Warehouses are busy places. Goods are constantly on the move; inbound and outbound deliveries have to be dealt with as well as the movements of items from location to location. Many businesses now incorporate packing and assembly operations within the warehouse, creating an even more complex environment.
Businesses are trying to maximize their return on each dollar spent on warehouse operations. As well as incorporating value-added processes in the warehouse companies are looking to use environmentally focused procedures to reduce costs while increasing their social responsibility efforts.
When businesses look at making their warehouse processes more environmentally focused, they generally look at three main areas; reduce, reuse and recycle.
ReduceWhen we look at a warehouse there are many areas where businesses can reduce consumption, whether this is consumption of energy or resources. In turn, both of these concepts can help reduce spending. As energy costs continue to rise, any reduction in consumption will help the environment and a company’s bottom line.
Many businesses have been working to reduce the amount of packaging they use in shipping products. Advances in packaging materials allow a reduction in weight while maintaining efficiency. The reduction in packaging weight not only reduces shipping costs but saves energy by moving packing material and packed items around the warehouse. Biodegradable packaging materials are also an important part of this scenario, so customers are not liable for disposing of environmentally harmful packaging.
In the warehouse, businesses are reducing energy costs in a number of simple ways such as using motion sensors to only illuminate areas in use and charging forklift trucks in off-peak hours when energy costs are lower. Some companies are looking at introducing solar panels on the warehouse roof and intelligent electrical systems to take advantage of off-peak power.
ReuseWarehouses have been one area in a business that traditionally reuses materials. Items such as wood pallets and plastic totes are constantly reused in the warehouse. Some businesses are examining their warehouse processes to identify where reuse is appropriate.
One area that is of interest is in the adoption of returnable packaging for products. Some packaging can be extremely expensive to manufacture and is lost each time a product is sold. By increasing the life of the packaging and making it easy for customers to return, the packaging can be reused a number of times, reducing waste and saving money.
Other companies are trying to reuse the packaging material that they receive from their suppliers. Some packaging cardboard or packing can be reused and can reduce the amount of packing material that needs to be purchased.
RecycleRecycling of materials in the warehouse can significantly reduce waste. Sending used packaging and packing material to recycling facilities rather than waste facilities is the environmentally correct decision to make. However, there are many instances in a warehouse where recycling is also appropriate such as the recycling or environmentally correct disposal of batteries, oil, and chemicals. Many businesses have performed audits of their locations to identify areas and processes where they can be more environmentally focused.
These processes can significantly reduce costs as well as producing a more environmentally sound company.
However, despite the investment a company makes in order to improve its social responsibility, the employees need to change their work habits and follow new procedures that combined will help the environment and in turn, help the company’s bottom line.
Posted by: Brad Gething, PhD
The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) Technical and PDS Manager, Dr. Brad Gething, co-hosted a sold-out two and half day educational short course with Dr. Laszlo Horvath, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech and Director of the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD). The course, titled “Wood Pallet Design and Performance: Pallet Design in the 21st Century,” focused on developing techniques to design efficient and safe wood pallets using the industry standard software program, The Pallet Design System™ (PDS).
The course covered the major aspects of pallet design that affect performance: the location and dimensions of pallet components, the materials used, and the loading and handling conditions the pallet experiences. When these considerations are accounted for and simulated in PDS, pallet strength, stiffness and durability can be accurately predicted, leading to safer and more efficient pallet usage.
Amazon, DuPont, and 19 companies representing a broad cross-section of pallet manufacturers and recyclers, pallet brokers and end-users of pallets participated. Dr. Horvath noted, “We were very pleased to collaborate with NWPCA for the second year in a row. This partnership provides these packaging specialists a range of industry and academic experiences on safe pallet design techniques.” Added Dr. Gething, “CPULD at Virginia Tech is an outstanding facility to host a course on pallet design. The attendees were able to observe actual load tests in a lab setting while learning how to simulate loading a pallet using PDS.”
Planning for the spring of 2016 is already taking place, and will be held in Washington, DC. More information will be provided on both organization’s websites: PalletCentral.com and the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design.
The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) is the largest international organization of wood packaging professionals in the world with 640 member companies located throughout the United States and in 28 countries. The Pallet Design System™ (PDS) is the most used pallet design system in the world with 400 corporations in 24 countries using the software.
The Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design housed in the Department of Natural Resources is the leading pallet and unit load research and testing laboratories. The laboratory was established in 1976 and since then it focuses on the education of Virginia Tech students, developing state-of-the-art research knowledge related to unit load interactions, and serving the needs of the pallet and packaging industries.
