Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Sustainability in action – Apple’s bold step towards eco-conscious packaging

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Apple is taking significant steps towards reducing its environmental footprint by introducing downsized, fiber-based, label-free packaging for its new Apple Watch line. This move aligns with the company’s ambitious goals of phasing out plastics and decarbonizing its operations by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

A remarkable 96% of Apple’s overall product packaging now consists of recycled and responsibly sourced wood fiber. To further enhance its environmental efforts, Apple has joined forces with The Conservation Fund and WWF to manage over one million acres of working forests in the United States and China. These collaborations have provided a sustainable source of fiber that matches the quantity of new wood fiber used in Apple’s packaging last year.

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In addition to using more sustainable materials, Apple has revamped components such as trays, plastic wrap, and foam cushioning to improve recyclability. These new fiber-based materials can easily break down in mixed-paper recycling streams.

The recent announcement of the new Apple Watch lineup, touted as the company’s first carbon-neutral products, comes with a promise of individual emission reductions of 75% due to their design and reliance on clean energy. As part of this commitment, Apple has revealed that its packaging will be entirely fiber-based. Similarly, the packaging for the iPhone 15 is reportedly over 99% fiber-based, bringing Apple closer to its target of achieving plastic-free packaging by 2023.

However, it’s worth noting that Apple clarifies that its US retail packaging is assessed by weight, excluding adhesives, inks, and coatings from both the weight and plastic content calculations.

To further reduce plastic waste and emissions, Apple has developed a custom, high-resolution printer capable of printing directly onto its boxes, eliminating the need for additional labels. This innovation is expected to save more than 300 metric tons of plastic and reduce carbon emissions by 3,700 metric tons.

Apple is also replacing traditional plastic lamination methods with an overprint varnish that enhances a package’s recyclability without compromising its appearance or quality. This transition helped Apple avoid using over 1,100 metric tons of plastic in 2022.

In a bid to reduce emissions related to transportation, Apple aims to have at least 50% of the combined weight of its new Apple Watch models shipped from factories using non-air modes of transportation, such as ocean freight. This initiative is expected to nearly halve the total emissions associated with product transportation.

Furthermore, Apple has designed more compact packaging for all Apple Watch Series 9 and SE models. This streamlined packaging is anticipated to increase the number of devices per shipment by 25% and reduce the number of delivery vehicles on the road.

Apple’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral across all its products by 2030 is part of its broader Apple 2030 strategy. According to the company, it has already achieved carbon neutrality in its global corporate operations since 2020, and it aims to reduce emissions by 75% by the end of the decade, following science-based targets.

Apple’s proactive efforts to reduce its environmental impact are in line with a growing trend among major corporations. Retail giants like Walmart and eCommerce behemoth Amazon have also been implementing sustainable practices to reduce packaging waste and optimize their delivery processes. These initiatives reflect a broader commitment to environmental responsibility in the corporate world.

Manash Das
Manash Das
Manash Das is associate editor at The Packman. He has been contributing editorially to The Packman since 2016.

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