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All too often, packaging creates another waste problem for the apparel industry, as countless boxes shipped every day ultimately end up piling up in landfills. This problem only gets compounded by the fact that many consumers aren’t even aware of what they should do when they discard a package.

Neenah, a specialty paper products and design solutions company, believes it has the answer to this problem in the form of its recently debuted NEENAH ENVIRONMENT® Mailer. The curbside recyclable mailer is designed specifically for soft goods companies to deliver apparel in an easy to carry, water-resistant, puncture-resistant package.

The mailer can comfortably hold garments that don’t require a box or padding protection during shipment, and even includes a 2.5-inch expandable gusseted base that can accommodate bulkier items like sweatshirts. The mailer is made from FSC®-certified pulp sourced from responsibly managed forests, as well as 50 percent post-consumer waste.

But while Neenah aims to deliver a premium unboxing experience for the customer, the company hopes it can help elevate the education surrounding sustainable packaging.

Jennifer Dietz, senior product manager, sustainable solutions, Neenah, shared her advice to brands seeking out more eco-friendly packaging alternatives.

“Keep pushing toward options that require less work of the consumer,” Dietz said in a recent fireside chat with Sourcing Journal. “Doing the right thing says a lot about a brand versus putting the work back on the consumer and making them take the extra step.”

Kristen Duncan, sustainable solutions development manager, Neenah, said the industry has unfortunately fallen short in building awareness around offering sustainable alternatives, whether it be for the brand or the consumer.

Duncan said the current constraints in the supply chain can often limit availability of certain raw materials, which can lead to a supplier substituting in new materials that the brand isn’t even aware of. And on the consumer’s end, too many are currently “hope-cycling,” Duncan said, in that they can no longer differentiate whether a product should be recycled or thrown in the trash.

Dietz hopes the mailer can better inform consumers when they decide to discard their package.

“There’s a lot of mailers out there with a confusion about how you’re supposed to dispose them properly,” Dietz said. “For example, there’s poly mailers that allow you to recycle them. However, if you put them into the curbside recycle bin, they actually become a paper contaminant. So, then you have the consumer making a choice. They can either bring this to a third-party facility to recycle, or what’s more likely going to happen is they’re going to put it in the trash and it becomes landfill waste.”

Neenah deliberately includes the message “I’m curbside recyclable!” on every ENVIRONMENT® Mailer to eliminate any confusion of how the envelope can be discarded.

Upon highlighting extra steps brands should take to prioritize waste reduction, Duncan said “package right-sizing and dimensional shipping both go hand in hand.” She also noted brands should make sure that they are not overpackaging even if a certain sized box is unavailable.

“Ensure that you’re optimizing how the package is packed,” Duncan said. “That will reduce not only your shipping costs, but also the raw materials that are going into that.”

Click the image above to watch the video and learn more about the NEENAH ENVIRONMENT® Mailer.