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Eco Responsible Packaging Program

UPS Eco Responsible Packaging ProgramHave you ever ordered something and found yourself puzzled to find a relatively small product shipped in a really large box? Worse, have you ordered something only to open up the package to find the product damaged? Increasingly, shippers are faced with not only ensuring that their products reach their final destination in perfect condition, but doing so in a sustainable way. UPS recently announced a new product designed to evaluate the sustainability of a shipper’s transport packaging system. 

I sat down with Arnold Barlow, one of the project managers, to discuss the program. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What is the Eco Responsible Packaging Program?

A:  The Eco Responsible Packaging Program is a UPS product offering designed to evaluate the sustainability of a shipper’s transport packaging system.  

Q: What components are evaluated as a part of the program?

A: Customers who want to be in the program must qualify on three criteria: 1) damage prevention, 2) right-sizing (cube utilization), and 3) packaging materials (materials content). Each criterion will be rated separately, and customers must pass on all three to be considered eligible for the program.

Q: So what exactly are we evaluating for each of the elements?

A:  For damage prevention, we use the industry standard for parcel shipping. Shippers are evaluated to ensure that the packaging practices minimize damages. When a product has to be replaced, re-shipped and the original damaged item possibly returned and disposed of, the carbon footprint is multiplied. That is certainly not sustainable. We simulate all the conditions and forces a package will encounter on its journey. We perform compression tests, drop tests, vibration and shock tests. Our tests meet ISTA- 3A standards which calibrate to simulate the small package environment. Each test is accompanied by a comprehensive report including a detailed analysis of the tests performed and recommendations for improvement.

Cube utilization or right-sizing means that we’re trying to ensure that the customer is using the right size box; that we determine the best configuration for both the primary packaging for a product as well as the secondary, outside package. We also test the durability class of the product shipped so for example, light bulbs need more protection than a pair of socks. We also determine the best pallet load configuration for warehousing and shipping. The end result is the best utilization of available space so customers can ship smaller cartons, or more products in a single carton.

Packaging materials are evaluated to review the shipping materials – examining corrugated recycled content, packaging and closure materials. We have to consider the filler material. Styrofoam may not be the most sustainable application; shredded newspaper, while seen as sustainable, normally won’t  protect the package contents. We also look at what the materials were created from; are they bio-degradable, are they recyclable, are they being reused, what does it take to produce the materials?

Q: What happens once a customer “passes” the evaluation?

A: Customers in the program will be allowed to place a UPS-designed logo on their boxes indicating qualification. UPS has a web site with information for those interested in learning more about the meaning of the logo and the significance of the program.

Q: How much is the service?

A:  The service is offered on a contractual basis and each customer must be evaluated individually. Pricing varies based on the needs of the customer. Components that may impact pricing include the number of box types and box sizes used for packaging as well as some characteristics of products shipped (weight, vulnerability)

Category: Sustainability, UPS News
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