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Fast Company writes about how “3M is releasing a new type of packaging that requires no tape and no filler, and it can be customized to fit any object under 3 pounds - which 3M says accounts for about 60% of all items that are bought online and shipped. 3M claims that the material, called the Flex & Seal Shipping Roll, can reduce time spent packing, the amount of packaging materials, and the space needed to ship packages.”

The story says that “Flex & Seal is one way that 3M is trying to get in on the gold rush of the on-demand economy. The U.S. Postal Service handled more than 6 billion packages in 2018, and UPS recently reported net income of $1.69 billion in the second quarter of 2019, up from $1.49 billion during the second quarter in 2018. Many of those billions of packages are transported using cardboard boxes.”

However, while this new packaging is recyclable, there are limits: “it’s made of the same material as disposable plastic bags<‘ which means that “similar to plastic bags, the only way to recycle it is to take it to certain retail stores and recyclers, which might be able to include it in their plastic bag recycling program. That means you can’t toss it in your recycling bin with old milk cartons and empty soda cans. Compared to cardboard boxes, which can be easily recycled, that’s a hassle most consumers likely won’t bother with.”
KC's View:
3M says it is aware of the issue and is working on improving the product’s environmental impact, and suggests that there is one advantage - fewer boxes means that trucks can be more fully loaded, which at least could mean fewer truck trips and lower emissions. Which sounds sort of like a rationalization to me … I’d suggest that for the time being, they should promote the convenience and not really get into the environmental thing until they have something stronger about which to brag.