With environmental concerns prompting a rethink of how goods are packaged for delivery, the furniture industry is having to consider new materials and processes, writes Paul Farley – who, earlier this year, enlisted the help of some of the sector’s more progressive packaging professionals to evaluate what the changes might look like …  

Making sure a piece of furniture gets from A to B in one piece requires more than careful handling and wishful thinking. Effective packaging plays a vital role in the fulfilment process, protecting what are often large, unwieldy and expensive deliveries from damage in transit, and minimising the likelihood of returns. 

Yet today’s orders can’t simply be wrapped up (figuratively) in cotton wool. With consumer mindsets and Government regulation increasingly taking account of sustainable concerns, the furniture supply chain is having to explore new approaches to packaging.

“All major retailers in the UK and internationally are conscious of their responsibility towards sustainability, and will be working on initiatives to ensure they are meeting their own governments’ national and international requirements,” writes FIRA International’s John Hubbard in Packaging and Sustainability: Guide to Alternatives, a report he compiled on behalf of the Furniture Industry Research Association.  

In the study, John explains how packaging considerations can influence a product’s entire lifecycle, from design to possible reuse/recycling, and that the days of cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, polystyrene blocks and polythene bags could soon give way to more degradable alternatives. 

From 1st April, for example, a new tax levied charges against any plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. The Government expects the tax to impact an estimated 20,000 manufacturers and plastic packaging importers – but estimates that it will result in a +40% increase in the use of recycled plastic in packaging.

Or consider the Government’s proposal to introduce a UK-wide Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, which would focus compliance on packaging producers, and see them bear the full cost of managing packaging once it is discarded. 

Although some businesses are ahead of the curve in the eco-packaging stakes, such developments will unavoidably create higher costs across the furniture industry – so it pays to know what is around the corner.

Thanks to a panel of experts for speaking up for this special discussion feature: Gavin Boden, sales director, Rhenus Home Delivery (UK); John Hubbard, technical consultant, FIRA International; Tom Hudson, head of quality, Gallery Direct; Catherine Byrom, business development director, AP+; Richard Hunter, sales director, Ribble Packaging; and Pete McDonald, service and QS manager, La-Z-Boy UK.

Read the article here.