Sustainable packaging company DS Smith recently unveiled a $140 million investment in research and development, including developing new materials to replace plastics and a testing program to strengthen corrugated cardboard and reduce G-force shock in home delivery packaging.
The manufacturing and design company’s focus on applying science to fiber is a key driver of its Now and Next sustainability strategy, offering all customers 100 percent recyclable packaging within two years and replacing a billion pieces of supermarket and e-commerce plastic by 2025.
The additional investment over five years includes the creation of a prototyping and testing facility in the UK to fast-track next generation technology and work with research partners globally.
“How we live our lives is changing fast due to many factors, and how we all take care of the environment is a top priority. We are now investing more than previous years to ensure that we are leading this change and can offer customers packaging that has less impact on the environment,” said DS Smith CEO Miles Roberts.
The drive to innovate sustainable packaging that is fiber-based and fully recyclable comes after recent company surveys that showed U.S. retailers and supply chains need to be prepared for more online shopping and high consumer demand for effective packaging.
“We continue to focus on reducing our impact of our operations on the environment but more importantly, we are able to contribute to wider society by providing circular packaging solutions that eliminate waste and re-use valuable resources,” Miles said.
Among the most notable, the company plans real world analysis of e-commerce home delivery supply chains, including measurement of G-force impacts on packages in transit, to reduce waste and prevent damaged parcels.
For example, DS Smith will insert a live GPS tracking sensor into a parcel or pallet in transit to measure G-force – vibration, motion and impact – providing instant feedback on the materials, carrier handling, road conditions and other effects on the box throughout its trip in the supply chain.
Using this data, Atlanta, Georgia-based DS Smith can make recommendations on fiber usage, required strength and performance of packaging.
Among other highlights of the research and development program:
- Accelerated investment in new materials development, including fully recyclable, translucent packaging to replace plastic windows in sandwich and ready meals packs, and research into alternative natural fibers and new packaging designs, such as plastic and bubble wrap replacement;
- Expansion of its barrier technologies, such as the company’s recent piloting of “Touchguard,” a packaging coating that resists the transmission of viruses, and its patented Greencoat, a moisture-resistant alternative to wax coating; and
- Analysis of different fibers in recycled paper and corrugated packaging to optimize its resilience and recyclable properties. That work could include adding chemicals, heat or even friction to make individual fibers bond better, providing more strength.
DS Smith’s Now and Next strategy was launched in the fall of 2020 and includes industry-leading goals, focused on the circular economy.
As well as conventional target areas of reducing carbon emissions, water reduction and less waste to landfill, the sustainable packaging company has challenged itself to cut 250,000 heavy truck journeys from the roads, replace a billion pieces plastic from supermarkets and online shopping and educate five million young people in the circular economy.