Natural packaging product (dish, plate, bowl and cup), Biodegrad

The Growing Appeal of Paper-Based Packaging

Packaging waste is the one of the biggest sources of pollution, both on land and in water. The proliferation of packaging-related pollution has prompted many brands, especially those in the CPG and food & beverage industries, to invest in reusable, recyclable and compostable alternatives to traditional, plastic-based packaging.

One of the key drivers of this move away from plastics is their low recycling rates. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 8.7% of plastic makes it through the recycling stream, compared to 31.3% of glass, 34.9% of aluminum and, most impressively, 68.2% of paper.

Moving Away from Plastics

Knowing that plastic is the biggest culprit for packaging-related pollution, a popular transition plan has been to reduce single-use plastics to less than 5% of packaging in 2-3 years and eliminate it completely from packaging in 3-5 years. Prompted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment, many brands plan to have 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. More than 500 brands have signed on to this commitment, including L’Oréal, MARS, Nestlé, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Colgate and Walmart.

While moving away from plastics is important, it isn’t possible unless there’s a replacement packaging material to move towards, and for many brands, easily recycled paper is the solution.

Paper-Based Alternatives

Paper packaging such as corrugated boxes, paperboard cartons, and paper bags and sacks are nothing new, but recent advancements have made post-consumer recycled paper and barrier-coated paper viable options for many types of products. Recycled kraft paper bags are now an affordable, viable alternative to bags previously made from primarily virgin fiber. Polyethylene (PE)-coated papers feature excellent moisture and grease barrier protection. They can be printed on and can be used for hot products, which makes them a better option for food service brands than waxed papers, and like waxed papers, they can be recycled in many situations.

There are also a growing number of options for barrier-coated papers that don’t use PE, making them recyclable in all traditional recycling systems. Many of these non-PE barrier coatings are also compostable, making them a viable solution for an even broader range of sustainable packaging initiatives.

For products that don’t require packaging with moisture barrier properties, paper materials without barrier coatings are also a great alternative to plastics. Suppliers such as Paptic produce versatile paper bags made from renewable materials that are recyclable and durable enough for reusable packaging applications. Sylvicta, by UK-based supplier Arjowiggins, produces translucent paper with strong oxygen barrier properties, making it an excellent option for packaged food products. Their unique material is fully compostable and recyclable.

Brands Investing in Paper-Based Innovation

The popularity of paper-based materials as an alternative to plastics is evident in a number of brands who have made recent headlines with news about their efforts. Chobani recently announced they’re launching paper cups to replace the plastic cups they used to hold their oat-based yogurt products. This switch means yogurt joins their oat milk, cold-brew coffee and coffee creamers in using recyclable paper packaging. 

In the beverage space, Absolut launched a paper-based bottle prototype for trial in Europe. Their bottle, made from 57% paper and 43% recycled plastic, is a step toward their ultimate goal of producing a bottle made from 100% bio-based materials. Coca-Cola Europe is working with Danish start-up Paboco to develop their own paper bottle, while beer brand Carlsberg works to develop its own 100% bio-based bottle made from sustainably sourced wood fiber, both of which would be huge developments for the bottled beverage industry.

Cosmetics giant L’Oréal is also working with Paboco to create a sustainable paper bottle, demonstrating paper packaging’s viability beyond the food & beverage sector in the CPG space. Pulpex, a sustainable packaging technology company established by Diageo in partnership with PepsiCo, Unilever and GSK’s consumer division, is working with Stora Enso to produce bottles made from wood fiber pulp and a thin barrier coating. This bottle would be a viable option for brands in a variety of industries.

Evaluating Your Options for Paper Packaging

While there are sure to be many innovations in paper-based packaging in the coming years, there are a wide variety of options that are available for brands to incorporate into their packaging portfolio right now. If reducing or eliminating plastics is a part of your brand’s sustainability goals, working with a supplier-agnostic partner to evaluate paper packaging options can help you reach those goals more quickly.

Adept Group has experts in more than 60 specialized packaging disciplines, including sustainability and materials science. Whether you’re evaluating paper-based packaging to learn if it works for your brand or you’re ready to start looking at specific options to advance your sustainability initiatives, get in touch. We’re ready to help.

