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Protecting Products During Manufacturing and Shipping Limits Toll on Environment

The holiday shopping season is in full swing. And with holiday shopping comes holiday returns.

According to the National Retail Federation, each year consumers return 15% to 30% of goods purchased online, or about $32 billion worth.

The United Parcel Service predicted the 2018 return season to be the biggest yet, and next year will be no exception. Last year, UPS returned 5.8 million packages during the first week of January, with 1.4 million being returned on Jan. 5 alone, which is what UPS has named, “National Returns Day.” This is up 8 percent from the previous year.


The Prevalence of Returns

Many online retailers offer free shipping and returns in order to build customer loyalty. But this low-risk approach for consumers means more returns, more shipping and more opportunities for damage for retailers. And damages and returns don’t just affect a shipper’s bottom line, they affect the environment as well, underscoring the importance of selecting the right protective packaging materials to accompany products on their journey to and from the customer.

With consumers repackaging their own purchases to send back, retailers should factor in the return journey to ensure they’re providing protective packaging that will reduce the likelihood that items are damaged in transit. This not only increases the chance that products can be resold, but it also cuts down on the product’s overall environmental impact by providing customers with materials that can be reused.  


Problematic Returns and Damages

For most manufacturers and retailers, diagnosing and repairing damaged products, or even stripping them down for parts, is not worth the manpower. This means that about half of all damaged or returned items end up in landfills – about 5 billion pounds to be exact, which is equivalent to waste produced by 5 million Americans. Consumer electronics pose a special problem because they often contain heavy metals, acids and other hazardous materials that can end up in our soil and drinking water.

“With the right protective packaging, shippers can prevent and reduce the rate of damaged products – and their overall effect on the environment and the bottom line.”

In addition, high rates of product returns mean that more delivery trucks are needed to meet the overall shipping demand. It’s been noted that the journey of a returned good can be up to 3,600 miles long if there is an inefficient returns process. Any unnecessary handling leads to the increased consumption of diesel fuel and CO2 production. Then there’s the increased use of raw materials to manufacture replacement products and their packaging.


Preventing Damage to Products

With the right protective packaging, shippers can prevent and reduce the rate of damaged products – and their overall effect on the environment and bottom line.  If we have learned one thing from the impact of protective packaging, it is that it can leave a long lasting impression that can extend or diminish a customer’s lifetime value

Shippers can ensure they select the right packaging materials by putting parcels through stress tests, measuring how they stand up to vibration, pressure, drops, heat, humidity and other factors. The data derived from these tests can give retailers, distributors and manufacturers confidence that when they ship product, it will arrive just as pristine as when it left their facility. And increase the likelihood, if returned, that it can be resold and not end up in a landfill.

And having fewer returns is a beautiful thing – inside a shipper’s accounting department and outside in the environment.      

In addition to the negative environmental impact, damaged products also affect your margins. To learn more, read Putting a Dent in Profitability: The Real Impact of Ineffective Packaging and Damaged Products.