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Packaging company explores plastic alternatives

DS smith greentote plastic packaging alternative groceries
DS Smith has eliminated over 313 million pieces of problem plastics in the last two years thanks to products like GreenTote, which replaces plastic grocery bags. (Photo: DS Smith)

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sustainable packaging company DS Smith today announced that it has designed out over 313 million pieces of problem plastics in the last two years alone as part of its ambitious plastic replacement program. Knowing that the circular life of a piece of packaging relies on the consumer taking the correct action to recycle, DS Smith has also educated over 2.8 million people in the importance of the circular economy.

DS Smith’s designers have worked with their clients on their packaging and displays to replace or remove more than 3 million units of plastic per week, or 13,000 an hour, as its customers demonstrate a soaring demand for fiber-based packaging as an alternative to hard-to-recycle, single-use plastics. It’s well known that 80 percent of all sustainability savings come in the design phase, which is why DS Smith has trained all 700 of its designers in its circular design principals, developed in cooperation with its strategic partner the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to translate their circular economy model into practical packaging solutions.

DS Smith’s designers have created thousands of innovative designs to eliminate even the smallest amounts of plastic in its packaging, such as replacing plastic sealing tape with self-locking cardboard flaps and swapping plastic labels with print direct onto cardboard. In the past year, its customers have asked for innovations to replace single-use, unrecyclable plastic items, including meal trays, plastic fruit and vegetable containers and plastic six pack rings.

“With our help, customers are responding to consumer demands to remove problem plastics from their products,” said Allison Berg, Sustainability Manager, DS Smith North America. “By using our proprietary circular design metrics system, we can easily show not just where plastic can be replaced, but how circular their packaging is right now and where we can make improvements together.

“Our 700 designers have been trained in our circular design principles, which means we can design out problem plastics at the inception stage and find alternative fiber-based solutions that deliver sustainable, recyclable packaging.”

Circular economy lessons

Over the next year, DS Smith will continue to drive adoption of fiber-based alternatives amongst customers in response to consumer demand for plastic alternatives. It has also committed to continue past engaging 2.8 million people in the circular economy, with a goal of promoting circular lifestyles to 5 million people by 2030.

At COP26, it launched a circular economy lesson plan, ‘Let’s Go Circular!’ as a free resource for teachers to educate young people aged 11-14 about the circular economy, and how we can all play a part in protecting our planet’s natural resources. DS Smith also provides information through online content, videos, news articles, blogs and case studies in its goal of reaching 5 million people.

As part of DS Smith’s Now and Next sustainability targets, the company has an ambition to take one billion pieces of problem plastics off supermarket shelves by 2025, replacing them with sustainable, corrugated alternatives. DS Smith’s plastic replacement work and wider sustainability progress can be found in its latest sustainability report which can be found here.

R&D into other alternative fibers

One way DS Smith is doing this is with an investment of $140 million into R&D which is exploring a range of natural fibres. These include innovative uses of seaweed, straw, hemp, miscanthus and cotton, as well as from less common sources such as the daisy-flowered cup plant and agricultural waste such as cocoa shell or bagasse – the pulp fibre left over after sugarcane is processed.

About DS Smith

DS Smith is a leading provider of sustainable fiber-based packaging worldwide, which is supported by recycling and papermaking operations. It plays a central role in the value chain across sectors including e-commerce, fast moving consumer goods and industrials. Through its purpose of ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’ and its Now and Next sustainability strategy, DS Smith is committed to leading the transition to the circular economy, while delivering more circular solutions for its customers and wider society – replacing problem plastics, taking carbon out of supply chains and providing innovative recycling solutions. Its bespoke box-to-box in 14 days model, design capabilities and innovation strategy sits at the heart of this response. Headquartered in London and a member of the FTSE 100, DS Smith operates in 34 countries employing around 30,000 people and is a Strategic Partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Its history can be traced back to the box-making businesses started in the 1940s by the Smith family. North American operations are headquartered in Atlanta, with 15 packaging, paper and recycling facilities, totaling more than 2,000 employees. Using the combined expertise of its divisions – including Packaging, Recycling, Paper – DS Smith works with customers to develop solutions that reduce complexity and deliver results throughout the supply chain.