Containers with different types of garbage near light wall. Recycling concept

How to Build Sustainability into Almost any Project

Sustainability has been an impossible topic for brands to avoid in recent years. In C-suites, production lines, packaging departments and beyond, everyone has had to think about ways to decrease the environmental impact of the business. The good news is that by keeping a handful of concepts in mind, brands can build sustainability into almost any project their packaging team tackles.

The world produces around 300 million tons of plastic waste each year, and around 60% of the plastic produced since the 1950s either made its way to a landfill or ended up polluting the natural environment, including at least 8 million tons that go into the ocean every year. The bad news is that the need for more sustainable packaging is desperate; the good news is there is a wide margin for sustainable improvement in almost all packaging.

For organizations that aren’t swayed by the purely altruistic factors, there are plenty of other drivers pushing brands toward more sustainable packaging. Research shows that consumer demand for more sustainable products continues to grow. If a brand hasn’t responded to those changing consumer preferences, chances are its competitors have. Many of the biggest consumer brands in the world have publicly committed to aggressive sustainability goals, and dozens have partnered with organizations like the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to help them reach those goals.

State governments in the U.S. are considering Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws that shift the costs of handling packaging waste back onto the companies that produce it. Maine became the first U.S. state to pass EPR legislation, and Oregon may not be far behind. Those states are decades behind governments in Europe, where Germany adopted a form of EPR in 1991. These regulations are pushing sustainable packaging from something that’s nice to have to something brands can’t afford to ignore.

Combined, these drivers are pushing the packaging industry to accelerate sustainability programs, and while it may not be the only priority guiding packaging engineers, there are a handful of considerations that can help them build sustainable improvements into their other projects.

Design with the End in Mind

Any package design project should include a life cycle analysis that carefully considers the impact of a package at each stage of its life, including:

  • Resource extraction
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Use
  • End of life

Each of these stages offers opportunities to improve sustainability, including reducing the thickness of corrugate and other materials to make manufacturing less wasteful and decrease fuel consumption during distribution and creating packaging that can be reused instead of thrown away after a single-use. End of life may be the stage where opportunities are easiest to identify, as recyclable and compostable materials remove packaging from the waste stream entirely. Thinking about the consumer’s experience with municipal recycling systems may lead to designing packaging from a single, recyclable material or a small number of recyclable materials that separate easily, both of which make responsible disposal an easy task for the end-user.

Use Recycled Materials

As the regulatory landscape that affects packaging waste continues to evolve, many brands will be forced to use recycled materials for their packaging. In the meantime, there are still plenty of environmental advantages to using recycled materials for packaging when compared to using virgin materials. From a consumer messaging perspective, manufacturing recycled plastics produces 65-70% less greenhouse gasses than manufacturing virgin plastic. Production of one ton of recycled plastic saves 5,774-kilowatt hours of energy, 16.3 barrels of oil, 98 million BTU’s of energy, and 30 cubic yards of landfill space when compared to virgin plastic

Purchasing recycled materials drives more demand for those materials, which makes them more profitable and incentives producers of recycled materials to scale up their operations, a long-term benefit for all brands.

Avoid Common Pitfalls

Suppliers are always going to leverage messaging that highlights the best attributes of the materials they sell, but it’s important to understand what they’re selling and what their claims really mean. Messaging around “biodegradable” materials, for example, can confuse both brands and consumers. Over a long enough period, just about all materials can be considered biodegradable; cynically, one can say plastic is biodegradable if you look at it over the course of hundreds of years.

Compostable” is a much more meaningful designation, as it signifies that the material biodegrades in a specific amount of time and under well-defined conditions. Doing the research upfront allows brands to have more meaningful conversations with their suppliers about sustainable materials.

Degradable additives are another easy trap packaging for packaging departments to fall into. Suppliers will tell you these additives help materials biodegrade, but this process breaks plastics down into microplastics that can remain in the environment longer. The EU has already banned some of these additives, and other regulatory bodies are likely to follow suit.

Use Less Plastic

Packaging is a growing driver of plastic production when compared to other uses for plastic, but it’s one of the easier areas in which we can decrease use. Despite the industry’s growing efforts, only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled. Benefits to reducing plastic packaging waste include lower greenhouse gas emissions, decreased use of non-renewable resources and less trash going to incinerators, landfills and the natural environment.

