E-Commerce and Sustainable Packaging

Posted on Apr 2nd 2017

Ameripen (American Institute for Packaging and the Environment) recently released a free white paper describing the unique sustainability challenges e-commece businesses face when it comes to packaging. As with most things packaging and sustainability related - there are no simple, clear cut answers or tips. What struck us about the paper is that the authors take a refreshing "big picture" look at what eco-friendly means in the e-commerce world. Here are some takeaways that EcoEnclose customers might be able to learn from.

Reverse logistics: This is just a fancy word for returns! 20-30% of online purchases are returned, compared to 9% for brick and mortar stores. This makes sense of course. E-commerce customers can't try things on, see, touch or smell what they are buying. Additionally, online customers have to return items if they are damaged in transit - either due to the shipping company's handling of the package or because of how the goods were packaged.

To us, this means two things. First, is the importance of packaging for protection. Sustainable e-commerce packaging means your shipping solutions need to protect your goods for delivery and for possible returns. Since we sell only eco-friendly packaging materials, we know sustainable solutions do an excellent job protecting your products. However, choosing the exact right set of packaging solutions for  your specific needs is important, and we can help you make the best selection. For example, maybe you're on the fence about using additional void fill because you want to avoid the cost and/or environmental burden of using more material. However, if your product could be damaged in transit, we recommend using the additional cushioning because a damaged, returned product is much worse for Mother Earth than a small additional amount of eco-friendly packaging. The second potential strategy to consider is to give customers as much information as possible before their purchase is made - on fit, on color, on texture, etc - to potentially reduce the likelihood that they return and require a second trip for your products.

Box-on-demand: The report noted trends in box-on-demand manufacturing, with more large companies establishing fulfillment centers in which a perfectly sized box is created for each outbound shipment. The report states that this is a great environmental strategy, but is not cost effective for most small to medium businesses. This is one big reason why EcoEnclose is here! We are your box-on-demand service, so you can get the exact box size you need for every product you make - helping you ship a custom box in the most earth friendly, cost effective way!

Ease of disposal and recovery: Consumers expect easy disposal of packaging materials of their onlie orders. In a 2014 study, over 50 percent of consumers noted that their biggest frustration with e-commerce was related to the ease of, and access to, disposal of packaging. One third of respondents noted they disliked packaging that was hard to dispose of (e.g. takes up too much space in the bin, requires breakdown), and an additional quarter were annoyed with packaging material that was difficult to recycle or unrecyclable. This made clear to us that even though compostable/biodegradable is becoming more of a trend these days among the most environmentally conscious consumers, the vast majority of customers consider recycling to be the best option for them. Therefore, prioritizing packaging that is recyclable - and "easy to recycle" and with clear recycling instructions - may be best for the planet, customers and their perceived experience with your brand.

As with most studies on packaging and the environment, this well researched white paper raises reminds us that choosing the right packaging for your products, your customers and the Earth is no easy task. We are here to help you navigate these decisions. Please conduct us anytime, with questions big or small, or a full packaging consultation. | 888.445.6575