Each year, plastic packaging waste in the UK amounts to approximately 2.2 million metric tons and with the increase in online sales since the start of the Covid pandemic, this number is only set to rise. Now more than ever it’s so important to think about the packaging you are sending to your customers, whether it’s safe, sturdy but also recyclable and eco conscious. Which is why we’ve compiled a list of simple changes you can make to make sure you’re being kind to the planet whilst also kind to your customers. Swap out plastic mailers for paper envelopes or boxes
Plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to ‘degrade’, they then become micro plastics which are reabsorbed into the earth. Imagine, that mailing bag you’re sending today will still be around in the year 3020. No one wants that! So, straight off the bat, swap any non biodegradable plastic bags for paper mailers or boxes.
Swap out plastic bubble wrap for paper bubble wrap or biodegradable plastics
As above, bubble wrap will take over 100 years to decompose and it won’t ever completely go away. Luckily, there are different alternatives for you to send fragile items with. Including paper bubble wrap or a biodegradable plastic bubble wrap. Both are abundantly available and reasonably priced.
Swap out styrofoam packing chips for cornstarch or even popcorn!
Some experts say it can take 500 years for packing peanuts to decompose, and when they do, they aren’t completely gone forever, often ending up in waterways as microplastics. Packing chips have come a long way since their inception and some clever bods have come up with cornstarch packing chips that literally dissolve at home. If you want to get even more crafty, you can make and use popcorn to fill in those voids.
No more plastic parcel tape, try paper tape instead Oftentimes people think the problem is the bag an item is packed in itself. However, this isn’t always the case. You may be making your best effort to only use recyclable boxes, packing chips or bubble wrap but when it’s all held together with copious amounts of plastic tape, well it kind of defeats the purpose. Which is why paper parcel tape is a thing, and there are loads of options to choose from depending on what you’re sending and your own preferences. It’s a good idea to look into paper tape so you’re not wasting your time thinking you’re being eco-friendly then covering your masterpiece with non-biodegradable materials. Optional extras
A lot of the doubts about eco-friendly packaging comes from strength and ability to protect the item you are sending. That doesn’t need to be a concern anymore. There are so many additional products you can invest in for your most fragile of items. Including but not limited to things like honeycomb wrap. It’s almost like a paper bubble wrap and can be used on glass, ceramics, anything fragile and it’s fully recyclable. You can also look into shredded cardboard, it’s cheap as chips and works brilliantly to stuff into any voids to keep your parcel safe on it’s journey, plus, both of these things are reusable. So your customer can reuse for their own needs or simply recycle when they’re done.
Other tips for a more eco friendly delivery Smaller parcels Making your deliveries more eco friendly can start from somewhere as simple as shipping smaller. Look at reducing your packaging size and amount of filling you use in order to lessen the packaging going to your customer. Not only will this reduce your carbon footprint, it will also save you money by spending less on packaging materials. Try and play around with the size and positioning of your products in the packaging to see if you can fit more in. Foldable items can be folded tightly in order for them to fit more snug into smaller boxes.
Combined postage just makes sense from an economical and eco conscious standpoint. If your customer orders multiple items, put them in the same package. You will not only be saving on the amount of packaging used but also on the amount of miles it takes to deliver every item, the space it will save in the vans, the reduction in processing time and usually it’s cheaper to send one large parcel with multiple items as opposed to many smaller parcels with individual items. Less weight
Reducing the weight in your packages also reduces the amount of fuel it takes to deliver them. Consider packing items within each other so you can use less filler to keep everything stable. Consider using brown paper or envelopes instead of boxes. These may seem like really small changes but if everyone began adopting them, the positive impact on the environment would be huge.
Encourage customer recycling
Lush is a great example of this. They encourage people to bring back pots to be refilled and offer them a discount when they do it. Not only is this saving the company money by not having to buy brand new pots every time, it also saves on emissions from production and delivery. Perhaps you don’t want to have people sending back items as you are an ecommerce company, however, you can always encourage your customers to keep this packaging aside and reuse it for a different purpose. Perhaps to return items in, to store items in, they could turn the box into a dolls house or even use it for other craft projects. There are so many things we can do with leftover boxes and packaging, and at the very least you can simply encourage them to put the box in the recycling bin and not in general waste.
Reuse reuse reuse As an online seller, you are most likely also an online shopper. Perfect! You are receiving a free source of packaging every time you shop! Think about Amazon, they always send reams of paper packing with their deliveries, save it, use it for your own. Save boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap. Include in your product listings that your buyers may receive other branded packaging due to your efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. A study by Conversity shows that 52% of those aged 16-24 are likely to choose a sustainable retailer, with this figure sitting at 50% for 25-34s. Interestingly, 48% of those aged over 55 also show a preference for more sustainable options, which suggests that this shift in mindset is not limited purely to younger generations and there will most likely be a more optimistic view on the way you send your items. But what about presentation? Of course as a business you want to present yourself in the best way possible. However, with the rise of online shopping comes the rise of porch pirates. By adding loads of stickers and colourful paper, you are at a higher risk of making your package a beacon to anyone looking to steal. A great way to make sure your packages are covered from any losses, is to insure them. Check out Offcourse to see what insurance would work best for your business and ensure you’re not covering the cost of theft out of your own pocket.
These are just a few simple ways for you to start on your journey to becoming a sustainable business. No one is expecting you to become an eco warrior overnight and even small changes can make a huge impact. Start small and see where you can easily introduce these changes and you will begin to see an impact not only on the amount of waste you were using previously but most likely on the amount of money you will save by reusing.
What are your best eco-friendly hacks?
What changes have you made to become a more sustainable business?
Let us know in the comments!