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Sustainable Packaging Supplies - Leadership Will Have to Begin With Consumers

Recent articles have commented on the lack of "green products" offered by one of the US's largest distributors of industrial and consumer packaging supplies. Because of this, the writers have encouraged readers to call the company and "give them hell". Alternatively, perhaps it is consumers who should get this call.
With the rise of "green consciousness" among consumers, it is surprising that there has been a minimal impact on the type of packaging supplies that companies use for internal packaging when shipping products to consumers. Everyday millions of small parcels are shipped using oil-based, plastic packaging such as bubble, air pillows, peanuts, foam, etc. Many manufacturers of these materials tout them as being "eco-friendly" simply based on the claim that they can be reused. The sad fact is that unlike paper packaging, the type of plastics used to make these oil-based packaging supplies are nonrenewable and are labeled as un-recyclable through most community based curbside recycling programs. Yearly, hundreds of tons of plastic packaging, reused or not, eventually ends up in a landfill or is incinerated.
From the mom & pop shop to Fortune 500 companies, the large distributor of packaging supplies that was referred to in the above mentioned post, sells tons of plastic protective packaging materials in all sectors of the market, and is a leading supplier. But why hasn't this distributor taken a leadership role in providing packaging supplies that are truly sustainable and eco-friendly?
Consider the impact that Walmart has had on consumer packaging with their Packaging Scorecard. What was once seen by critics as public relations stunt to bolster their faltering public image, is now the face of a movement towards more sustainable consumer packaging that is driving innovations in source reduction, recyclable materials, package design and bio-plastics to name a few.
Another example is Digi-Key, which is the 5th largest distributor of electrical components in North America. The company's leadership in battery and component recycling and use of sustainable packaging supplies has directly impacted & influenced both their suppliers and customers.
Walmart & Digi-Key became leaders in their respective industries because they recognized a pull from a consumer driven market to build sustainability into their products and processes. By responding to this pull and developing these types of initiatives, they have benefited through increased competitive advantage and improved profitability.
The unfortunate truth is that for many companies, the consideration for what type packaging supplies to use to fill the box is a very low priority. Why? Because it is a low priority for their customers. When packaging supplies are a priority, choices are mostly bottom line driven - companies place trust in materials that are the cheapest and fastest to use for getting orders out the door.
It is hard to expect a large distributor of packaging supplies, or any other for that matter, to take a leadership role towards offering more sustainable line of packaging supplies when the stark reality is that there is no significant pull from the market to warrant investments in initiatives to do so. In other words, if the companies that buy from these distributors have customers who are content with the packaging used for shipping their orders, then there is no pull from the market.
Ultimately it begins with the end-user, the consumer. Rather then holding the companies that they buy from accountable for the type of packaging used, if consumers continue to accept loads of non-recyclable, plastic packaging materials along with their orders and have no problems sending these materials on to the landfill, then there is no pull from the market. There is no incentive for change or leadership. Packaging manufacturers and their distributors will continue to sell, and companies will continue to use, non-renewable and non-recyclable packaging supplies that have been deemed to be acceptable by a consumer driven market.
Lynn Moe is with Geami, a leading manufacturer GreenWrap sustainable packaging supplies ( http://www.geami.com/packaging-supplies.html ) GreenWrap is a certified sustainably sourced protective paper and cushioning wrap used by businesses to protect products during shipping and handling. The company's paper-based packaging supplies are an environmentally friendly replacement for plastic materials such as bubble packaging and air pillows.

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