Skip to main content

Reusable industrial packaging remains a big opportunity for plastics

By Clare Goldsberry
Published: October 6th, 2011
Plastics Today

A whole section of the recent Pack Expo trade show was dedicated to member companies of the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA). While not dedicated solely to plastics packaging, Jerry Welcome, President and CEO of the RPA, said that more than ever, plastics are a big player in packaging products such as pallets and containers used for shipping large quantities.

While Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) is one company using embedded RFID tags to track pallets throughout the logistics chain, Welcome said that many other companies also are using RFID tags, bar code labels and other methods to track their shipping containers and pallets. “Asset management is an important issue in this industry,” Welcome said. “If they don’t solve that problem it’s going to hurt the industry.”

Oconomowoc, WI-based Obis Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Menasha Corp., is a manufacturer of sustainable reusable packaging and supply chain optimization, showcased its latest products in the Reusable Packaging Pavilion. Those include the Stack’R Pallet, a 40″x 48″ x 5.9″ pallet that is 100% recyclable; an all-plastic 40″ x 48″ Grocery Distribution pallet designed to store, ship and handle product throughout the grocery supply chain; and the HDMC BulkPak 4845 collapsible container to help maximize shipping space.

Orbis’s Stack’R Pallet is molded from HDPE in either open or solid deck designs, and can withstand a wide range of temperatures and harsh environments. The all-plastic pallet cannot harbor pests, mold or fungus and is available in FDA approved material.

Asset tracking is key to Orbis Corp.’s customers. In one case, Alpha Baking, a national distributor of fresh and frozen breads, rolls and buns with four plants and multiple depots across the United States, was experiencing significant tray loss each year, with no visibility to where the loss was occurring. Alpha Bakery partnered with The Kennedy Group, a provider of labeling, packaging, promotions, identification, and tracking systems for a variety of industries, and with Orbis Corp. to conduct a nine-month pilot program using radio-frequency identification tag technology to track the trays through the supply chain.

“As an industry, we are trying to solve a problem we can’t define,” said Bob McGuire, vice president and director of logistics for Alpha Baking, and chairman of the American Baking Association Fleet and Distribution Committee. “We know as an industry that we are all experiencing a great deal of tray loss, but until now, we have been unable to measure and understand those losses. The use of RFID tags has quantified and defined the root of the problem and helped us take corrective action to better control and utilize our bakery trays at Alpha Baking.”

Using bakery trays supplied by Orbis and the ePReusable RFID system, Kennedy Group’s reusable asset tracking application, the pilot program gave Alpha Baking visibility to assets in its system, while enabling it to see loss patterns, develop corrective actions and implement new processes to mitigate tray loss and better utilize their existing trays in the future.

Alpha Baking’s McGuire, added that the program helped the company more effectively manage its fleet of bakery trays, and determine that 20% of the non-compliant ship-to locations accounted for 80% of the tray issues. “We are now able to create processes for greater control,” he said. “People watch what we watch. If the ship-to locations know we are watching the bakery trays, then they will too.”

Orbis also announced that it received approval from Factory Mutual Insurance (FM) for a new fire-retardant material, free of deca-bromine, for use in its family of FM-approved, fire retardant pallets. Orbis has been proactively researching and testing a fire-retardant material to replace the deca-bromine additive used in its fire-retardant pallets. Effective immediately, all Orbis FM-approved pallets can be manufactured with this new additive making. “Our pursuit of this material, and its subsequent approval by Factory Mutual, puts our reusable plastic pallets at the forefront of the industry,” said Andrea Nottestad, marketing manager, consumer goods. “As deca-bromine comes under continued scrutiny, we are proud to offer the industry the first approved deca-bromine free solutions for fire-retardant pallets.”

Stackable pallets from Lomold

Pallets that stack easily and can be adapted to meet specific transport needs were the featured product from Lomold , a plastic pallet processor with facilities in Western Cape, South Africa, and Lomold USA LLC in Flower Mound, TX. The molder says its glass reinforced plastic pallets reduce pallet costs from loss and damage as well.

Lomold’s pallets are modular so that they can be adapted to meet specific transportation requirements. Because the pallets are nestable, they can be stored for reuse in a fraction of the space as wooden pallets, and nearly four times the number of empty pallets can be shipped back to the source in a trailer than wooden pallets. Additionally, the low weight and nesting capabilities of Lomold pallets mean more pallets and products can be loaded per shipment.

Buckhorn Inc.’s collapsible containers:

Buckhorn Inc., a provider of reusable plastic packaging systems, featured its newest class of pallet-sized collapsible containers, called the Maximizer, in the RPA Pavilion. “We designed Maximizer based on the input of our many customers,” said Mike Thomas, new product development manager. “More and more companies are demanding a lean, sustainable, cost-effective solution to replace cardboard in their operations.”

Unlike short-lived corrugated bulk containers that are awkward to assemble and knock down, Maximizer can be easily constructed by one person and can be reused hundreds of times. The walls of the Maximizer assemble and collapse, and the integrated locking system provides strength and stability in transport. The all-plastic Maximizer can be stored indoors or outdoors, and is 100% recyclable.

The Maximizer also folds flat and fits within its own footprint for returning the containers to the source. One assembled unit can store eight collapsed containers inside. Approximately 300 collapsed containers fit in a 53-foot trailer.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap