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White Paper: Sprint improves packaging sustainability 55% in three years

Independently researched study examines the evolution of Sprint-branded device packaging.

Sprint.jpginfographic-design-changes.jpginfographic-energy.jpgSprint has improved the sustainability of its packaging by 55% since 2009. That’s according to a recently published white paper, "The Evolution of Greener Device Packaging at Sprint," which closely examines the impacts of Sprint-branded device packaging from 2009 to 2012.

The white paper was co-authored by Rory Bakke, president of Sustainable Concepts Studio, and environmental consulting firm Quantis International, which performed a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for three generations of Sprint device packages. The report underscores Sprint’s commitment to understanding and managing the environmental performance of the full spectrum of its products, packaging, and services.

“Careful, innovation-driven design and production choices have enabled a 55 percent reduction in the environmental effect of Sprint-branded device packaging since 2009,” says Mark Rexroat, director of retail communications and marketing services at Sprint. “This industry-leading makeover left no stone unturned; we reworked everything from raw materials to inks to adhesives.”

Compared to the first-generation “black box” style used in 2009, Sprint’s current packaging by Deutsch Design Works is 60% smaller in volume and 50% lighter in weight. Besides lowering material use and costs, this change means more devices fit onto each loading palette, significantly reducing the number of plane flights and truck runs necessary to move them. Today, all Sprint-branded packaging is 100% recyclable, and boxes are made from unbleached kraft paper, using a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled material. Packaging is printed with soy inks and uses eco-friendly adhesives and aqueous coatings.

The LCA studied all aspects of Sprint-branded device packaging, beginning with the extraction of raw materials, through manufacture, transport, usage, and end of life.

The research examined five categories—climate change, human health, ecosystem quality, resources depletion, and water withdrawal—and found that a series of changes both big and small have led to significant environmental reductions. By addressing concerns from petroleum-based inks to printed user guides (which are now available online), Sprint says it has successfully addressed an area that, until now, has largely been ignored within the telecommunications industry.

According to the study, for each million devices produced, the greening of Sprint packaging currently saves:

• The ecosystem equivalent to about two football fields of clear-cut forest

• 2,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide—the amount emitted by 420 passenger cars annually

• 8,800 megawatt hours of energy—enough to light the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for 12 months

• 8,900 kilogallons of water—enough to fill 68 million half-liter plastic water bottles

“Sprint has made an impressive commitment to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging in every way feasible, and the results shown in this study demonstrate that they’ve had a lot of success,” says Jon Dettling, managing director, U.S., Quantis. “Their leadership sets a challenge for others in the industry to follow, and their openness in sharing this information also gives others a roadmap on how to mirror their success.”

The LCA was conducted to meet International Standardization Organization (ISO) 14040 and 14044 standards for public disclosure, which include a protocol for peer review.

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