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Secondary Packaging – The Silent Killer of the Environment

While direct contact/retail/primary packaging has been receiving all of the attention and well deserved scrutiny of the world, secondary packaging, without much attention at all, been has been quietly filling our landfills.

Trouble by the Pallet

It is estimated that the stretch film market – that nearly invisible product used to wrap pallets – is over 1.5 billion pounds annually. Stretch film is used for load retention and containment to get a product from one place to another. But after the product is received and the stretch wrap removed, it may well be re-palletized and then, of course, re-wrapped in more stretch film. If it sounds silly and wasteful, understand that scenario is probably played out tens of thousands of times each day between manufacturers, distribution centers and retailers. Guess where most of these 1.5 billion pounds wind up?

I admit my company sells stretch film and I suspect many may categorize it as a necessary evil because it is an excellent way to unitize and protect a load during shipment. For most loads, it can also help to avoid plastic or metal strapping, Strapping may not result is as much secondary packaging waste, but disposal is difficult, can be dangerous (ask anyone who has ever worked with it) and without costly, inflexible automation, the strapping process is labor intensive.

Fill Voids, Not Landfills

For the purpose of this discussion let’s acknowledge the difference between interior packaging and void fill products. Interior packaging is typically used in cushioning applications and can be constructed of a wide variety of flexible and rigid foams or of corrugated design. We usually see this around electronics and other high cost products that are susceptible to damage in shipment, especially from overseas. The volume of this waste is probably greater than anyone would suspect and the shame of it is that most of the foam products can be eliminated with good corrugated designs. That would make a great subject for an article but for now let’s focus on void fill materials.

Void fill packaging materials are used to protect the product(s) being shipped when the outer, shipping case is larger than the products. This is most common in pick and pack operations where orders tend to each be different in size, shape and weight. Most cases you receive are usually filled with some form of paper product (newsprint, indented, bogus, Kraft, etc.), bubble sheets, with one of many commercially available inflatable products, or loose fill materials including the much maligned (deservedly I believe) foam peanuts and shells.

With so many options and manufacturers involved in the void fill industry, it is impossible to determine or accurately estimate the amount of waste being generated. However, I think we can all agree the total volume is substantial. Just check the local landfill and you’ll see that voids in boxes is not all these products are filling.

Corrugated over Corrugated – are we being redundant?

According to, in 2005, 24.7 million tons of corrugated board (76.6% of all containerboard produced) were recycled. By many estimates, over half of it is used for simple (secondary) case packing applications. In most of these situations the case will never be touched by the consumer, and disposed of in back rooms of major retailers on an almost continuous basis. I will admit that corrugated remains one of the easiest products to recycle and most retailers crush and bale their empty cases for that purpose. But now, thanks to the Internet and large catalog houses, let’s not forget the fast growing number of cases that are unpacked in homes and businesses throughout the country and are neither baled nor recycled.

Steps in the right direction for stretch pallet wrapping film

This is one of the many areas of packaging where technology has outpaced the market. The pallet wrapping equipment market has matured and as a result, the vast majority of equipment in use today is between five and ten years old. Those wrappers were designed to run and take advantage of the film properties that were available at that time. I don’t think it is too early in the new millennium to use the term “turn of the century technology,” is it?

Pallet wrapping films today are much stronger, and stretch farther with new, high yield formulations. To give you an idea of the waste reduction potential available, we recently reviewed the pallet wrapping process of a huge distribution warehouse of a manufacturer of a household brand we all know and use. With some simple, low cost modifications on existing equipment, we reduced their overall stretch film usage by over 30%. What we did was not magic and it required only minimal cost and effort to achieve. This particular client employs some of the best packaging engineers in the industry, but I can assure you most if not all of their time is spent on their primary, retail packaging. We refer to this as sustainable, low hanging fruit because for minimal effort and expense, you can easily maximize the benefit, quickly.

