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Engineering Materials
Bioplastic Packaging Is Cheaper Than Cardboard
7/5/2012

Bioplastic shipping containers used for consumer electronics repair may cost more per unit, but they can be cheaper overall because they're reusable and can be recycled back into the supply chain in a closed-loop/reverse logistics setup.   (Source: Ecospan)
Bioplastic shipping containers used for consumer electronics repair may cost more per unit, but they can be cheaper overall because they're reusable and can be recycled back into the supply chain in a closed-loop/reverse logistics setup.
(Source: Ecospan)

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Ann R. Thryft   7/11/2012 11:57:24 AM
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Thanks for the input, Rob. Good to know that reverse logistics has been integrated into supply chain management, which makes sense. I haven't seen plastic return packages, either, so I don't think they're very common yet. Another reason this looked like a groundbreaker.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Rob Spiegel   7/11/2012 5:32:05 PM
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Yes, it probably is a groundbreaker, which fits with your coverage. Environmental advances seem to be all over the place these days. And more and more, the green avenue doesn't seem to be a cost-added road. That's good news.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Ann R. Thryft   7/12/2012 12:23:27 PM
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I agree, one of the most exciting things about this development is not only saving cardboard (and trees, and carbon sequestration), but doing it with bioplastics, and then recycling them, too.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Ann R. Thryft   7/12/2012 3:08:27 PM
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Thanks, Chuck. I was surprised to hear that ship-back cartons were still made of cardboard. Details about cardboard type weren't available, but I'd guess that it must have not been the corrugated variety.

CLMcDade
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
CLMcDade   7/20/2012 5:29:53 PM
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Hi Ann,

Could you clarify your statement, "I haven't seen plastic return packages, either, so I don't think they're very common yet."?

The reason that I ask is that the company I work for designs and manufactures injection molded returnable systems.  But before I describe them in more detail, I wanted to make sure that it is those systems that you meant and not something else.

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Ann R. Thryft   7/24/2012 1:15:53 PM
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CLMDade, I meant ship-back or return containers, the subject of the article. Does that answer your question? And can you tell us more about what your company makes?

CLMcDade
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
CLMcDade   7/26/2012 4:48:21 PM
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Ann,

I am the Senior Designer of Plastic Products for Schaefer Systems International.  One of our largest divisions is Returnable Packaging Solutions, which sells Close-Loop returnable solutions.  Mostly plastic, our products replace disposable, easily damaged products (i.e. wooden pallets, paper corrugated boxes).  These systems include plastic pallets and top caps with matching, multiple sized injection molded totes. 

A primary user of such systems in the U.S. is the automotive industry.  Their first tier suppliers are required to deliver their components to the assembly plants in approved packaging.  This usually consists of: a plastic tote, reusable dunnage (packaging within the tote, i.e. the cardboard partition set inside wine cases) and labeling with tracking and routing information. 

These filled totes actually travel to the workstations within the assembly plant.  The totes are emptied one part at a time as each component is installed in a car or sub-assembly.  The palletized empty totes are returned to the supplier to be restocked and reused.  This makes up a closed loop.

These packaging systems are bought en masse at the beginning of a car program and, barring forklift interactions, last the lifetime of the car model.  At the end of the program, all of the boxes/pallets/top caps can be ground up and recycled to make new product. 

As in your bio-plastic example, plastic returnable systems are usually more cost effective than disposable systems.  The upfront costs are higher, however, and saving money short-term sometimes gets in the way of real savings.

If you'd like more information, please ask.   I tried to keep this answer short. :)

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Ann R. Thryft   7/27/2012 12:59:55 PM
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CLMcDade, thanks for replying. I'd like to follow up this discussion with an off-list conversation, possibly leading to an article. Please contact me by email if you're interested.

CLMcDade
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
CLMcDade   7/30/2012 10:37:55 AM
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Hi Ann,

I didn't see a way to email you other than choosing the "reply" button.  However,  this screen looks remarkably similar to the posting screen.  We'll see if this goes  to only you or if it ends up out on the message board.

I would be more than happy to speak with you.  After we establish that this is a method that goes directly to you, I can send my phone number.

Clinton

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The bigger sustainability picture
Ann R. Thryft   7/30/2012 12:47:24 PM
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Clinton, this is the comments board. For off-list communication about a possible story, you can find my email address on our website at Contact Us/Editorial & Production Directory: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=231129

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