Greener Packaging

Less is more as packaging manufacturers take steps to make more sustainable materials. (Edward Baker at
Less is more as packaging manufacturers take steps to make more sustainable materials.
(Edward Baker at

One of the most iconic images of all time is of Earth looking like a blue marble surrounded by the darkness of space. The photo was taken during one of the Apollo missions to the moon.

The image is an ideal one to represent the importance of the green revolution and the struggle of keeping our fragile planet as pristine as possible.

All segments of mankind are involved in the fight from each of us as individuals to the large corporations and manufacturing companies previously known for spewing smoke from factory chimneys.

And, yes, the warehouse industry is also a part of the struggle. More and more warehouses are becoming aware of the importance of controlling waste. One way they are attacking the problem is creating better packaging.

It is no longer acceptable to pack products in cartons that can’t be recycled or are not biodegradable. And more of this type of packaging is appearing in our warehouses of today.

Package manufacturers have become more innovative and are finding ways to create hybrid products that last longer so they can be reused or recycled into different items.

Examples of such packaging that is being used in the warehouse include hybrid pallets and containers.

Pallets, for the most part, are still made of wood, which can present some problems with sustainability. Although wood is strong, it can still break due to stress and forklifts are often the culprits. So package manufacturers are turning more to plastic materials. Plastic pallets last longer than wood, but they are more expensive. To accommodate we are seeing more pallets that are made of a combination of wood and plastic.

One hybrid pallet design that has shown its worth features oak boards with molded recyclable plastic bumpers. The plastic provides strength while the wood offers more capacity. There are also bulk containers that feature a mixture of foam sidewalls with a welded injection molded base.

Innovative package makers have also figured out ways to get rid of packaging altogether. The European Union now requires such things as labels and barcodes to be applied directly to produce with laser printing. There is now technology that permits the printing of marks right on to the skin of a banana or tomato or some other food without damaging it. Barcode scanners have no problem reading the markings.

One fast food company in Brazil has come out with edible burger wrappers.  The obvious advantage is that there is nothing left to throw away and become part of some landfill.

Secondary packaging that is used to protect products as they are shipped from one location to another is also an issue because the materials don’t go beyond the store or warehouse and do not go home with the customer. Instead, it is thrown away once the product it is used to protect has been delivered to the store or warehouse. Secondary packages are defined as boxes, tape, Styrofoam chips and stretch film. Innovative companies are now figuring out ways to avoid the need of such secondary packaging. This avoids the need for boxes in boxes.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. Doing what we can to keep our planet pristine is not only essential for life, it is good business.