There are many ways to decrease the amount of plastic used in packaging, including decreasing the thickness of plastic packaging, designing plastic packaging to be reusable and using more sustainable alternatives.

Consulate A Sustainability Expert

Knowledge about technologies, materials, tools and regulations around sustainability is constantly evolving and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest information. An expert who focuses on sustainability can help demystify advances in the field. They’re also likely to have insight into what competitors and brands in other industries are doing to make progress against their sustainability goals and know what’s working and what isn’t. A true sustainability expert can provide a strategy tailored to meet a brand’s unique packaging needs and a set of clear, actionable steps to meet sustainability goals. Adept Group’s sustainability experts can help your brand conduct an audit and identify projects that will make the most meaningful impact toward your sustainability goals.

No matter where your brand is in its sustainability journey, Adept Group can help you accelerate progress toward your goals. If you’re looking for help building a strategy or advancing toward existing sustainability goals, get in touch. We can help.

Cardboard slip sheets isolated on white as alternative packaging concept, paper pallet for transportation and delivery

The Value of Switching from Pallets to Slip Sheets

For many brands, switching from pallets to slip sheets provides a lot of value. For brands in the process of improving sustainability throughout their organization, incorporating slip sheets into their supply chain improves the sustainability of tertiary packaging. Like many sustainability moves, it can also double as an opportunity for cost savings.

Problems with Pallets

Pallets are generally made of wood and are becoming a commodity that is no longer a low-cost, disposable part of packaging. The cost of a Wood Pallet can be 2-5 times more expensive than it was just 10 years ago. And as the availability of wood becomes tighter, wood pallets are harder to get, since less wood is available to use for pallets.

In many parts of the world, governments are passing new regulations that shift the burden of costs associated with packaging that winds up in the solid waste stream back onto the companies that create the packaging. This means that in some countries, one-way wooden pallets are now (or will be in the near future) not acceptable. We’ve even seen some movement on this front here in the United States, where Maine is the first state to take this kind of action with its Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law.

A new law in Germany affecting U.S. businesses’ use of pallets states that “Companies which originate a packaging product which eventually ends up in the solid waste stream in Germany will be held responsible for disposing of that packaging.” This means that one-way wooden pallets are not viable in Germany.

These new pieces of legislation may indicate we’ll see more use of economic instruments and other measures in support of the waste hierarchy in the coming years through additional EPR laws. Producers are given an important role in this transition as their responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle. Lastly, wooden pallets offer a home to insects and other pests, who use the wood as either food or shelter. Importation of pallets is a leading cause of rodent infestation and contaminations in a warehouse.

Slip Sheets as an Alternative

While most pallets are made of wood, slip sheets are typically made of light weight fiberboard, averaging a few dollars or less for each unit-load, making them inexpensive enough to be discarded after each trip. Their use also negates traditional tracking, recovery, repair and/or disposal costs for wood pallets. The cost differential between pallets and slip sheets continues to increase, making themo a very viable alternative to wood pallets.

Since slip sheets don’t have the depth that a pallet has, they’re a less attractive source of food and shelter to pests and, since they can easily be disposed of, the slip sheet can eliminate the risk of cross contamination from previous uses.

Because slip sheets are easily assimilated into the waste-paper market for recycling into new products, they’ll stay out of the solid waste stream and won’t be affected by EPR laws – a significant advantage from both cost and sustainability standpoints. Material handling unitized loads without pallets reduces costs, save trees, and reduces the energy required to transport, manufacture and store pallets.

Slip sheets generally have a lip on two sides that extends beyond the standard load pattern, allowing the slip sheet truck to pull the load onto the fork-lift forks or conveyance for moving, loading or unloading. While they generally are designed for a two-way entry and require a special slip sheet attachment to the standard fork-lift truck, this can readily be attached or detached within 30 minutes.

Performance Comparison

The tare weight of a slip sheet is typically 2 to 3 pounds, a small fraction of the tare weight of wooden pallets, which are typically in the 30-48 pound range. A slip sheet footprint can be identical to that of a pallet, but the space it occupies under a unit-load is insignificant compared to the 10 percent or more taken up by a typical pallet. Most net payloads of unitized product can be increased by 10 percent or more with slip sheets. Put in practical terms, the amount of product that would typically require 100 semi trailers to ship would require only 90 trailers when using slip sheets, saving time and fuel. 

