Reducing your environmental footprint through eco-designed packaging

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Article written by

Nathalie Gamache
Vice President, Marketing and Innovation

Environmental responsibility is within reach

The arguments in favour of protecting the environment are common knowledge nowadays. But in order to make a difference, everyone needs to contribute to reducing their environmental impact. Consumers have been actively contributing and are now demanding that businesses take major steps toward environmental responsibility.

There are several ways in which companies can reduce their footprint. One way is to rethink their packaging. It might seem costly and complicated, but it’s quite the opposite: packaging that meets eco-design criteria is good for business, both financially and operationally, without putting performance at stake. Besides, when you switch your packaging for eco-designed models, you stand to gain from a positive shift in consumer perception of your brand. Too good to be true? Perish the thought! Here are a few suggestions from Cascades that could be profitable for your company.

Where to start?

Good news: you’re not starting from scratch! Your company is surely at least somewhat environmentally responsible. Do you recycle? Do you intentionally reduce your use of raw materials? Do you optimize your delivery routes? Those are all good examples of environmental responsibility. Now, let’s see how you could reduce your environmental footprint even further while still coming out the winner across the board.

Four pillars of innovation in eco-design

At Cascades, we developed an eco-design grid to optimize our designs. The grid is divided into four categories: responsible end of life, selected material, optimized design and adapted logistics. Let’s take a closer look.

1 – Responsible end of life

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To begin, we need to plan the end of life. Although this may come as a surprise, it makes sense. Planning a responsible end of life revolves around the three Rs:

  • Reduce              
  • Reuse                 
  • Recycle

Did you know that it’s better to recycle a material if it’s both recyclable and compostable? Recycling it prevents new material from having to be produced. That’s how the circular economy works.
Of course, composting is still a great solution to dispose of materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

2 – Selected material

When you’re considering what material to use, prioritize recyclable and recycled material. Thankfully, Cascades’ corrugated board meets both criteria! Unfortunately, many materials are recyclable in theory but aren’t accepted in consumer recycling bins. For example, Styrofoam (polystyrene foam) can be recycled in theory, but very few places do in practice because there is no market for it.
Seeing as how corrugated board has the highest recyclability rate with 85%, here are some innovative ways to use it that are worth mentioning.

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A local example Apple packaging made from 100% corrugated board

Carton pommes

A producer decided to replace the usual plastic bags with cardboard boxes to market his apples. He benefits across the board: the packaging provides better protection for his product, it stands out on shelves and the solution is more environmentally friendly since cardboard is easier to recycle than plastic.

A small detail that changes everything

A fruit basket made from a single material

You’re probably familiar with cardboard fruit baskets that have plastic handles. Did you know that the handle isn’t recyclable? Fortunately, Cascades has a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution with a solid and practical cardboard handle. The result? The basket is made entirely of a single material and can be recycled fully—and more easily to boot!

Not all cardboards are created equal

Your packaging is already made of cardboard? Great! Is it made of recycled or virgin cardboard? By choosing recycled cardboard, you’re choosing to use less production resources like trees, water and energy.
In fact, replacing a tonne of virgin cardboard with recycled cardboard (roughly equal to 2,500 moving boxes) saves 27 trees, 166 full bathtubs of water and enough energy to power 20 refrigerators for a year. Now that’s encouraging!

source: Paper Calculator 4.0 | Environmental Paper Network

3 – Optimized design

Optimizing packaging design is far from being a luxury—it’s clever and logical. By rethinking every step of the design process, our team is looking to reduce the amount of material needed, avoid overpackaging and reduce waste. All of which leads to savings for your company.

It all comes down to the right format
The boxes used for packaging products are often unnecessarily large. Designing a custom box at the right size to begin with essentially saves space and eliminates the need for filling (foam, packing paper, bubble wrap or air pillows). As a result, less cardboard is needed, filling materials are eliminated and shipping costs go down because each box takes up less space in the truck.

Cascades offers a multi-depth box as part of its line of practical products. It’s a solid choice for retailers that are looking to cut down on the number of box sizes they use.

E-commerce boxes – Cascades

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emballages ecommerce cascades

4 – Adapted logistics

The weakest link?

The logistics chain is a crucial process for any company because it involves so many expenses. Think of the number of trucks involved in transport and the costs related to product storage, including warehouse heating and lighting. All of this has a considerable environmental impact. When taking a close look at a logistics chain, you’ll often find that it’s possible to cut down on resources and reduce your impact as a result. With a few simple changes, you can unlock your potential to make positive changes and significantly reduce your environmental footprint. You’ll also be living up to your customers’ expectations and the requirements for being a model environmentally conscious company.
We see it over and over again: optimal packaging improves the logistics chain.

logistique adaptée

Rethink boxes entirely

Have you thought about it? Using smaller packaging makes for optimized palletization.

As you can see from the above image, we redesigned the packaging for an asymmetrical product. The client used to package their product in a regular rectangular box. As a result, the amount of fibre used to produce the box was higher than needed. A lot of protective filling was also needed to occupy the empty space.

5% less cardboard used
2X more products per pallet

That’s why we designed packaging that matched the shape of the object and that interlocks during palletization.
The benefits are huge:

These simple changes reduced the energy expenses for storage and the fuel needed for delivery, which cut costs and reduces environmental impacts.

Eco-design is the future

In closing, we’ve noticed that many companies are on the right track where environmental responsibility is concerned. Thankfully, there’s more room for improvement and these improvements usually benefit companies. By choosing eco-designed packaging, you’re investing in a great way to meet your sustainability goals.

Along the way, you can count on Cascades’ support and trust our experts in optimized, eco-friendly packaging design. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from looking into eco-designed packaging solutions.

Check out all our packaging solutions here: Packaging Solutions – Cascades

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