Steps in the right direction for void fill

There are very few applications which require loose void fill. If you are using foam peanuts, please stop it right away. Your people hate them, your customers hate them and there are other loose fill solutions. Just say no to foam peanuts, shells or any other shape of this obnoxious packaging product.

Another product that I find rare use for is bubble sheeting. I know it is big business and kids (and some adults) love popping those cute little bubbles, but void fill is not a toy! Bubble packaging is effective but typically very high in cost and the composition and recyclability of this product varies greatly from one manufacturer to another. Perhaps it is time to review your usage because lower cost, more sustainable options are available for you, your customers and the environment.

In the area of void fill we are very pleased to be working with a number of responsible manufacturers of paper void fill products and inflatable void fill solutions from Air Pouch, a division of Automated Packaging. We believe they are on the forefront of sustainability creating materials and processes to make their inflatable void fill products as earth friendly and as easy to recycle as possible.

Steps in the right direction for redundant corrugated usage

It is praiseworthy that corrugated is one of the most recyclable and most recycled materials in the packaging industry. However, my biggest gripe – first in a long list – is the fact that so much of the corrugated we use is placed over other corrugated. The dreaded “master case” that holds the smaller, individual retail units we take home is, quite frequently, completely unnecessary!

Much of that corrugated can be eliminated or dramatically reduced by utilizing earth friendly and sustainable plastic (there is that dreaded word again) formulations. Some may not like plastic as a sustainable solution, but many in the field now accept that in certain applications, plastic can result in a smaller carbon footprint than paper products, including corrugated. Once again, the first step towards a greener world and a lower material and labor cost is to review what you are currently doing. If it you have been packaging the same product, the same way for more than a few years, you are most certainly out of date. Speaking of corrugated, how much do you know about the corrugated you are currently using? What is the recycled, post consumer waste content and how can you minimize the amount you use? How long have you been utilizing the same board and board supplier?

For the most part, I am very proud of the packaging industry and the new materials and designs they have developed to help us all achieve our sustainability goals. What truly drives innovation is demand, so even small steps in the right direction actually fuel the engineering and results we all want. If you are waiting for that perfect packaging solution, it may never happen. Even though it may be frustrating at times, change is indeed best when it is evolutionary and not revolutionary.

Let’s face it; there are plenty of primary and secondary sustainable packaging opportunities to keep us all worried and occupied. Right now, my mind is focused on a box of steaks one of our favorite business associates sent us for the holidays. Love the friend, love the steaks but I hate the packaging. There has to be a better solution to those foam insulated coolers, doesn’t there?

Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.

To contact, please email at:

Target Archer Farms Packaging FSC Certified

UPDATE:   See our latest story on Archer Farms new innovative cereal packaging

Target Stores Archer Farms brand has recently released new paperboard packaging that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The new packaging was noticed by one of our contributors at a local Target store.  The packaging is appearing on select Archer Farms Organic product lines.  We found the packaging for the entire line of Archer Farms Organic cookies (Key Lime White Chocolate pictured) carrying both the FSC Mixed Sources logo and the Green-e logo.

According to Target’s 2007 Corporate Responsibility Report, “In 2007, select Archer Farms Organic product lines will convert to a paperboard manufacturer that uses 100 percent wind power. Additionally, this paperboard and manufacturer are certified with the Forest Stewardship Council.”

San Francisco-based Michael Osborne Design (MOD) redesigned Archer Farms packaging several years ago.  The redesign featured a French country theme and allowed Target to position its Archer Farms brand as their “premium” store brand and introduce a more basic Target store brand of food items.

It is unknown what other products in the Archer Farms Organic line have the new FSC/Green-e paperboard packaging or who is producing the packaging.  Target did not respond to multiple inquires by Sustainable is Good.

FSC/Green-e certified packaging on a store brand product is rare and could signify an increased interest from Target in more sustainable packaging.  Previously Sustainable is Good reported on Target’s efforts to reduce PVC from the packaging of products in its stores.

