How to Reduce Packaging Waste in Manufacturing | In-line Improvements #5 | InkJet, Inc.

According to reports from the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of generated packaging waste has steadily risen over time. In 1960, around 27 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) originated from discarded containers and packaging. By 2018, this number reached 82 million tons—a sum three times larger than it was 60 years prior. 

Although recycling systems have evolved alongside this increase in waste, an enormous amount of waste is still placed in landfills year after year. In 2018 alone, over 30 million tons of packaging waste ended up in landfills, with previous years echoing similar amounts. 

With statistics like these becoming more fixated in the public consciousness, consumers are increasingly preferring companies that prioritize sustainability and minimizing environmental impacts. A poll by C.O.nxt and Menu Matters states that more than 80% of customers find sustainability to be an important factor when grocery shopping

To align with customer preferences, protect the environment, and save on shipping costs, companies are continuously considering how to reduce packaging waste in manufacturing. Although effective methods will differ based on operational specifics, businesses by and large can utilize these three approaches to lower their overall packaging waste.

1. Optimize Shipping Space

A tried and true way to lower packaging waste is to make the most of available shipping containers. When looking at the breakdown of what’s considered MSW, shipping cartons make up a significant portion of what ends up in landfills. By optimizing the room within packaging containers, one can lower their overall carton use, reducing both waste and shipping costs. 

Companies can take the following steps to improve how they fill their cartons:

  1. Utilize a Variety of Box Sizes: Businesses often carry products that greatly vary in size and weight. Given how supply chains often have weight limits regarding individual boxes within a pallet, it’s important to carry cartons of different dimensions in order to pack the most products using the fewest number of containers.

  2. Match Products to Specific Shipping Cartons: Once an operation has accumulated a sufficient variety of box sizes, workers can begin pairing the containers with certain products or product combinations. For example, if an ink operation knows that a box can perfectly fit five CIJ ink bottles and ten packs of TIJ cartridges while remaining a couple of pounds underweight, they can reduce their overall volume of shipping containers. 

By diversifying box selections and creating official container designations inventory-wide, companies can work towards maximizing the use of shipping space to reduce overall packaging material waste.

2. Move From Physical Product Labels to Automated Printing

While physical labels may seem like a small contributor of waste at first glance, the greater a company grows, the more money, labor, and material is wasted by using stick-on labels. When a company is only selling a handful of products, it makes sense to use hand-applied product labels in order to comply with supply chain guidelines and government regulations that require:

  • Barcodes/QR codes

  • Expiration dates

  • Batch codes

  • Serial numbers

However, as product offerings grow, so do SKU counts. Physical label inventories become harder to keep track of and workers need to spend exponentially more time applying labels to products. With these complications also comes a greater likelihood of human error and a steady increase in costs for the adhesive paper that labels are made from. Fortunately, companies can easily streamline the labeling process by replacing hand-applied labels with automated printing. 

By using a continuous inkjet printer, thermal inkjet printer, or a high-resolution case coder, like the Precision series, instead of physical product labels, companies are able to:

  • Apply important information directly onto products, saving money on physical stick-on labels and reducing labor needs.

  • Digitize their physical label inventory to reduce human labeling errors and accelerate the label creation process.

For those curious about how to make the switch from hand to automated labeling, our experts are available to discuss which hardware options would fit your needs best. 

3. Recycle Waste for Practical Use 

Compared to smaller operations, large-scale companies with bountiful resources can be more creative when considering how to reduce packaging waste in manufacturing. One of these out-of-the-box solutions involves recycling material in-house for new applications. While this approach will change from operation to operation due to available resources, one of the most common approaches involves reusing plastic.

Of the 82 million tons of packaging MSW produced in 2018, more than 14.5 million tons came from plastic. Although plastic is an invaluable packaging material, it is often quickly discarded and used in the form of disposable bags and wraps. Not only does this increase the size of landfilled MSW, but plastic can take years to degrade, harming the environment in the process. 

One way that we’ve seen companies fight against this is by creating their own bags and pellets from discarded plastic. Raw plastic waste is cheaply available, and with the right equipment, companies can shred it, melt it, and reform it into valuable forms. Through this process, businesses can take their own would-be-tossed plastic and raw plastic to create new bags, boxes, wraps, and more. 

Want More Guidance on How to Reduce Packaging Waste in Manufacturing?

In a world where people are becoming more eco-conscious every day, reducing waste will only grow in importance as time goes on. Not only is it a way for businesses to show that they care about the environment, but it also saves money overall. If you are part of one of the companies looking to become more efficient and waste-free, we here at InkJet, Inc. are here to help.

Offering expert guidance and efficient hardware, the InkJet, Inc. team can help your operation eliminate waste and maximize available resources. Call today to learn more. 

For more information on how to reduce packaging waste in manufacturing, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245.