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As a small business shipper, you know the importance of packaging your cargo properly. You go out of your way to make sure your products are packed, palleted, crated or boxed to get from point A to point B without a hitch. With many business owners and customers trying to lessen their carbon footprints, using sustainable packaging is becoming more common, and in some cases, it is becoming more efficient. Getting started with sustainable packaging might seem daunting, but with our tips and best practices for sustainable packaging for small business shippers, you’ll be shipping greener in no time at all.

What Is Sustainable Packaging?

Generally speaking, sustainable packaging is packaging materials that are recyclable, reusable or compostable. These have less of an impact on the environment than other types of packaging, such as single-use plastics. Here’s how you can tell each type of sustainable packaging apart:

  • Recyclable packaging: This is the most commonly used packaging. Recyclable packaging includes cardboard boxes, molded pulp forms and paper void fill. In fact, some paper-type packaging materials are sourced from sustainably managed forests.
  • Reusable packaging: Depending on what you’re shipping and how often you’re shipping, you may benefit from choosing reusable packaging materials. You might choose this type of packaging if you’re running a business that can rely on the return of the packaging or if you’re shipping to another business that could reuse the packaging for their own shipping needs, such as kegs, pallets and shipping containers.
  • Compostable packaging: While compostable packaging is still working out the kinks, this type of packaging is becoming more available as the material improves. The purpose and goal of compostable packaging is to have no waste and the ability to use the packaging material to improve the soil.

Types of Sustainable Packaging for Small Business Shippers

Now that you know the three general types of sustainable packaging types, let’s dive into some examples of specific types of sustainable packaging you might use for your shipping needs.

Cardboard Boxes

Did you know that recycling rate for cardboard boxes was 96.5% according to the most recent EPA data? How much exactly? According to the EPA, in 2018, that means 32.1 million tons of corrugated boxes were recycled out of 33.9 million tons of total paper and paperboard recycling. That’s a lot of cardboard boxes being used to ship and then being recycled to be used again. You have probably shipped numerous items in cardboard boxes, so you’re already taking steps to be greener!

Most cardboard boxes are produced from recycled paper and can be made entirely from recycled materials. However, there are instances where the cardboard boxes could be comprised of both recycled and new paper materials. No matter what the percentage of recycled paper is used, cardboard boxes are excellent sustainable packaging since they can be reused if they retain their shape and aren’t damaged, and they can be recycled if damage to the integrity of the box happened during transit.

Crates, Pallets, and Reusable External Packaging Materials

While cardboard boxes are the go-to external shipping material for many small business shippers, your shipping needs may also include crates, pallets and other reusable external packaging materials. These materials are strong and often hold up well, even with large or heavy loads.

If you have a large quantity of cargo to ship, you may need to crate your items, secure them to a pallet and shrink wrap it before shipping. This is more economical than shipping several individual cardboard boxes, which will increase your cost and carbon footprint due to the extra shipping and handling. The more fuel, the more money, the more carbon footprint, too.

Additionally, if you’re shipping to another business, they can reuse the crates or pallets that are still in good shape for their own shipping needs. That means fewer brand-new crates or pallets need to be made and makes this type of material more sustainable. Sounds like sharing really is caring!

Internal Packing Paper

You want to be greener, but you also want to make sure your cargo doesn’t rattle, vibrate, shake or break during transit. Using paper packing as part of your internal packaging materials is a good choice.

You can ball up brown kraft paper, use paper shreds and wrap your items in tissue paper to help protect it. Remember, you may require more than one kind of internal packaging material to keep your cargo safe during transit.

Compostable Packing Peanuts

As you probably know, traditional packing peanuts have been made out of a single-use plastic called polystyrene, which isn’t biodegradable or sustainable. Because using traditional packing peanuts had a lot of environmental impacts, starch-based/compostable packing peanuts were developed to mitigate environmental strain and help shippers have a sustainable packaging option.

Compostable packing peanuts are eco-friendly substitutes to traditional packing peanuts and are made from non-toxic plant sources, such as sorghum and corn starch. They are completely biodegradable and dissolvable with water, and they have a very small waste footprint. As the technology continues to improve, the goal is to eliminate the small waste footprint altogether.

Packaging Is Key

For small business shippers everywhere, packaging can make or break the shipping process. Improperly packaged cargo can lead to damage or loss during transit. That’s a headache nobody needs. Thankfully, you can avoid that headache by downloading our free, comprehensive Guide to Freight Packaging here. You will get an in-depth look at all things freight packaging to help you choose the right materials for your shipment.

Don’t let the confusing world of freight packaging or going greener stand in the way of getting your shipments into the hands of your customers. Our team of freight experts can help you with everything from packaging to sourcing capacity to finding the best rates with the best carriers in the nation. Be a shipping boss and get your free online quote or give us a call at 844-212-7447 today to get started!

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