create additional waste and contribute to lower recycling rates. Previously, brands purchasing and transporting items in bulk to stores meant that recycling various materials could be achieved at a large scale. Now, the growth of online shopping has led more customers to purchase items directly to their homes, shifting the responsibility of correctly recycling packaging onto shoppers. Brands that opt for using packaging created from fiber-based materials or other renewable choices like paper and cardboard can help their customers reuse and recycle items effectively with minimal effort.

Packaging Options for eCommerce Sellers

It’s not just the goods that matter when it comes to internet orders. The type of packaging that products are delivered in can help to establish a connection with customers. The right exterior can increase the perceived value of an item and show the quality of presentation while also emphasizing the care taken into minimizing environmental impact. With the right type of packaging anything is possible, but what options do sellers have?

Boxes

In most instances, shipments will require corrugated cardboard boxes to store the item while in transit to customers. The flute information distinguishes the strength, durability, and flexibility of cardboard box products. Larger flute sizes provide more compression resistance and cushioning, but they can be bulky and add weight to a package. Finding the right size for your packages will help you use the correct flute levels and reduce the weight of each parcel.

Paperboard boxes are another alternative for merchants looking for lightweight, durable solutions that can be stored flat when not in use. Because the boxes are more compact and economical, they can be easily modified to produce bespoke shapes and structures. This allows for greater customization depending on the shipping requirements. Other popular types of paperboard boxes include solid bleached sulphate (SBS) boxes, prominently known for their striking white color, coated unbleached kraft (CUK) boxes with a more natural recycled look, coated recycled paperboard made with a clay coating, and chipboard paperboard made from reclaimed stock.

Bags

Depending on the type of items delivered, bags are a quick, easy, cheap, and easily customizable solution for retailers seeking to be cost-effective. Paper bags are one of the most popular options compared to plastic due to their eco-friendly appeal allowing businesses to highlight environmental appeal. Polybags also known as plastic, are another option for brands seeking flexible, thin fabric that can be easily wrapped around a variety of products. These are particularly popular for most retailers due to their lightweight construction that saves on shipping costs. With developments in the industry, there’s a growing variety of options for businesses to adopt recyclable or compostable poly bags to minimize environmental impact. More specialist solutions such as foil-sealed bags are available for those requiring packaging that can maintain freshness, increase shelf life, and reduce contamination risks. Products like coffee, cheese and cured meats are often packaged with this type of material. Because the oxygen in the fabric is extracted, foil-sealed bags are effective; although the prices can be higher, therefore they’re only suggested for specialty items.

Other

Although often looked like the villain in the packaging world, plastic is a cost-effective and recyclable solution for enhancing packaging practices, especially when created into boxes. Plastic boxes are more durable than paperboard boxes and are great for storing a variety of products in an airtight container. Cotton is another option for brands seeking to use eco-friendly solutions for enhancing their delivery methods. The material is soft, and its use in premium product packaging for items such as jewelry, glassware, and high-end clothing creates a premium feel that cannot be replicated by plastic and paper. Additionally, cotton packaging can be easily dyed and imprinted with custom branding but offer little protection from outside environmental factors.

Businesses that frequently send items by post will be familiar with envelopes and bubble mailers. A low-cost packaging option with customizable branding, colors and configurations make these a commonly used solution for cheap protection for fragile items without the use of bulky boxes.

Interior

The attention on packaging design is often directed at the exterior of a product. However, interior packaging also known as dunnage is just as importation for securing a variety of items from the issue. Popular types of dunnage include tissue paper, airbags, Styrofoam, bubble wrap and kraft paper.

Creating a Sustainable Strategy for Your Packaging

Depending on your starting point as a business, transitioning toward a sustainable packaging solution may require a gradual transition rather than a complete revamp. Introducing new options and materials for packaging often requires trial and error even with established product types. It can be beneficial to take a smaller sample size of items, for instance, one size of cardboard boxes and change the materials to see the effects on performance.

With the growing number of solutions available for eco-friendly packaging, one of the best ways to identify which solutions work best for your brand is to test product samples. Many vendors can offer free samples for prospective clients however, even if a small upfront cost is required testing the packaging before introducing it for product lines is highly advised. Through this process, you can assess the material and its compatibility with your existing stock and evaluate whether it matches requirements. Ease of unpacking, the presentation of products, and size flexibility are essential factors for customers and can make a big difference in the post-purchase customer experience.

Stress tests are also highly recommended for evaluating the durability of certain types of packaging. By recreating the typical packaging and transport journey, you can determine which solution will offer sufficient protection. Damage to items, high-value products, in particular, can lead to unsatisfied customers and poor reviews, therefore, the packaging is just as important as its contents. Always lookout for the weight and size of each packaging option. Adding a couple of extra grams or inches to packages can lead to additional shipping costs. The dimensions and weight of each item should be just right, with packaging durable enough to contain the items but not too large or bulky that it contributes to overspending on fulfillment. Once implemented, begin with small order volumes to assess customer reception and address any minor issues before full-scale implementation.

Depending on the chosen packaging, extra costs associated with the materials or shipping fees may be unavoidable. Always ensure that any associated costs are communicated to the customer, especially in cases where they are required to pay for any extra charges. It can be worthwhile for brands to absorb the cost to increase customer satisfaction, but in all cases, it’s best practice to state what comes included in the price of an item.

Final Thoughts

The advancements in packaging and material technology have created many ways for businesses to go green with packaging options, so the right approach will vary for every brand. Aside from environmentally friendly materials, it can be worth exploring whether alternative vendors or optimized supply chain processes help to further eco-initiatives. Always remember to take it one step at a time, testing and measuring all changes. Regardless of the options chosen, adopting eco-friendlier strategies can help establish your brand as a conscious seller worthy of customers’ attention through sharing their values and investing in the planet.