Packaging and the Internet

 8 March 2012 - One size doesn’t fit all – Packaging for the Internet age 

The way we buy things is changing. Many of us now shop online for a wide range of goods, which are delivered either direct to our homes or to convenient pick-up points.

But this presents challenges.  We’ve probably all been irritated to receive a small item in a box which could have held many more or worse an item that is broken or damaged. 
To coincide with Climate Week 2012, INCPEN (the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment) is publishing a guide - Packaging and the Internet: A guide to packaging goods for multi-channel delivery systems - to provide advice on designing packaging that will make these new delivery systems as resource-efficient as possible.

It has been developed with local authority Trading Standards Officers to give guidance to manufacturers and retailers on choosing appropriate packaging.  

Jane Bickerstaffe, Director of INCPEN says, "Companies have to rise to the challenge of identifying packaging that is appropriate for delivering goods via a number of different distribution systems to retail outlets as well as directly to consumers at home.” 
Packaging’s most important role is protection of goods from farm or factory to the user.  It reduces environmental impact by ensuring that the resources invested in each product, its ingredients and its supply chain aren’t wasted through product damage.   On average at least ten times more resources are invested in products than packaging.
Packaging also carries information, helps to market the product and enables the handling, storage and use of goods. 

Not all of these traditional roles are relevant to home-delivered goods but there are other roles that are needed such as responding to courier-specific requirements and including individual addresses.

The Trading Standards Institute’s director of policy and operations Andy Foster said: "The Trading Standards Institute welcomes INCPEN’s new packaging guidance – endorsed by industry and regulators alike it will help businesses fulfil their vital role in achieving sustainable development.

Packaging optimisation is far from being a mere regulatory compliance issue but one that can stimulate genuine cost savings for businesses, enhance packaging performance and increase brand reputation.

As ever, TSI and our trading standards professionals will be working at the forefront with our unique mix of legal and technical knowledge and experience to help businesses achieve the best outcomes for themselves and consumers

The guide has been welcomed by the UK Government.  In their joint foreword Grant Shapps (Minister of State for Housing & Local Government, DCLG), Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Defra) and Mark Prisk (Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, BIS) commend the excellent progress in the reduction of excessive packaging to date and challenge retailers and producers "to take on board the good advice in this guidance booklet”.

They also welcome that a number of local authorities, manufacturers and retailers have worked together to produce the guide. "We want to encourage more joint working to ensure waste packaging is minimised; especially as more and more consumers switch to buying online or mail ordering items.”