This article is part six in a series by Ferret.com.au focussing on practical ways manufacturers can reduce packaging use and embrace more environmentally sustainable packaging materials in warehouses, factories and distribution centres.
Part five, focusing on a sustainable foil developed for short or long term storage of metals, can be found by clicking here.
In this series, Ferret.com.au has discussed a variety of packaging solutions that are distinguished by the attention to environmental sustainability inherent in their design.
As noted earlier, developing sustainable packaging materials requires an analysis of the entire life cycle of a product, from manufacture to retail display. First and foremost, the emphasis is on sourcing packaging materials that are either constructed from biodegradable materials, or that significantly reduce the amount of raw material used in their manufacture.
Looking at the product life cycle from the opposite end, though, due consideration should also be given to what happens to the packaging once it has satisfied its purpose. That is, can the material be recycled, and if so, can this be done in a timely and economical manner?
's ChillFresh chilled goods packaging
was designed as an alternative to conventional Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam packs, and in turn these packs use less raw materials to produce than the alternative.
EPS as a potential packaging material should be not rejected off hand, however, as it is fully recyclable. Indeed, in many applications polystyrene is the best packaging material to use as it can reduce the risk of damage to expensive electronic items and can preserve and protect food such as fish better than many alternative packaging materials.
NSW company Brentwood Recycling Systems
offers a solution for companies using this material on a regular basis with its Styromelt thermal densifier
This machine is a safe, simple and economical solution for the thermal compaction of polystyrene waste, which the company states can translate into large savings in transport and waste disposal costs.
It is specially designed for applications where traditional hydraulic compaction is not economical or practical or where lingering odours and contaminants are present in the polystyrene. The thermal compaction process used by the machine can achieve a volumetric reduction of waste of up to 95%.
The machine achieves this by simply reversing the manufacturing process of the material to be compacted, applying conducted heat to the polymer to convert it into a liquid resin, which is then cooled into a briquette.
One factor that limits the use of EPS packaging is the unfavourable volume to weight ratio of the material, which makes economic transportation after use difficult. By reducing EPS to easily managed briquettes, the Styromelt system, then, can reduce the need for expensive transport, storage and disposal facilities, which are currently a necessity for many industries using polystyrene packaging.