Posted on August 31, 2010 by Dennis Salazar

Small Boxes are Big Problem for Large Retailers

Small Size Changes Make a Big Difference

We have spent a great deal of time suggesting the idea of “right sizing”, which is essentially only using as large of a shipping container as is truly needed for any product being shipped. Minimizing the size of a shipping box is green and economical because it also minimizes everything that goes along with it such as the necessary void fill and tape used to seal the box.

Disturbing Trend – Minimum Allowable Box Size

Two months ago we found out about a major electronics retailer who instituted an 8” cube minimum box size. Keep in mind that an 8” cube box is actually EIGHT times larger and eight times the waste compared to a 4” cube box. Then, just a week ago a large ladies accessory retailer notified their suppliers and vendors that they too had adopted a new “minimum allowable inbound shipping container.”

It appears this policy is designed to eliminate product loss because smaller boxes have a tendency of becoming lost or damaged in a high volume receiving environment at many large retail operations. This policy is not very positive in terms of packaging sustainability but perhaps it is necessary and important.

Greener Options

In the spirit of “you can’t fight city hall,” perhaps the best we can do is offer some suggestions to minimize the negative green aspects of this change, as well as minimizing the cost.

  • Can the policy be satisfied with higher visibility products such as colored or printed boxes and printed tape?
  • Does the policy apply to alternative containers such as mailers and pouches? If the product is high in profile, this may be a viable way to solve the problem, and satisfy the new policy while minimizing the packaging.
  • Is it possible to utilize a lighter weight shipping box? It stands to reason that smaller, lighter weight products do not necessarily require a heavy duty box.
  • Can you utilize a 100% recycled content box? It may meet the minimum size requirement as well as avoid the use of virgin board and material.
  • Is your customer’s minimum, your minimum? Maybe it is time to add a news stock size to your lineup to make sure you are not using a 10” cube box to satisfy an 8” cube minimum.
  • Larger boxes mean more void fill so it is important to review your void fill usage and determine if the void fill you will now have to use is truly the greenest, most economical and the most efficient product you can use.

The road to sustainability is not always smooth or without conflicting objectives, such as when a loss prevention expert helps to create policies in contradiction to effective good green procedures. Sometimes the best resort is to minimize the harm done by combining new processes or products that still permit the necessary change to be implemented.

Unfortunately you are not likely to get that type of assistance from your incumbent supplier, especially if they only have one basic solution to offer. A multifaceted specialist with a variety of products and experience can usually help you to get the job done as economically and as green as possible while making your customer happy.