While global awareness of plastic pollution problem seems to be reaching a tipping-point, we know the war we're fighting against single-use plastic will be a protracted one.
Beyond tackling the existing mess in our oceans, rivers and streams is the larger issue of turning off the giant tap -- the source of the still growing problem.
40 percent of the plastic produced today is used for packaging
Consider this: nearly half of all the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the last two decades.
Back in 1950 we produced just 2.3 million tons of the stuff.
By 2015, that number reached 448 million.
40 percent of the plastic produced today is used for packaging.
At last count, direct-to-consumer packaging was responsible for some 46 million tons, and that was pre-pandemic. It's way higher today.
Acknowledging these is scary, and hard to digest. But to win this war we actually need to know not just the size of the problem, but what can be done about it. To that end, companies like Ranpak can teach us a lot.
Ranpak operates in the protective packaging space, which is a crucial link in the supply chain since damaged goods are usually total losses for producers. If goods are lost at any kind of scale that can make or break a company.
"None of our protective packaging products contain plastic. They never have," -- Bharani Bobba, Head of Growth Strategies, Ranpak
A lot of protective packaging is comprised of plastic. And what's worse, it's not even recyclable plastic. Ranpak's competitors push foam peanuts, bubble wrap, and plastic pillows, which are all a huge part of the plastic pollution problem.
Ranpak is different. All of Ranpak's protective packaging products are curbside recyclable.
"None of our protective packaging products contain plastic. They never have," says Bharani Bobba, Head of Growth Strategies for Ranpak. "In fact, we're celebrating our 50th year in business here in 2022 and we've been paper based the entire time. That's something we're very proud of."
"Ranpak has chosen a lane in Sustainability that we fully endorse," says Wes Carter, the President of Atlantic Packaging. "Not only are all of their solutions 100% curbside recyclable and quickly biodegradable, they also have highly sophisticated equipment for creating unique paper padding and cushioning solutions."
"They’re the leaders," says Eric Farmer, Atlantic's VP of e-commerce. "Without the strength of Ranpak we can't succeed in this transition away from plastic. Here at Atlantic, we're on the front lines helping customers convert every day. That doesn't happen without them. Period."
"Without the strength of Ranpak we can't succeed in this transition away from plastic." -- Eric Farmer, VP of E-Commerce, Atlantic Packaging
Carter is ecstatic about the relationship they've built with Ranpak over the past decade. "We've been very engaged in their evolutions. Today, they have the most complete line of fiber-based packaging solutions of any packaging manufacturer on the planet. No one offers more variety or innovation, and it's not even close."
Ranpak's turnkey solutions address all the standard packaging requirements: blocking, bracing, wrapping and filling voids. But making sure the process is streamlined is just as important. That's the part the really helps Farmer and his team make conversions. "Our customers love them because they have the fastest and most efficient dispensing systems in the market," he says. "Time is money. They know that."
Of course, customers looking to make the transition away from plastic can also require custom solutions, and that's where the relationship with Atlantic and Ranpak has really blossomed. “Our in-house engineering teams have a great collaborative relationship. They love working through issues and solving problems."
"We've done consumer research on the unboxing experience, and it's clear consumers are more likely to repurchase from brands that are using paper over plastic. We're very encouraged by this. We believe in what we're doing, which is why our motto is 'Deliver a Better World.'" -- Ranpak
Not surprisingly, there's a lot of greenwashing in the consumer packaging space. Plastic purveyors tout the fact that plastic has a lower carbon footprint than paper. And that part is true, but lacks serious context.
Consumer packaging is responsible for less than 1% of global carbon emissions. But it's having a far greater impact on the plastic pollution problem, to the tune of some 40 million tons per year.
If paper escapes into the environment it's gone within 6 months to a year. Plastics will be around for hundreds.
Fortunately, that message is getting out there. More and more consumers and brands are rallying behind the fiber-based movement.
"We see brands wanting to make this transition, but we know this movement is also very consumer driven," says Bobba. "We've done consumer research on the unboxing experience, and it's clear consumers are more likely to repurchase from brands that are using paper over plastic. We're very encouraged by this. We believe in what we're doing, which is why our motto is ‘Deliver a Better World.'"
So you, dear reader, can play a vital role here if you choose to. It's very easy. Make sure brands you're buying from are using sustainable shipping products. When you get a box that has plastic bags, pillows, or foam, snap a picture with your phone, and send that company a note on social or on email letting them know you're not okay with it. Trust us ... they're listening.