Weleda Salt Toothpaste

Weleda’s salt toothpaste is a product that has intrigued us for a while.  Recently we had the chance to try the unique toothpaste and find out about its background and packaging from Weleda’s North American PR firm Siren.

The idea of a salt toothpaste is something foreign to American consumers but in Europe, where the toothpaste was developed its an established product with a strong following.

Weleda is known for its superior natural products.  Siren told us, “all Weleda products—both internal medicines and external skin care—have been created to support and catalyze the body’s natural healing and caring abilities.”

Their focus on formulation and quality is clearly evident in their products and the salt toothpaste is no exception.  Made in Germany the toothpaste’s use of sea salt increases saliva production in the mouth to help wash out bacteria found in the mouth and dilute the concentration of remaining bacteria which lead to gum inflammation and decay.

We had several of our writers try Weleda’s Salt Toothpaste and we all came back with the same conclusion – highly impressed.  Having tried a number of natural toothpaste products we each liked this one because you can feel it doing exactly what its designed to do – clean the mouth.

Siren told us the salt toothpaste is Weleda’s number one seller in North America of its adult toothpaste products (their Children’s Tooth Gel is number one overall sales).

In terms of packaging Weleda employs “only the safest materials for its packaging to protect and preserve both the product formulation and the environment.  In addition, Weleda designs its unique packaging for easy use and durability.  All packaging is recyclable.”

The salt toothpaste packaging like all of Weleda’s oral care line is packaged in Aluminum tubes due to the pure ingredient composition of the products.  “Natural substances, such as essential oils, are “living,” making them extremely volatile.  Aluminum does not react with the formulations within, eliminating oxygenation of the products.  All Aluminum tubes are lined with a protective resin to avoid any interaction between the product and the Aluminum material,” according to Siren.

Weleda’s salt toothpaste and their other products are available at a variety of natural/specialty stores including Whole Foods.

USPS Cradle to Cradle The Greening of America’s Postal Supply Chain

An important story was overlooked when the US Postal Service (USPS) announced in June it had achieved Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification at the Silver level for much of its Priority and Express mail packaging (including their Tyvek envelopes).  Most publications (Treehugger, Green Options, LA Times and others) reported the story without offering much beyond the basics of the certification and the USPS press release.  The real story centers around the tremendous complexities faced by all parties involved in achieving a credible environmental certification.

With increasing consumer interest in sustainable products and packaging, companies and suppliers are eager to do anything to offer products or services that cater to this segment of the market.  The demand for such products and services and lack of any universal standards or guidelines inevitably leads to unverifiable claims from manufacturers, and even greenwashing.  This fosters the need for standards and certification processes to allow people to independently assess a product or service.  Obtaining a certification such as C2C can also become a core component in a company’s green marketing strategy.  The success of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification program for paper and wood products is a perfect example of this marketing tool in action.

Consulting firm MBDC offers Cradle to Cradle certification, arguably the most reputable environmental certification available today for products and materials.  C2C is a concept developed by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart challenging manufacturers to change how they design products. The goal is to produce products truly environmentally compatible with the world around them.  C2C moves beyond making products that are “less bad” or are simply recyclable, demanding more than lower toxicity or a smaller carbon footprint.. The idea reconceptualizes a product and its manufacture, arguing products should be made from “biological” and “technical” nutrients.  Biological nutrients are safe and healthy materials that create food for natural systems across their life cycle.  Technical nutrients are materials or products that can be continuously and safely recycled into new materials or products according to McDonough and Braungart.

The goals of C2C go beyond simply asking whether a product’s packaging is recyclable.  Factors including what components were used in the making of the packaging are also taken into account, (ie paperboard, glues, inks etc) and how those components can be improved to produce an even better product that can continue the cycle.

