Packaging is coming under scrutiny as never before – environmental campaigners have targeted packaging as a bete noir and there is even a town, Modbury, that has banned plastic carrier bags. However, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the biggest waste comes from failing to package a product adequately – not only will the product have to be thrown away but the whole process will have to be repeated.
So it is no surprise that the British Retail Consortium has decided to revise its packaging standards for 2008. Later this month it is due to release the “BRC Global Standard – Packaging and Packaging Materials (Issue 3)”.
The standards were originally created to establish requirements for suppliers of food and food packaging to UK retailers. These publications have now become leading global standards supported by many major retailers throughout the world and adopted by approximately 10,000 businesses in more than 80 countries. Certification to the BRC Global Standards verifies technical performance, aids manufacturers’ fulfilment of legal obligations and helps provide protection to the consumer.
The updated and revised standards are significant enhancements of their previous issues. Improvements, developed after extensive consultation with a wide range of interested stakeholders, include: clearer and more detailed requirements; increased emphasis on senior management demonstrating commitment to the aim of achieving a satisfactory quality management system; greater focus on analysis of potential hazards; and new specially-designed training courses.
In addition, the scope of the Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials has been expanded from an original focus on food to cover packaging for all types of goods.
One of the most obvious trends right across industry has been the move away from disposable packaging towards reusable containers.
Bob Jane of SSI Schaefer points out that the industry is steering away from traditional attach-lidded totes and heading towards collapsible container systems resulting in reduced space taken by returning empty containers to be cleaned and refilled.
“The Kienast Shoe Trading Group, with headquarters in Hanover, Germany, switched from using cardboard boxes to using Schaefer plastic containers for redistributing shoes between their individual branches of the distribution channels.”
When empty, he says, the containers can be folded flat to save space, but at the same time are robust and able to carry heavy loads even when stacked. In contrast to the costs of disposable packaging, re-usable containers are far more cost-effective – as circulation frequency increases, costs get lower and lower.
Kienast now has around 14,000 foldable and collapsible containers within its inter-branch logistics system. Compared with the cardboard boxes, which had to be brought in on a regular basis, the containers have given the company about a third more available space and reduced the risk of damaged goods – there is no longer the threat of cardboard boxes at the bottom collapsing under the weight of the stack.
Bob Jane points out that the move towards returnable packaging is fuelled by many different factors: Reduction in the cost of fuel used in transit, resulting in the reduction of emissions and overall company carbon footprint.
Reduction in consumable (primary) packaging reduces the costs of packaging and energy consumption in manufacture. Many companies are now adopting dedicated internal Bespoke Dunnage Systems to transport components and further reduce packaging, be that either: Vacuum Formed Trays, Hammock Systems, Foam or Simple Dividers.
In addition, he says, some manufacturers are now offering containers made from a percentage of regrind material, which is now more widely available from raw material suppliers.
Technology is having a big impact within the transit packaging market. Radio-frequency identification is becoming more widespread with Marks & Spencer UK trialling RFID technology in its container pool.
“Today, RFID use is becoming widespread within supply chain management, improving overall control and management of inventory tracking. A fair cost-sharing mechanism, rational motives and justified returns from RFID technology investments are the key ingredients to achieving long-term and sustainable RFID technology adoption,” he says.
Linpac Allibert has set out a new Environmental Policy – a series of commitments supported by a programme of activity, which it says will help customers improve their own green credentials while also saving costs.
Linpac Allibert offers a range of products and services for returnable packaging and equipment for retail and industrial end user sectors, including asset management, financing, washing and storage. It also offers RFID solutions, through its Intellident business, allows its customers to manage traceability and control assets through the supply chain, increasing efficiencies and reducing waste.
The company highlighted the importance of linking business and environmental strategies when it established its plastics recycling business. Linpac Recycling is now the largest recycler of rigid plastic waste in the UK, recycling more than 30,000 tonnes of material each year.
Managing director Laurence Tanty says: “We are constantly investing in new product developments to produce reusable packaging containers that help reduce storage and distribution costs and substantially reduce the use of one-trip packaging.
“Our customers appreciate the fact that we provide the complete package, including recycling. It means our customers have all their needs met from one supplier, providing a unique solution that is good for the environment and the bottom line.”