- Transport packaging
- What is transport packaging?
- Top tips to reduce transit packaging
- How to reduce transport packaging
- Recycle transport packaging
- Efficient use of one-trip transport packaging
- What is sustainable transport packaging?
- Manage a reusable transit packaging system
- Advantages and disadvantages of sustainable transport packaging
- Reuse one-trip transit packaging
- Reduce transit packaging disposal costs
What is transport packaging?
Packaging is available in many forms. The type of transport packaging you need depends on the goods or materials you're transporting and the level of protection required.
Categories of packaging
The three main categories of packaging are:
- primary packaging - also known as sales packaging, this protects and identifies the product
- secondary packaging - groups or binds more than one item together
- tertiary packaging - also known as transport packaging, this protects the product during storage and transportation
Packaging goods and materials for transit usually involves a combination of the three types, eg cardboard retail packaging covered by plastic binding on a pallet.
Types of transport packaging
The three main types of transport packaging are:
- liquid storage tanks or drums
Containers such as boxes and crates can be made from many types of material including cardboard, plastic and metal.
Pallets are traditionally made from wood although plastic pallets are an option.
Liquid storage containers can be made from metal or plastic.Also on this site
Top tips to reduce transit packaging
Using a systematic approach is likely to be the most effective way of making your transit-packaging use more efficient.
1. Win support and the initial review
To ensure that your efforts are taken seriously, you need to convince senior management that your business would benefit from keeping packaging to a minimum.
You may want to carry out an initial review to gather evidence. You could do this, for example, by walking round your site to identify areas of waste and opportunities for improvement. You could estimate the savings associated with a few of the more promising improvements.
2. Appoint a co-ordinator
It is useful to have one overall project co-ordinator or 'champion' to lead the work, such as your logistics manager or environmental manager. You should also get the right people involved. This could include:
- procurement and purchasing staff
- environmental and waste-management staff
- manufacturing and logistics managers
- marketing and product-development staff
- key external organisations such as packaging and material suppliers
3. Gather information on packaging use and disposal
Gathering information can help you to identify areas of significant waste and comply with legislation. The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations require businesses to gather accurate data on the weight of packaging that they 'handle'. This means that you need to think about all the packaging associated with supply, including display, collation and transit packaging. You should also consider imported packaging for which you were the end-user.
4. Analyse data and identify areas for improvement
You should use key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you compare packaging use. KPIs for packaging management include:
- packaging cost per item, eg pence/item or £/tonne
- packaging waste per item, eg kilogram/item or kilogram/tonne
As well as analysing the data, it is useful to convert each waste quantity into a financial value that takes account of both material and disposal costs. This can help you to make the case for improvements.
5. Prioritise improvement options
Once you have identified where there may be scope for improvement, you should consider the options and rank them in order of priority. Think about each improvement option in terms of its cost to the business, its likely benefit or savings and the level of difficulty in implementing it.
Giving priority to the easier and low-cost measures will achieve quick results. This will help to motivate everyone concerned. However, longer term solutions may provide you with the highest overall cost savings.
6. Produce an action plan
Once you have considered the various options, you should prepare an action plan that describes what will be done, who will do it and when. Your plan should contain simple, measurable, achievable, realistic targets within appropriate timescales.
7. Implement the action plan
Implementation may involve all sorts of measures, from packaging redesign to introducing reusable systems.
It is important to get everyone involved in implementing the plan, from the managing director down to those, for example, who collect and separate packaging materials.
8. Review progress
Once the action plan is in place, you should review progress against targets regularly - perhaps every six months initially, and then on an annual basis.Also on this site
How to reduce transport packaging
Reducing your use of transport packaging is cost-effective good for the environment. You can avoid the need for transport packaging altogether, eg by a change in working practices or introducing a new item of equipment.
Ways to reduce transport packaging
You can make reductions in transport packaging by:
Also on this site
- Avoiding extra layers - poor practices result in goods being packaged in too many layers. For example, goods are sometimes wrapped in multiple layers, where at least one layer is redundant.
- Improving cleanliness - better cleaning in the workplace and throughout the distribution chain reduces the risk of product and packaging contamination.
- Improving product handling - eg through staff training and improved equipment. This reduces the risk of product damage and the need for packaging.
- Just-in-time delivery - the product spends less time in the warehouse and is at less risk of contamination and physical damage.
- Bulk delivery - materials delivered in bulk can avoid the need for packaging. Bulk delivery of liquids and powders can eliminate the need for drums and other containers.
- Change the product itself - a minor redesign of a product, eg a slight change to a dimension or a material, may allow you to significantly reduce the packaging used to protect it.
