January 2015 | Commentary | Green Landscape

Reimagining Molded Pulp Packaging: It’s Not Just For Eggs Anymore

Tags: Supply Chain Management, Packaging, Manufacturing, Logistics

Chris Miget is President, EnviroPAK, 314-739-1202

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, industry leaders continually find ways to make operations more sustainable. This can mean anything from recycling more around the office to adopting Lean principles. Some companies are even thinking green when it comes to packaging.

Years of using plastics and foam packing peanuts have made it necessary for companies to reconsider how they package products to reduce their carbon footprint. Plastic is costly to produce, and often ends up in a landfill when the consumer ultimately throws it away.

Packaging for products is an obvious necessity, but companies are learning that they can still be environmentally friendly and not raise materials cost. For both environmental and economic reasons, many companies have turned to paper-based molded pulp to meet their packaging needs.

What is Molded Pulp?

Molded pulp is created from 100-percent recycled newspaper, a renewable raw material—in contrast to expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is mostly petroleum based. Molded pulp was first used as a packaging material for eggs. It has been more than 100 years since the molded pulp egg carton came into regular use, but now the material is finally being employed in a wide variety of applications.

Consumers are seeing molded pulp implemented into packaging across a number of industries, including electronics, medical devices, and consumer packaged goods. And because the material is paper-based, it offers a cost-efficient, sustainable solution that is completely biodegradable and easy for the end user to recycle. In contrast, curbside residential recycling programs often do not accept foam packing peanuts or EPS.

Saving Space Means Saving Dollars

In logistics applications such as warehouses or distribution centers, molded pulp packaging can help maximize the use of space. It can be custom designed to nest and stack together, allowing for greater quantities on pallets. For example, a product packaged with EPS or a similar material could instead be packaged with a molded pulp endcap or tray, reducing the space requirements and potentially adding room for an additional layer. Saving more space per truckload means extra products can be included in each shipment, providing a direct impact on the bottom line.

And because molded pulp is made from mostly post-industrial raw material, costs for manufacturers remain relatively stable. Molded pulp can lower overall costs by as much as 70 percent compared to other packaging types. The material also provides equal or better protection against vibration and the effects of shock than similar packing materials.

As consumer and retailer demand for sustainability increases, many manufacturers and distributors are embracing the idea of change, and rethinking the way they package their goods. Strangely enough, that change means shifting to a form of packaging first used more than one century ago.






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