Right Size: Helping businesses reduce waste and carbon emissions

Right Size: Helping businesses reduce waste and carbon emissions

Online retail sales have been soaring at an all-time high during the COVID-19 pandemic with the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index recording a growth of 36% in 2020. As a result, demand for recyclable and sustainable packaging solutions, such as corrugated board, has increased dramatically.

Stephen Rector, Managing Director of Ribble Packaging, explains, “In itself, corrugated board for boxes is a very sustainable and recyclable product. The recycling rates for paper and board in the UK are extremely high in comparison to other packaging products and they are increasing.”

However, the correct and responsible use of packaging solutions is necessary in order to be fully sustainable. Stephen explains “Boxes are often too large for their products and so they are filled with non-sustainable ‘void-fill’ materials like plastic, bubble wrap or polystyrene.  It is clearly a hugely wasteful and inefficient method of getting the product out.”

Reducing wastage with Right Size.

Ribble Packaging, a packaging solutions provider based in Oldham, manufacture corrugated board from recycled paper. Rector says, “In total, 100% of our corrugated board is 100% recyclable, while the paper we buy to manufacture our board is 100% recycled. So, our raw material is 100% recycled and our product is 100% recyclable.”

This product is flexible, cost-effective and can be converted into Fanfold packaging which is a long piece of corrugated board scored at regular intervals and folded neatly and compactly. Fanfold can then be used to pack single or multiple products by feeding it into fully automated packaging machines to create an exact size box and therefore, eliminate waste.

Ribble Packaging are the European market leader for the manufacture and supply of corrugated Fanfold, in addition to pioneering Right Size packaging solutions in the UK. “Right size packaging streamlines the entire process and mitigates or ideally eliminates void-fill and wastage by making the packaging perfectly sized to fit the product” Rector explains.

When using the correct size packaging, carbon emissions can also be reduced, as more products can be loaded onto vehicles ready for dispatch and thus increase vehicle utilisation by around 25%. According to The Road Transport Industry report in 2019, “78% of goods are moved by road”, and transportation costs can be a huge part of a company’s overall logistics spending. If it’s possible to reduce this through Right Size packaging, its arguably one of the most beneficial solutions a company can implement due to the ever-rising fuel costs and the impact this can then have on the price of goods to the end-user.

How can automation help?

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many retailers to rethink their entire business model and consider adopting an automated process for packaging. The Coronavirus pandemic will be a defining moment in history for years to come for many reasons, but if you are an online retailer you’re likely to have witnessed a considerable peak in sales during the lockdown. With more and more consumers left with no outlet for escape, it is no wonder those who had never shopped online before chose to switch to e-commerce. This was of course great news for online retailers who unlike other businesses could thrive in sales, but in reality, many e-fulfilment centres struggled to cope with demand.

Those already with fully automated systems in place were in a beneficial position as they could safely limit the number of staff in the warehouse and abide by social distancing during this unprecedented time. Over the past year many retailers have followed suit as they realised the benefits and resilience automation allows during unprecedented times.

Rector explains, “The majority of retailers rely on manual labour, especially for packing processes, but the pandemic has really brought home the benefits of automation. In the face of COVID-related staff absences and social distancing requirements, one of these fully automated machines operated by just two people can pack up to 1,000 units an hour and do the job of 10 efficient packers.”

Not only does automated packaging provide a sustainable option and encourage waste reduction, but packaging automation also provides reassurance for consumers. During a world-wide health crisis, consumers have understandably grown more concerned about where they source their products and having knowledge that their product and its packaging has been handled by as few people as possible is a new selling point for retailers.

“As one of the pioneers of right size packaging in the UK, we are not prepared to sit on our laurels,” says Rector. “We have earmarked £3.5million over the next two years to significantly increase capacity of fanfold manufacture and protect our hard-won position as the UK’s fanfold market leader. The business-to-consumer market is growing exponentially and our continuing investment is designed to maintain our market position in this rapidly growing sector.”

The packaging process that is over 99% plastic free

Internet Fusion Group, a leading lifestyle e-commerce retailer with brands such as Surfdome and Country Attire, have created a sustainable packaging process that is over 99% plastic free. Investments in two Quadient CVP-500 automated packaging machines and switching to Corrugated Fanfold material from Ribble Packaging, have aided with their pursuit of an environmentally sustainable right size packaging process.

