The rapid growth in online trade has side effects: mountains of packaging material. To avoid unnecessary waste, clever solutions are needed that benefit both senders and the environment. Recipients are also increasingly demanding more sustainable parcel shipping – with less waste and environmentally friendly materials.
Proper packaging for the environment
The expectations placed on modern packaging solutions are rising: They have to be inexpensive and safe – and nowadays, of course, sustainable. Many shippers are already optimizing their packaging, paying attention to environmental compatibility and efficiency. They are increasingly making the best possible use of the parcel volume and avoiding oversized cartons.
However, when a parcel is opened, it still often turns out that the contents are 50% air and 30% filler material. The ordered goods are lost in plastic and paper board. This is one of the reasons why Europe has reached a disappointing record of approximately 176 kilograms of packaging waste per capita and year.
Balancing safety and efficiency
Even the best processes cannot completely eliminate empty spaces. Secured or filled gaps are essential for transport protection, for example when shipping several different goods – also because insufficiently secured packages result in avoidable returns.
Nevertheless, senders can do a lot to save packaging material: Thanks to digital tools, data on the shape and size of goods is now available early in the shipping process. This makes it easier to select the right packaging. Intelligent storage systems and flexible cardboard box sizes help to keep the amount of work per item low.
Senders benefit from all these solutions directly because they save on cardboard, plastic and filling material – resulting in lower costs, less waste and reduced consumption of resources. In addition, more parcels fit into the delivery vehicles and transport becomes more economical and environmentally friendly. Smaller parcel sizes also facilitate the conversion to innovative city logistics concepts, for example deliveries out of micro depots by cargo bikes.
 Source: Eurostat
Cardboard boxes made of corrugated board are well suited for many goods. Thanks to their corrugated structure of air and paper, they form a buffer that protects against small impacts and damage. They are also light, stable and easy to stack. Further assets: cardboard can be made from recovered paper and recycled if disposed of correctly. In 2019, the recycling rate of used paper in the EU28 countries reached 72 percent. According to an EU directive, it is to rise to 75 percent by 2025.