Photo:  © ebay Chatter

MBDC’s job isn’t an easy one, our research confirmed.  Conducting the assessments necessary across existing production chains is a challenge.  In the case of their work with USPS, MBDC must obtain information not only from the Postal Service but also the hundreds of individual suppliers the agency contracts for products and services. Many companies work with the USPS under contract to produce packaging or components used in the production of packaging.  These companies are often hesitant to share their production methods or materials with outsiders, as they consider this information proprietary and directly related to the success of their business.  When you’re talking about supplying the USPS, you’re talking about large amounts of money: in some cases contracts in excess of $100 million.

Obtaining information on the C2C process from the USPS wasn’t easy either.  Their PR people didn’t have much beyond the prepared press materials, and when questioned on fairly basic follow up information also cited the “proprietary” nature of the information.

South Dakota-based Bell Incorporated, who produces paperboard mailing envelopes for the Postal Service, and whose web site prominently displays a picture of the USPS packaging, did not respond to repeated attempts for information.

Few would talk, and those who did wouldn’t say much.  Fortunately a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and some informative chats with MBDC project manager, Steve Bolton, started to paint a picture explaining why the process was so complex and seemingly secret.

Bolton, who recently published an article well worth reading in the October issue of Flexo, “Cradle-to-Cradle Design: Essential First Steps to Sustainability,” said the process of certifying the USPS Priority & Express mail packaging and supplies was rewarding, and will make a big difference.  The USPS is taking a leadership role in its environmental production practices compared to other major shipping companies operating in the US, and their continued relationship with MBDC indicates their commitment to this cause.

The positive results of the process aside, certification and assessment were a challenge.  Initially companies involved in making components used in USPS packaging were reluctant to participate. Bolton said his agency had to enter non-disclosure agreements with component manufacturers before they were even willing to provide information for assessment.

Bolton’s account of his team’s work assessing over 200 individual suppliers involved in postal service packaging and mailing supplies was remarkably similar to the experiences of another Cradle to Cradle certified company, Herman Miller.  Herman Miller had to enter non-disclosure agreements with its own suppliers when it was assessing the materials used in making its chairs. The Journal of Industrial Ecology published a detailed account in “Design for the Next Generation, Incorporating Cradle-to-Cradle design into Herman Miller Products.”

Looking through the information obtained from the USPS through the FOIA process, money is clearly the reason for this reluctance.

In the category of USPS current contracts for “mailing supplies,” Auth Florence Mfg Company tops the list with a $145,557,219 contract; Bell Inc has well over $100 million in contracts; Postal Products Unlimited has over $100 million in contracts; Quality Park has over $25 million; General Bag Corp has nearly $10 million; Tension Envelope Corp has nearly $4 million.  Numerous other companies have contracts in the million dollar or less range for mailing supplies.

In the category of “corrugated and other boxes for distribution” Smurfit Stone tops the list with a $102,500,000 contract, International Paper has over $13 million in contracts, Rand Whitney Container LLC has over $3 million and Liberty Carton Company has over $2 million in contracts.

Each of these larger companies under contract may rely upon smaller companies for specific components of the final product, whether that final product is a shipping box or mailing label.  It’s not difficult to understand how complex a process assessing the environmental aspects of these operations can be.  Further challenges involve making suggestions on how to improve or streamline these operations.

You might think a company refusing to disclose manufacturing information should be excluded from future USPS contracts.  Well … its not that simple.  There aren’t a large number of manufacturers making these supplies, and long term contracts established in the past are still active; therefore, working with these suppliers is necessary, rather than being adversarial.

It is also important to note the C2C certification process is still relatively new, and a greater familiarity will develop as more companies go through this certification.

The end goal of the C2C process is to make a better all around product that in the end of its usable life is as pure as possible, so as not to contaminate recycling or other processes.