To highlight the full extent of their achievements, Internet Fusion have released a report investigating the environmental effects of paper-based packaging versus plastic packaging products. The report explores the full manufacturing process of both paper and plastic packaging, through to the recyclability and long-term environmental effects once a package has reached its destination. Head of Sustainability at Internet Fusion Adam Hall said” Our customers are tired of plastic pollution, and we are tired of the justifications being put forward for continued plastic production in the middle of a marine plastic crisis. When you dig a little deeper these arguments simply don’t stack up, so we felt it was time to share the decision-making process that has led us to our packaging being over 99% plastic free. Our customers choose us because of our environmental efforts and in turn we choose Ribble for the same reasons – it’s partnerships such as these that can shift a whole industry towards a more sustainable future”.

Right Size packaging specialists Ribble Packaging supply Internet Fusion with over 75% of their packaging material in the form of Corrugated Fanfold board, a versatile fully recycled and recyclable cardboard product that feeds many of the leading automated packaging systems in the UK.

Stephen Rector, Managing Director of Ribble Packaging, commented on Internet Fusion’s success: “It is fantastic to see that Ribble products are helping our customers in creating more environmentally sustainable packaging processes. We also see the need to improve our in-house operations to make them more sustainable.”

Earlier this year, Ribble embarked on a project to make their operations carbon neutral. “We understand the need to focus on the effects our manufacturing process has on the environment, this has led to us embarking on a carbon neutral project that will see us embrace new sustainable technologies and practices. Our products allow customers to create a more sustainable packaging process, but we can enhance these benefits by offering a carbon neutral manufacturing process as well.”

What Effect Is The Circular Economy Having On The Paper Industry?

As we become more mindful of our actions, we are choosing more suitable and environmentally friendly paper solutions while trying to minimise our use plastic.

This is likely to impact the paper industry in many different ways. When we consider all the different ways we use paper for, there is a huge amount to evolve into the circular economy. We will no longer be a throw-away society. 

Let’s look at how the circular economy and the paper industry are going to impact each other:

What is the Circular Economy? 

The circular economy is the idea that we can create products that do not end up in a landfill.

Instead, we ditch the linear approach of making something and then throwing it away. Instead, it’s replaced with making something, repurposing it and then reusing the materials again. Consequently, it minimises waste and allows for more sustainable use of resources.

What effect is it having on the paper industry? 

A change to how we approach manufacturing is obviously going to impact the industry. However, this new economic model works alongside businesses. Therefore, we can look at how the circular economy affects the paper industry in both positive and negative ways.

Changing designs

By designing the packaging for recycling and reuse, the design of materials would have to change. As we’re moving away from plastic, more pressure is on cardboard and paper packaging. The EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive sets the percentage of packaging that must be recycled to 65% by 2020. Therefore, the paper industry has to think about redesigning their products. Not only this but how to close the circular loop every step of the way. 

Using different materials

By aiming to make the materials recyclable or reusable, the right materials are vital. Therefore the paper industry needs to invest in changing the makeup of their products. In addition, it must still be cost-effective and economical.

It might even be the case that the paper industry will have to adapt to a high cost of materials. Not only this, but they might have to consider new ways to deal with the by-products of production. 

In some cases, other manufacturing processes can use industry by-products. The great thing about the pulp and paper industry is that it is from a renewable source. Trees will continuously grow. Making paper also increases the viability of the material for fuel. For example, weight-for-weight you can get more energy-burning paper than you would from wood. 

Increasing innovation

The great thing about paradigm shifts in industries is that it opens a whole new opportunity for innovation.

Whether it’s creating new materials or researching into smart packaging – there are opportunities for the industry to make a break-though. It can change the way we live our lives. Innovation can be the difference between creating packaging that allows 100 items to be transported and 1000 items to be transported. 

Although the paper industry will see the innovation initially as costly, investing in research and technology can help save money. Even simply reducing the size of the packaging in relation to what it’s holding can make a difference. 

