For many businesses, particularly those in the retail and food processing sectors, packaging can account for a considerable proportion of operating costs. In addition to the purchase price, handling and the storage of waste packaging contribute to these costs.

However there are many ways in which a business can reduce the cost of packaging and packaging waste, including:

  • eliminating packaging
  • reducing excessive packaging
  • redesigning packaging to use less material or different materials such as lighter or recycled material
  • identifying suppliers that use re-usable packaging or working with supply chains to introduce re-usable packaging
  • looking for ways to reduce material offcuts in packing processes
  • reusing incoming cartons as outgoing cartons
  • segregating waste packaging for potential in-house reuse or for sale rather than disposal to landfill.

Coles and Woolworths have streamlined the way in which their suppliers around the country deliver fresh produce by developing a range of reusable plastic crates. As well as considerable savings for Coles and Woolworths, the systems have resulted in an improvement in the condition of supplied produce. See their web sites for more information.

Australian Packaging Covenant (APC)

The APC is an agreement between government, industry and community groups to find and fund solutions to address packaging sustainability issues. The APC aims to change the culture of business to design more sustainable packaging, increase recycling rates and reduce packaging litter and has a number of resources to assist businesses. Visit the APC website.

Case studies

Morgan Ceramics redesigned its packaging using tighter, fully recyclable cardboard boxes replacing the need for protective sponge wrapping which not only reduced packaging costs by 20%, but reduced packaging waste and disposal costs. Read the Morgan Ceramics case study.

The cost of packaging and the storage and disposal of packaging waste, are a concern for The European, which operates six businesses including a restaurant, café and whole food store, from very small premises in Melbourne CBD. A key recommendation following a materials assessment which reviewed the business’s operations was to investigate alternative packaging such as changing from cardboard boxes to reusable crates for product transportation purposes. Read The European case study.

See other case studies.

Useful resources

Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) in partnership with Sustainability Victoria has developed a series of Design for Sustainability with Plastic Quickstart information sheets. Quickstart 11 provides a detailed explanation of the role of packaging, types of packaging, fit for purpose packaging, material efficiency, low impact materials and regulations governing packaging. View the whole set of Quickstarts.

The Sustainable Packaging Alliance (SPA) has information, events and resources including the life cycle assessment-based packaging design tool PIQET (Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool) developed in partnership with industry and RMIT University and partly funded by Sustainability Victoria. PIQET helps business make decisions on type of packaging, packaging design and materials use.

The Queensland Government has produced information sheets for the food industry on eliminating or reducing packaging. The sheet includes a number of brief short case studies.

UK Wrap has produced some valuable packaging resources. An Introduction to Packaging and Recyclability looks at strategies to reduce, reuse, recycle and recycled content of packaging.