Source Reduction Initiatives Must Account for Secondary Packaging Too

27 July 2015 //

Packaging Reduction

By standard definition, source reduction is the elimination of waste before it is created. Also known as waste prevention or pollution prevention, the process involves the design, manufacture, purchase or use of materials or products with the goal of reducing the volume and/or toxicity of what consumers throw away.

The Focus on Primary Packaging

The term source reduction is frequently used In packaging operations, but it’s often used to describe the process of minimizing material or energy usage of an existing package style or a particular step in the process of getting a package to the shelf. While both of these are certainly worthy efforts, true source reduction must include a broader view of packaging. In particular, the interdependencies between primary and secondary packaging operations and the related impact on transportation and distribution need to be evaluated and measured.

Recently the primary packaging for many products has been redesigned with a goal of source reduction. However, such redesigns frequently have an overall negative environmental impact because additional secondary packaging materials are required to get the product to the shelf.

An example of this is redesigning the primary package used for a liquid product to switch from a glass or plastic bottle to use a flexible pouch. This redesign can indeed reduce the volume of source material required for the primary package – perhaps in the range of a 20-60% reduction. However, it’s likely a substantial amount of secondary packaging materials will be required to accommodate the flexible pouch and ensure its efficient and undamaged delivery.

Secondary Packaging Considerations

A flexible pouch of liquid will almost always need to be case-packed in order for the product to withstand its own weight when stacked and palletized. This causes a dramatic increase in the amount of secondary packaging material used and the energy required to process it, in addition to a dramatic increase in the add-on costs for transporting and storing the corrugated cases prior to use and for recycling.

If the liquid product remained packaged in glass or plastic bottles, or in a self-sustaining primary package, it could be shrink bundled. This is because the primary packaging properties allow its weight to be evenly distributed when stacked and palletized – resulting in a reduction of the amount secondary packaging required.

While flexible pouches are currently a popular choice for primary packaging, the same concept applies to any primary package and its ability to withstand its own weight when stacked and palletized. When implementing an effective source reduction initiative, it requires an honest evaluation of the entire packaging process and identification of weighted priorities, including source reduction goals, equipment and material costs, marketing requirements, etc. If you are considering source reduction and it’s truly a high priority, there is a pretty good chance that something else will have to give.

If you are considering revamping your packaging in order to achieve maximum source reduction let us help. EDL Packaging can help you evaluate and prioritize goals, along with providing secondary packaging source reduction strategies. Contact us today.