The packaging industry has a sustainability problem. Can Packsize solve it?
In North America, shipping boxes are about 40 percent too large, and roughly 68.6 percent of any plastic filling (packing peanuts or otherwise) included in the package ends up in landfills, where it sits for thousands of years to decompose. Add to this that millions of packages are sent around the world by Amazon and the like every day, and it’s clear that the packing industry has some groundwork to cover as far as sustainability is concerned.
Issues with sustainability and waste within the shipping industry are exactly why Hanko Kiessner founded Packsize, an innovative startup challenging the way the packaging industry thinks about sustainability by putting products into boxes that actually fit.
“When I graduated college we began to learn about global warming. As soon as you become aware of your impact, then it’s time to change. I wouldn’t claim that I knew what to do about global warming in 1992, but by the end of the 90s the science was settled, and it was clear I needed to be a part of the solution.”
Not only does Packsize’s right-sizing use less material for the box itself, but it also requires less filling material. No more styrofoam packing peanuts or plastic pillows to keep contents from shifting around. In fact, Packsize doesn’t use plastic mailers at all and only provides corrugated for on-demand production.
In addition to avoiding plastic, Packsize participates in sustainability by using sustainable paper practices. The paper used in Packsize packaging comes from trees planted for that specific purpose. When a tree is cut down to be turned into a box, a new tree is planted in its place. This cycle can be repeated forever, meeting Packsize’s goal of building a global packaging community for the benefit of our planet.
And though it might seem expensive to be so focused on the environment, Kiessner says that smart packaging actually helps businesses with their traditional bottom line. Expenses decrease and profit increases when you package products in a right-sized box because smaller packages fit more easily onto truckbeds. There are 24 million truckloads full of packages that could be avoided if products were packaged inside smaller boxes. That’s 17 billion gallons of diesel (over $68 billion) no longer needed.
“Very often the sustainable solution is the economical one. Shrinking the box by 40 percent has an immediate impact on the bottom line―the traditional bottom line, that is. On-demand packaging technology will be the mainstream way that companies do shipping, not just because it’s a healthy environmental choice, but because it’s a healthy business choice, too.”
Despite the fact that smart packaging has a positive effect on the planet and the bottom line, there has been a slow adoption of more environmentally friendly shipping methods to which Kiessner credits to an old industry stuck in its ways.
“When you look at human psychology, there is a certain principle that governs our behavior, which is that 85 percent of any human population will not adopt a new disruptive solution unless 15-18 percent have adopted before them,“ says Kiessner.
Regardless of this slow conversion over the years, consumers are developing a preference for more sustainable packaging. 85 percent of consumers say they prefer cardboard packaging over plastic, and 85 percent of those consumers would be willing to pay extra to ensure they receive cardboard packaging. Providing sustainable options for consumers could give you a competitive advantage in today’s market.
But at the end of the day, competitive advantage or numbers on the bottom line aren’t as important to Kiessner as is creating sustainable solutions that will benefit the planet for the long term. “If something is sustainable, you have to be able to do it forever. Plastic is not a sustainable nor a smart solution,” he says. “Before I can pay attention to things like profit and loss, I want to know what the impact on society was. To know the true bottom line, I have to ask if this is a business I can be proud of.”