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International Forwarding Association Blog » Storage and distribution » Advancing Freight Forwarding with Innovations in Packaging

Advancing Freight Forwarding with Innovations in Packaging

The evolution of packaging within the freight forwarding industry is marking significant strides towards sustainability and efficiency. Key innovations driving this change include sustainable packaging materials, high-performance barrier films, and collapsible and foldable packaging solutions.


Sustainable Packaging Materials

The shift towards sustainable packaging involves using materials that are either biodegradable, recyclable, or sourced from renewable resources. Materials such as corrugated cardboard, bioplastics, and plant-based packing peanuts are replacing traditional plastics and polystyrene foam, which signals a new era of eco-friendly solutions in freight forwarding.

At the same time, effectively integrating these packaging solutions requires understanding of the protective qualities of each type. Corrugated cardboard, for example, has shock-absorbing properties, which makes it ideal for shipping electronics and home goods like appliances, glassware, and ceramics. However, it may not be suitable for oversized cargo as its structural integrity can be compromised when used to package heavy items. Products that require waterproofing may also need alternative packaging solutions, as standard corrugated cardboard can degrade if exposed to moisture.

Similarly, bioplastics have both advantages and limitations. Advantages-wise, they are durable and form airtight seals that prevent the exchange of air between the inside and outside of a package. This is particularly important for shipping products like pharmaceuticals and perishable foods which require protection from air exposure to maintain freshness and prevent contamination. However, bioplastics may not be the best choice for environments with high temperatures as they have a lower tolerance for heat compared to heat-sealable films and metal containers.


High-Performance Barrier Films

High-performance barrier films offer superior resistance against moisture, oxygen, and other environmental factors that can lead to spoilage and degradation of sensitive products like pharmaceuticals and perishable foods.

To accommodate the diverse requirements of these products, the films are available in varying degrees of protection. For instance, ultra-high barrier films are essential for highly sensitive pharmaceuticals that require complete isolation from moisture and gases to maintain potency and prevent contamination. Moderate barrier films, in turn, are suitable for food products that need protection from moisture and air but do not require the stringent barrier properties that pharmaceuticals might. Such films are often used for dried foods, snacks, and baked goods where they help maintain freshness and extend shelf life without the need for heavy-duty protection.


Collapsible and Foldable Packaging

Collapsible and foldable packaging solutions are made from flexible materials such as durable plastics or lightweight metals. They can be easily reduced in size when not in use which helps optimize space. This makes them particularly useful in return logistics where empty containers often occupy the same amount of space as when they are full. By using packaging that minimizes its volume after use, companies can transport large quantities of empty containers. This reduction in volume decreases the number of trips required and lowers fuel consumption and emissions.

At the same time, there might be a need for investment in specialized handling equipment or training for staff to manage the folding and unfolding processes efficiently. Forwarders must evaluate the trade-offs between the higher initial costs of these packaging solutions and the long-term savings in transportation and storage.