DS Smith is a leading provider of sustainable packaging solutions, paper products and recycling services worldwide. Over the past 80 years the organisation has grown dramatically, as have its services and areas of expertise.

Adam Platts
Sales, Marketing and Innovation Director

Adam Platts, Sales, Marketing and Innovation Director at DS Smith UK Packaging spoke to Grocery Trader.

What is your company doing to create a more sustainable future for the planet?

At DS Smith we have ambitious growth plans over the coming years as we lead the transition to a circular economy and these commitments are a crucial part of our Now and Next Sustainability Strategy, which will see us create a positive impact for people and the planet, both now and in the future.

Sustainability sits at the heart of our business model and is core to our Purpose of Redefining Packaging for a Changing World. Our sustainability strategy is focused on the sustainability challenges we are facing today, as well as those that will impact on future generations.

We are doing this by closing the loop through better design, protecting natural resources by making the most of every fibre, reducing waste and pollution through circular solutions and equipping people to lead the transition to a circular economy.

Do you have targets to make your packaging recyclable?

At DS Smith we work with our customers to design circular packaging solutions that achieve more from less, delivering for rapidly changing consumer lifestyles with minimum impact on the world around us. With this ethos in mind, we have committed to manufacture 100% reusable or recyclable packaging by 2023.

Beyond this goal, we are working together with partners to develop fully circular strategies, from design to production and supply to recycling, creating positive impact packaging for our changing world. It is our aim that by 2030 all of our packaging will be recycled or reused.

How is the company engaging in moving towards a more circular economy?

Last year, we launched The Circular Design Metrics, an industry first and a breakthrough tool that makes it possible for customers to rate the circularity of their packaging. Through the design process, we are able to see and compare the performance of a packaging design across a range of indicators, such as recyclability, renewable content and supply chain optimization.

The metrics have eight different indicators that provide a clear indication of circularity performance and help identify areas with potential for improvement. The tool is a first of its kind for brands that want to drive sustainability performance through their packaging.

Using the metrics allows us to design for circularity, ensuring we produce packaging with materials that can be kept in use for longer, through recyclability or reusability, getting rid of waste and pollution to create a more sustainable world. Designing for the circular economy in replace of the outdated take, make, throw away model.

How do you put these tools into practice with customers?

Our Circular Design Metrics give us a framework to really understand our customer’s needs in the complex area of sustainability, so we design to their priorities, helping them meet their sustainability objectives by delivering Circular Ready packaging solutions.

We designed and manufactured the first ever fibre-based solution using our pioneering Circular Design Metrics last year to support a COP26 initiative led by Toast Ale, in partnership with 25 breweries across the UK and Ireland, that highlighted the role of food waste in climate change. The limited-edition collection of beers was brewed with surplus bread to prevent food waste.

The boxes were produced using the Circular Design Metrics for the first time, together with our PACE principles which ensures fit-for-purpose packaging and minimum use of fibre through supply chain optimisation with limited CO2 impact.

The partnership was a testament to our commitment to supporting the drinks industry with their sustainability targets and accelerating action towards to goals of the Paris agreement and the UN Framework convention on Climate Change.

We also worked with Aqueduct – The Well Water Ltd who invested in state-of-the-art machinery to create an environmentally friendly and efficient packing line, enabling the production of their new bag-in-box solution.

We partnered with the company to design a packaging solution that removes the need for plastic returnable bottles, achieving a 60% reduction in truck movement and associated carbon emissions. Well Water also invested in our OTOR line of packing machinery to ensure that optimum levels of materials are used, and any unnecessary material eliminated.

The Circular Design Metrics for the new bag-in-box product has 96% material utilisation – significantly reducing the amount of waste naturally occurred in the production process. 98% of the solution is recyclable and 96% of materials used have come from renewable sources.

With the rapid growth in demand for e-commerce packaging, how do you ensure all your packaging is sustainable?

COVID-19 was a catalyst for e-commerce growth, meaning that the same infrastructure has had to support significantly increased volumes of parcels. When retailers ensure that their packaging is right sized, it brings numerous benefits.

Automation allows retailers to right size their packaging at high speeds, this results in a significant reduction in material usage, ensuring that the most sustainable solution is created for each, and every order processed. Smart packaging technology has already supported rapid and significant improvements in the sustainability of e-commerce packaging, by enabling the unknown in the supply chain to now become much more predictable.

Using this technology and the insights gained from it, DS Smith not only created the DISCS™ e-commerce testing laboratories, that replicates the real-world journey of a product, but we have also started developing next generation e-commerce materials, designs and tools that provide even greater sustainability for our customers.



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