Turning Trash into Packaging Treasure
It is a part of our daily lives — we find what we need online, click the button and the package with whatever our heart desires arrives on the doorstep. But, the euphoria of receiving the package is somewhat diminished by knowing the negative impact that box after box and package after package can have on the environment. With the help of innovative and environmentally minded designers, the world of packaging design is transforming just as our shopping habits have evolved from brick and mortar to the ease of online. Eco-conscious companies and their packaging design partners are developing new ways to deliver stellar, on-brand packaging with the structure to properly protect fragile contents in an environmentally friendly way. One such company is The Chamberlain Group.
The Chamberlain Group, the largest manufacturer of garage door openers in the world, wanted to find a greener solution for packaging and improve brand perception as a sustainability leader in their industry.
Chamberlain’s original packaging contained a significant amount of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam — a material that takes hundreds of years to break down and is rarely recycled due to a lack of convenient recycling facilities. In addition, the packaging was not providing the proper protection during storage and shipping, resulting in the potential for product damage and customer complaints. Chamberlain requested help in developing a solution that would reduce its carbon footprint and costs, improve customer satisfaction and make processes more efficient and cohesive.
Designing a Two-Step Solution
The first obstacle was to eliminate EPS foam from the company’s packaging. So began the search for materials that were not only good for the environment but would protect the product and be cost-effective. At first, Chamberlain moved to a multi-piece corrugated packaging solution, however, the accessory tray folding took too much time on the assembly line. The search was on for an easier way to pack the accessories. The result was a molded-fiber dry press tray made of post-consumer recycled corrugated boxes. The new material was perfect for the task as it is 100% recyclable, biodegradable and stronger than the previously used EPS foam. The new packaging offered greater protection and no assembly was required.
Through smart engineering design, the dry press molded-fiber accessory tray would be universally compatible with Chamberlain’s 30-plus garage door openers, each with various shapes, sizes and accompanying accessories. With the materials chosen and designs created, the new prototypes were put through ISTA 2A testing to ensure the solutions passed.
Due to the new packaging solutions designed by Veritiv, Chamberlain has reduced its carbon footprint by substituting the EPS foam cushions with simple corrugated pads and molded-fiber accessory trays that are 100% curbside recyclable, thus making it easier and more convenient for customers to recycle their packaging. These new solutions have also helped Chamberlain’s bottom line by decreasing the number of trays needed, and optimizing manufacturing and packaging processes. Chamberlain’s move to reinvigorate its packaging processes has achieved the goal of becoming more sustainable and, in turn, has received positive feedback from stakeholders, dealers and customers and presumably improved the perception of the brand.
It’s Time to Up the Ante
The optimization of Chamberlain’s packaging is a success — from an environmental, business and customer perspective. But there is much more that could and should be done in the industry. It is incumbent upon packaging solutions providers to continue to aggressively identify environmentally conscious ways of improving packaging without compromising integrity, security or customer engagement with the brand.
At Veritiv, the most frequently voiced issue from customers is their want to reduce or remove plastics from packaging. The team of material specialists collaborates with customers to develop sustainable packaging solutions including dry press and wet press molded fiber that improve efficiencies and reduce costs while protecting products.
Derived from the egg industry, dry press molded pulp mainly uses recycled materials like old corrugated containers (OCC) and newsprint. The dry press molded-fiber cushions are used in the consumer electronics industry to replace harmful foam cushions.
Alternatively, the wet press mainly uses virgin materials that are categorized as agricultural waste or rapidly renewable sources including bagasse (sugar cane waste), bamboo, wheat straw and more. In addition to these, there are unusual materials including molded starch and/or molded felt (derived from recycled PET bottles) to replace traditional packaging.
Another one of Veritiv’s customers, an American multinational computer technology company, was interested in sustainable packaging opportunities and actively wanted to prevent future plastics from joining the more than five trillion pieces of plastics currently inhabiting our oceans. This company set out to uncover a solution that would adequately protect its products while eliminating plastics from the packaging design. The result was a mixture of ocean-bound plastics (plastics found within 50 km of a coast line that are diverted for use in new products) and recycled plastics thermoformed into trays that are recyclable after use.
By working with certified volunteer groups and professional recycling organizations, plastics from beaches, waterways and coastal areas have been processed as part of this new packaging solution. The ocean-bound plastics are then mixed with other recycled high density polyethylene (HDPE) to ensure impurities with the recycled plastics do not affect the quality or chemical composition of the end plastic. The mix of 25% ocean-bound plastics and 75% recycled HDPE is then molded into trays that are 100 percent curbside recyclable, ensuring they remain part of a circular economy.
Environmentally conscious thinking combined with innovative and unrestricted ideation is leading to a transformation in the packaging industry. As packaging solutions companies, like Veritiv, and eco-minded customers come together, the opportunity to revamp the packaging design process is in full swing. In the end, not only will customers feel good about the product arriving on their doorstep, they can also rest easy knowing that the box carrying those goods is also doing well for our global environment.
With a passion for innovation and sustainability, Veritiv offers packaging services from materials to design, production, kitting and logistics. Veritiv has a team of in-house experts in strategic locations around the world that not only get you the supplies needed, but can identify inefficiencies in an operation and work to find the answers that turn inefficiencies into advantages. Headquartered in Atlanta, Veritiv is a Fortune 500 company and a leading North American business-to-business distributor of packaging, facility solutions, print and publishing products and services; and also a provider of logistics and supply chain management solutions.