Are Slip Sheets Right for You?

If you’re interested in an audit to learn about how switching to slip sheets can benefit your organization or you’re ready to make the switch, reach out. Our experts have helped companies just like yours save money and improve sustainability with slip sheets, and they’re ready to show you the difference it can make for your company.

sustainability progress

The Value of a Sustainability Audit

While many companies have used sustainability influencers like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Ellen McArthur Foundation to determine what areas they wanted to focus on to improve their sustainable operations, measuring their progress toward goals like designing for recovery, eliminating unfavorable materials and increasing recycling can be complicated.

Many companies have multiple divisions, several packaging lines, and thousands of different SKUs that require unique packaging. Many companies that have goals set, have vague targets and an undefined path to achieve those goals. Not to mention, determining how sustainable each type of packaging and component is and what actions need to be taken to make those sustainable is a big job. To accomplish this, companies can leverage a sustainability audit.

A sustainability audit is a tool that allows companies to evaluate their sustainability goals and objectives, stage-gate progress toward those goals and objectives, and determine what actions will result in significant progress toward those goals.

These are the steps we take to help our clients get to an informed place to make decisions about what project comes next:


If this position sounds familiar, you’re interested in evaluating your progress or you’d like to identify quick wins to help you move the needle toward your goals, contact us!

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. Environmental vector wordcloud background.

Sustainable Packaging Trends for 2021

Despite significantly increased usage of single-use plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging sustainability remains a priority for brands across all industries. While consumer caution has been a cause for many individuals to deprioritize sustainable habits, brands did not retreat from their sustainability goals in 2020, and this year is on track to be one in which packaging continues to make strides toward a more sustainable future.

A handful of approaches have emerged as sustainable packaging trends for 2021:

Chemical Recycling for Plastics

As chemical recycling methods and technologies for plastics continue to improve, the practice is gaining proponents. Expanded chemical recycling efforts are included in the British Plastics Federation’s recent “Recycling Roadmap,” which charts a course to the U.K. recycle 3.5 times more plastic than it currently does by 2030. As the amount of single-use plastics discarded by consumers continues to grow, chemical recycling may help stem the tide of plastics that end up in landfills, or worse, in oceans and other waterways.

In many areas, the demand for recycling surpasses the local market’s ability to process the plastic through mechanical means, which drives demand for alternative means of recycling.  Additionally, the narrow range of plastics that can be recycled by traditional means and the limited number of uses for recycled plastics mean it is unlikely that mechanical recycling will catch up to the problem.

To make use of the large volume of post-consumer plastics generated each year, recycling facilities will need to use a variety of chemical processes to supplement traditional mechanical recycling. Research teams are already working on chemical recycling methods for a wider range of materials, including polystyrene, which will greatly reduce the amount plastic that winds up in landfills or as litter.

E-commerce Sustainability

E-commerce shipments – and the packaging that comes with it – have been on a steady rise in recent years. That trend continued in 2018, with 91% of Americans receiving packages at their home this holiday season according to Ranpak’s First Annual E-Commerce and Packaging Trends Survey. While recent e-commerce statistics may be boosted by consumers cautious to shop in crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may retain those online shopping habits once things return to normal. Regardless, this sharp and continued rise in e-commerce puts a spotlight in efforts to make shippers and primary packaging more sustainable.

Brands riding the wave of increased e-commerce sales are eager to boost their sustainable practices, both in response to consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and because sustainable packaging is often good for the bottom line. There are a variety of approaches brands can use to improve the sustainability of e-commerce packaging, including designing packaging with materials that are easy for consumers to recycle. Rightsizing e-commerce packages and optimizing the amount of padding/dunnage included within the package drive sustainability and cost savings on two fronts, both by reducing the cost of materials and reducing size and weight, which improves fuel efficiency during shipping.