- Alternative on-site handling and distribution - eg you can pipe liquids and powders around the site, while you can move certain light objects around site pneumatically.
- Alternatives to pallets - you can handle quite heavy loads using slip sheets and push-pull units or, where the load is particularly light, by hand.
- Optimise one stage of packaging - eg redesigning a product's shelf-ready packaging to make it stronger could mean you can reduce the packaging needed to protect it during transport.
- Rationalising your packaging - using standard types and sizes of packaging for a range of different products can help with economies of scale, flexibility and reduced warehousing needs. It also enables continuity through the supply chain and the ability to swap out broken or damaged packaging more easily.
Recycle transport packaging
Most clean transport packaging materials can be either sold or removed free of charge. Recycling businesses or waste-exchange can ensure your transport packaging is successfully recycled.
How to recycle your transport packaging
It is important to correctly prepare your transport packaging for recycling.
- Separate wastes effectively at the source. This reduces contamination, eg from tape, labels, staples and chemicals. Use colour-coded boxes to allow easy separation of transport packaging materials. Make sure that these boxes are close to the waste-producing process and make staff aware of where they are.
- Empty and/or clean packaging carefully. This will improve the percentage of the transport packaging being taken for reconditioning or recycling. This can make packaging ordinary waste rather than hazardous waste.
- Avoid using mixed materials, eg metal or plastic closures on a cardboard box. This should make it easier to carry out recycling. Single material designs are desirable for recycling.
- Clearly mark the packaging. Indicate what types of material are used in your transport packaging so that materials can be separated more easily from mixed waste streams. Plastics can be embossed with the appropriate symbol to eliminate the need for a separate label.
- Consider whether you can compost the packaging, eg paper and board can be mixed with garden waste to produce quality compost. Your local council or waste management contractor may be able to take your transport packaging waste for composting.
- Clean contaminated packaging materials. This can increase their value. Careful storage in covered and clearly labelled skips and bins can ensure that materials do not become mixed or contaminated by other materials, water or food (which can attract vermin). Wet paper loads may be rejected by recyclers because they are difficult to handle.
- Bulk up loads. Recycling may not be economical for sites with low quantities of materials. However, you can increase tonnages by bringing material from several sites through back-haulage in vehicles used for delivery to a central point. Larger tonnages in one place are far more attractive to recyclers.
- Check your packaging is being recycled. You should request information from your contractor which proves that your transport packaging waste is being recycled and not sent to landfill.
You should make sure you handle materials for recycling properly. You may need authorisation to deal with transport packaging waste from other businesses.
Transport packaging waste exchange
Invest Northern Ireland's Industrial Symbiosis Service works directly with businesses to match wasted resources with resource needs. Your transport packaging could be a valuable raw material to another local business. Find out more about the Industrial Symbiosis Service and upcoming free resource matching workshops.
Transport packaging and producer obligations
If your business handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging in a calendar year and has a turnover of more than £2 million then the producer responsibility obligations applies to your business.Also on this site
Efficient use of one-trip transport packaging
You should use optimised one-trip packaging if you cannot reuse your transport packaging. Good packaging design and good working practices can optimise the amount of transport packaging you use and reduce waste.
Efficient use of transport boxes and corrugated cases
You can make transporting boxes and corrugated cases more efficient by:
- using shrink-wrap instead of a box
- optimising the design of the box to reduce unused space within it
- use smaller boxes
Efficient use of transport drums and intermediate bulk containers
You can make transporting drums and intermediate bulk containers more efficient by:
- using plastic drums, intermediate bulk containers or corrugated drums instead of metal
- ensuring that the drums you use are as lightweight as possible
Efficient use of transport collation packs
You can make transporting collation packs more efficient by:
- using shrink-wrap alone
- using larger denominations or different formats to save packaging material
Efficient use of transport packaging fill materials
You can make transporting fill materials more efficient by:
- altering the container's design to eliminate unused internal space
- using paper and used corrugated board as a cheaper fill alternative
Efficient use of transport box closures
You can make transporting box closures more efficient by:
- avoiding using staples which can reduce the possibility of reuse, and make it more difficult to recycle
- avoiding the use of adhesive tape as a closure - you may be able to secure a corrugated box simply by interlocking the flaps
- using plastic strapping or banding where a box has a separate or detachable lid and/or base
Efficient use of transport plastic wrapping
You can make transporting shrink-wrap, stretch-wrap and plastic bags more efficient by:
- using a thinner material
- using a different polymer to provide the same level of protection at lower cost and weight
- using automatic or semi-automatic pallet wrappers to reduce the use of stretch-wrap
Efficient use of transport pallets
You can make transporting pallet loads more efficient by:
Also on this site
- using palletisation software to help you to optimise the load
- using shrink-wrap or strapping/banding rather that stretch-wrap for better stability
- using specialist lightweight, one-trip wooden pallets
What is sustainable transport packaging?
