Q&A with Paul Young, Head of Packaging Services, DHL Supply Chain
Paul Young (pictured) at DHL Supply Chain looks at future packaging trends
DHL commissioned a study of the future, "Delivering Tomorrow: Logistics 2050", what were the key findings?
The central finding of the study is a comprehensive collection of five credible visions of the future. They outline how different the world could appear in 2050 in terms of the degree of globalization, the extent of economic and social development, predominant technology standards and environmental conditions. The study describes five far-reaching, occasionally radical, versions of life in 2050. All scenarios share a common element: the broadly transformed role of logistics. Overall demand for logistics services does indeed climb in most of the five alternative scenarios. But the particular requirements placed on logistics providers and the special challenges they face vary widely from scenario to scenario.
Is the packaging industry really changing from the traditional cardboard box?
We are starting to see innovative new substrates that provide realistic sustainable alternatives for where we have to use packaging. We have examples of bamboo and even mushrooms being used by the more innovative companies today. Some companies are researching the use of straw as a raw material from which a box can be formed. We see exciting developments in both edible and dissolvable packaging. I will be providing examples of these in my presentation.
The packaging industry really hasn’t moved on much in the last 20 or even 30 years. We need to take notice of what today’s savvy consumer is concerned about, and that includes less waste. It is true that we re-cycle cardboard, but take into account the energy that is used to do so and we are still wasting precious resources. We need to see more re-usable packaging, particularly around the secondary packaging requirements.
There are more than 25 "megacities" around the world all set for major growth over the next 10 years, with megacities comes mass packaging and food waste – how will the packaging industry respond, and help find a solution?
In the scenario’s I will be presenting at the Packaging Innovations event at the NEC later this month, I will be demonstrating how some companies are reducing and avoiding unnecessary packaging. This is certainly a trend that will continue with the growth of the megacities. We can ship consumer goods in bulk from the manufacturing point to a local megacity consolidation point. Bulk shipping has less of a requirement for secondary packaging, and where it does, re-usable containers can replace most, if not all, of the secondary, or transit packaging that is used today.
The consumer is becoming increasingly aware of food waste and we should see habits changing over the next decade. In the meantime, as a business DHL has expertise in eliminating the need for land-fill waste for both packaging and food. We have invested in the use of waste driers that remove all moisture, reducing food waste to a dry powder that can be mixed into compost or burned for fuel. Using this system for some customers, British Airways for example, has reduced the landfill to zero landfill.
What packaging Innovations can we expect to see in the next 12 -18 month years?
Although I shall be presenting what the future looks like in 2050, we take a look at the innovations that are starting to emerge, giving us an insight into the step change between the now and the future in 2050.
Personally I don’t see any real innovation, or game changing packaging with the next 12 to 18 months. Just more tinkering. Yes, there are new films being developed, someone’s thought about a new label, but as for the cardboard box replacement? I’m sorry, I don’t see it yet. You can rest assured though. I will be promoting the avoidance and reduction of secondary packaging during this time.
What recent trends have you noticed regarding packaging efficiency?
I am really concerned about the emergence of e-tailing and how this is effecting packaging. Increasingly, more and more retailers are selling more and more products over the internet. Little thought is given into how they should be packaged. This is clearly impacting on efficiency, but more worryingly we are seeing potentially harmful situations where liquids and solvents are being packaged into re-used cardboard boxes with little or no thought given to protection or barriers to prevent damage or leakages.
There are examples of both the small corner shop, and the large e-commerce sites getting it wrong. The good news is that the supply chain has now met with social media. You only have to look at sites like Facebook and twitter to see that consumers are highlighting some of the ridiculous practices that are emerging particularly around packaging sizing. We have all seen the cardboard box, from the on-line retailer, turn up that is far too big for the letter box, and when opened, and we have removed the vast quantities of brown paper wadding, we pull out the small packet of razor blades that we ordered.