Shaping infrastructure

There is no doubt that moving towards the circular economy is going to impact the paper industry infrastructure. Manufacturing will streamline and by-products collected. The infrastructure currently used to bury waste will need repurposing as there will, hopefully, be less need for it. 

Education

The paper industry and stakeholders will need to increase the knowledge and understanding within the workforce. Educating the public will also improve the uptake of the new packaging. Often consumers end up picking the cheapest option. Education shows that recycled and reusable packaging and paper not only meets CSR targets but doesn’t compromise on quality and usability. 

Circular economy and paper industry

The circular economy aims to benefit the paper industry. There will be some initial hurdles and costs. However, it means that as a consumer, we can choose the best companies to provide the most environmentally friendly packaging. It’s obvious that we’re going to run out of landfill space. With countries like China no longer accepting our rubbish, we need to come up with solutions on the ground.

Therefore, moving from a linear to a circular business pattern allows us to close the loop and cut out waste and resources loss.

5 Circular Economy Benefits You Need To Know About

Have you ever opened the box of your latest online purchase and discovered that it’s mostly empty space? Where do the materials for latest gadget come from? Would you be okay with having a landfill near your house? 

We no longer live in a linear world. Before, we’d make a product, use it and then send it to landfill. Now it’s got life after use! In a circular fashion, the product can be repurposed back into something useful. This saves money on the next generation of products and cuts out the harmful repercussions of vast amounts of landfill. So, lets get onto some circular economy benefits.

It helps your planet!

Firstly, it shouldn’t come to a surprise that putting all our rubbish in the ground isn’t good for our environment. When it’s all compacted down under the soil, all the oxygen is squashed out. Without oxygen, the microbes that thrive in the ground are anaerobic, meaning they respire without oxygen. 

When they begin to break down the rubbish, they release methane as a by-product of living. Methane is one of the more potent greenhouse gases responsible for the unnatural warming of the earth. Therefore, by avoiding sending waste to landfill, you’re avoiding contributing to the climate crisis.

Not only this but think of all the harmful chemicals that would be in your waste. Old mobile phones contain toxic metals. Bottles of old cleaning materials contain dangerous chemicals. Plastic packaging breaks down enough to be soluble. As a consequence, when rainwater moves through the landfill, it filters into the water that we drink. Therefore, it’s a health hazard. 

Raw materials are finite 

Secondly, have you ever thought about where the materials for your latest purchase come from? Some materials, such as metal and plastic, are from raw materials in the ground. If we chuck them away without reusing them, it’s a waste of these resources. Plastic is made from oil and oil is becoming more scarce.

As a consequence, miners are taking more risks to find it. This often included destroying forests or polluting the land and sea. Reusing sources is clearly a no-brainer!

Opens up jobs and innovation

Not only does the circular economy help your environment, but it brings economic benefits too. By opening up a whole sector dedicated to the recycling and reuse of waste materials, we create thousands of jobs. 

Also, we must create solutions for a circular economy. By encouraging the reuse and recycling of our waste, we are encouraging innovation. Have you ever heard of the ‘David Attenborough Effect’? It is when David Attenborough’s TV documentaries make people talk about the environment. Now, people are demanding an explanation as to why we aren’t investing in the circular economy to save our environment. 

Improves relationships 

Recently, China put its foot down and refused to take our rubbish. For years, we’d been shipping waste plastic overseas because we couldn’t cope with it. China themselves are struggling to save their own environment and took the step to save themselves from more tragedy. Therefore, it’s becoming more important for the UK and countries alike, to deal with their own waste. By pledging to move into a circular economy, they are stepping up to tackle problems head-on!

Saves money

From growing and cutting down trees to manufacturing it into cardboard, the process is costly. However, if the cardboard is already made, we can reprocess it back into useful cardboard. As a consequence, it reduces the number of trees cut down and the amount of manufacturing in the process. Less manufacturing, less cost. Don’t forget – less landfill too! 

A landfill is expensive. Each year, councils across the UK have a landfill allowance. One council alone can spend up to £4 million in landfill tax. And this excludes the cost of building one! Not only this but fines of £150 occur for every tonne of biodegradable waste (waste that breaks down easily like food) over their allowance.  Every year this allowances reduces to meet UK Government targets, the allowance can be as much as 100,000 tonnes. It’s not that hard to see how much it would cost a council in fines to go over by even just one percent. 

