How using less stretch wrap can positively impact sustainability goals

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In today’s environmentally conscious world, businesses across all industries are striving to adopt sustainable practices and reduce their carbon footprint.

One area that presents an opportunity for large strides in sustainability improvements is the reduction of pallet stretch wrap usage.

In this article, we’ll look at the impact of minimising pallet stretch wrap on sustainability goals, focusing on reducing plastic waste, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and overall environmental stewardship.

Image of a lorry

Why stretch wrap is imperative to supply chain

OK, so let’s just confront this head-on; pallet stretch wrap is… plastic. From an environmental perception, plastic is instantly viewed as problematic. However, it does play a crucially important role in protecting products in transit.

For example, the everyday items we purchase from the supermarket. These are shipped in large pallet loads from factories to distribution centres and then to stores. These goods must be transported safely to minimise damage and waste. 

The palletised goods are held in place by the stretch wrap; this is called “load containment”. The contained load has to withstand the rigours of a journey that contains shocks, vibration and, potentially, heavy breaking, which can create momentum for the palletised goods.

The stretch wrap must be able to contain the load firmly but allow enough movement to stop the material from snapping and the contents breaking free and scattering over the back of a lorry.

Image of plastic waste

The impact of stretch wrap reduction on minimising plastic waste

Stretch wrap is applied by wrapping the material around the pallet, overlapping the material as you work up the content.

Typically, a pallet needs multiple layers of film to provide the right level of load containment; the number of times is dependent on the load profile, the weight of the goods being secured and the strength and micron of the stretch wrap being used.

By reducing the amount of stretch wrap used in the pallet wrapping process, businesses can make significant strides toward reducing plastic waste.  This reduction in stretch wrap use not only benefits the environment but also aligns with public sentiment and increasing consumer demand for companies that prioritise sustainability.

If you are looking to reduce your stretch wrap use, there are a couple ways to approach this. 

If you are wrapping pallets by hand, consider switching to a semi or fully automated pallet wrapping system.  This will increase the tension of the film applied to the pallet consistently and reduce the number of wraps required to achieve load containment.  Not only does this reduce material use and cost, it also speeds up the packing process and allows your operator to work more efficiently. 

There are also performance stretch films available that offer high levels of load containment with a thinner material micron, this reduces the weight of film used to wrap each pallet and again, reduces your cost to wrap each pallet as well as reduce the amount of material used.

In both approaches, a load containment expert should always be consulted before making a change to your stretch wrap.  They can test the material currently being used and, make recommendations of replacements that can significantly reduce your pallet wrap use.  This process will take around 1 hour and can deliver up to 50% material savings.

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How using less stretch wrap helps to conserve energy

The production and disposal of stretch wrap involve energy-intensive processes, sadly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion.

By reducing stretch wrap use, businesses can effectively conserve energy throughout the supply chain. Using thinner micron performance films or exploring alternative wrapping methods requires less energy during the manufacturing process.

Utilising automated stretch wrap systems with advanced technology can optimise energy consumption during pallet wrapping, reducing overall energy requirements, and promoting energy efficiency.

The knock-on effect of reduced stretch wrap use on CO2 emissions

The manufacturing and disposal of pallet stretch wrap contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from the extraction and processing of fossil fuels used in plastic production, as well as the recycling process of waste.

By reducing the amount of stretch wrap used, businesses can lower their carbon footprint and help to mitigate climate change impacts. Decreased production and disposal of stretch wrap translate into lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, supporting a cleaner, healthier environment.

Image of the globe in grass

How to improve the sustainability of your stretch wrap

Reducing pallet stretch wrap usage is a great way to reduce plastic use but, you can also reduce your use of virgin plastic by opting for a recycled content material.

Since the advent of the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT), single use plastic packaging should contain a minimum of 30% recycled content. As a result, many stretch wrap films are available with up to 30% recycled content.

This is a great way to lower your impact on the extraction of fossil fuels in the manufacturing process and divert plastic waste into viable recycling streams.

The positive effect of reduced stretch wrap use on environmental stewardship

Minimising pallet stretch wrap aligns with broader sustainability goals and demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to environmental stewardship. It showcases a proactive approach to reducing waste and preserving natural resources.

By integrating sustainable practices into palletising operations, businesses can positively influence their supply chain partners and stakeholders, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility and sustainability throughout the industry.

This commitment can enhance brand reputation, attract eco-conscious customers, and contribute to the overall transition toward a more sustainable and circular economy.

Reducing pallet stretch wrap usage has a significant impact on sustainability goals and environmental stewardship. By minimising plastic waste, conserving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and exploring sustainable alternatives, businesses can make substantial contributions toward a greener and more sustainable future.

Embracing innovative packaging practices and adopting efficient stretch wrap solutions not only benefits the environment and enhances brand reputation, it also reduces operating costs.

Through conscious efforts to reduce stretch wrap, organisations demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility, setting an example for the industry and inspiring positive change in supply chain practices.

Macfarlane Packaging can support your business with a stretch wrap review, taking less than 1 hour it can reduce the amount of plastic in your palletisation process by up to 50%.  Contact us today to find out more.