Growth in Reusable Packaging

While recyclable and compostable materials play a key role in steering packaging away from landfills, they won’t completely solve our waste issues. Following the path blazed by TerraCycle’s Loop program, which expanded nation-wide in 2020, companies such as LimeLoop, Algramo, RePack and any of the are taking their own approach to growing adoption of reusable packaging. The market for reusable packaging was valued at $30.5 billion in 2019, and a 2020 report from Grand View Research projects it will grow by more than 5% by 2027. While some were concerned that growth may take a hit because of consumer caution during the pandemic, indications showed continued growth through the early months of the crisis, with Loop reporting its sales nearly doubled between March and April.

It’s not just startups springing up to create reusable packaging, major brands are jumping on board to incorporate reusables. Mars, Inc.’s  Sustainable Packaging Plan centers around a commitment to switch to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025, including testing 10 reusable packaging programs. Albertsons Plastics and Packaging Pledge includes encouraging customers to use reusable bags, some of which include material from recycled single use shopping bags, and using reusable containers behind the scenes throughout its supply chain.

Whether you’re years into your sustainability journey or looking for sustainable packaging solutions to help your brand get started, the Adept Packaging team has the experience and know-how to help you map out your next steps. Whether it’s sustainable strategy, ideation or implementation, our team is stacked with professionals that can help you transform your packaging. We will help you optimize not only the sustainability of your packaging but reduce costs as well. If you’re ready to incorporate sustainable packaging solutions that drive bottom line savings, get in touch.


Evaluating the Feasibility of Switching to Compostable Packaging

Awareness of compostable packaging has grown significantly in recent years. One of the driving factors of this growth is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy, which set a goal that all plastic packaging be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. While many consumers are familiar with the reuse model, dating back to the days of the milk man, and recycling, with curbside recycling access continuing to grow, composting is a new concept that is not familiar to many people.

Understanding the Definition of Compostable Packaging

One of the main challenges with compostable packaging is developing a thorough understanding of the definition. To provide background on what is considered compostable packaging here is an excerpt from Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, An Adept Packaging White Paper.

Compostable packaging, or more specifically, compostable plastic, is defined by the ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) as “capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose) and leaves no toxic residue.”

According to World Centric, to be considered compostable plastic, there are three characteristics it must meet three conditions: 

  1. Biodegradable – in order for a material to be considered biodegradable, it must break down into carbon dioxide, water, biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).
  2. Disintegrable – the material is disintegrable if it is indistinguishable in compost; it must not be visible or needed to be screened out
  3. Free of Eco-toxicity – a material is considered free of eco-toxicity if the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth. 

Evaluation of Compostable Certification

Compostable packaging can be a great alternative for materials such as laminate plastic films, which do not have many end-of-life options today outside of landfill and incineration, but when assessing compostable packaging there are several factors that need to be considered, including:

  • The composting certification
  • On pack consumer communication
  • Supply chain of the package
  • Likelihood that it will make it to a composting facility

Compostable Certification Process

The certification process depends on several factors, including which country the package will be sold in and whether it is designed to be composted in an industrial facility or a home composting environment.

According to Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, in order to determine that a material is compostable, there are certain tests that the material must pass. Some institutions have defined either the standards or the methods to perform these tests, such as:

Commonly, to receive the assessment and certification, there are independent certification bodies that help with this process, such as:

  • DIN Certco (German Institute of Standardization, Germany)
  • AFOR (Association for Organics Recycling, UK)
  • Keurmerkinstituut (Certification Institute, Netherlands)
  • COBRO (Packaging Research Institute, Poland)
  • ABA (Australasian Bioplastics Association, Australia)
  • Vinçotte (Accredited Inspection and Certification Organization, Belgium)
  • Jätelaito-syhdistys (Solid Waste Association, Finland)
  • Certiquality/CIC (Composting and Biogas Association, Italy)
  • Avfall Norge (Waste Management and Recycling Association, Norway)
  • BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute, USA)
  • BNQ (Bureau de Normalisation du Québec, Canada)
  • JBPA (Japan BioPlastics Association, Japan)

Ensuring your package is engineered using certified compostable material and can still function to protect your product is one step in determining the feasibility of using compostable packaging.  

Consumer Communication for End of Life

Another challenge that companies face when implementing compostable packaging is lack the of consumer education surrounding it. Consumer communication is important when it comes to packaging, no matter what end-of-life scenario the package was designed for. If the package is disposed of incorrectly, it defeats the purpose of the intended design and provides no added value. Due to the fact that many consumers are unfamiliar with composting, it is best to provide as much information as possible.

