Why We Prioritize Domestic Manufacturing
The vast majority of EcoEnclose’s packaging solutions are manufactured in the United States.
As of the writing of this post, all of the mailers, shipping boxes, retail boxes, paper, water-activated tape, clear poly bags, and most of our protective packaging are manufactured in the US. Our only website offerings manufactured outside of North America are hemp twine (manufactured in Europe given hemp production restrictions in the US), cello tape (manufactured in Spain), glassine bags (manufactured in China, but set to be manufactured in a US plant very soon), Flexi-Hex Air Sleeves (manufactured in China), and our various tape dispensers. Our Zero Waste custom stickers and shipping labels are manufactured in Canada. Read our bill of materials here.
Domestic manufacturing has been a priority for EcoEnclose since we launched our business. Over the past few years, a handful of other packaging providers have entered the market, most of whom produce some or all of their offerings overseas.
Seeing these trends often leads us to revisit this question internally: Should we move the manufacturing of some of our packaging solutions to Asia to bring down our costs?
In most cases, we leave these dialogs with the same decision: No. Keep our manufacturing within North America and in the US wherever possible. This commitment is not unique to EcoEnclose at all. Even as we develop new offerings, such as our reusable ReEnclose Mailer, our commitment to North American manufacturing has guided our decisions as we forge partners in manufacturing and raw materials sourcing.
Why we are Committed to Manufacturing in the USA and North America
Creating a market for recycled content in the US: In 2018, the China National Sword policy banned most recycled plastic and mixed paper from entering the country. This immediately shocked the United States recycling supply chain, leading MRFs to stockpile materials (or stop accepting them altogether). This shock not only reinforced the importance of buying recycled materials, but of buying recycled goods that are Made in America so the recycled content for these goods originates in this country as well. EcoEnclose has a vision of truly circular packaging. A vision we believe can only be achieved when brands prioritize packaging that is made with waste that is generated in their backyard.
Reducing transportation emissions: Manufacturing domestically means your packaging is manufactured closer to your facilities or distribution centers, cutting your carbon emissions associated with your logistics.
Building economic and political resilience and independence: The last two years have taught all of us how fragile global supply chains and freight can be. In fact, in the past eighteen months, we have been able to provide last-minute supply of packaging to a myriad of companies whose inbound shipments were delayed by months or stuck in ports for weeks. And then the last week has reminded us that peace is also quite fragile in parts of the world and of the crucial role our economic ties play in either helping or harming global progress towards increased freedoms and democracy. EcoEnclose’s focus on manufacturing in North America helps build our supply chain resilience and supports our vision for geopolitical independence and resilience.
Sourcing and manufacturing sustainability: The majority of packaging manufactured overseas is produced in China. For paper packaging, in particular, manufacturing in China is worrisome. The Environmental Investigation Agency has stated that "the immense scale of China's sourcing [of wood] from high-risk regions [of the world] means that a significant proportion of its timber and wood product imports were illegally harvested." Research by Global Witness saw "worrying" levels of illegality in countries from which China sources more than 80% of its timber. As more and more conscious brands move from plastic to paper, it has never been more essential that paper be made with recycled content or (when recycled content is not feasible) that their source material is vetted and verified not to pull from ancient or endangered forests.
Visiting and auditing more regularly: Strong efforts to build a sustainable and ethical supply chain require in-person visits to our manufacturing plants, which has proven to be more feasible, economical, and efficient for us to do with North American manufacturers. We have also found that auditing the deeper supply chain, all the way to the source of the recycled content that goes into our packaging, is clearer and more navigable with domestic supply chain partners.
Innovating more rapidly by forging deeper partnerships: By working closely with plants in the US, we have been able to innovate on our materials, inks, adhesives, and designs more quickly than we would be able to do with overseas plants. For example, in early 2018, Algae Ink was still in nascent, testing phases. By the end of 2019, Algae Ink was being used to print on all of our paper-based packaging solutions, a difficult feat as most printing press operators loathe working with new ink formulations. This was accomplished because of the depth of trust and partnership we have forged with our plants and our ability to work so closely with workers as they are actively utilizing innovations on the floor.
Investing in ethical jobs and local economies: By sourcing American-made products, we (and in turn - you!) are expanding your impact on the economy. According to ABC World News, if every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made products per year, it would generate nearly 10,000 new jobs in the nation. When workers spend their money on products made here, the dollars continue to be recycled, benefiting the local economy through the “economic multiplier effect.” These manufacturing workers are also paying taxes on their wages that support broader investments in critical safety nets and nationwide infrastructure. Additionally, while labor conditions in countries most likely to be manufacturing packaging have improved significantly over the past two decades, there is still a wide variance in labor conditions in factories across Asia and many concerns about the toll that 9-9-6 expectations in manufacturing facilities take on their workers. As such, finding factories abroad whose labor practices match our standards requires more investments in auditing and certification than with domestic partners.
A Final Note: Progress over Perfection
Occasionally, we work with enterprise brands who are leaping to more sustainable packaging but find that the increased costs of recycled content may not be feasible right away.
As an EcoAlly to these brands, we sometimes present packaging options that are manufactured overseas - in countries such as Malaysia and Mexico - even when our standard manufacturing lines for these solutions are in the US.
When we share these lower-cost overseas manufactured options with brands, we work hard to be transparent about the environmental and values trade-offs they might bring. But we also recognize that for some companies - these lower-cost options allow for some progress towards their environmental goals. As with all things, we believe efforts to move forward towards sustainable packaging goals should not be stifled by the fear of making imperfect decisions! Positive progress is always better than no forward movement at all.