Dr. Brad Gething, NWPCA Technical and PDS Manager
703-519-6104 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Laszlo Horvath, Director of CPULD, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech
540-231-7673 / email@example.com
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) are prodding more manufacturers to change their packaging to cut waste and alleviate “wrap rage,” the frustration felt when a product is difficult to open.
The nation’s largest online store and the world’s biggest retailer have been pushing vendors, including Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and Bluetooth headset maker Plantronics Inc. (PLT), to eliminate excessive and cumbersome packing materials, such as hard plastic clamshell casings that enclose electronics and wire ties used to secure toys to cardboard backings.
“We’ve gotten e-mails from customers who’ve purchased scissors in a clamshell, which would require another pair of scissors to open the package,” Nadia Shouraboura, Amazon’s vice president of global fulfillment, said in an interview.
As much as a third of all consumer trash sent to landfills is estimated to be packaging, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That translates to more than 800 pounds of packaging waste each year per U.S. consumer.
The problem becomes especially acute during the holidays. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste in the U.S. increases 25 percent, according to the EPA.
Besides impregnable packaging, manufacturers have been criticized for not using enough recycled or sustainable materials. This year, Greenpeace targeted toy companies Hasbro Inc. (HAS), Mattel Inc. (MAT), Lego Group and Walt Disney Co. to stop using packaging derived from rain forests in Indonesia. In response, the companies pledged to change their packaging practices.
From 19 to 80,000
Amazon kicked off its “Frustration-Free Packaging” initiative in 2008 with 19 items from Mattel and its Fisher- Price brand, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and memory-card maker Transcend Information Inc. (2451) It has grown to 80,000 products this year, with more than 12 million items expected to ship under the program. Amazon wants to at least triple that number next year.
To help it reach that goal, the retailer is contacting more manufacturers that get poor customer feedback about their packaging. Amazon is also sending engineers to help companies improve their designs.
While reduced packaging can boost consumers’ satisfaction, lower shipping costs and appeal to the environmentally conscious, companies are balancing those benefits with the need for packaging that still prevents theft and damage.
Changes at Plantronics
Ken Kannappan, Plantronics’ chief executive officer, asked the company’s design team this year to take over packaging from the marketing department.
Some early solutions included removing user manuals from boxes, bulk shipping products to retailers and corporate customers without boxing items individually, and reshaping boxes into smaller form factors by replacing AC chargers with USB cables.
“You’re looking at packaging and you’re going, ’My gosh, this is an area that’s designed to be wasted,’” Kannappan said in an interview. “We’re trying not only to optimize our packaging to reduce waste but to fully rethink what packaging is and does.”
By 2013, Wal-Mart plans to reduce packaging by 5 percent compared with 2008 levels, saving an estimated $3.4 billion annually.
To do so, it’s relying more on a sustainability packaging scorecard to determine which products to stock. Wal-Mart is also pushing manufacturers to create innovative design solutions.
Recyclable Messenger Bag
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) won a Wal-Mart design challenge by wrapping a notebook computer in a protective messenger bag made of recycled materials. It replaces conventional Styrofoam and cardboard packaging.
The design reduced packaging by 97 percent and removed the equivalent of one out of every four trucks it previously needed to ship the computers to Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, the company said on its website.
Amazon, based in Seattle, launched its initiative after Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos recounted how he had spent his Christmas struggling to open presents for his children.
Bezos described his “wrap rage” as “the frustration we humans feel when trying to free a product from a nearly impenetrable package,” according to a letter he wrote to Amazon’s customers.
As Bezos shared his story with the staff, “everybody in the room started to chime in with their own horror stories,” Shouraboura said. “It was clear what we needed to do.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at email@example.com
Wash. lawmakers seek to ban plastic grocery bags Momentum for a statewide ban on plastic bags appeared to be mounting three weeks after Seattle's City Council unanimously banned single-use plastic bags from groceries and other retail stores.
By JONATHAN KAMINSKY
Top comments Hide / Show comments This is extremely misleading, and points to severe bias by the reporter: "approved... (January 11, 2012, by JimboNovus) Read more Ethic Soup has an excellent post on plastic bag facts: http://www.ethicsoup.com/plas...(January 11, 2012, by Sharon McEachern) Read more Read all 2 comments >Post a comment >
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Momentum for a statewide ban on plastic bags appeared to be mounting three weeks after Seattle's City Council unanimously banned single-use plastic bags from groceries and other retail stores.
