Transportation and product packaging can contribute to a large amount of waste.  Packaging materials can include wood pallets, plastic wrap, product boxes and containers, and information inserts.  Though some amount of packaging is necessary for informing consumers and protecting the product, companies have options for creating less waste or recycling what is produced.


Some innovative ways to reduce waste include:

Working with suppliers and vendors to receive stronger, reusable pallets.


Reusing any cardboard shipping containers or plastic packing materials.

Purchasing materials in bulk.

Using air-filled plastic bags when shipping instead of foam packing materials.

Implementing a pallet return program.

Minimizing the use of containers by increasing delivery frequency.


If waste reduction cannot be avoided, encourage and practice recycling within your organization.

Recycle plastic shirt bags.

Collect and bale HDPE left over from packaging.

Unify the type strapping material you receive from vendors so that recycling is easier to collect.

Offer a way for customers to recycle packaging from the products they buy.



Pallets.  Wood pallets can often be damaged or misshapen easily due to their frequency of use. Many companies are switching to reusable plastic pallets, which have been shown to reduce cost, labor, and repair time.  One company boasted a 50 percent reduction in wood waste after the switch.

Corrugated Containers. Many products are often shipped within large corrugated boxes, creating waste that needs to be recycled and managed.  Some manufacturers are opting to bind products together with thin plastic straps rather than hold them within a container. A large cereal company implemented this practice and discovered a 30 percent reduction in cardboard use.

Paperboard.  Products are often packaged within both bottles and boxes, which could be eliminated.  Health care products, like mouthwash and medicine, could be sold safely by shrink wrapping the bottle and eliminating the packaging box.  One healthcare company reduced their waste by 340 tons by implementing this simple practice.

Packaging Design.  For many companies, a small change in packaging design could mean a drastic reduction in waste. By altering a bottle design from a cylinder to a rectangle, one company reduced packaging weight, storage space, and plastic waste.  The company diverted over two million tons of plastic waste.


These companies made minor changes that had a big impact on waste.

Target.  As a national chain store, Target saved approximately 4.5 million dollars and hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste by altering its clothing packaging for shipping.  The company developed very specific packing and shipping guidelines for its vendors, which included folding instructions to maximize space and excluding the use of tape, tissue, polybags, pins, and clips.

State Farm Insurance.  By changing the amount paper included in each shipment, this insurance company diverted six tons of waste a year.  The company previously shipped reams of paper in bundles of 500, which were each wrapped individually. This practice was changed to ship in quantities of 2,500, all packaged in a cardboard container.

McDonalds.  This national food chain has been practicing waste reduction, recycling, and reuse since 1994.  A redesigned napkin resulted in more efficient shipping and a reduction in cardboard waste.  The company also reduced plastic waste by over 2 million pounds by making their trash liners thinner.


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