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A huge pile of styrofoam packaging material.

Imagine opening a beautifully packaged iPad, whose very box is aesthetically pleasing and minimally wasteful.

Now imagine unpacking an appliance from Costco that’s swathed in ugly, nonrecyclable styrofoam and plastic wrap.

Which company’s product are you going to be happier about in your first few minutes of using it? Probably not the one that forces you to figure out how to deal with several cubic feet of non-crushable plastics that are likely to fill up your garbage can and then live on for centuries in a landfill.

That’s why we’re encouraged to learn that PCH International, a 3,000-person global company with $80 million in funding from a wide range of venture capital firms, is opening a new sustainable package-design center in San Francisco.

The company’s Sustainable Packaging Design Centre of Excellence will include a material library and a structural design engineering and quality test lab, and it’ll be based in Shenzhen, China. The company will also open a  showroom and material library in San Francisco early in 2013, placing its services in closer reach of Silicon Valley companies — those that still make hardware products, that is, rather than Facebook games or iPhone apps.

Sustainable packaging can be good for the bottom line, too — not just good marketing and customer experience. In one case study, the company claims it helped reduce packaging time from 180 seconds to 15 seconds, eliminate the use of PVC plastic, reduce card stock usage from 90g to 50g, and more than double the number of units that could fit on a single shipping pallet, reducing the client’s packaging costs by 91 percent.

PCH is a services company that helps companies set up their manufacturing supply chains, primarily through its relationships with manufacturers in Shenzhen, China. Based in Cork, Ireland, PCH was founded in 1996 by Liam Casey. Its backers include Cross Creek Capital, Focus Venture Partners, J. Christopher Burch, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Fung Capital, Northbrooks Investments, Norwest Venture Partners, and Triangle Peak Partners.

So while you might think product packaging is uninteresting to everyone except toddlers, cats, and those strange bloggers who make unboxing videos, now you know: CEOs might want to pay a little attention to packaging too.

photo credit: calonda via photo pin

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