Lightweighting and sustainability

Lightweighting and sustainability

Veritiv Packaging | May 15, 2019

Lightweighting packaging strategies are gaining attention from innovative companies as they look for new ways to manage material cost, improve operational efficiency, and meet new sustainability targets. Lightweighting also can improve the unboxing experience for the customer or increase efficiency in assembling, palletizing, shipping, and warehousing of products. But what is it?

“Lightweighting is about reducing dimensional and shipping weight through structural engineering and a mix of packaging materials that work together to provide protection and take up less space in terms of volume and package weight,” says Ed Milne, Corrugated Specialist with Veritiv. “Most freight for outbound products from a manufacturer is based on volume, weight, or a combination of both, so smaller, more efficient packaging can improve freight and warehouse efficiencies—allowing companies to move and store more units per pallet.”

What is often overlooked during the lightweighting process is the opportunity to utilize materials that support a company’s sustainability goals. A material-neutral packaging partner will be able to design, engineer, and test new packaging solutions that minimize material but still provide adequate cushioning and packaging performance to protect the product. For instance, a company might swap expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam for molded fiber cushions. This would provide the necessary cushioning performance, take up less space in the warehouse, and support the customer’s sustainability goal related to recyclability and enhanced customer experience.

”Molded fiber trays can be designed to nest together when not in use, which creates space efficiencies when compared to traditional EPS foam inserts,” says Johnny Guerra, Creative Design Manager with Veritiv. “In one customer case study, our team was able to reduce four pallets of materials down to one pallet. So instead of taking four pallets of EPS blocks to package 100 units, it only took one pallet of nested, molded fiber inserts.”

Other materials typically utilized during lightweighting include micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC) and laminated corner boards or edge protection. If the company is committed to corrugated packaging, lightweighting may be as simple as moving to a different flute structure to save space.

“Structural designers can also look at mixing different types of corrugated flutes—using stronger flutes for areas that are more susceptible to impacts to increase the overall structural integrity of the package—to find new solutions that take up less space and materials while still providing the desired product protection performance,” Guerra  says. “But it is always important to utilize ISTA-certified testing labs to prove packaging performance before launching.”

Lightweighting packaging strategies can contribute to operational efficiency in the form of space savings, shipping cost savings and waste reduction—while opening the door to new innovative, sustainable materials and design solutions.

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