Transport packaging

Advantages and disadvantages of sustainable transport packaging


Sustainability is becoming more important for the public and in business. Transport packaging waste can be costly to your business and the environment.

More sustainable forms of transport and delivery packaging, whether biodegradable materials or simply sturdy containers designed for ongoing use, can improve your environmental performance and image.

However you need to carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of sustainable transport packaging.

Advantages of sustainable transport packaging

The main advantage of using sustainable transport packaging is reducing your impact on the environment.

Transport packaging waste can be harmful, difficult to recycle and can end up in landfill. By ensuring your containers and pallets can be reused, your business will have less waste to dispose of.

Potential cost savings of sustainable transport packaging include:

  • reduced raw material and waste disposal costs
  • reduced handling and storage
  • reduced costs of complying with the packaging waste regulations

A more sustainable approach to packaging will reflect well on your business and may attract customers who value environmental responsibility.

Environmental clauses are common in tendering so demonstrating a strong commitment to reusable transport packaging may help you to win contracts.

You may be able to use a specialist third party reusable transport packaging provider to source containers and reduce upfront costs of design and manufacture. Providers may offer a packaging lease or management service which could reduce your ongoing costs.

Disadvantages of sustainable transport packaging

The main disadvantage of sustainable or reusable transport packaging systems is cost.

One-off costs of a sustainable transport packaging system include:

  • the initial purchase of reusable containers
  • modifications to handling and transport facilities
  • additional costs of the tracking system, eg software packages, bar code labelling/reading equipment, electronic chips and detectors

You may be able to reduce these initial costs by leasing transport containers rather than buying them, or by using a slightly less sturdy design.

Ongoing costs will include the logistics of returning your reusable packaging and maintenance. It may be cost-effective to have a dedicated staff resource to operate your sustainable transport packaging system.

Sustainable transport packaging can be less flexible if your products or transit needs change and your packaging design needs to be altered.

Materials used in sustainable transport packaging may still be harmful to the environment, eg plastic or metal. You should ensure that you have a sustainable end-of-life plan for your sustainable transport packaging, eg recycling or reuse.