How much is sustainability changing the way we package?

Sustainability is a big push in 2016.

And with online purchasing being an ever bigger aspect of our economy, the packaging that people are receiving those items in is quickly becoming a major aspect in the sustainability push.

But with boxes with more and more recycled material, are we getting the same quality of packaging that we were in the past? And if we aren’t, how are we able to get our money’s worth out of our packaging?

Packaging sustainability.

First of all, the fact of the matter is that nearly all boxes used today have some amount of recycled content in them. When boxes are said to be 100% virgin fiber, that usually only means the facings of the board. The box typically has some manner of recycled content.

So what’s the difference?

Virgin fibers are longer and interweave better, meaning higher strength and better appearance. The more that the fibers in cardboard are reused, the more the fibers separate, meaning that boxes have a tendency to underperform. Each time fibers are recycled they become shorter and weaker; even if a given box does not contain fibers that have been recycled beyond usefulness, there’s no way of knowing what percent of the fibers have been recycled multiple times.  Truly knowing all the resources and energies associated with the recycled box might be too full of assumptions to be a real measure of sustainability.

And it’s not just about the safety of the product: sometimes it can cause issues inside the factory, as well. Printing and labeling, for example, can be adversely affected if the recycled content is too great.  Inks fail to penetrate; this means that because of the shorter fibers inability to interweave as well, the cardboard has larger spaces between the fibers and inks run.   Labels and tapes might not properly adhere.  And the more the recycled content in a box the less resistant it is to moisture, so humidity-controlled storage conditions suitable for virgin fiber boxes might not be suitable for recycled-content boxes.

It makes sense for some manufacturers, such as those of high-value electronics, to require the highest content of virgin fiber possible.  When products are damaged because the packaging didn’t adequately protect, all of the resources used in sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution are squandered.

So how important is completely recycled material for packaging?

Do you have a product that you need to make sure is not damaged?

Because you’ll probably end up having to make the decision between sustainability and product protection.



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