Tackling E-commerce Packaging Waste with Transformative Box-making Technology

OfficeMax managing director Kevin Obern in front of one of the carton erector machines at OfficeMax HQ Distribution Centre in Auckland.

OfficeMax, New Zealand’s leading workplace and education solutions provider, has unveiled three major initiatives underway as part of an ambitious 2025 Sustainability Strategy to address the top contributors to its Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) – and help play its part in speeding up New Zealand’s transition to a low carbon future.

Sustainability has been a key part of OfficeMax’s strategy for two decades. Since 2016, OfficeMax has been tracking its environmental footprint, taking extraordinary strides to achieve its 2026 GHG efficiency target of 20 percent reduction per FTE six years early, back in 2019.

OfficeMax is making considerable progress towards its more ambitious 2025 GHG target of a 25 percent reduction against 2019 Scope 1 and 2 emissions1. While both the closure of retail stores and COVID-19 restricting business travel played a part in OfficeMax achieving a 13 percent reduction last year, it’s investment into its distribution centres has made a measurable difference, including:

1. Waste (contributed 13 percent to OfficeMax’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2020)

With online shopping at record rates2, many will be familiar with the onslaught of packaging and waste that seems to come with even the smallest online purchase. Oversized boxes, excessive filling and plastic all have a negative impact on the environment.

"Packaging is a top concern amongst our customers and this year we have continued to receive questions about what else we can do to reduce the use of plastic in our packaging," noted OfficeMax Managing Director, Kevin Obern.

The carton erector machines at OfficeMax HQ Distribution Centre in Auckland.

"That’s why in our North Island DC we have invested $1M into two innovative, automated ‘box making’ and lid applicator machines, specifically designed to minimise packaging and waste.” A New Zealand first, the machines use smart technology to create unique boxes custom-designed to fit to the contents of individual orders, removing the need for excess packaging."

In Auckland and Christchurch, OfficeMax has also invested in cardboard shredders or void-fill shredder machines that recycle cardboard onsite, converting it into void fill to protect delicate, fragile or dangerous goods while removing the need for plastic pillows.

The initiatives will reduce plastic void-fill by 100 percent, eliminating 1.7M plastic pillows (the equivalent to 1,700 kgs of plastic) from landfill every year.

2. Electricity (contributed 25 percent to OfficeMax’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2020)

“Electricity use makes up 25 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions profile, so we are continually looking into ways we can reduce our consumption and become smarter in the way we operate,” continued Obern.

“Over the past two years, the Auckland and Christchurch distribution centres have undergone a significant transformation to advance OfficeMax’s sustainability goals and align with the values of our customers.”

As part of its plans to address Greenhouse Gas Emissions from electricity, OfficeMax has installed 798 solar panels on top of its Auckland distribution centre, providing sustainable energy efficiency across the site.

Projections estimated that the panels would provide 22.5 percent of the site’s power, but as of June 2021 the site is already using 26 percent self-generated power from these panels.

Solar panels on the roof at OfficeMax HQ Distribution Centre in Auckland.

3. LPG (contributed 11 percent to OfficeMax’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2020)

OfficeMax has retired all LPG-powered equipment from its fleet and now has 60 electric mechanical handling machines across its two distribution centres to help reduce carbon emissions.

"This significant change in our fleet has enabled a cleaner environment within the distribution centre and means we can also use some of the energy generated from the installation of our solar panels to power the electric machinery in the distribution centre," concluded Obern.

The OfficeMax vision is to continue to empower sustainable and successful workplaces. These latest initiatives are proof of the industry-leading steps the organisation has been taking together with its customers, as they collectively look forward to a more sustainable future.

OfficeMax has recently released their 2020 Sustainability Report. To view the Report please visit the link here.