A state Senate bill that died last session before receiving a public hearing was reintroduced Monday by Senator Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, and will have a public hearing Wednesday.
"There are things about this product that we need to finally and resolutely face," Chase said. "This is not good for ourselves, for our children, our grandchildren or for marine life. We need to finally say, `enough.'"
In the House, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, introduced a bag ban measure Tuesday similar to one he brought forward - and watched die with no public hearing - last year. He has scheduled a press conference Thursday together with a coalition of environmental groups to tout it.
While no state has yet banned plastic bags, the number of cities with bans is on the rise. In Washington, the number of cities with plastic bag bans has grown from one a year ago to four: Seattle, Bellingham, Edmonds, and Mukilteo.
"As more and more cities adopt bans, retailers are beginning to understand that a city-by-city approach doesn't work well," said Fitzgibbon, noting that local laws have subtle differences that can make compliance for larger retailers a headache. However, he acknowledged, his bill will face opposition, and a statewide ban on plastic bags could be years away.
Opponents of the proposed ban say it would limit consumer choice and represent an unnecessary government overreach.
In a statement, Mark Daniels, a vice president at plastic bag maker Hilex Poly, said that restricting the use of plastic bags "pushes people to less environmentally-friendly options which require more energy to produce and transport, and reusable bags, which are not recyclable."
Jan Teague, president of the Washington Retail Association, worries that curbs on non-biodegradable products will not end with plastic bags. Environmentalists, she said, "have a laundry list that's miles long. Where does it end?"
Seattle's ordinance, which was approved unanimously following months of discussion and debate, takes effect in July 2012. It includes a provision to charge a nickel fee for the use of paper bags, to encourage people to bring their own bags when they go shopping.
Posted: 01/10/2012 06:02:00 AM PST
THE SUCCESS of Marin County's ban on single-use plastic grocery bags will depend on how well it works with retailers to make the transition a smooth one.
The county's law covers retailers in unincorporated portions of Marin, such as Strawberry, Tam Valley, Marin City, Marinwood, Kentfield and West Marin.
The move away from plastic bags and toward reusable cloth and paper bags makes sense in an effort to reduce litter and oil consumption. Marin's ordinance was approved by the county Board of Supervisors after local retailers indicated their support for the move.
The hope was that the local ordinance would not be necessary; that it would be superceded by a statewide bag law. State law requires retailers to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags instead of single-use bags, including making re-usable bags available to their customers. But despite grocery retailers' backing of a ban on single-use plastic bags, a bill has not gotten out of the Legislature.
Marin delayed its law's implementation for a year, waiting for a statewide law. Time ran out and Marin's law went into effect on Jan. 1. It largely appears to have been taken in stride by retailers and their customers.
That's the way it should be. Awareness and compliance are better than government-imposed fines.
The county law was pushed by advocates who had no patience for the state's efforts to use public education rather than a
But even with the county ban, the public education focus of the state's approach is key to making the local law work smoothly, giving both retailers and their customers adequate time to make the change.
The lower cost and convenience of plastic bags have made them ubiquitous, including in the litter that gathers along our roads, in our creeks and on our beaches.
In 2009, during California's participation in International Coastal Cleanup, plastic bags were the second most collected marine debris.
Improved availability of inexpensive reusable bags has made a big difference. There are viable, practical, affordable alternatives to the single-use wispy plastic grocery bag. Without real alternatives, the move away from plastic would be far more difficult.
The county's nominal store charge — up to a nickel — for paper bags should encourage shoppers to reuse them, or better yet, bring in their own reusable bags.
Marin shoppers' growing use of their own bags helped turn local retailers into supporters of the ban.
United Markets, which has stores in San Rafael and San Anselmo, would not have been impacted by the ban, but went ahead and made the change on its own before the ban even went into effect. We urge other grocery stores to follow United's example.
It also is impressive that a big chain such as Safeway made the switch smoothly.
Fairfax's voter-approved ban, which is much broader than the county's law, has been in place and working well since 2009.
Based on the first few weeks, retailers and customers seem ready for Marin's law. They've seen the litter and don't need to be convinced that reusable and paper bags are more earth-friendly alternatives.
PALLET WRAPZ are a fast new way to stabilize, secure and protect pallets and skids from damage in shipment. Made of sturdy industrial grade mesh, Pallet Wrapz can be used over and over to wrap and secure full pallets of product. A single worker can install the wrap. The edge is rested against the pallet and is walked around the skid. The two ends are used to locate the sides. The straps are put through the loops and drawn tight. The straps areVelcroed to the holding strip.The entire operation takes less than 1 minute. To remove, the straps are released and the unit is rolled up for reuse.
