Commentary

Opinion: Putting sustainable packaging front and centre

DS Smith

Teresa Del Re, NE Head of Marketing and Innovation at DS Smith, discusses the importance of sustainable packaging in ecommerce. DS Smith worked with online wine brand  Garçon Wines to develop its rectangular bottle which can be posted through a letterbox.

 

Sustainability as a key priority in the retail space is nothing new. However, with increased media attention on the environmental impact of packaging, it has quite rightly become of vital importance for brands and consumers alike.

Putting sustainability first

Improving the sustainable credentials of packaging does not necessarily mean a complete overhaul of the existing design. Simple swaps or small tweaks can make a significant difference. For example, swapping black plastic to clear plastic means that packaging can be easily recycled at the curb side.

Reducing the number of different materials used can also have a real impact as ecommerce packaging often incorporates plastic, cardboard, film and twist ties or glue. This means that even if consumers want to recycle, it relies on them spending considerable time and effort separating out the materials and checking if the individual components can be recycled in their area.

The complexity of packaging, added to our busy lifestyles and shopping habits, creates more waste than ever before and coincides with the fact that the UK’s waste management and recycling infrastructure is no longer keeping pace with this change. According to The Tipping Point, DS Smith’s whitepaper on the state of recycling in the UK, household recycling increased by 235 per cent between 2000 and 2010, but since then the rate of growth has plateaued. Unless drastic action is taken, the current status quo is leading the UK towards a crisis point where it will miss its 2035 recycling targets by more than a decade.

Ecommerce brands have a crucial role to play in achieving these targets and should be seeking to encourage and promote recycling through using just one type of recyclable material for their ecommerce packaging.

Smart design and material choice

When designing any packaging, the suitability of corrugated should always be considered. Corrugated and paper packaging can be easily recycled – in fact, it is the most recycled material in the world. Approximately 82 per cent of all paper and cardboard packaging is currently recycled in the UK – the highest recycling rate of any material stream – compared to nearly 50 per cent of plastic.   

Forward-thinking brands are increasingly looking to incorporate sustainable options into their packaging design. A clear example of a brand that has fully embraced a sustainable ethos is wine e-retailer, Garçon Wines.

The inventor of flat wine bottles set out to improve consumer convenience and help reduce the 900,000kgs of carbon emissions associated with missed deliveries of wine in the UK. Following the success of its award-winning flat bottle postal pack, Garçon Wines in collaboration with DS Smith devised a game-changing secondary packaging format for its 10-bottle pack.

By packaging eight bottles vertically with two lying horizontally in the airspace around the bottlenecks, almost all unused airspace is eliminated. This significantly reduces logistics costs and cuts associated carbon emissions. In fact, a pallet loaded with 10 flat bottle cases could carry 1,040 bottles in comparison to just 456 traditional wine bottles with a standard pallet load. When using heavy goods vehicles that carry a standard 24 pallets, for a consignment of 50,000 bottles of wine this would reduce the need for five vehicles to just two, resulting in a 60% saving in carbon emissions and costs.

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