As goods pass through industrial supply chains the associated packaging waste is often a forgotten or ignored by-product that is poorly managed. This results in litter, pollution, poor recycling or re-uses rates and unnecessary landfill. Poor communication between supply chain partners and lack of responsibility or ownership of wastes not only leads to undesirable impacts, but also limits the potential for improved industrial packaging solutions that simultaneously meet the functional needs of the supply chain’s operating environment while reducing environmental impacts and supply chain costs.
The industrial packaging supply chain project was a joint initiative of the Sustainable Packaging Alliance (SPA) and EcoRecycle Victoria to encourage and enable Australian businesses to reduce environmental impacts of packaging and move towards sustainability. The project focused on industrial packaging an area traditionally overlooked by the public and government. The aim of the project was to demonstrate the benefits of supply chain partnerships to advance the development of sustainable industrial packaging and to understanding the critical success factors in such approaches.
Three demonstration projects were carried out in collaboration with commercial partners and their supply chains in the furniture, building and food industries. In addition six existing examples of industrial packaging with enhanced environmental performance were investigated and documented to broaden the learnings around successful strategies, diversify the range of industry sectors and provide more material for communicating to and engaging with Australian industry. The case studies featured the printing, grocery, automotive, polymer, agricultural chemical and fresh produce sectors.
In a first attempt to develop and road test Sustainable Packaging Indicators and to move towards making sustainable packaging tangible to business and the community, the case studies were assessed against SPA’s draft definition of sustainable packaging. The evaluations confirmed that sustainable packaging is not a destination but rather a commitment to continuous improvement.
Key learnings from the project included the importance of; communication at an early stage with partners, considering the environmental impact of the product when evaluating and designing packaging systems, considering capital expenditure barriers to the adoption of new technologies, looking outside existing chains for new partners in innovation and that companies often do not understand the full cost of packaging and distribution making the communication of new packaging systems difficult.
 Industrial packaging is characterised as packaging used to move inputs or finished goods within supply chains such as between a supplier and a manufacturer or from a brand owner to a retailer but not from a retailer or brand owner to the consumer or public. Packaging used to protect and transport bricks from a brick supplier to a house builder is an example of industrial packaging.