The Lifecycle of a Cardboard Box: Corrugated Packaging & The Circular Economy

The environmental impact of materials and products has become a growing talking point across many industries because of the huge amounts of waste going to landfill. It’s time to make a change and we’re here to share with you the many benefits of adopting a circular economy.

A lot more goes into the lifecycle of a cardboard box to make it eco-friendly, than you might think and the process of being environmentally friendly starts early on. In fact, 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage!

What is the circular economy?

Traditionally, the economy used to operate a linear model, where we would make a product, use it and then dispose of it. The difference with a circular economy is that resources are kept in use for as long as possible by extracting the most value from them at every stage when in use and at the end of their life by recovering and regenerating products and materials.

Moving from a “make, use, dispose of” to a “make/remake, use/reuse” process.

How does the lifecycle of corrugated cardboard relate to a circular economy?

The circular economy is just the way of life for the corrugated packaging industry. After all, it is one of the most recycled paper products. as its 100% recyclable and biodegradable. At Ribble Packaging, all our corrugated papers are FSC Certified meaning that all the papers used can be traced as far back to the specific tree that they came from. Here’s a summary of what happens at each stage…

The Circular Economy Model

Stage 1: Design & Manufacture (using raw materials to create a product)

When designing a product, the designer must consider how a product will be collected and recycled after use, how to select materials and processes that reduce any impact on the environment and lastly, how they can extend the life of the product.

Stage 2: Retailer (selling a product to consumer)

In the circular economy, there’s an opportunity for retailers to improve customer experience and connect with new customers on a deeper level by establishing shared values concerning the environment. Consumers are demanding these days with online retailers playing a particularly big role in the delivery of a circular economy.

The retailer should consider how they can increase the lifetime of products and how they can make it easier for consumers to recycle, resell and donate. As well as reducing packaging waste when sending products in the wrong size boxes with excessive void fillers.

Stage 3: Consumer

Whilst consumers are wanting a more sustainable world, they are reluctant to overpay for this. Therefore, it’s important to consider the consumer when pricing. Prices need to be fair and reflect quality.

Stage 4: Re-use/Repair/Repurpose product if possible

Re-use and recycling are not the same. Re-use of products and materials is more beneficial

as it retains a product’s value by keeping it in use for longer. Thus, minimising waste, creating jobs, and reducing consumption and the carbon impact it has.

To reduce the amount of product we send to landfills we need to increase the rate of re-use for products and their components. The supply chain and consumers both play an important role in this stage of the circular economy model.

Consider an incentivised return for returned products that can be refurbished and resold. As well as maximising the product lifetime to reduce repeated purchases.

Stage 5: Recycle into raw material to begin at stage 1 again.

This involves the collection, sorting and processing of disposed materials for use in other manufacturing processes. Depending on the complexity of the product being recycled, the process will vary, and care needs to be taken to maintain the integrity of materials each time they are recycled.

To conclude, the circular economy essentially feeds material back into the process ready for something new to be created using the recycled materials. In relation to corrugated boxes, a new box is created by feeding the used paper back into the cycle.

Eventually, the UK will run out of natural resources if we don’t move to a circular economy. It sounds sensationalist but the evidence is stacking up and the impact of our linear economy is becoming increasingly apparent across many industries.

If you’d like to speak to us about how Ribble is helping companies like yours to reduce their environmental impact by reducing packaging waste, give us a call on 0161 284 9000 or email

Custom Cardboard Packaging: The Top 5 Benefits

Every business and every product is unique in its own way, and your product packaging should reflect that.

Many e-commerce companies use standard packaging solutions for their entire range of products, which can be wasteful both in terms of cost and materials. When it comes to packaging, there is no one size fits all approach, and the rise of custom cardboard packaging has opened up a huge range of opportunities for e-commerce businesses across the globe.

Custom cardboard packaging has become an integral part of modern branding, shipping and customer engagement. There are many benefits to switching your e-commerce business to custom cardboard packaging, and today, we’re sharing our top five.

Brand Reinforcement

When a customer receives a package from your business, they should instantly know who it is from and what it is they’re about to open. It should build excitement that their new product has arrived, and custom cardboard packaging can achieve exactly that. 

When you choose to go custom with your packaging, you can make sure that every box contains your logo, colours or imagery in pride of place. This reinforces your brand before your customer has even opened the box and seen your product. As your branding becomes more familiar and well known, your customers will only need to catch a glimpse of your branding image or colours to be reminded of you and your products.

A Unique Shopping Experience

It is the little things that really make a big impact when it comes to packaging, and when you choose to ship your products in custom cardboard packaging, it can change the way your customers perceive you for the better. Custom boxes will create a more engaging shopping and shipping experience, and when a customer receives a product in a custom box, it shows an increased level of care. 

The overall experience for the customer is more positive and will leave them feeling as though they are having a unique shopping experience throughout the entire process.

Environmentally Friendly

With a rising focus on the impact that businesses have on the environment, it is important that e-commerce companies are doing everything they can to reduce their footprint. By choosing custom cardboard packaging, you are choosing to invest in materials that are recyclable and biodegradable. 

