Sustainable Engineering: Sustainable-Packaging Practices Can cut Costs

Dec. 12, 2008
Companies that use packaging are taking a hard look at corrugated boxes and finding ways to limit their use.

Companies that use packaging are taking a hard look at corrugated boxes and finding ways to limit their use. This is one conclusion from a recent study by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI). The “Secondary Packaging Market Research Study” found that every company surveyed was looking at substrates, weight, cube size and how to fit more in a cubic foot.

Electric Propulstioin Innovation Corp.,

Corrugated fiberboard is under particular scrutiny, the survey reports, because the amount used impacts overall costs. PMMI found 80% of companies are currently using regular slotted containers (RSCs) for secondary packaging. This is the most common-style container where the flaps meet in the center and can be taped, glued, or stapled to close. More than half of all box users are cutting usage by anywhere from 5 to 60%.

PMMI found manufacturers moving toward a tray with overwrap or a bliss box, a style of cardboard box used for products that require high top-to-bottom stacking strength. Companies already using trays are moving to pads with overwrap, often with the goal of getting to just shrink wrap.

About half of all packaging professionals say corrugated usage will drop (with specially designed cartons filling the void). Another quarter predict no change, and another 21% actually foresee more use of corrugated fiberboard because of Internet sales.

Also under consideration are alternative materials and recycled fiberboard. This trend is important because recycled content in corrugated fiberboard can affect machinery performance, and the type of primary packaging directly impacts choices in secondary packaging. Rigid packaging for liquids, for example, requires less secondary packaging than do flexible packages.

Packagers mentioned a long list of alternative materials, including the cornbased bioplastic polylactic acid (PLA); Hexacomb, a honeycomb product made from container board and starch; thin-seal polypropylene; reductions in flute construction and micro flutes; and new methods of folding boxes that use less corrugated fiberboard.

All in all, improved operations, cost savings, and lower transportation costs were the top three drivers for changing materials. Sustainability ranked fourth.

Here Come Electric Pleasure Boats

It’s environmentally friendly and no gasoline needed. The Calypso 23e, powered by the Whisper XT electric outboard debuted at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show last month. The Calypso 23e can cruise up to 8.5 mph, is powered by 600 lb of military-grade Odyssey advanced AGM dry-cell batteries, and can be charged overnight from a standard 115-V outlet.

The electric outboard motor powering the boat uses brushless-motor technology with neodymium- boron-iron rare-earth magnets developed for the U.S. Navy. Motor manufacturer Electric Propulsion Innovation Corp., Annapolis, Md., says it’s roughly equivalent to a 15-hp gasoline outboard.

About the Author

Leland Teschler

Lee Teschler served as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design until 2014. He holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan; a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan; and an MBA from Cleveland State University. Prior to joining Penton, Lee worked as a Communications design engineer for the U.S. Government.

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