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Packaging Corner: Molded pulp packaging use expands

Alternative material packaging offers sustainable protection for products shipped in any channel.

Identical to the material used in egg cartons, interest in custom-engineered, molded pulp packaging for product protection is growing, says Bryon Crump, vice president of sales and marketing at EnviroPAK.

Offered as an alternative to expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, Crump attributes the uptick to greater interest in sustainability.

“Consumers are making judgments about a manufacturer based on how environmentally friendly their products are,” he says. “If they’re considering two identical products, they may draw certain conclusions based on the packaging type used in each.”

Products packaged in easily recycled, biodegradable and compostable material—such as molded pulp—tend to be perceived as coming from a source that values sustainable practices and likely runs its operations in a similarly responsible manner, Crump suggests.

“EPS is often much more difficult to dispose of because it is typically not accepted for curbside pickup and requires access to a special facility for recycling,” he explains. “Is the average consumer going to seek out a special facility to recycle foam packaging? It’s unlikely; they’ll probably take the easiest route and toss it in the trash.”

Further, with more manufacturing operations returning to the United States, there’s been a push to reduce shipping costs by sourcing from domestic producers of molded pulp packaging. Plus, while the electronics market has long deployed this material, Crump notes an uptick in usage for items sold at big box retailers, such as small household appliances.

“That has a lot to do with the omni-channel supply chain trend,” he explains. “Primary packaging is being reconfigured so that one common type of protection works regardless of how an item is shipped. Whether shipping items in bulk on a pallet, or sending them individually by parcel carrier, suppliers want the same level of performance without the item having to be repackaged.”

Cost-wise, the material is competitive. “When you look at the whole process, molded pulp can even be cost advantageous,” Crump adds. “The formed pulp nests compactly to take up less space than EPS foam blocks. This reduces transportation costs and minimizes space usage both in the warehouse for storage and line-side space during packaging.”

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About the Author

Sara Pearson Specter's avatar
Sara Pearson Specter
Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.
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