As well as the materials themselves, custom boxes also help to reduce wastage by being uniquely designed to fit your products perfectly. This means there is no need to stuff larger boxes with other packing materials for smaller products, and a reduction in the amount of plastic or other materials needed to ship your products. Your products will also take up less space in transit when they are effectively packed, which in turn reduces the number of vans required for transport. 

Save Money

Many people have the misconception that custom cardboard packaging is going to be more expensive than using generic boxes, but this often isn’t the case. Custom cardboard packaging can actually save e-commerce businesses money in a variety of different ways. When you choose to use on-demand packaging, you will eliminate the need to bulk buy various sizes of boxes and guestimate the amount you will need.

 Instead, boxes can be produced as and when you need them. Cardboard is an extremely lightweight choice when it comes to shipping materials, which can also save money on transit costs. Custom boxes can also save you money by being designed to perfectly fit your unique products without wasted space. More of these packaged products will be able to fit in vans and shipping containers, making it cheaper to ship more products at once.

Fully Customisable

When you chose custom cardboard packaging, you are choosing something that is fully customisable and can be created to suit your exact products and brand perfectly. This often means your packaging can double up as an effective marketing tool and be used to drive future sales and encourage new customers. Your custom cardboard packaging can be made to stand out from competitors and be eye-catching and visually pleasing, as well as being practical for your products.

Cardboard is an excellent material choice for custom packaging as it is highly flexible and can be cut into any size or shape using glue, tape, staples, or whatever works for your products. The customisable options for cardboard packaging are endless, and a product packaging company will be able to design boxes that suit and support your business effortlessly.

How To Streamline Manufacturing Processes With Packaging Automation

Every business needs customer satisfaction in order to be profitable and successful. Taking a look at your manufacturing processes will help but ensuring customer satisfaction can be tricky. Consumers are constantly on the lookout for three key criteria;

  • Better product
  • Lower price
  • Quicker delivery

These customer demands only increase, and with more competitors to rival, this can put a strain on manufacturing businesses to keep their customers and stay competitive in the market place. To increase the efficiency of a product, both in cost and time, companies need to streamline their manufacturing to keep up with the growing demands.

How to streamline manufacturing processes

There are many ways to streamline manufacturing processes. One of the best ways to analyse how to simplify the process to increase its efficiency is by evaluating every task in the process and deciding whether it is a step that is value-adding or non-value-adding.

Value adding: this refers to tasks that usually changes or transforms the product, essentially adding a value to the product by adapting it to suit your needs. Steps such as quality control may not change the product, but still, can add value so be mindful of the activities that confirm value too.

Non-value adding: these tasks are ones that do not change the product and don’t necessarily need to be performed to ensure value to the product. They may, however, need to be performed due to the setup of production, for example moving parts from one part of the factory to another, or storage where parts are waiting for work to be performed.

To streamline the process as a whole, a good method is to focus on the non-value adding tasks first by stripping away any that are unnecessary. The next step is simplifying the process in order to eliminate the activity in the future, for example, changing the layout of the manufacturing set up to reduce the time between work stations.

For many businesses streamlining activities will only take place, if at all, in the manufacturing of the product itself. What many people neglect is a critical area of streamlining potential which is the packaging of the finished product.

How packaging automation can streamline manufacturing processes

Packaging automation works by creating the box or boxes you need with ease. Whether a mechanical or electrical system, packaging automation replaces some or all of the manual packaging elements and uses machinery to complete the task to make an array of different packaging options.

Box on Demand is just one of the automated packaging systems available which create packaging on demand that is uniquely designed to fit a range of different shapes and sizes. This is ideal for manufacturers who offer a range of different products that all have different packaging requirements.

Depending on your packaging requirements, automated packaging solutions can help to streamline your business in many ways such as;

  • Speed – items can be boxed as soon as they’re off the production line, you do not have to wait until the right sized box has been made up.
  • Efficiency – automated packaging reduces the manual effort required, meaning other people can be utilised in a different area of work.
  • Time-saving – as soon as products are finished they can be boxed and sent straight away, reducing the lead time for the customer.
  • Space-saving – as soon as products are ordered, they can be packaged and shipped, meaning they can free up space in your premises and reduces the risk of items being forgotten about.
  • Cost-saving – only creating the packing you need, you do not have to buy boxes in bulk that won’t be used. The money saved can be invested in machinery to speed up other areas of the manufacturing process.
  • Reduced rework – by having the right sized box, your product will be safer and therefore reach your customer fully functional. By packaging in the wrong sized box, you risk returns and remanufacturing to give the customer a quality product.
  • Less wastage – only utilising what you need, you can reduce the wastage of your business, making the process more efficient and reducing lost costs.
  • Consistency – As packaging systems make the right box every time, you know that each box will be flawless and your customers will know what to expect with the high-quality packaging solutions you provide.
  • Safety – With automation, you reduce the number of workers you need and can, therefore, increase the safety. The chances of injury with automated machinery will help to protect your workforce and could save your business considerable money in training, lost work days and potential lawsuits.

Find out more about automated packaging solutions and how they can benefit your business.

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