The trend of using sustainable packaging is gaining momentum, and it will see a consistent rise in the future as well. More and more companies are using packaging materials that are eco-friendly throughout their entire life cycle, including in their functionality, marketing, and after their use has been fulfilled. Sustainable packaging also helps in reducing the costs involved with packaging design.
The way it's always been
Most people think of stretch wrapping as a packaging and/or material handling function. Why? Mostly because that's just the way it's always been.
Of course, the equipment often falls in the production and distribution work flow at the intersection of those functions, and therefore it's a natural inclination.
There's a problem with that, however, one that's abundantly clear when you cruise down the aisles in a retail store.
The role of packaging
Sustainability initiatives should herald an opportunity not just to do something good for the environment, but also to do something good for your business. With improved sustainability comes improved efficiency, and thus profitability.
Well, at least that’s the theory. The reality is a little more complicated; and an increasing awareness of the downstream “net impact” costs of certain positive sustainability measures are beginning to muddy the once clear waters.
Sustainability is a topic that cannot be avoided. Wider societal concerns with environmental issues, governmental regulations, and hard-nosed cost efficiency considerations all combine to make sustainability drives an economically advantageous business policy worth pursuing.
But leveraging cost efficiency and savings means making the entire supply chain network work in a sustainable manner. One piece of the supply chain that is often overlooked is stretch wrapping.
We recently took a look at the ways in which stretch wrapping can impact the sustainability and source reduction efforts of PET bottles. As manufacturers continue to look for new ways to improve sustainability, it isn’t shocking that packaging has become a major focus for their efforts.
High profile target
Single use PET bottles are a high profile target of sustainability and source reduction efforts. Major producers are keenly focused on reducing packaging throughout the process, and specifically addressing the bottles themselves.
For example, in a recent interview Nelson Switzer, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer for Nestlé Waters NA, provided some statistics:
- packaging = 41% of the Nestle Waters' footprint (down from 49% in 2010)
- 60% reduction in plastic content in the 20+ years since 1994
- recently decreased overall material usage by 6% (includes elimination of corrugated pads)
- Arrowhead brand water bottles are now 50% recycled PET
These are impressive changes. And they're the result of process improvements enabled by improving materials and machines.
What's interesting is that each step along the way has changed the demands on the stretch wrapping equipment, and the evolution provides a good case study for how changes in up stream packaging needs to be accounted for in the stretch wrapping process.
Sustainability has been a hot topic in the CPG packaging industry since the 90s when mass retailers started to respond to consumer pressure to develop programs around source reduction and recycled content.
Manufacturers which supply the retailers have pushed machine and materials suppliers to provide a range of solutions that enable them to comply with incremental source reduction targets. Suppliers have delivered, and manufacturers have consistently met or exceeded the "score card" targets set by major retailers and industry organizations.
Trade associations have also joined the discussion. PMMI's recent Earth Day infographic, for instance, illustrates the emphasis on the topic.