PackMail improves envelope shipment by using less material, minimizing packaging waste, and reducing fuel consumption and CO2 output.
When Heritage Envelopes Ltd received an honorable mention in the 2017 FTA Sustainability Excellence Award competition for its alternative packing solution for envelopes known as PackMail, judges were impressed by the company’s ability to reduce waste in product processing, packaging and freight demands within the United Kingdom.
Now, the company is once again being honored for its innovation—but this time, taking the top prize. Heritage Envelopes is the winner of the 2018 Sustainability Excellence Award competition for PackMail, which the company plans to expand on a global scale this year.
PackMail was born from an idea several years ago, says Philip Bryan, director at Heritage Envelopes.
“We considered how we could reduce the use of raw materials to cut cost and reduce environmental impact,” says Philip. “We realized that for the mail inserting market, huge volumes of packaging are being used just for storing and shipping envelopes to mail inserting companies. The packaging was purely for protection and convenience of shipping and handling, but as soon as the envelopes had been used by the mailing companies, the boxes became a waste burden for customers to handle.”
Heritage’s purpose in creating PackMail was to reduce its environmental footprint, reduce waste packaging, storage and handling, and reduce transportation, CO2 output and fuel consumption. PackMail is “boxless,” meaning there are no traditional cardboard boxes to dispose of. Instead, the product is bounded by two rigid cardboard ends and a minimal amount of film wrap. The compact format is tight to keep envelopes flat and protected. A machine clamps the stack of envelopes while a rotating wrapping unit wraps the pack.
To achieve this compact block, envelope design requires the envelopes to remain flat and equal, so Heritage’s Autoflat envelopes are used. Autoflat envelopes look and perform like any regular inserting machine envelopes, but are specially designed with side seams that allow them to be presented to the inserter flatter and with a reduced risk of bending during insertion. This means smoother inserting and reduced risk of stoppages. When compressed, this allows a quantity of envelopes to remain in a square and solid block for wrapping.
The PackMail packaging format, the Autoflat envelopes and the PackMail machines used to wrap PackMail are all patent protected and can only be provided by licensed producers.
“Heritage Envelopes’ innovation will go a long way to helping end users meet and achieve sustainability goals,” says Sustainability Excellence Award judge David Roey. “[The company’s] innovation has reaching implications across the envelope-using sector of FTA membership. PackMail reduces wasteful packaging use from Heritage Envelopes’ perspective while helping the end user to lessen waste generation.”
PackMail Impact in the U.K.
In the U.K., Heritage has shipped nearly 750 million envelopes in this format. Throughout 2017, the company worked to transition more customers to PackMail, increasing production to a 35 percent share of Heritage’s inserting envelope volume, according to the company. In addition, new contracts secured in 2017 will transition to PackMail, increasing its share of all Heritage production volume to an expected 50 percent in 2018.
Heritage reports that shipping envelopes with PackMail reduces consumption of boxes and pallets, uses 60 percent less cardboard, and requires 30 percent fewer pallets—in other words, it fits more product in the same space.
According to Heritage, annual U.K. reductions include:
- 330 fewer incoming pallets of raw materials (boxes)
- 1.2 million fewer cartons and labels used
- 3,000 fewer wooden pallets used
- 12,000 fewer pallet movements reducing forklift use, saving fuel and energy
- 105 fewer truck loads or journeys
Beyond its own facility, Heritage also reports that PackMail benefits the mail-fulfillment industry in the following ways:
- 30 percent fewer pallets received, and fewer pallets to process and transport within their own facility, which can result in saved time and energy
- Packaging waste is reduced by 60 percent. Less packaging to dismantle, store and transport to landfill or recycling centers
- Fewer cartons to dismantle, saving time
- Cardboard is reduced because less is used for end caps than fully encased boxes
- Plastic pallet wrap is reduced because fewer pallets are used
- Fewer truck loads transporting waste, reducing envelope manufacturers’ fuel costs and CO2 output
In two years, Heritage says it has converted 7 percent of the entire market to PackMail, and achieved its 2017 goal of nearly doubling PackMail use with new wrapping installations.
“Heritage Envelopes’ sustainable flat envelope project has demonstrated substantial savings in every pillar of sustainability (social, financial and environmental),” said judge Dolores Corcoran. “Their single sustainable effort can be easily adopted to help reduce waste in every envelope producer’s facility.”
Earning Honorable Mention in last year’s Sustainability Excellence Award competition was partly what inspired Heritage to introduce PackMail to a much wider client base in the U.K. market, as well as invest further and develop it for a launch in the U.S. (happening later this year).
“If we really want to show a significant reduction in the environmental impact from mailing activities, then a mature and developed market many times larger than the U.K. would carry much more benefit to a global reduction of the environmental footprint from mail,” says Bryan. “We also realized that in the U.S., logistically, products are shipped over much greater distances. Therefore, if capacity of each load shipped could be increased, the benefits of optimizing shipping and fuel consumption would further benefit the environment.”
In order to keep the environmental footprint as small as possible, the envelopes will be manufactured in the U.S. Packaging materials, PackMail machine parts and assembly of PackMail machines could all support the U.S. manufacturing and supplies industry, he adds.
Introducing PackMail to the U.S. means catering to a much wider manufacturing community, as well as additional legislation and certification, but Bryan says Heritage is prepared.
“We have already polled several U.S. envelope manufacturers who have received the concept with enthusiasm, expressing interest in supplying some of their core, high-volume envelope customers with envelopes using the Autoflat design and wrapped in the PackMail format,” he reveals. “We are also busy searching for engineering and packaging materials partners to get PackMail launched in the U.S.”
PackMail is Heritage’s core sustainability initiative and the company says it remains focused on the project to avoid distraction.
“We have chosen the PackMail initiative because we believe this is where the greatest impact can be realized,” Bryan concludes. “However, there are other initiatives surrounding the use of material composition we are exploring with materials suppliers.”