Packaging plays a vital role in protecting and preserving our products and much has already been done to optimise it. 

The grocery sector accounts for about 70% of the packaging market and every year around 10 million tonnes (mt) of packaging is used in the UK.  About 4.9 mt is household related and, if it isn't reused or recycled, can end up in landfill.

WRAP works in the retail sector covering grocery, home improvement and electrical products, and carrier bags.

The principles of packaging optimisation can be taken across all products.

Supporting the retail supply chain

Our focus is to reduce the environmental impact of primary, secondary and tertiary packaging without compromising its ablity to protect the product and to encourage fresh thinking around the product itself. 

That's looking at how products can best be used (e.g. concentrates, refills and self-dispensing), and at efficiencies around the whole product lifecycle from design, through to production and packaging, distribution and storage, to consumption and disposal. 

Why is packaging optimisation so important?

Ensuring that the packaging continues to protect the product throughout the supply chain is vital; however, reducing the amount of packaging used at the outset is important so that less packaging needs to be manufactured, stored, transported, handled, collected, recycled or disposed of.  Getting the balance of product protection vs packaging use just right has a huge benefit throughout the supply chain, reducing the amount of packaging produced, raw material used, operational costs, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately the cost of managing waste. 

It is also important to design for the use of recycled content, re-use and recyclability.

Optimising packaging is not new

Companies will always look for ways to be efficient but packaging and the supply chain is complex.  More can be achieved by industry working collaboratively and taking a holistic approach.   

There is a huge variety of different pack formats, sizes and materials to choose from, as well as addressing marketing concerns around competition, product differentiation, quality and brand loyalty.  Some solutions can be quick and simple but others take time, require research, costing, sourcing, sector collaboration and capital investment to make significant change happen.      

Major retailers, brands and suppliers in the UK are working with WRAP to successfully achieve this through two main responsibility deals:  

Helping the consumer

Consumers favour sustainable products and want less packaging - companies can help them to achieve this and reap the benefits.

It is important to inform your customers about your smarter packaging and to help them dispose of it responsibly with on pack recycling labelling.

WRAP is running two consumer programmes where industry can participate: visit the Recycle Now Partners website and Love Food Hate Waste Partners website to find out more.