How Streamlining Your Supply Chain Promotes Sustainability

Published: Jul 06, 2023

By Andrew Meyer, Chairman & CEO — AeroFlexx

According to the UN, around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced yearly but only about 9% is recycled. As a result, a significant majority ends up in landfills where it can take hundreds of years to decompose. That is a staggering amount of waste for our society to produce, adding up to an annual amount that nears the combined weight of the planet’s entire human population.

The plastics industry has recognized the dire need for this situation to be remedied, but consumers have become so used to the convenience of disposable plastic packaging that it is challenging to decondition them from their use. However, studies have shown that consumers are becoming more motivated by their desire to help the environment in their purchasing decisions. As a result of these findings, companies must invest in packaging solutions that not only offer the same convenience as traditional plastic packaging, but also offer substantial benefits to their sustainability goals and overall environmental impact.

How source reduction has a positive environmental impact

One current trend commonly found among innovators in the packaging industry is to strive towards source reduction, or eliminating waste before it is produced. The packaging industry can promote source reduction, which allows manufacturers to use as much as 70% less plastic upfront, consume up to 73% less water, and reduce waste to landfills by as much as 81%.

Another method many companies use to promote source reduction is streamlining their supply chain. For instance, if a manufacturer can produce their packaging — rather than sourcing portions of their packaging from several different sources — they can cut back on costs by reducing the number of components that have to be produced and shipped. In addition, they will have a far greater understanding and accountability regarding the origin of their raw materials.

Reducing your carbon footprint by streamlining your supply chain

One advantage of packaging with fewer pieces is consolidating the supply chain. In a traditional rigid plastic bottle, several different manufacturing processes may occur — the cap, the label, and the packaging itself may be produced on separate assembly lines, increasing the complexity of the supply chain. By reducing the number of parts that have to be built separately, the supply chain can be streamlined, impacting both environmental footprint and manufacturing costs.

Streamlined packaging designs also offer a significant benefit to manufacturers by eliminating the need for costly molds. The molds used to produce traditional rigid plastic packaging are expensive and provide little flexibility for customization. In contrast, with more innovative and sustainable packaging solutions, companies can save money by not having to invest in creating a mold as well as having much more control over their brand’s image.

Regarding e-commerce and distribution, more innovative and sustainable packaging solutions also have a significant advantage over traditional rigid plastic packaging. Rigid plastics tend to break easily, and when breakage occurs, it represents a considerable loss and cost. Breaks mean not only a refund or replacement for goods arriving damaged, but also a potential environmental hazard should any of the contents leak out of the packaging. Flexible packaging tends to be much less fragile because of its inherently more durable nature.

Today’s plastic packages are much more susceptible to breakages because of the increase in points where cracks and breaks could occur. For example, a detachable cap, lid, or pump presents the opportunity for not only the closure itself to break, but also the joint where the closure meets the rest of the packaging. The advantage of having a package made up of fewer disparate components is that it presents far fewer vulnerabilities, especially if it undergoes a process such as hermetic sealing.

How a streamlined manufacturing process saves money and reduces emissions in shipping

These shipping benefits alone can account for a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of a brand. By eliminating the need for additional packaging materials, space is freed up in each box for additional products to be packed and shipped. As a result, fewer shipments must be made, saving on transportation and environmental costs by fossil fuel-burning (and carbon dioxide-emitting) trucks used in the shipping process.

The manufacturing process involved in producing rigid plastic packaging tends to be environmentally destructive. By streamlining the supply chain and investing in alternative plastic packaging solutions, companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint while saving money and offering consumers a genuinely revolutionary product — all thanks to the unique advantages of this innovative technology. Although the plastics industry still has a long way to go before it can remedy being one of the most significant sources of pollution, these innovations represent a substantial step in the right direction.

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