Posted on June 17, 2008 by Dennis Salazar

Pitfalls of Hand Me Down Packaging

I have never been shy about speaking my mind and my interest and concern for the environment and how it relates to the packaging industry is no exception. While I sincerely try not to bore friends who may not be like minded, I rarely turn down an opportunity to speak before a welcoming audience and recently I was invited to make a presentation for the green business people attending the Earth Now Expo in Las Vegas.

Even though I am usually expected to teach during this type of presentation, I enjoy participating for many reasons but mostly because of what I learn through the experience. This particular audience consisted mostly of new and small e-commerce businesses, some of which did not even have their green store websites in operation yet. Many of these people have sincere and pure eco motives, as well as great business plans but very little experience in the packaging industry where I have literally grown up in, and some would say, grown old in. What I learned is that many of these new entrepreneurs place very little value on one of their most precious resources – their own time and talent.

Prior to my presentation, one very sharp and enthusiastic lady proclaimed that she only shipped her product in used boxes and with used void fill materials such as foam peanuts, bubble sheets, etc. She added that she had many favorite retail and industrial places where she could pick up her “free” materials. Several thoughts raced through my head including the possible dangers of utilizing used packaging products, not knowing what they might have been used for in a previous life. The packaging purist within could not help but wonder about the likely miss-application of the products, in other words not using the best packaging materials for the specific product being shipped. I also could not help but think about boxes not properly sized and probably requiring extra void fill. Then the marketing side of my brain kicked in and I questioned the value of delivering a product in a package that is not consistent with the brand and image she is trying so hard to create and reinforce.

Mostly though, I thought about the lady’s time and energy. Knowing how much time it takes to operate a business, even a small one, I could not help but wonder how much more she could accomplish in growing her business if she wasn’t wasting precious time in her efforts to save money.

NOTE TO SELF: Look beyond “price” and when calculating “true cost” never forget to include the time that I will never get back.