Sustainable logistics: The way to carbon neutral packaging



One of the main concerns of the transport sector today is to improve the efficiency of distribution, both in long distance and last mile (the last stretch of delivery of goods until they reach the final receiver), in order to increase safety during distribution, as well as reducing costs and associated emissions

Patricia Navarro y Sergio Güerri - ITENE


This requires further development of stowage recommendations in line with Royal Decree 563/17 and the development of models for increasing the technical efficiency of distribution. Key actions include the calculation of the carbon footprint of the main distribution routes and the development of traceability systems that report on the associated costs and environmental impacts.



In line with these actions and needs, the research centre ITENE is developing the MODELROAD project, a proposal for improvement to increase logistics efficiency in road transport, supported by the Valencian Institute of Business Competitiveness (IVACE) through FEDER funds. To achieve this objective, it is necessary to develop a series of actions based on the current legislation in terms of road and cargo safety, as well as environmental trends and requirements, which are becoming more and more present and, in many cases, still need to be properly communicated and made aware of.

In this term, ITENE, with the collaboration of distribution companies from the Valencian Community, has been able to select and characterise the main logistics routes (both long distance and last mile). This information, together with the characterisation of the loads, the operations and the emissions generated will serve as a starting point to reach the project milestones.


Traditionally, route modelling has been carried out with devices that only recorded linear accelerations and ignored angular accelerations, which have a great influence on the damage identified in the goods and are key in the development of packaging systems. Unlike these traditional monitoring systems, the Data Recorder (DR) measuring device -developed by ITENE- takes into account both linear and angular accelerations, which, together with the different elements available in the market for a correct stowage (lashing, mats, blocking, etc.), allow ensuring that the goods are transported in a stable and safe way, guaranteeing that the product reaches its final destination without causing accidents during its distribution, thus complying with the premises of the RD 563/17.



By means of the complete recording of accelerations (both linear and angular) thanks to ITENE's DR device, it is possible to design optimised and developed packaging systems with the necessary technical and structural characteristics to overcome the risks identified and quantified in the distribution cycle. Likewise, it is possible to generate test protocols that simulate the real risks of the measured route, thus allowing the validation of the new optimised packaging. Furthermore, it is intended to develop logistics optimisation models based on these measurements, in order to increase safety and reduce costs associated with distribution.




Not only safety and costs are key points in the development of this project, but the environmental level is also another essential point to consider. Bearing in mind that pollution and congestion is a major problem in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the calculation of the carbon footprint in long distance and last mile transport is a requirement. The latter is of particular interest, as it is a type of distribution that is increasing due to changes in consumer habits and also because it generates an increasingly complex urban environment of congestion, air quality and environmental problems. Delivering thousands of parcels to their final destination every day is a complex challenge. Specifically, and in relation to urban distribution of goods, there are several factors that reduce the efficiency and sustainability of the operation, including more complex routes, the greater number of stops, failed deliveries, as well as the need for reverse logistics for the collection of returns.


Data on this aspect for the last year before the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic are for 2019. At that time, the transport sector was still ranked as the most polluting sector, accounting for 29% of emissions in terms of CO2 equivalent (1). Road transport accounted for 26.8% of total greenhouse gas emissions, experiencing a year-on-year increase of +0.6% generated by an increase in petrol consumption of +5.7%, despite a slight decrease in diesel consumption of 0.4%.

In turn, in the last two years and precisely as a result of Covid-19, the growth of ecommerce in Spain has been above 40%, and it is estimated that nearly half of this will be consolidated once the pandemic is over. This will accentuate the problems associated with the distribution of goods.  


In this sense, MODELROAD aims to support companies in calculating the carbon footprint of their routes, developing a traceability module to characterise the environmental impact of the different operations and service alternatives carried out in order to subsequently provide measures to mitigate current emissions.



The knowledge generated by ITENE will be transferred to companies in order to promote public awareness towards more efficient delivery models. It is common for consumers and customers to shop automatically, for example, without taking into account the economic, social and environmental costs that express and home delivery entails in the case of the last mile. In this context and for both scenarios (long distance and last mile transport), it is necessary to promote more sustainable patterns, including raising awareness of users and companies towards more efficient delivery models.


In addition to these actions, MODELROAD aims to characterise the risks of the main long-distance and last mile distribution routes in the Valencian Community and Valencia city centre respectively, with the help of ITENE's Data Recorder device and, as previously mentioned, to generate test protocols associated with the monitored distribution routes seeking the optimisation of packaging in both types of routes, and to analyse and compare the associated economic, social, and environmental costs.

Transport simulation tests have been carried out since the 1960s, however, in recent years they have gone from more generic simulations to more specific simulations, adapted and standardised through protocols included in the ISTA, ASTM, ISO EN series, among others. By means of these models, it will be possible to generate simulation tests that are even more specific to the real situation and adapted to a greater extent to the needs of companies in the transport sector.


There are many benefits that can be obtained with the development of this project, through which ITENE, as a technology centre, wants to support the generation and adaptation of the knowledge obtained, being able to transfer it to the companies to improve their efficiency and competitiveness.



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