Case Study: Laithwaite’s closes the loop on cardboard packaging

Together with Laithwaite’s, we demonstrated a fully auditable and traceable closed-loop model right here in the UK.

Recycling is at the heart of what we do at DS Smith, and it ensures we are living our company Purpose: ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’. By thinking differently and working closely with our customer Laithwaite’s Wine, we have developed the right strategies so we can close the loop on over 1,000 tonnes of cardboard packaging, ensuring materials are kept in the supply cycle for as long as possible and that the maximum value is obtained.

Laithwaite’s Wine is the UK’s No.1 destination for buying wine online. Their customers can choose from thousands of wines, spirits and gifts – with delivery direct to their door.

They share our view on sustainability, which has enabled us to introduce a closed-loop model for cardboard packaging via their distribution centre in Gloucester, UK.

In 2019 Laithwaite’s was one of our first customers to be awarded our Closed-Loop Certification. Championing the circular economy is vital for companies across the globe, as the drive to meet the expectations and demands of the modern consumer.

Tom Campbell White
European Strategic Development Director at DS Smith

The Challenge

Closed Loop Recycling is in principle a simple process. However, it requires collaboration and partnership in all areas of the supply chain for it to be successful.

Working across our Packaging, Recycling and Paper divisions we can achieve a ‘Box to Box in 14 days’. Meaning the cardboard we collected from customers, can be processed for recycling, made into new paper and, converted into corrugated cardboard packaging - all within 14 days.

In addition to closing the loop on cardboard packaging, Laithwaite’s wanted to improve the protection performance of its packaging while eradicating plastic from its portfolio. Using this insight, DS Smith designed enhanced cardboard packaging that would offer protection from the jolts and impacts of the courier delivery network. To trial the effectiveness of the solution before sending it into the supply chain, Laithwaite’s put its packaging to the test using DS Smith’s innovative DISCS™ technology.

The Solution

As for any product quality is vital. That is why we worked with Laithwaite’s distribution centre to ensure that cardboard was collected separately from other material streams, to guarantee the best possible quality carboard is fed into our papermaking process.

Our flagship paper mill in Kemsley, UK, is the second biggest recovered fibre-based paper operation in Europe. It uses the carboard we collect from Laithwaite’s as the raw material in the papermaking process.

On average, we use 80% recycled and 20% chain of custody certified virgin fibres in our packaging. These fibres can be recycled up to 25 times. It’s the circular economy in action, and one of the ways in which we reduce our impact on the environment.


By developing the right sustainable strategy, Laithwaite’s now have a fully auditable and traceable closed-loop model right here in the UK. It underpins our commitment to producing high-quality and sustainable recycled packaging papers.

By utilising our DISCS™ technology, there has also been a significant reduction in damaged customer orders which has had a direct and positive impact on Laithwaite’s bottom line.

We are delighted that through our partnership with DS Smith we're able to keep our cardboard for recycling here in the UK. Via the closed-loop model, we can give a new lease of life to our recycling which will be used in the packaging we send to our customers.

Andrew Hawker
Head of Logistics at Laithwaite’s Wine

This is an example of the circular economy in action. Keeping materials in use for as long as possible, thereby reducing the need for virgin materials and, ultimately, limiting the excessive consumption of resources. DS Smith is leading the way in innovating with suppliers and customers to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.