Producing high levels of packaging waste can be an indicator of inefficiencies, but when you’re running a busy packaging operation, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what those inefficiencies might be.

Not only is excessive packaging waste an environmental issue, it can have serious financial implications for a business, too. Every company that handles at least 50 tonnes of packaging a year or has a turnover of at least £2 million, must pay a levy that is determined by the weight and type of packaging they handle and the ‘activities’ performed on that packaging (read more).  So, using more packaging, and/or lots of different kinds of packaging than is necessary can have a significant impact on costs.  It can also have a negative impact on the end consumer, both in burdening them with the problem of how to dispose of the packaging waste and in creating a poor customer experience, which may lead them to think twice about ordering again

If you are looking for ways to reduce the packaging waste you produce, we have identified four areas that commonly contribute to high levels of packaging waste:

1. Using too many different types of packaging materials

It can be tempting to think the more packaging the better, particularly if your business handles fragile items, but it isn’t always the case, as some headline-grabbing stories have revealed.  Not only does using lots of packaging cause consumers an issue when looking how to dispose of it, but it can also cause you and/or your customers a disposal problem too, particularly if lots of different kinds of materials are being used.  That’s because to make recycling different materials viable, packaging waste must be stored until sufficient amounts have been accumulated to make it attractive to recycling companies.  The problem for some smaller companies is that they might not have the room to store lots of different kinds of waste materials, or they just don’t accumulate enough of them and so packaging waste that could be recycled or recovered can end up in landfill, all of which costs money.

2. Using low quality packaging materials

While it might be tempting to use cheaper packaging materials, they are usually cheaper for a reason: quality.  Although buying low-cost materials may reduce your upfront costs, they could in fact be adding to your packaging waste problem. Low quality stretch film, for example, is more likely to puncture during pallet wrapping. This will lead to additional film being needed to rewrap the pallet as well as a slower process as extra layers of film are added, or while pallets are unwrapped and rewrapped.  A high quality film, on the other hand, is stronger and more durable, so a roll goes much further, produces a better-looking result, and ultimately means less packaging waste is being produced.  The same goes for the quality of boxes, tapes and envelopes: buying cheaper, lower quality products can end up costing just as much, if not more, in the long run. This is because packaging is more likely to become damaged in transit, resulting in a higher level of damaged goods and returns, all of which contributes to an increase in packaging waste.

3. Machine faults and failures 

Packaging machines are designed to increase the efficiency of a packaging operation, but things can sometimes go wrong, particularly as equipment ages.  One Antalis customer was wrapping pallets on an Automatic Pallet Wrap system that wasn’t providing sufficient load containment or stretching the film properly, which was also resulting in very poor aesthetics.  This meant that film was being wasted on a regular basis, costing the company money.  After introducing a new, up-to-date machine, the company saw a 70% reduction in waste film.  Read more.

4. The types of packaging materials being used

Some materials are bigger contributors to packaging waste than others, many of which also eat up lots of storage space too.

Take void fill chips and bubble wrap, for example.  They might be lightweight and effective, but they are high volume products that can cause considerable packaging waste problems for consumers.  Their use can also add unnecessary processes to the packaging line as the packers’ supplies need to be replenished regularly.  If bulky packaging materials are your Achilles heel then it could be worthwhile considering a more effective solution such as an on-demand void fill, which, as well as taking up minimal storage space, it also produces products that are much easier to dispose of because they tend to be recyclable and can be easily deflated are use.

Taking the time to review your operation can reap many benefits when it comes to improving your efficiency and reducing packaging waste, not to mention the positive impact it can have on the environment, your staff, your customers and, of course, your budget.

If you need help reviewing your current packaging, sign up for a free assessment with one of our experts below.