In fairness to the companies producing packaging and supplies for the USPS, it wasn’t easy to get information regarding the USPS’s relationship with MBDC.   Again, this underscores the complexities of this new era business of environmental certification and assessment. The copies of the contract between the USPS and MBDC we received looked more like something from the CIA than the US Postal Service.  A number of sections in the contract were blacked out, including performance benchmarks and timelines.

Postal Service Supply Management Infrastructure FOIA coordinator Debra M. Pierce wrote,

“… In addition, the Award Sheet containing supplier remittance information as well as pricing information are withheld in their entirety pursuant to sections of our regulations found at Title 39, Code of Federal Regulations specifically 265.6 (b) (2) (2006) which applies to trade secrets, or privileged or confidential commercial or financial information obtained by any person and 265.6(b)(3)(2006) which applies to information that is exempt from disclosure under another federal statue; and 39 U.S.C 410(c)(2), which applies to information of a commercial nature, including trade secrets, whether or not obtained from a person outside the Postal Service, which under good business practice would not be publicly disclosed.”

A $60,000 contract from August 2006 between the USPS and MBDC specifically covered the Cradle to Cradle certification process and related consulting services leading to certification of the desired mailing products at the Silver level.

Moving beyond the complexities, the question that remains is what does all this mean?  It means the C2C certification MBDC offers is legitimate, and in order to maintain the integrity of their certification process, this type of complex procedure is necessary. It also underscores the fact that certification processes done correctly can be tremendously positive for clients, as well as the firms conducting the certification.

This small glimpse into the USPS Cradle to Cradle process should serve as a valuable insight to people in the green community and business world that certification isn’t an easy process, and that the C2C certification is significant and quite meaningful.  That the US Postal Service is involved with MBDC speaks volumes to the direction the USPS is looking to take its operations in the future.  Whomever had the idea within the USPS to contract with MBDC for Cradle to Cradle has tremendous environmental foresight and should be commended.

In a recent phone interview, Bolton confirmed his organization continues to work with the USPS towards improving their operations further.  He said they are currently working with the USPS on moving towards being able to certify some of their products at the Gold level, and indicated an announcement of achieving that goal could be coming in the near future.

It should be noted that the Cradle to Cradle certification applies only to the final product itself, i.e. a USPS Priority Mail corrugated box or mailing envelope.  Individual manufacturers involved in the various stages of its production are not authorized to display the Cradle to Cradle logo, or reference the certification.

Wal-Mart Reusable Shopping Bag

Wal-Mart Rolls out Reusable Shopping Bag

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott announced last week his company was introducing their own reusable shopping bag.  The announcement came at a sustainability summit held near Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

The new Wal-Mart shopping bags are made from a fabric containing rPET.  The bags are made from 85% recycled content and hold more than twice the amount of an average plastic bag.  The bags will sell for $1 and be located near checkout aisles in Wal-Mart stores.  Wal-Mart will also take the bags back at the end of their life-span for recycling.

The bags are black in color and feature the slogan “Paper or Plastic? Neither.”

The new bags will appear first on the West Coast this weekend and roll eastward across the country throughout the month of October.

Pangea Organics Packaging

Colorado-based Pangea Organics made a noticeable splash in the natural cosmetics/bodycare market about two years ago with its new brand identity.  Collaborating with internationally-acclaimed branding firm IDEO, Pangea focused on packaging to accompany the high quality organic products it produces.

Much in the same way Aveda has worked to transform its packaging, Pangea operates with the added benefits of independence.  Today Pangea’s now highly acclaimed molded fiber packaging and brown apothecary style bottles have allowed the brand the ability to shape its own identity and customer base.

Pangea’s molded fiber clamshell and boxing for its facial care products have an industrial look to them that stands out on the shelf.  The packaging’s minimalist style is what makes it stand out.  To the touch the packaging feels like a rough industrial piece of linen.  All of these elements visual and sensory  combine to make a noticeable design.

Success on the shelf is the number one goal of packaging and Pangea has this element down to a science.

