Protective packaging is quickly moving from its longtime position as a backroom concern to a high-priority strategic buy. Three converging trends are behind this development, according to representatives of Sealed Air Corp., the global provider of protective packaging and related machinery: sustainability and environmental concerns, the growth of e-commerce, and the dimensional weight policies recently implemented by the two largest U.S. parcel carriers, FedEx and UPS.
Environmental issues have been a consideration for shippers for some time. But as regulations get tighter—New York, for instance, will soon ban plastic "peanuts" and pellets in shipping cartons—and consumers increasingly want to do business with environmentally responsible companies, there is more reason for warehouses and distribution centers to consider the environment when it comes to protective packaging, said Eileen Curran, director, marketing communications.
The other two trends are directly connected. The growth in e-commerce shipments of small, individual items, together with the need for shippers to reduce the size and weight of packaging to limit the cost impact of dimensional pricing, has upped demand for lightweight, flexible packaging that still provides sufficient protection for the items inside, noted Ron Sledzieski, executive business director for the company's Instapak line. The intersection of these trends is making protective packaging a factor in strategic decisions about serving consumers, he said. "I think the right packaging can bring real value in all three of these areas," he said.