Businesses: Saving Money by Reducing Packaging Waste

Packaging is defined as any material which is used to contain, protect, handle, deliver and present goods, i.e. paper, cardboard, plastic wrappers or containers, aluminium cans, glass bottles, wood pallets...

Producers of packaging waste are everywhere: manufacturing industries, shops (retail or bulk), catering and hospitality businesses, freight, hospitals, households. Statistics show that every citizen in the European Union produces an average of 159kg packaging waste per year. This quantity varies across European countries between 43 kg and 216 per person.

The European Union Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC sets targets for the presence of certain heavy metals in packaging and for re-use, recovery and recycling of packaging to deal with packaging waste. These targets vary per country and per type of material.

The recycling and recovery rates are in 2011 (latest available E.U. statistics)

Wood                                    15%

Glass                                     20%

Metals                                      6%

Plastics                                   19%

Paper/Cardboard                    40%

Avoiding packaging waste enables businesses to be compliant with the E.U. Directive and to work towards a sustainable business model. Companies need to put operational processes into place and involve everyone within the company and externally (customers and suppliers).

Upstream

The business purchasing procedure will set guidelines to ensure packaging from supplier meet certain criteria, i.e. request that the chosen supplier use recyclable, re-usable or returnable materials.

Purchases will be centralised to boost bulk orders and minimise packaging costs. Customers will be informed of a policy to recycle/return packaging – this can be part of a green brand image campaign.

Downstream

Within the company, measures will be taken to eliminate unnecessary layers of packaging in shops and warehouses for instance, where re-usable and recyclable materials will be preferably chosen for shipping. A system can be set up to recover cardboard boxes, paper and foam peanuts to be reused.

This has successfully been put in place by supermarkets all over Europe (a bag for life).  

Sales and Marketing can contribute in promoting the company’s green credentials and inform customers as well as suppliers of the new corporate return & recycling policy and collection of used packaging items. Setting targets is a good way to involve everyone in making the new policy a success.

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