Protect and preserve

16 January 2014 | Jane Bickerstaffe

Jane Bickerstaffe, INCPENCompanies are constantly looking for ways to reduce and improve packaging. But there’s a balance to be struck: reduce the packaging too far and the contents end up wasted.

There’s no single ‘best’ kind of packaging – it needs to be suited to the product. It isn’t appropriate to pack drinks in a paper bag, or meringues in a glass jar. Glass is the only way to pack Champagne and paper bags are perfect for mushrooms.

Choosing and designing appropriate packaging is a science and an art, and focusing on a single aspect, such as making the packaging recyclable after 
use or using a biodegradable material, can badly distort the decision-making process.

Packaging is part of our daily life 
and cannot be viewed in isolation. 
The packaging in your bin is not a sign 
of failure – it’s the reason the carrot, biscuit, knife or glass vase reached you  in perfect condition.

If they had arrived damaged, broken or inedible, all of the resources – labour, fertiliser, materials, water and energy – that went into growing or making 
and transporting them would have 
been wasted.

What we have long-realised at INCPEN, and what many others still don’t seem to have, is that packaging is already doing those things everyone is now calling for: preventing waste and conserving resources and energy.

So how can procurement managers help? In three main ways:

● Make sure you use enough packaging to ensure the product gets delivered in perfect condition and enough to perform all the other functions expected of it.
● Don’t use more packaging than needed. Nothing irritates people more than receiving an item in an over-sized box that could have contained another 10 items. (That’s a particular challenge for home delivered and click-and-collect goods – see INCPEN’s guide to packaging goods for multi-channel delivery systems – Packaging and the Internet.)

● And, most importantly – tell your customers why you need to use packaging. Then they’ll realise the stresses and strains of the supply 
chain and understand the critical 
role that it plays in protecting the 
products they want.

☛ Jane Bickerstaffe is the director at INCPEN

Central London and Cheltenham
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