Environmental cost of empty packaging – time to deal with it
– If blank spaces in packaging were prevented, it will avoid the discharge of 122 million tonnes of CO2 during shipping.
Who was not surprised by the disproportion between the size of the product he had ordered and that of the package which contains it? When you buy a coffee maker, jams or a cosmetic product online, it is often the case that you receive a package three times larger than the product ifself, filled with polystyrene chips, swollen plastic bags or ground paper. This of course proves that the distributor took care to protect the product. But it has a cost that, while invisible, is very important and not just economically.
This “empty space” in transport packaging would cost about $ 46 billion each year worldwide. And this cost only increases with the rise of online commerce. Containers transported by boat between Asia and Europe contain no less than 24% vacuum! This can be regarded as more than 60 million containers transported unnecessarily each year and 122 million tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, that’s the equivalent of the CO2 emissions of Belgium or Argentina. This, at least, is what comes from the study “The economy of empty space”, which is published recently.
Bad business image
This study also shows that in addition to its cost, this waste also has a significant impact in terms of image. This is evidenced by the “unboxing” videos in which customers unpack their parcels and show how much this or that seller is not very environmentally conscious. This customer awareness must motivate suppliers to act. In turn to become aware of the issues of empty space and its impacts throughout the value chain. Reducing the vacuum in their packaging will result in substantial savings, but also a lower environmental impact and a better brand image. Their concern is not only to ensure that the product arrives on time and in good condition at the customer’s, but that the packaging is as virtuous as possible and that it respects the environment.
Solutions exist, especially those offered by the cardboard. Recycled and recyclable material, cardboard illustrates the virtues of the circular economy. It already replaces effectively wood or metal for many crates, packs and even pallets. Thanks to the eco-design, it is possible to optimize the weight and the surface of the packaging while ensuring its strength and resistance.
Above all, the cardboard allows customization and tailor-made. It will soon be possible to design the package adapted to a given product on the fabric chain, to size and fold the cardboard plate to wrap the product as accurately as possible, optimize its setting and thus minimize the empty space.
The implementation of such a solution requires a reflection on the entire chain that goes from the product design to its delivery to the customer via production and distribution. This involves all the functions of the company, starting with the general management. It is only time for companies to embark on this path, it will show them that to save money and improve their image can also be based on a vacuum!