Paper: An effective and sustainable cold chain packing solution!

February 18, 2022 by
Frank Calviño

Author: Anne de Rouw - Business Development Manager Cold Chain at Ranpak

Edited by: Frank Calviño - Cross-Border Magazine

These past two years have seen a massive increase in e-commerce. The pandemic accelerated the use of online shopping for many products that, traditionally, people preferred to buy at physical stores. Food and groceries specifically, became something of a common e-commerce purchase in Europe during the long Covid quarantines. But, how are we handling the logistic challenge of a massive expansion in European e-commerce? 

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Today we want to take a look at the complex cold chain logistics, vital for booming e-commerce groceries and food businesses. Let us begin! 

Paper is a sustainable cold chain packing solution? 

Food products are usually delivered within 24 hours, and traditionally, many of these products have been shipped using expanded polystyrene (EPS) boxes and other non-sustainable traditional cold chain solutions.

While these boxes are lightweight and provide good thermal protection, they do have disadvantages and environmental costs. 

Also, EPS boxes and other plastic-based thermal protection solutions - or even wool or cotton-based solutions and things like denim liners - are certainly an effective thermal protection approach, they also take up a great deal of space, both in the warehouse and in the product shipping process. Plus, their end-of-life disposal comes with many sustainability issues.  

If we add to this the fact that e-commerce only keeps on growing, we quickly realize that e-commerce packaging could easily become a major environmental issue if left unattended

The 2021 European Union Collaborative Report on E-Commerce Sustainability presents several key figures concerning the social and environmental impact of e-commerce packaging, for example, a third of the total weight of all packages in the Netherlands comes from e-commerce discarded or single-use packages. 

That’s why paper, being an easy to recycle material, could play a major role in creating a sustainable e-commerce industry. Specifically for products that require thermal protection for 24 hours or even up to 48 hours. 

WrapPak: A cost effective cold chain packing solution

Ranpak has developed a unique eco-friendly solution paper-based for cold chain packaging: WrapPak® Protector. Using thermal liners from 100% paper instead of petroleum-based products has many environmental benefits:

  • 100% paper. Our WrapPak protective liner is 100% paper – no plastics are used.
  • 100% renewable. We use FSC® certified materials sourced from sustainably managed forests and with a chain of custody certification.
  • 100% recyclable. There are no barriers to its entry into the recycling stream.
  • 100% biodegradable. Since WrapPak contains no plastics or other petroleum-based additives, it is 100% biodegradable if it does end up in the landfill.

WrapPak Protector also offers significant logistics benefits. These include:

  • Substantially reduced requirements for storing of packing materials. One pallet of WrapPak paper packs as much product as up to 24 pallets of EPS cold chain boxes!
  • The waved paper pads used for thermal protection are produced on demand, keeping required storage space to a minimum, reducing transport costs, and reducing the risk of running out of packing material during a busy period.

How Does It Work?

Ranpak provides the packing organization with WrapPak Protector converting equipment, which has a compact footprint, along with pallets of WrapPak Protector paper liners. Ranpak specialists will assess the packing and thermal protection requirements and recommend the best packing configurations for each type of product, whether requiring sustained thermal protection for frozen, chilled, or ambient temperature ranges. The packing process is straightforward:

  1. Select the right double- or triple-wall corrugated box.
  2. Use the WrapPak Protector converter to convert paper into waved pads in the right size with the number of layers required depending on the ambient temperature, the product temperature, and shipping duration.
  3. Products are inserted into the lined box with cooling elements added.
  4. Optional void fill can be used if there are empty spaces in the packed box.
  5. Close the box with tape, and it’s ready to ship!

How Does Thermal Protection Compare with EPS Boxes?

Ranpak has performed extensive testing to determine how its WrapPak Protector compares with EPS boxes in terms of thermal protection, and the good news is WrapPak Protector is roughly equivalent to EPS boxes. 

Their studies conducted using the Western European Test Profile (ambient temperatures between 14-25°C) with big boxes of 45 liters and 4 cool packs, every 300 grams, showed that products packed using WrapPak Protector waved pads maintained thermal protection well within the specified temperature ranges for these products, with cool maintained within a four-hour margin compared to the EPS boxes. In addition, as noted earlier, packers benefit from cost savings in storage and transport as well as improved sustainability.

Their market research reflects that there is a significant total addressable market for thermal protection in the ranges delivered by WrapPak Protector waved pads and can, in most cases, completely, safely, and cost-effectively replace EPS boxes for these shipping needs.

Plus, using paper versus plastic packaging delivers a circular economy approach that uses, rather than uses up, resources because they are manufactured from renewable resources.

Switching from plastic (EPS boxes) to paper (Ranpak WrapPak Protector) delivers significant benefits – environmentally, economically, and safely. Paper is 100% renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, fitting the demand for more circularity in product packaging and providing a clear alternative to conventional cold chain packaging materials. To find out how your packing operation can benefit from paper-based packaging solutions, talk to one of our experts! [contact]

For more information about Ranpak cold chain solutions and other paper-based packaging solutions from Ranpak, please find them here!

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