Transport packaging which can be reused many times and over a long period can save your business money. Savings are possible through cost reductions when dealing with transport packaging waste and the resources needed to make new packaging.
Types of sustainable transport packaging
Some of the most popular types of sustainable transport packaging are:
- pallets - traditional wooden pallets can be reused many times, while plastic pallets are also now available
- drums and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) - smaller steel and plastic drums are available while IBCs usually have a capacity of 1,000 litres
- crates, boxes and trays - many types, shape and size of crate, box and tray are available, traditionally made of wood but now available in plastic
- separators, layer pads and collars - these keep layers of goods apart and provide extra stability while collars and frames, cornerpieces and edge-protectors protect the load from any banding
- pallet boxes/systems - these consist of a robust fork-lift base and lid that lock to a deep and heavy-duty (double or triple-wall) corrugated board sleeve, which is generally collapsible
- slip sheets and push-pull systems - these are plastic or corrugated sheets that can be placed under loads, as an alternative to a pallet, taking up very little space and are cheaper
- metal cages and stillages - still widely used in the UK, eg to collect waste packaging around large retail stores, but now less widely used for external transport
- specialist reusable systems for a specific product - more expensive than using 'off-the-peg' packaging, specialist systems can offer distribution and handling benefits, and can reduce costs in the longer term
Reconditioned and leased transport packaging
Many businesses use reconditioned transport packaging such as boxes, drums, pallets and crates to minimise their transit packaging costs. Over 60 per cent (by weight) of steel drums are reconditioned for reuse in the UK, while over 15 per cent of plastic drums are reused.
Leasing is also common for drums, IBCs, pallets, crates, layer pads, collars, etc and can be organised through third-party organisations.Also on this site
Manage a reusable transit packaging system
Systems that reuse transit packaging will only save you money if the containers are actually reused and the system is operated efficiently. This means keeping the number of units to a minimum and recovering the packaging quickly.
Managing the scheme
With large schemes, it may be cost-effective to have a dedicated manager with no other duties. You may also wish to consider asking a specialist third party to manage the scheme. This can sometimes be more cost-effective than doing it in-house.
Number of units required
It is important you work out the correct number of containers required, especially as at any given time some of them will be in transit, at customer or supplier premises or being prepared for reuse. The longer the delay, the greater the total number you will need to maintain the flow of goods.
Transport and logistics
Ideally, you should collect reusable packaging as you deliver and then backhaul it. This is straightforward if only one delivery is being made, but when several deliveries are made in one trip, the recovered packaging has to be carried onwards to the next delivery.
Other potential issues to resolve when operating your own packaging reuse scheme include:
- limited influence with your customers in ensuring the timely return of containers
- complicated arrangements when it's necessary to collect a small number of containers or irregular consignments from several sites
Scale of the scheme
Small-scale schemes can work well when you have a limited number of suppliers and/or customers, and where they are concentrated regionally.
Large-scale packaging reuse schemes are generally more efficient than smaller ones. These larger schemes offer two main advantages:
- you can negotiate better prices for larger container orders and tend to have more influence over the prompt return of containers
- having more site locations, journeys and containers involved makes it easier and cheaper to smooth out local variations and maintain packaging stocks at the level required to match demand
Tracking and timely return of containers
One of the key issues in any scheme is to track containers and make sure they are returned promptly by suppliers and customers. One option is to draw up a formal contract spelling out each party's responsibilities. If you feel that this approach could sour your relationship with your customer, opt for a more informal 'gentlemen's agreement' - but remember that such agreements are hard to enforce.
It is also important to have some sort of tracking system that allows you to identify the number of containers at each possible location.
Container cleaning and refurbishment
Make sure that reusable packaging is separated, cleaned, checked for damage and refurbished as appropriate before each reuse.Also on this site
Advantages and disadvantages of sustainable transport packaging
Sustainability is becoming more important for the public and in business. Transport packaging waste can be costly to your business and the environment.
More sustainable forms of transport and delivery packaging, whether biodegradable materials or simply sturdy containers designed for ongoing use, can improve your environmental performance and image.
However you need to carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of sustainable transport packaging.
Advantages of sustainable transport packaging
The main advantage of using sustainable transport packaging is reducing your impact on the environment.
Transport packaging waste can be harmful, difficult to recycle and can end up in landfill. By ensuring your containers and pallets can be reused, your business will have less waste to dispose of.