 In the case of composting, completing the certification process will provide options of what graphic, instructions, and claims can be made on pack.

For example, the US BPI has a standardized logo that also aligns with the How 2 Compost labeling program from GreenBlue, the creators of How 2 Recycle. While in Europe, the TUV certification labels are widely recognized by consumers. Including resources that make it easy to find the nearest industrial composting facility or instructions for composting at home is also useful to promote correct end-of-life disposal.

Access to composting facilities

Not only does the consumer need to be aware of how to properly dispose of the package, but in the case of composting they also need to have access to an industrial composting facility that accepts packaging or have their own home composting setup. Not all industrial composting facilities are created equal; they range from accepting green waste, food waste, compostable packaging or all the above. GreenBlue has created an interactive map that highlights US composting facilities and the type(s) of material they accept.

Some companies utilize compostable packaging for products that have a defined supply chain, such as products being sold in sports stadiums where you can influence the collection systems put into place. The Green Sports Alliance is an organization that works in this space and promotes zero waste at facilities they partner with.

Determining your consumer’s access to these facilities or ability to influence collection systems determines the ability of your consumer to correctly dispose of the packaging. Without access to these facilities, a consumer doesn’t have the tools needed to compost the packaging.

Assessing if Compostable Packaging is Right for You

Considering compostable packaging can be a complex process to take on, given the need for certified material, education for consumers and access to composting facilities for end of life. By considering the factors noted here, companies can make a determination if the foundation is in place to take the next steps and what can and cannot be achieved by making the change to compostable packaging.

If you’re considering switching to compostable packaging or want to have a discussion about if compostable packaging is an option, our experts would be happy to help. Contact us.

Conveyor with bottles filled with milk products

Elements of a Successful Reusable Packaging Program

The topic of reusable packaging programs has been widely discussed in recent years, but in practice, efforts have barely scratched the surface of its true potential. Executed properly, reusable packaging provides benefits ranging from increased sustainability and improved productivity to increased product quality and, perhaps most importantly, cost savings. Well-integrated reusable packaging programs help industries optimize the use of critical resources and minimize the waste associated with traditional packaging methods.

Applications for Reusables

Many packaging elements throughout the supply chain can be converted from single-use materials to reusables. Everyday items used in the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of goods, including durable handheld and bulk containers, pallets, shipping racks and dunnage, are often made for single-use or limited-use applications, but brand owners can find a lot of value in converting them to reusable items.

Reusable packaging can be used for shipping both inbound goods such as raw materials and outbound finished goods. While they are in the manufacturing facility, goods can be transported from one department or stage of the manufacturing process to another in durable packaging that lasts for many cycles before it needs to be replaced. Recyclable materials can be returned in reusable containers and replacement parts and other after-market goods can be distributed in reusable packaging that customers return for repeated use.

Planning for Reusability

The first step to a successful reusable packaging program is a thoroughly researched and well thought out plan. Brand owners need to solicit input from customers to find the best opportunities to incorporate reusable packaging downstream. Thorough analysis of current packaging systems provides opportunities to identify ways in which reusables will generate cost savings, and a well-researched list of suppliers will reveal sources to produce the items and materials you’ll need to implement a reusable packaging process throughout the supply chain.

Designing Reusable Solutions

While the planning stage provides an important overview of the process used to convert to reusable packaging materials, packaging engineers and sourcing experts need to adhere to a diligent design process to create a successful program. The new system must be designed for consistency with existing standards, such as pallet size, as well as take into account logistic needs. Equally as important, the new reusable system must provide protection for components that is on par with or better than traditional packaging to earn buy-in from stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, reusable solutions must integrate seamlessly with the customer’s supply chain for the program to succeed.

While those considerations are integral to buy-in from external stakeholders, design needs to account for additional considerations for internal stakeholders to understand reusables’ value. A successful program must balance durability with weight and easy of handling to control costs and ensure reusable solutions last long enough to generate savings. The new system must comply with health & safety standards and free up space that was previously used to store traditional packaging components for productive use. To prevent loss, an integrate a tracking system that monitors the location of reusable packaging as it moves through the supply chain can be incorporated. This allows for creation of a plan for storing the physical elements of the reusable program at each stop along the supply chain.

