Short Term Decisions, Long Term Consequences

Dennis Salazar

January 30, 2014

5 Min Read
Short Term Decisions, Long Term Consequences


Purchasing Priorities

What is Driving Your Secondary Packaging Choices - Part 2

In Part 1 of this post we discussed buying packaging out of convenience and habit rather than taking the time to venture out of our comfort zone and current supplier base. We also talked about the difference between price and cost and how price is the easy way but usually less effective way to compare packaging products.

We all realize how short staffed organizations are today and how that increased pressure can lead to short term rather than long term decisions. One area where this is most obvious is in that of sustainability. Understandably many procurement operations today are in reactive mode rather than proactive effort because they lack the time to do their homework and investigate the products they buy. Research and evaluation are tough to do when production requires the unanticipated packaging component to be in their hands in three days. No one wants to be responsible for a missed ship date because “purchasing forgot to order boxes” or other necessary secondary packaging.

Still, I believe that sustainability does not have to be compromised in favor of expediency if two simple questions are asked of the products we buy and use.

What Is the Packaging Product Made Of?

Asking about the composition of a packaging product is always a good idea because that usually leads to conversation about eco friendly packaging options. We know that products made with recycled content are typically greener than products made with virgin content. I think most people would also agree that the higher the recycled content, the better, and the use of PCW (post consumer waste) is more beneficial to the environment than post industrial or post production waste.

A good example is newsprint paper that is usually manufactured in large log rolls and then cut into smaller rolls or sheets. The scrap that is generated in the converting or manufacturing process would be considered post production waste. If that newsprint was used to print a newspaper and was later recycled by the reader, that recycled content would be classified as post consumer waste.

Use of recycled waste, whether it is PCW or not, minimizes the need for virgin content and keeps more waste out of the land fill. Both are very good goals for our businesses.

Where Will the Packaging Product Wind Up?

Eventually the packaging products we use will end up as waste. The longer we can avoid that the better and the more options we have on what we are able to do with it, the better. The “Three R’s of Sustainability” – reduce, reuse and recycle, will usually provide all of the guidance we need to make a good, green decision.

Reduce is probably the most overlooked opportunity for sustainability as well as savings. For example packaging films are being formulated to perform better at thinner gauges, yet companies tend to order and reorder the thicker films they have always used. Call it habit or fear of the unfamiliar, substantial waste and dollar savings are missed as a result.

Another potentially lucrative area for packaging and cost reduction is corrugated shipping boxes. There are many ways of reducing the amount of packaging you use ranging from board thickness reduction, to right sizing and redesign. A review and analysis of current corrugated use typically has no cost and takes very little time. With expected 2010 increases, the timing of a packaging audit may never be better.

Any packaging product that is able to be reused, over and over again is obviously a good thing. An excellent example is the intra office mail envelope. We have all seen and used that tattered yellow envelope, usually with previous recipients names crossed off and a reclosable string tie. That is paper and dollars that were well spent because unlike most packaging products, they do not become waste after one single use.

Many packaging manufacturers are starting to see the value and benefit of creating multiple use products and using or even asking for them will help drive that positive trend. Even products like inflatable air pillows used for void fill are engineered to hold air longer so they can potentially be reused many times before they are ultimately recycled.

When we talk about the end state of a packaging product, recycling is probably the most advantageous for numerous reasons. Generally a recycled product requires less new base ingredient (plastic resin, wood fiber, etc.), and less fuel to remanufacture it and to transport it.

A packaging product that can easily be recycled and used to make more packaging products is the ideal. Certainly no better example exists than the simple, corrugated box. It can be recycled anywhere and everywhere and can easily be made into more corrugated boxes. A horrible example is cushioned mailers that are paper on the outside and plastic bubble on the inside. Individually both components may be good but when laminated together, neither product can be recycled and they can only wind up in a land fill.

We’re All in this Together

Even though I am a seller of packaging materials, I also buy them so my suggestions are ones I utilize on an almost daily basis. We are all trying to do more with less and reduce costs as much as possible.

We are also in the same boat in terms of the environment and what we all help to create is what we will end up with, and so will future generations.

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