Just the Mooncake Please: Packaging Optimization in the Supply Chain

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Finally it seems something might be done about packaging in China. As someone who has frequently been frustrated by Chinese candy wrappers that often require the use of teeth to be opened, I was heartened to read that the powers that be have proposed that manufacturers and operators in China should cooperate with consumers to reduce excessive packaging. While encouraging product manufacturers to avoid excessive packaging and offer genuine goods at a fair price to consumers, the proposals also exhort packaging enterprises to conserve resources and develop new materials and technologies that are easy to recycle. The worst offenders in China, according to the China Consumers' Association, are health care products, tea, cosmetics and moon cakes. 

The new packaging proposals in China are in line with ongoing packaging innovations and improvements resulting from the current focus on developing green supply chains and sustainability. Jean Murphy at SupplyChainBrain has outlined how a recent explosion of corporate sustainability initiatives has led to renewed interest in packaging and achieving sustainability goals, and global retailer Wal-Mart has been a prime catalyst for the trend to reduce packaging in the supply chain, utilizing metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions, product-to-package ratios and space utilization to rate suppliers. 

David Busch of Spend Matters has offered some practical insights on how packaging engineering can save money while also helping the environment. He recounts the new designs retailer Costco uses for milk jugs which entail substantial labor, water and fuel savings and also reduce costs for consumers (see also Supply Chain Digest's illustration of the transportation benefits of improved packaging). The doctor at Sourcing Innovation has also proposed package design optimization by which one can attack the packaging category strategically by re-designing packaging materials or by using cheaper substitutions. Optimization of this sort, the doctor feels, will also help you save money and get greener faster.

And for mooncakes there might yet be a solution as well. While describing this distinctly Chinese delicacy as having cockroach-like resisted all attempts at eradication over the years, Imagethief believes a remedy is at hand  for the environmental toll of its excessive packaging, as mooncakes are infinitely recyclable and re-giftable. Shanghai, he writes, has brought the mooncake recycling market to a new level: rather than give physical mooncakes, its common to give a coupon that can be redeemed for mooncakes, so that while approximately four billion tons of mooncakes are gifted every mid-autumn, only about ten pounds are actually consumed.         

So as China's astronauts land on the northern steppes of Inner Mongolia after a historic spacewalk, I could not help but leave the final word in this posting to CCTV.com with its colorful description of the astronauts' diet while in space: 
The number 1 rule for the astronauts' menu is to avoid food that could cause gas. Such foodstuffs may cause stomach ache for the astronauts. And since their spacesuits have a self-circulation system, any gaseous after-effects could affect the air quality for the astronauts.
Yet luckily, 
scientists plan to pack on board traditional snacks from all the country's 56 ethnic groups

So here's to a safe landing, a moonwalk without gas, and a mooncake - without the packaging. 

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