Think back to the last time you received a package delivered to your doorstep. For some of you, it may have been last week or last month. For others, it may have been yesterday. Now think back for a moment on when you opened the package. It likely came inside of a box that was far too big for it. Perhaps there was even protective packaging included so that the product you ordered wouldn't jostle around while in transit. If you're among the consumers who thought to yourself that it seemed like a lot of packaging for the product you ordered, you're hardly alone — and this example applies to so much more than just e-commerce shopping as well.
It's a phenomenon known as "empty space economy," or the act of when goods or items are placed in packaging that's far bigger than what they actually need. And this "empty space" certainly can take its toll on the environment and even a company's budget. According to a recent study by DS Smith, the empty space that is created in packaging each year is responsible for nearly 122 million tons of CO2 emissions. To put that into perspective, it's the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emissions of Belgium each year. Furthermore, removing this empty space in packaging could also translate to a greater savings in shipping costs — a cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer. Unfortunately, only about one-third of executives have even considered an audit of their firm's packaging in an effort to "right-size" their packaging, and that's a problem. But 122 million tons of CO2 and a potential for a significant cost savings in shipping costs might be that wake-up call that they need. Flexible packaging is the option to makes the most sense as this packaging alternative. Let's take a look at the reasons why:
Why Flexible Packaging is the Solution to Eliminating the Empty Space Economy
Part of the reason flexible packaging is such an increasingly popular option is due to its ideal package-to-item ratio. For instance, juice packaged in a pouch has about a 97 percent product-to-package ratio compared to if it were to be packaged in a can. This efficiency isn't lost on other products that are packaged in flexible formats, either, as flexible packaging allows products to fit its packaging, thereby further minimizing the need to create packaging to fit products. Here's a look at some other key reasons why flexible packaging is key to eliminating the empty space economy:
- Reduced e-commerce waste: Per the DS Smith study, some 61 million extra containers are being shipped each year unnecessarily — a number that certainly contributes to the 122 million tons of CO2 that is produced from this wasted packaging. Considering that e-commerce is a surging market that's seeing about 20 percent growth per year, it's reasonable to think that on the current trajectory we're on, these numbers would only increase. When you throw in the fact that up to 30 percent of all clothes and shoes ordered online are returned, this waste becomes even more impactful. The bottom line is that any company that's serious about sustainability and has set environmental goals for their business should take a closer look at their packaging. Chances are there's a significant environmental savings in eliminating empty space.
- More efficient shipments: Reducing empty packaging space won't just help a company improve its environmental footprint as far as production is concerned, but in terms of shipping costs as well. Since flexible packaging is lightweight and ships flat or in rolls, it's estimated that it requires up to 25 fewer trucks when compared to corrugated or rigid plastic to ship the same amount of packaging. Just think of all the carbon emissions that are removed from the environment when you take 25 additional trucks off the road, not to mention the cost savings that can be realized from reduced transportation requirements.
- Reduced overall packaging cost: In addition to the sustainability benefits associated with switching from corrugated or rigid plastic to flexible packaging formats for products, reducing the amount of packaging can also present a substantial cost savings for companies. That's because fewer raw materials, energy and water are required to produce flexible packaging compared to other formats. To boot, any time less packaging is used, it's going to present an additional cost savings. One of the trends in flexible packaging today is down gauging so that fewer layers of plastic film are used to create a package. These helps conserve material resources even more and helps with light weighting and reducing overall costs. In fact, it's estimated that reducing packaging could help cut overall packaging costs by up to 25 percent. That's a savings that cannot be ignored.
Like we told you in the opening, reducing empty space in packaging is unfortunately not yet a priority for many companies. However, as firms are more pressured into developing and sticking to aggressive sustainability plans, it's one area that more companies will be addressing to promote significant changes to the way they do business. And as we outlined above, reducing packaging isn't just good for the environment, but good for a company's bottom line as well. When you consider flexible packaging's ability to eliminate empty space and factor in its other benefits, you realize it's a format that just makes all-around sense. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you reduce your empty packaging space.