Even when it may be difficult to quantify any cost savings, there may be compelling reasons to make a change from business as usual. New legislation and code updates may require greener practices. Going green can offer your business branding advantages as a key differentiator from the competition. And, increasingly, customers are demanding that businesses make more sustainable decisions.
Armed with the latest research and cost-benefit charts, business leaders are scrutinizing every aspect of operations to identify areas of improvement. Not surprisingly, the supply chain is a common target. How raw materials are sourced and finished goods are produced certainly deserves attention. But the way goods are packaged for transport is also worthy of careful consideration.
Whether you are motivated by market demands or general goodwill, it pays to learn how custom industrial packaging experts can help you reduce, reuse, and recycle your way to a greener way of doing business.
One-size-fits-all packaging can be wasteful. Custom packaging can help eliminate waste by using only exactly what is needed to protect your product during transit. And if you frequently ship similarly-sized items, the impact of the initial investment in custom-designed packaging will be multiplied.
Considering the origin of the materials used to create the packaging can also reduce the overall carbon footprint of your shipment. In fact, some customer contracts may require that a certain percentage of the materials used in packaging be recycled or sustainably produced. Luckily, there is an increasing variety of green options to consider, from sustainably harvested lumber for skid rails to cardboard inserts made from recycled materials.
Choosing to reuse packing materials is a great way to keep them out of a landfill. Some businesses plan ahead to design packaging so that it can be used multiple times to transport products. Other businesses help local craftspeople make use of the packaging materials once their products are unpacked.
Reusing Your Crate In-House
The key to successfully re-using industrial packaging is to plan ahead. For example, if you envision using the same crate for multiple shipments, be sure to inform your packaging designer of that intention.
Certain design choices, such as which fasteners are used, can help make re-use possible. Using screws instead of nails to attach the crate sides will increase the likelihood that the packaging will be in a good enough condition to make a second trip. For repeated journeys, link locks are worth the investment. They are installed into the sides of the crate during construction, so there is no direct stress on the wood when the crate is assembled and disassembled.
Choosing how to store the packaging will also impact whether it can be re-used. If space allows, leaving a shipping crate fully assembled is the best guarantee that it will be in good shape when it’s time to ship again. First, you will avoid doing any damage when trying to disassemble the crate. Plus, you will protect against any parts of the disassembled crate being lost or “borrowed” for use in another project in the interim.
But a crate that has been “knocked down flat” is much easier to store and move around. So if you must disassemble a crate, be certain to take precautions:
- Store the crate sides horizontally, rather than standing them up, to help avoid bowing or warping.
- Start with a layer of blocks underneath the first crate side to allow airflow in-between the floor and the wood to prevent mold and mildew.
- Then stack the remaining panels on top of the first.
- If you have no choice but to stand the sides up vertically for storage, be sure they are free-standing, with nothing leaning up against them.
Encouraging an Outsider to Reuse Your Crate
Even if your business doesn’t plan to re-use the crates, there may be a local artisan or interior designer who can turn them into something new. Using “reclaimed wood” is trendy in home decorating right now.
Spread the word within your employees’ circle of friends and family and it’s likely that your old shipping crates will be snapped up by Pinterest-savvy DIYers. Your discarded packaging might become a rustic end table, a planter for the backyard, or even an accent wall in the living room.
When reusing your crates isn’t an option, recycling can help keep them out of the landfill. But recycling your industrial packaging isn’t as simple as tossing the various materials into the recycling bin after you’ve uncrated your product. In fact, it can’t be an afterthought, at all.
If recycling your packaging is your ultimate goal, you need to plan for it before you order your crate. For example, cushioning foam is most often glued to the sides of a shipping crate, but the glue-on foam will make the crate ineligible for recycling after it is unpacked. Informing your packager ahead of time that you plan to recycle the crate means they can use free-floating foam instead. The foam pieces can be custom-cut to fit like slippers and a nightcap on the top and bottom of your equipment so that it remains protected during shipment, but also preserves the option of recycling the wood in the crate.
Depending on where your business is located, you may be able to contract with a wood recycler who will come collect the plywood and/or lumber from your crates and skids. Some recyclers may reuse or resell the wood; others work with municipalities to grind the plywood for use in landfills.
Or, if your business doesn’t generate a large enough volume of used packaging to warrant a contract with a wood recycler, you could introduce a “Free Firewood” bin for your employees. Offer the 2x4s from your crates and skids to your staff as camp wood or firewood for home heating. (The plywood used for the sides of the crates and the surface of the skids is not safe for burning since it contains glue.) Just disassemble your unneeded crates and skids, remove all nails and staples, and make it available to your employees on a first come, first served basis.
CDC Packaging Can Deliver a Greener Shipment
By it’s very nature, custom industrial packaging can help reduce waste and preserve resources. CDC Packaging can take it a step further and tailor your packaging process to help achieve your green goals. Planning ahead can positively impact the planet, whether it’s choosing greener packing supplies or designing packaging that can be easily deconstructed for reuse or recycling. Contact us today to discuss options for reducing, reusing, and recycling your shipping crates and skids.