Potential cost savings of sustainable transport packaging include:
- reduced raw material and waste disposal costs
- reduced handling and storage
- reduced costs of complying with the packaging waste regulations
A more sustainable approach to packaging will reflect well on your business and may attract customers who value environmental responsibility.
Environmental clauses are common in tendering so demonstrating a strong commitment to reusable transport packaging may help you to win contracts.
You may be able to use a specialist third party reusable transport packaging provider to source containers and reduce upfront costs of design and manufacture. Providers may offer a packaging lease or management service which could reduce your ongoing costs.
Disadvantages of sustainable transport packaging
The main disadvantage of sustainable or reusable transport packaging systems is cost.
One-off costs of a sustainable transport packaging system include:
- the initial purchase of reusable containers
- modifications to handling and transport facilities
- additional costs of the tracking system, eg software packages, bar code labelling/reading equipment, electronic chips and detectors
You may be able to reduce these initial costs by leasing transport containers rather than buying them, or by using a slightly less sturdy design.
Ongoing costs will include the logistics of returning your reusable packaging and maintenance. It may be cost-effective to have a dedicated staff resource to operate your sustainable transport packaging system.
Sustainable transport packaging can be less flexible if your products or transit needs change and your packaging design needs to be altered.
Materials used in sustainable transport packaging may still be harmful to the environment, eg plastic or metal. You should ensure that you have a sustainable end-of-life plan for your sustainable transport packaging, eg recycling or reuse.Also on this site
Reuse one-trip transit packaging
Although dedicated reusable systems generally offer the best solution, one-trip packaging can sometimes be made multi-purpose or reused several times.
Corrugated and plastic transit cases are available that double as in-store display cases, with the lids and sides acting as the display framework with the products visible inside. A number of large retail chains now use such transit packaging, sometimes with a pallet-style base or wheeled base. It is also known as 'shelf-ready packaging'.
You may be able to sell your waste corrugated cases to a cardboard box merchant for reuse rather than to a paper/board merchant for recycling. This will maximise your revenue. Similarly, you may be able to send used drums for reconditioning and sell wooden pallets to a pallet merchant.
If you cannot reuse or sell it, you may be able to donate used packaging to other businesses or to schools or nurseries.
Although it will not raise revenue, this approach will at least reduce the volume of your general waste and your disposal costs. You must, however, make sure you observe the waste duty of care.
Making a little effort to separate packaging materials and keep them clean can increase the opportunities for reuse or recycling. Separating used packaging before it becomes mixed in the skip will help to reduce contamination.
Consider setting up an on-site system for preparing drums, intermediate bulk containers and other liquid containers for reuse. Some businesses benefit significantly from the on-site drainage, washing, relabelling and reuse of drums and other containers.
If the design of the packaging is inhibiting reuse, consider redesigning it. For example, you may be able to encourage the reuse of corrugated cases by eliminating staples. Review options for whether packaging designed for one trip can be reused for another purpose or by another organisation.Also on this site
Reduce transit packaging disposal costs
Ideally, you should recondition or recycle waste packaging wherever possible. However, even if it has been reused, packaging will ultimately have to be disposed of. There are a number of measures that you can take to minimise your waste disposal costs:
- Separate hazardous packaging waste properly. Mixing hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste makes the whole load hazardous and increases costs dramatically.
- Use the best skips. Ask your waste management contractor if you can rent covered front-end loader (FEL) or larger rear-end loader (REL) units rather than ordinary open skips. FELs and RELs can be emptied into a waste collection compactor vehicle, which is cheaper than having whole skips removed and replaced.
- Use your waste containers effectively. Skips are often used inefficiently and emptied when only partially full. This increases your waste disposal costs as the number of collections and transport costs are a key element of pricing.
- Use the largest containers you can. Assuming that there are no health or environmental risks associated with longer storage (eg odour and leakage), it is generally best to use the largest skips possible.
- Consider buying or leasing volume reduction equipment. Shredders, balers, compactors, roll packers and drum crushers can reduce the volume of general and compressible waste to about 20 per cent of its original volume.
- Get the best waste contractor deal. Waste removal costs can vary greatly between waste management businesses so you should shop around for the most appropriate deal.
- Get good data from your contractor. Ask your contractor to provide waste disposal data by weight to help you monitor and minimise packaging waste.
- Purchase and operate high-value equipment jointly with other businesses. This could be beneficial if you only have small volumes of waste.
- Consider energy recovery. Options include a small energy-from-waste plant or a combined heat and power plant. Large businesses can bring together waste from all their sites to make this feasible, while smaller businesses could collaborate.
If you don't transport your waste packaging materials yourself, you must use a licensed waste carrier.