Prototyping and Testing

Because implementing reusable packaging involves an overhaul of so many pieces of your packaging process, it is important to make sure every element integrates seamlessly within the system before implementation. For this reason, a thorough testing process involving prototypes of each physical element is integral to the process. Many of the same suppliers identified during the planning stages can be leveraged to produce prototypes.

When it comes to package testing, there are a variety of options to consider. Consulting engineers and other high-level technical experts with knowledge of the product and its distribution provides valuable input to narrow down the list of standards to use for packaging tests. Testing standards that apply to reusable packaging include:

  • ISTA-3A: Packaged-Products for Parcel Delivery Shipment
  • ISTA-3B: Packaged-Products for Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipment
  • ASTM D7386-16: Single Pack Performance Test
  • ASTM D4169-09: Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems
  • FedEx 6A: Packaging Testing Under 150 Lbs.


Once the planning, design, and testing are completed and approved, a well-executed integration process will ensure the reusable packaging program gets off to a successful start, which is important for the longevity of the program. Proper introduction of the new reusable solution is also valuable to ensure that everyone who will handle the reusable packaging understands the new system. This will encourage correct use of the system, so that reusable items can circulate properly and return to their starting point after they are used.

Completing the transition from single-use packaging solutions to a true reusable packaging program can be a complicated process requiring a high level of input from technical experts. For brand owners who lack the resources or the manpower to complete the transition, Adept Packaging can help. Our team of Loop-certified packaging engineers have guided many brands through the transition. Our global network of suppliers enables our engineers to design, develop and qualify innovative reusable packaging solutions. Additionally, our sustainability team collaborates with our value optimization team to analyze opportunities for cost savings via transitioning to reusable packaging. They build the plans, design the details, manage the prototyping and testing process, and oversee integration to provide a smooth transition to a reusable packaging program that will save on costs and increase a brand’s sustainability efforts.

If you’re interested in talking to our experts, contact us! We’d love to hear from you.

Tips for designing sustainable ecommerce packaging

8 Tips for Designing Sustainable E-Commerce Packaging

With the continuous and exponential increase in E-commerce sales within the last several years, it is apparent that any business who wishes to perform globally needs to be optimized for it.

As consumers continue to demand more environmentally friendly packaging, sustainability needs to be a top consideration when designing packaging for the E-commerce market.

In a recent white paper, Design Packaging for E-Commerce with a Sustainable Mindset, which can be found in our resource library, our sustainable experts discuss what E-commerce is, why it’s so important, and how companies are preparing for the huge shift in distribution.

As an added bonus, we thought it might be helpful for companies wishing to design sustainable E-Commerce packaging, to have access to these 8 considerations:

1. Align Your Goals

Make sure you align your sustainability strategies, priorities, and actions with your stakeholders (suppliers etc.).

2. Design for Recyclability

Avoid over designing with special inks, coatings, or lamination that can reduce the recyclability and sustainability of the packaging.

3. Avoid Over-Packaging

Minimize the amount of material included in your packaging. Not only does it reduce material waste, but it reduces material cost, inventory, transportation weight, and storage cost.

4. Know Your Product

Explore shipping options outside of the standard cardboard box. Understand your product needs to determine if your packaging must be water-resistant, flexible, soft etc. and redesign with a sustainable mindset.

5. Avoid Excess Padding

Remove foam peanuts, shredded paper, etc. and utilize inserts instead if necessary.

6. Avoid Mixed-Materials

Avoid paper-out, poly bubble lined mailer envelopes. The mixed-material composition makes it difficult to separate and prevent them from being recyclable.

7. Choose Sustainable Materials

When deciding on material options, consider biodegradable, compostable and recyclable options.

8. Communicate Recyclability

One of the biggest issues in waste reduction are consumers. Educating and communicating the end of life options for your packaging is necessary so consumers understand how to close the loop.

If you need assistance developing sustainable E-Commerce packaging, contact our APASS certified sustainable experts.


For a downloadable version of these tips, click the pdf below.




Closing the Circular Economy

The circular economy is the key to meeting challenging sustainability goals. Its success would mean that energy, resources and nutrients continue to bring value and are not wasted by being dumped, burned, or disposed of in other means. In the packaging world, there are a number of ways to close the circular economy.