Posted by John Kalkowski -- Packaging Digest, 11/7/2011 10:21:39 PM The relationship between sustainability and packaging is a hot topic, and every participant in the packaging value network wants to know how to leverage their sustainability-related opportunities.
In this pursuit, it is common for each segment of the packaging community to acquire a slightly different interpretation of the overall concept of sustainability. This is understandable, since the key indicators of sustainability might indeed be different for each part of the industry, and each part of the industry does indeed have a unique interface to the supply chain, society and the environment.
The concept of sustainability, however, is more than a collection of indicators and attributes that may be summed up to infer some level of eco-efficiency. To understand the philosophy of sustainability as it applies to the entire packaging community, one must embrace a full system view of what packaging is and then examine the contribution that one's portion of the packaging community can make towards the concept of sustainable packaging.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition's education course, "The Essentials of Sustainable Packaging," is an effort to get the packaging community on the same page in its understanding of sustainability. The SPC is in a fortunate position to study the entire packaging industry across all materials and all portions of the value chain. Thus, the course is deliberately intended to give attendees, who hail from companies across the supply chain, a full-system understanding of what sustainability entails for packaging.
Fostering a common understanding of sustainability within the domestic packaging industry has been a challenge, yet progress continues. Yet for the globally integrated supply chain, the next big challenge is to foster understanding across packaging industries in all parts of the world where significant manufacturing occurs. It is true that packaging is truly a global industry, and many value chains weave from country to country before a packaged good is sold on the store shelf.
However, just as the idea of sustainability varies from papermaker to plastic recycler, the context of any given country lends itself to a different understanding of sustainability considerations.
In the U.S., we are constantly reminded of our fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In Brazil, the level of scrutiny on deforestation and loss of biodiversity may trump the attention given to their carbon footprint. In developing countries, working conditions and fair wages may be the most formidable sustainability challenges. To make progress on the sustainability challenges that are common to every country, packaging professionals of those countries must be aware of the same big-picture ideas.
The SPC recently tailored a new version of the "Essentials of Sustainable Packaging" for delivery in China and Mexico. This is an attempt to understand the baseline conceptual knowledge in those countries and to help elevate the conversation about packaging sustainability in key centers of global productions.
The project's goal is twofold: One, to share the collective knowledge gained from several years of dialogue between companies representing the full packaging supply chain within the SPC; Two, to bring back lessons learned from participants in China and Mexico to inform the domestic dialogue about packaging sustainability. The initiative is an attempt to connect the production centers of the world to conversations and concepts around packaging sustainability in diverse companies operating globally. Only with a common understanding of the global picture will it be possible for the international packaging community to achieve a reasonable level of sustainability in packaging.
The first session in Mexico City will be Nov. 15, 2011. For more information, please visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.
Adam Gendell is a project associate and Minal Mistry is a project manager for GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition (www.sustainablepackaging.org).
For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The days of taking your purchases home in a plastic bag may be numbered in the city of Chicago. A plastic bag ends up as litter in this Chicago street scene. (CBS)
A push is under way to make it illegal for city stores to pack up your goods in those bags, CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports.
Chicagoans use and throw away an estimated 3 billion plastic bags each year. And they’re not hard to spot being carried by shoppers all over town. Unfortunately, they’re also easy to spot everywhere, after they’ve been used and tossed. There seems to be a bumper crop this fall.
“India has banned them to the point where if you’re caught using them, you go to jail. Now, I’m not proposing that,” 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno says
Moreno wants a new ordinance prohibiting big retailers from providing plastic bags to customers. Stores would be fined from $150 to $250 if they did not obey the law.
The billions of bags used in Chicago are not merely eyesores, Moreno argues. To make them takes 12 million barrels of oil each year, and they’re difficult to recycle. Plus, they can clog up the sewer system.
“I went out and talked to the guys that actually do it,” Moreno says. “They pull out hundreds of plastic bags out of our sewers. So, it’s costing the city money.”
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association is promising to battle the proposed bag ban.
“Certainly consumers are using them. They obviously want to continue to use them, so we continue to provide them,” spokeswoman Tanya Triche says.
Moreno says if the outright ban doesn’t fly in the Council, he’ll go to Plan B: charging a tax of 10 cents on retailers for every plastic bag they buy. He figures that could bring millions of dollars in revenue to the city and put pressure on stores to stop using the bags.
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