Managing Director, Ribble Packaging Ltd
With online retail sales growth hitting a 13-year high during the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for recyclable packaging solutions like corrugated board is steadily growing.
Stephen Rector, Managing Director of Ribble Packaging, explains, “In itself, corrugated board for boxes is a very sustainable and recyclable product. The recycling rates for paper and board in the UK are extremely high in comparison to other packaging products and they are increasing.”
However, he warns, packaging solutions must be used correctly in order to be fully sustainable.
“Boxes are often too large for their products and so they are filled with non-sustainable ‘void-fill’ materials like plastic, bubble wrap or polystyrene. It is clearly a hugely wasteful and inefficient method of getting the product out.”
Reducing wastage with correct sizing
Ribble Packaging manufactures corrugated board from recycled paper. Rector says, “In total, 100% of our corrugated board is 100% recyclable, while the paper we buy to manufacture our board is 100% recycled. So, our raw material is 100% recycled and our product is 100% recyclable.”
This product is fanfolded to create continuous corrugated board in up to 500 metre lengths, which can be fed into fully automated machines to pack single or multiple products in a perfectly sized box, with no wastage.
“Right size packaging streamlines the entire process and mitigates or ideally eliminates void-fill and wastage by making the packaging perfectly sized to fit the product,” Rector explains.
Carbon emissions are also reduced as a result, with fewer vehicles needed to dispatch items when a right size packaged parcel may take up over 50% less space on a delivery van.
Automation to help processes
Meanwhile, fully automated machines will increase retailers’ resilience in the face of crises like a global pandemic.
Rector explains, “The majority of retailers rely on manual labour, especially for packing processes, but the pandemic has really brought home the benefits of automation. In the face of COVID-related staff absences and social distancing requirements, one of these fully automated machines operated by just two people can pack up to 1,000 units an hour and do the job of 10 efficient packers.”
“As one of the pioneers of right size packaging in the UK, we are not prepared to sit on our laurels,” says Rector. “We have earmarked £3.5 million over the next two years to significantly increase capacity of fanfold manufacture and protect our hard-won position as the UK’s fanfold market leader. The business-to-consumer market is growing exponentially and our continuing investment is designed to maintain our market position in this rapidly growing sector.”