The ‘curse’ of packaging has been highlighted recently on TV documentaries and news which shows just how serious disposable packaging has become in harming marine life and clogging oceans and rivers, and filling ever-more land-fill sites. As a species, humanity seems to be drowning in non-biodegradable plastic packaging. In the UK alone some two thirds of all plastic packaging used for consumer products ends up in landfill or for incineration, some of which is the fault of retailers through use of unnecessary plastic and paper trays for cosmetic display purposes.

Although packaging’s prime purpose is to protect the goods it encloses, a review of packaging designs and materials can also render dramatic cuts in transport and disposal costs and, therefore, CO2 emissions. The subject, however, can be very complex, not only because of the need to take a holistic view of the entire supply chain through which the packaged goods pass but also to be aware of the many new products on the market, which must include all relevant forms of automation, including in-line and end-of-line packaging. The latter in particular involves a host of machines like strappers, stretch/shrink wrappers, and palletisers. Then there are all the legal obligations to be aware of and followed and how best to dispose of B2B waste packaging. With all this to consider, if one is planning a major packaging rethink it might pay to call in packaging consultants with a long pedigree in the industry.

While it is certainly possible to eliminate B2B packaging in some ways, the last mile packaging seems insoluble in that respect, but the size of the packaging and its environmentally-friendly aspects can be improved. One method proposed by Packsize International is to use right-sized packaging on demand for the corrugated market place, which addresses the ‘one size fits all’ assumption of traditional, corrugated box inventories. Void fill to protect and prevent movement of contents continues to see environmental advances that no longer mean annoying mess and disposal of polystyrene chips or shredded paper. A good example is X-FILL and X-PAD from Southgate Packaging which creates large volumes of material from Kraft paper rapidly, on demand and at the point of use, without the common jamming problem found with alternative paper void fill machines. Southgate also offers a robotic stretch wrapper for larger and heavier loads that would be unsuitable on turntables. Its usefulness is extended by its mobility, unlike the end-of-line fixed turntable wrappers.

Packaging technology advances continues apace in the specialist areas of supply chain logistics, such as the automotive sector. Schoeller Allibert, for example, has developed a foldable, shallow, large box, the Magnum Optimum 595. This box raises efficiency owing to less weight, more usable volume, improved ergonomics and smooth design. It has a 295mm incremental height when folded and offers the highest folding ratio on the market, allowing up to 208 empty boxes in a standard truck and up to 78 when fully loaded. Its 595mm height was developed for high density, low volume automotive parts to maximise vehicle fill while minimising cost and carbon footprint. Dynamic box load is 750 kg and stacking load 3,200 kg. All parts of the container are clipped and/or assembled by bayonets to make all parts, sides and doors easy to change. At life’s end the box is recyclable.