Ad: Sustainability To Go

Sustainability To Go: The Packaging Industry as a Driver of the Circular Economy.
Optimizing packaging means protecting the environment. As the first packaging company in the world, DS Smith has created a specific framework with standardized and measurable categories that provides companies with an unprecedented overview of the state of the circularity of their packaging solutions.

Climate change can only be countered with structural change. The packaging industry is a key player in the creation of an effective circular economy. In order to provide companies with the clearest possible evaluation matrix on the circularity of their packaging solutions, DS Smith has developed the Circular Design Metrics in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Divided into eight metrics, they examine different aspects of the packaging solution regarding its sustainability and recyclability in a standardized and quantifiable way. In collaboration with DS Smith’s design experts, companies can thus evaluate existing packaging and optimize new packaging that is still to be developed.

At Dom-Titan, the Circular Design Metrics ensure that all aspects of the packaging are optimally aligned [Source: DS Smith]

Analyze to optimize

An analysis of the supply chain is the starting point. The metric “Supply Chain Optimized” evaluates how well a package is adapted to its individual supply chain. This involves checking which requirements the product places on the packaging and which conditions the supply routes stipulate. From this, the size, shape, and material composition, that is optimally adapted to these processes, is derived.

Once the analysis is done, it’s all about the material – the best-known sustainability feature of packaging. However, it is not enough to simply make the switch from plastic to more easily recyclable corrugated cardboard. While the “Recyclable” metric is used to identify non-recyclable components, “Planet Safe” determines which parts of the design are not naturally degradable. Both categories are indicators of optimization potential and DS Smith designers can offer more sustainable alternatives.

To close the loop, the “Recycled Content” metric examines what proportion of the packaging itself has been recycled, and “Designed for Reuse” how much of it can be reused. Production waste generated during manufacturing is examined in “Material Utilisation”. Here, the focus is primarily on excess material generated in the die-cutting process and how the manufacturer can recover and recycle it as fully as possible.

Sustainability doesn’t stop at the factory gate

Keeping an eye on the big picture, DS Smith uses the metric “Renewable Source” to evaluate what proportion of the energy used in production originates from renewable sources. In the process, all components are taken into account: Everything that is not produced from renewable raw materials reduces the sustainability rating. “Carbon Footprint” also monitors the emissions generated – even outside the factory premises. The goal is to measure the value of the CO2 emissions of a packaging solution, from the raw materials to the manufacturing processes, to the end of its life when it decomposes.

By incorporating the measured variables into the design process, almost 2 tonnes of styrofoam per year could be saved for packaging from the Dom-Titan company [Source: DS Smith]

Saving around two tonnes of styrofoam

A practical example for the application of the Circular Design Metrics is offered by the company Dom-Titan. The manufacturer of mechanical security devices for doors and locks has optimized its packaging solutions through use of the metrics. By evaluating the “Planet Safe” and “Recyclable” metrics, DS Smith helped the company save 1.7 tonnes of styrofoam per year by replacing the styrofoam filler previously used with a fully recyclable corrugated pad. DS Smith also optimized pallet loading, reducing Dom-Titan’s carbon footprint by 20 per cent along the entire supply chain.

The immense potential of the invisible

While many companies already pay attention to the use of renewable energies and sustainably produced resources in their own production, these aspects are often secondary when it comes to choosing the packaging for their end products. However, packaging must not be overlooked in this process. It must be holistically planned around the core of sustainability and reflect this in all aspects to bring about real change. With more than 80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact attributable to the design phase, the Circular Design Metrics enable companies to compare design solutions. In this way, the metrics help reduce waste and pollution and keep materials and products in use longer. This not only increases environmental sustainability, but also improves the efficiency of the entire supply cycle and ultimately provides a better experience for customers.

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