Tips to Maintain Quality When Switching to Sustainable Packaging

Sustainability is a prominent business issue for the world's leading businesses.

In November 2018, 92% of S&P 500 companies included a disclosure on sustainability. Companies like Patagonia and VF Corporation have outlined significant sustainability goals for the next five to 10 years, like reducing the environmental impact of supply chains, lowering the environmental impact of packaging, and increasing recycling efforts in businesses.

To compete in global markets, businesses need to get on board with sustainability. However, when switching to sustainable packaging, sacrificing the quality of your product can be a concern. 

To ensure your new sustainable packaging still protects your product and arrives undamaged to stores or consumers, you need to consider quality control measures and practices when you are researching vendors.

Your sustainable packaging partner should vigorously test packaging for your product so that it maintains quality throughout the manufacturing-to-consumer journey. Here are some quality control factors to consider.

1. Sealing Methods

How your packaging is sealed can suffer due to factors like temperature, humidity and handling. Sealing should be tested for the various environments it will encounter from supply chain to customer.

For your package to be truly sustainable, you should consider the sealing method. Certain types of sealing may not be recyclable or compostable, which is an important factor to consider.

2. Packaging Materials

Even when you are using sustainable packaging materials, a packaging audit can reveal some issues. Questions to ask include:

  • Do the materials still convey the value of the product?
  • Are too many materials being used?
  • Are the right materials being used for the right environment, including both the supply chain and the store?

The wrong material may not align with what you are trying to convey with your product, or may not provide the protection you need for your product. Finding the right sustainable materials for your packaging is key.

3. Marks and Barcodes

Packaging needs to retain marks and barcodes through the journey. Markings that become illegible or that fall off during transit will cause problems like package mismanagement, which increases the cost of your supply chain.

The sustainable packaging must have markings that are easy to read and track. Barcodes that are poorly printed, that get distorted because of packaging movement or that crease or peel off will all cause inefficiencies. 

4. Degradation Test

Sustainable packaging degradation tests involve a few factors, including product degradation and degradation of the package itself. Package degradation occurs when a package breaks down due to environmental conditions, like weather, humidity, sunlight and steam. It also refers to how long it takes a package to break down — the time factor.

You want your sustainable packaging to stay intact amid the various environmental factors it will encounter and make sure the product does not degrade.

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5. Drop Test

Your packaging is going to be handled by numerous parties in various conditions. A drop test replicates some of the rough handling packages might go through, to ensure the packaging adequately protects the package no matter what it encounters.

The International Safe Transit Association has procedures and guidelines for how to conduct reliable drop tests, which your sustainable packaging partner should use during testing.

6. Vibration Test

Your packaging must be able to withstand vibrations at many levels: on the conveyor belt, in transportation (plane, train, automobile, etc.) and in someone's hands.

The vibration test replicates the vibration your package will experience to see how it is affected and to identify weaknesses. A vibration test will examine a product at various angles that it might encounter along its journey, as well as various degrees of vibration intensity.

7. Retailer Compliance

Certain retailers forbid certain materials in packaging, and others dictate how packaging can be designed for retail.

Companies like REI and Walmart have packaging guidelines in place for brands they feature at their stores. Before switching to a certain type of sustainable packaging, you should research your retailer brand packaging requirements to make sure your new packaging meets them.

Work with a Trusted Sustainable Packaging Partner

The world's biggest companies are shifting to sustainable packaging, and it is what customers today expect. With an experienced sustainable packaging partner, you can save on time and costs.

Billerud is committed to providing cost-effective sustainable packaging solutions. We undertake all packaging testing to ensure quality is never compromised as you transition. If your company ships goods from Southeast Asia to Europe and North America, contact us to learn how we can help you. Our packaging engineers have deep experience in Asia. Why not leverage their knowledge when you switch to sustainable packaging?

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Supply chains are responsible for a significant amount of carbon emissions and other forms of pollution.

Any questions, ideas or something you'd like to tell us? Don't hesitate to contact us. 

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