Materials

Oversized packaging sees ‘85 million m3’ of air shipped to UK homes annually

New research from international packaging company DS Smith has found that 85 million cubic metres (m3) of air are shipped to UK homes each year, as a result of unnecessary packaging.

cardboard boxAcross industries, increased prices of raw materials have led to oversized boxes containing excess material which have ‘nearly five million unnecessary delivery journeys’ and the release of ‘6,071 tonnes of potentially avoidable CO2’, the business said.

According to DS Smith’s research, cardboard boxes that do not fit their contents unnecessarily transport excess air on lorries and into consumer homes, as well as
‘needlessly deploying’:

  • 169,291 tonnes of extra cardboard – at a cost of £39.4 million
  • 480 million square metres of plastic tape – ‘approximately the size of West Yorkshire’
  • 80 million m3 of filler – ‘enough to fill the O2 arena 36 times over’

Consumers told the company that in the future they would prefer to receive packaging made from alternative renewable sources (41 per cent), packaging that tightly fits oddly shaped
items (32 per cent) and packaging that is waterproof (30 per cent).

DS Smith also highlighted that 167 million packages are sent each month through online shopping. In light of this, its research learnt that while 80 per cent of businesses that sell goods online often use packaging that is not closely sized to the product, 55 per cent are
focused on its recyclability and 35 per cent are focused on the reusability of packaging.

Market research for the packaging company was conducted by OnePoll between 17 June and 23 June 2022. For consumer research, the research specialist used 2,000 UK adults and for business research, 250 UK adults who are responsible for packaging, shipping and
logistics as part of their role at a company that sells online goods.

Stefano Rossi, CEO of DS Smith Packaging, commented: “Consumers want less packaging. Raw materials are more expensive than ever, and the benefits for the environment are
significant, so now is the time to design the air out of online shopping.

“Wasted materials are not an accident, waste happens because of choices made at the design stage. The role of design in protecting our planet just can’t be over-estimated – we need to adopt a circular approach, designing out waste to keep materials in use for as long as possible.

“Through our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation we have already trained 700 DS Smith designers to use circular design principles, who are working on more than 2,000 live ‘circular’ projects. Our hope is that circular principles will become the norm for all design, everywhere, and that ‘air commerce’ quickly becomes a thing of the past.”