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Molded pulp moves into new markets

The use of molded pulp as a dunnage or commodity material in packaging goes back to World War I. But only in the past few years have packaged goods manufacturers begun to design molded pulp to meet specific applications.
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FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy
     

Two diverse applications were featured at the 4th Intl. Molded Pulp Packaging Seminar in Chicago in November presented by the Intl. Molded Pulp Environmental Packaging Assn. (Mequon WI).

Paul Pierson senior packaging engineer for Durham NC-based Organon Teknika reported on a molded pulp tray (shown) that last year replaced a multimaterial tray containing 25 glass vials of BacT/ALERT® a medical diagnostic reagent sold to hospitals and clinics for the detection of bacteria in fluids and tissue samples. The package won a Molded Pulp Award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ AmeriStar Package Awards competition.

Pierson says the tray “provides cushioning for fragile glass vials that contain medical reagents for worldwide distribution. The tray is also used as a storage and transport carrier for vials in hospitals and clinics. Molded pulp is not frequently used for packaging in the medical diagnosic industry so this application helps introduce the technology to a new market.”

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Using molded pulp also provides economic advantages for the company. “The new molded pulp tray will save an estimated $170 per year in materials” Pierson says compared with the previous package that combined E-flute corrugated shrink wrap and honeycomb pads.

“The savings enabled us to purchase a case sealer and a palletizing robot which will contribute an additional $30 per year cost savings.” He adds that the new tray also saves warehouse space offers environmental and marketing advantages for Organon Teknika a division of Akzo Nobel in The Netherlands.

Coleman also benefits

Outdoor camping equipment maker The Coleman Company was represented by Jodey Leser packaging engineer for the Wichita KS-based company. She described how molded pulp replaced corrugated as a protective packaging element for outdoor lanterns and stoves that the company sells at retail.

With corrugated employees manually folded boxes with multiple scores a process that was both ergonomically unfriendly and labor-intensive. Additionally the specialty boxes were costly.

“Molded pulp provides product stability and integrity we’ve had no dusting problems and it’s easy to pack” says Leser. “It’s been well-received by our line personnel and we’re looking at using it with other products.”

While the molded pulp has yielded many benefits Leser does admit more work needs to be done. “At times the dimensional stability of the trays is lacking” she says. “What we’ve found is that occasionally the trays lose some of their shape. Our end caps are rectangular and sometimes the long sides start to fold inward.” She says the company is working with its vendors to rectify the situation. (JB)

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