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Eco-Friendly Packaging

Analyzing the three pillars of sustainable packaging: Reduce - Reuse - Recycle

Sustainability – Optimized Packaging

When seeking a sustainable packaging solution, it’s important to determine which R is applicable to your packaging goals.

Some products and supply chains are a great fit for recyclable/compostable materials. For those that are not, we focus on providing optimized packaging solutions that reduce the carbon footprint. This is where Reduce and Reuse come into play.

Optimized packaging solutions lead to sustainable packaging practices because:

  1. Material: Selecting the best materials results in less material
  2. Freight: Eliminating air from master cartons leads to better freight efficiency which means less fuel burned

Sustainability is more than just a “feel good” marketing term that large corporations proudly display on their websites and packaging. Below are descriptions for each of the three R’s along with past project examples demonstrating the value of eco-friendly packaging.

Sustainable Packaging – Reduce

Reducing packaging materials has been a fundamental pillar in cost reduction. Reducing packaging materials also reduces the amount of corrugated, foam, aluminum, glass, etc. being thrown away, providing a more sustainable solution. Eliminating materials that cannot be recycled is not always possible, and open-loop supply chains do not allow for a returnable packaging system. In these scenarios, BoldtSmith looks to reduce the amount of materials used.

Sustainable Packaging Example – Reduce

A frequent customer was having damage issues with their toilet’s shipping through a small parcel supply chain direct-to-consumer. BoldtSmith engineers developed a packaging solution that would reduce damage from 12% to less than 1% while lessening material and freight costs.

Current Packaging

  • Packaging Material Cost: $16.90 per unit
  • Packaging Freight Cost: $383.76 via UPS Ground
  • Annual Volume: 10,000 units
  • Total Annual Cost: $4,006,000
  • Damaged Units Annually: 1,200

Optimized Packaging

  • Design #1 – Non-Recyclable Packaging Solution
  • Packaging Material Cost: $12.90 per unit
  • Packaging Freight Cost: $310.08 via UPS Ground
  • Annual Volume: 10,000 unit
  • Total Annual Cost: $3,222,800
  • Damaged Units Annually: 100
  • Cost Difference Annually: $783,200
  • Damage Reduction Annually: 1,100 units


For this example, we designed an optimized packaging solution that dropped their damage rate to less than 1% while in parallel saving them just under $800,000 annually in packaging material and freight costs.

Sustainable Packaging – Reuse

Closed-loop supply chains offer a great opportunity for reusable packaging solutions. Manufacturing companies who receive sub-assembly components from local companies commonly benefit from reusable packaging solutions. Common reusable packaging solutions can include:

  • Plastic or heavy-duty wood pallets
  • Plastic or wooden crates
  • Bulk containers such as drums, and IBC’s
  • Plastic totes and boxes
  • Dunnage

Sustainable Packaging Example – Reuse

A large door and window manufacturer contracted BoldtSmith to optimize packaging for all inbound components they use to build the doors and windows. This included frames, glass, locks, jambs, etc. received from domestic manufacturing companies.

Reusable Packaging - Project Steps & Results

  1. Visit the assembly facility to review all packaging material and processes associated with unloading, handling, and storing the components
  2. Brainstorm potential packaging solutions & develop 3D concepts with budgetary pricing
  3. Present concepts to our customer and all component suppliers
  4. Create packaging designs and specifications & send to packaging suppliers for pricing
  5. Create financial analysis comparing current packaging to returnable solutions
  6. Create packaging samples for line trials, lab tests and ship tests
  7. Adjust design based on testing findings
  8. Implement reusable packaging design

At the end of the project, it was determined that 10 of the 12 component suppliers would be transitioned into a returnable packaging solution. This transition saved on material costs and labor inefficiencies while eliminating expendable packaging from the supply chain.

Sustainable Packaging – Recycle

Utilizing recyclable packaging materials is great and we love presenting recyclable packaging options to our customers. Recycling plays a crucial role in minimizing waste and preserving the natural resources of the earth. When outlining our projects, we like to obtain the customer’s project goals. Often we are given the below objectives ranked by priority:

Transitioning from non-recyclable packaging materials that are effective and cheap to 100% recyclable materials can be a cost-effective change depending on the product and packaging. However, there are situations where these recyclable materials are not a great fit. This depends on who the customer base is, the product type, the supply chain, the budget for packaging, etc.

Sustainable Packaging Example – Recycle

A large knockdown furniture company contacted BoldtSmith to transition away from non-recyclable foam in their products. The furniture items are manufactured domestically and shipped through both small parcel and palletized supply chains.

BoltSmith engineers developed optimized furniture packaging designs with and without non-recyclable foam, completed transit testing and created a financial analysis comparison. What we determined is that for small parcel shipping, we were not able to cost-effectively transition away from foam. However, we were able to utilize 100% recycled materials for their palletized furniture products.

This was a great balance of remaining cost-effective while exploring sustainable packaging materials.

Contact BoldtSmith Packaging to discuss what we can do for you!

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