Finally, another example of how to save money is by repurposing waste food. Over 1.9 million tonnes of food ends up in the bin in the UK each year. If we stopped food from going to landfill, we could save food and money. We could give food to those who haven’t got any. In addition to this, waste can go into making pet food. Not only this but a process called ‘Anaerobic Digestion’ can make energy from this waste. 

Circular Economy Benefits

The possibilities really are endless. With so many innovations, it’s a wonder why more people aren’t adopting the circular economy approach. We’re doing our bit by ensuring all our packaging is capable of being reused and recycled. We have clear labelling and offer advice to our customers on saving money and materials. So if you want to find out more about our approach to a circular economy, get in touch. 

Reduce Packaging With These Simple Fixes

If you operate an e-commerce business, packaging is something you can’t avoid but reducing packaging is becoming even more important .  Whether you’re sending your products onto suppliers or onto consumers, it has to be packaged in a way that keeps the goods inside safe and secure until they reach their final destination.   So can reducing packaging work?

The risk here is that, in an effort to make sure your product doesn’t get damaged in transit, you use too much packaging which can end up costing you money that you would much rather see going to your bottom line.

In manufacturing, Forbes magazine identified packaging as one of the three best ways to cut costs, and the same applies if your business is online.  How, though, do you reduce the amount of packaging you use? Here we look at some six simple fixes for reducing the packaging your business uses.

  • Review your packaging

Before you start to reduce your packaging, you need to know just how much you use.  Look back over the past three or six months and work out how much packaging you used – and how much you spent on it.  

Then, look at how much packaging you keep in reserve and whether any of it has been sitting there for more than a month; if it has, it probably means you don’t need it. Don’t forget to look at additional packaging material such as bubble wrap too.  

  • Decide on the packaging you need

Take a look at the goods you sell and decide what type of packaging is best when it comes to shipping. If you sell clothes, for example, mailing bags may be better than boxes and probably won’t need much, if any, additional packaging materials to keep them damage free.  

You might need to use additional packaging materials for fragile items, which will also most likely need to be shipped in cardboard boxes.  As well as the material, consider the size. If you ship smaller items, you won’t need big boxes; if you ship items in bulk, you will.

Finally, think about how you store goods in your warehouse. Do you use cardboard boxes for these that are then discarded? Can they be replaced with reusable plastic crates?  These not only reduce the packaging you use (internally) but reduce your costs (though there may be an additional initial outlay).

  • Only buy what you need

Once you know what packaging you need, work out how much stock you think you’ll be shipping and buy just enough to cover these sales. This way, you won’t be left having paid for packaging you don’t need, and you won’t be tempted to over-pack an item.  

Better yet, consider investing in a system such as Right Size that lets you customise your packaging to perfectly fit the items you’re shipping and create exactly the number of boxes you need at any given time.

  • Cut back on additional packaging

One of the best things about systems such as Ribble Right Size is that they allow you to cut down on additional packaging.  The same applies if you buy boxes that are as close in size to the products you want to ship. This is harder if you buy in bulk because you can end up with too many boxes that aren’t a good fit, meaning you’re much more likely to use boxes that are too big and fill up any empty space with bubble wrap or packaging peanuts.

  • Change your mindset

Using the right sized-packaging and reducing the amount of additional packaging material aren’t difficult changes to make but they could well mean you need to change the way you work.  The same applies to your employees too. So, while it might be quicker and easier to reach for the first available box when preparing an item for shipping, instead, you’ll need to look for the box that best fits the product.  

  • Reuse and recycle

Think about how you can reuse packaging too.  Can used packaging paper be shredded and used as packaging material, for example, or can boxes used by customers to return items be reused when you send out your next order?

By taking these simple steps, you’ll be able to not only reduce the amount of packaging you use but cut your operational costs (including warehouse space and transportation).  You’ll also be reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and your carbon footprint, both of which are good for not only the planet but your reputation.

Copyright © Ribble Packaging Ltd.