Friday, September 20, 2013

Old School Packing Can Prove the Green Shipping Option for Export and Domestic Freight of All Sizes

Plastics Have Their Place but Timber Crates and Cases Have Supply Chain Longevity
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE - Whether you're sending a birthday package to a faraway friend or running a business that exports products throughout the world, you have more green choices than ever before. Green packaging and shipping can save you money; recycled materials often cost less than their first-use counterparts, and they're just as practical. For businesses, evidencing green shipping practices is increasingly an important element in the freight supply chain to maintain customer satisfaction. A recent Ipsos consumer poll found that almost half the people questioned choose green options when available and, while green shipping and packaging might be a priority, getting items to their destinations safely is obviously also considered paramount. Now however new techniques and materials can make going green easy and safe for even the most fragile items.

A Beginners Guide to Taking the Waste out of Shipping

If you've ever ordered a small replacement part that came packed in a box large enough to hold a new computer, you know how much waste packaging can generate. Some amount of excess packaging is unavoidable if you're shipping delicate or sensitive items. But advances in packing materials mean you can get by with less and still deliver items in one piece.

People who carpool in the same vehicle take up less room on the highway. The same principle holds true with items you ship. Whenever possible, ship in bulk and combine multiple items into a single larger container. If you run a business, make multi-item shipping the default on your website and in your brick and mortar store. Some customers may want products shipped as soon as they're available, but most either don't mind waiting a day or two for a bigger package or prefer it.

As for packing material, inflatable, disposable polyurethane bags offer heavy-duty protection but can be punctured and folded flat for later recycling. It may seem paradoxical to use plastics to go green, but recyclable plastics are a better choice than conventional Styrofoam peanuts.

Waste refers to more than just excess packaging. If your shipper must take a detour to pick up your package, those extra miles cost fuel and time. Instead, arrange for a free pick-up on days when the shipper is in the neighbourhood anyway. You can also drop packages off at a distribution centre if one is on your way home or near your office. Another possibility is to pool your resources with other local shops and make a single trip to the shipping centre. This strategy works especially well if you're in a strip mall or other closely clustered group of stores.

Many shippers are adding hybrid and diesel vehicles or even modified bicycles to their fleets. These fuel-efficient choices reduce waste and lower costs for everyone. When possible, choose routes that let items ship via more fuel-efficient methods. As is often pointed out a train ride for your packages will use fewer resources than a flight or even an overland route by truck.

Making the Most of Your Shipping Containers

In the past, larger items often came in wooden crates. Multiple layers of corrugated cardboard eventually took over from wooden shipping containers, but there's been an industry-wide trend toward using wood again. A wooden crate can make repeated trips before needing to be replaced. Wood is an excellent choice to protect delicate items – that leg-shaped lamp in 'A Christmas Story' came in a wooden crate for a reason – and is a renewable resource. If you and a vendor frequently ship items back and forth, using wood crates makes even more sense. For example, if your metal fabrication shop ships parts to be powder-coated, your paint shop can then return the finished parts in the same container. You're doing the earth and your vendor a favour when you supply your own crate.

Wood is only one option for reusable shipping materials. Moulded plastic, metal and even sturdy cardboard designed for reuse are other intriguing possibilities. What you ship should determine your choice of materials; a thick-walled, airtight plastic container might be ideal for food transportation while electronic components might need anti-static foam liners before going into a plastic case. Sturdy Pelican cases offer the ultimate in equipment protection, while custom-built containers are worth the investment if you're shipping similar items frequently. If you make saxophones, for example, your cases probably need to come in just a few sizes and shapes.

Think of ways to reuse packing materials inside shipping containers too, those polystyrene peanuts aren't the most environmentally friendly items if you use them for a single trip, but if you reserve them for multiple trips, they can be a green choice. Many shipping centres will also take spare peanuts off your hands and recycle them for you.

Using Repurposed Packaging and Shipping Materials

Packaging manufacturers have become brilliant at giving old or worn items a second life. Old blue jeans, shredded currency, plastic bottles and corn by products are just a few of the items that might go into modern recycled packing materials. Any soft fibre that can be shredded can serve as padding for an envelope or box, but keep an eye on weight; some cotton-based padding can add to your overall cost.

However you reduce, reuse or recycle to make your shipping process greener, you're saving money while leaving a smaller environmental footprint.

This article was a guest contribution by Brandon Serna of Craters & Freighters.

Photo: Ultimate packaging recycling? The Manifesto House built in Curacavi, Chile by Infiniski is mainly constructed from old pallets, two 40 foot and two 20 foot shipping containers etc. and cost just €79,000 including fittings such as Geothermal heat pumps.