Staying ahead of the curve is important for any brand and Pangea’s focus on its branding image was right on the mark.  The apothecary style glass and plastic bottles it uses for some of its products is at the height of fashion these days.  Interior designers scour flea markets looking for old apothecary bottles for clients – Pangea offers them as part of their brand allowing the products to fit into even the most discriminating customer’s home decor.  Cosmetic/bodycare packaging can be fashionable.

The company’s #2 HDPE brown plastic bottles are screen printed rather than using labels.

The challenge of new interesting packaging design coupled with the need to protect the contents of the package was something Pangea approached with great care.

On the molded fiber box packaging Pangea worked with UFP Technologies, Inc. a leading manufacturer of custom engineered packaging materials based in Georgetown, MA.

Before Pangea, molded fiber packaging was commonly used as an inexpensive effective custom protective packaging solution for electronics, consumer goods and items in glass like wine.

In collaboration with UFP Technologies, Pangea created a 100% compostable, biodegradable and plantable package that loosely resembles an egg crate.  In fact the technology used in drying the newspaper and water mixture is from the egg crate industry.  Its biodegradable and reusable properties make it a viable option in sustaining the environment which was a core element in the concept design.

The packaging is manufactured with zero waste at UFP’s molded fiber division in Clinton, Iowa and created from 100% post-consumer newsprint-without glues and dyes.

Always looking to be unique Pangea wanted to embed medicinal herb seeds in the molded fiber paperboard.  Consumers can grow medicinal herbs by soaking the box for one minute and planting it in about 1” deep of soil.  The whole concept revolves around the idea of packaging having multiple uses and its life cycle continuing beyond its initial purpose.

All of Pangea’s bar soaps, as well as its entire skin care line will be packaged in the seeded boxes. Bar soaps will contain Amaranth seeds while facial care packages will contain edible Genovese Sweet Basil seeds.

Today Pangea is working with Behrman Communcations who specialize in creative, strategic brand building.  Looking forward to seeing what Pangea’s next move is.

Am I Re-Trainable for Sustainable?


Okay, I admit it. I am confused and perhaps even a tad nervous. After more than thirty years as a packaging professional, focused on flexible–dare I say—plastic packaging, this new movement people are calling “sustainable” packaging has me seriously concerned.

During the ‘70’s, I recall being a young sales rep in the plastic packaging industry and feverishly updating my resume when I was told the world of packaging as we knew it would soon come crashing to an apocalyptic end. “The Great PVC Scare” was upon us and the only real choice and decision I had to make was whether to look for a new job, or check in at a clinic to determine how much damage had been done to my body and mind during my years as a purveyor of that PVC packaging poison. I sincerely feared my career and perhaps even my life were going to be cut short, before I was even able to reach my flexible packaging sales, prime!

The scare came to an abrupt end when it was determined that shrink packaging in PVC films, while unpleasant to the nose and eyes, did not cause cancer and represented no serious threat to the people using it, and thank God, the people selling it. The film manufacturer’s developed new, smoke free, seal systems and the PVC scare passed much the same way my entire collection of leisure suits did, a momentary fad that was now unfashionable and even a bit silly.

The ‘80’s and ‘90’s were my own personal age of enlightenment and profit. Thanks to a new perspective and focus on the environment, tree huggers became legends and anyone like me, trained on how to replace corrugated and chipboard with plastic films, achieved almost super hero status. There was Superman, Batman and me–Plastic Man! Sure, Superman could fly, Batman had all of those terrific weapons and crime fighting tools but only Plastic Man was able to save acres of forest with the sale of one shrink wrapping system to any customer using corrugated RSC style cases.

My customers who saved space and money loved me. The retailers who minimized the volume of corrugated waste in their stock rooms adored me. The solutions and material cost reductions I offered were in high demand and the opportunities and profits soared well into the new, twenty-first century. To think I almost stayed in life insurance sales! My business continued to grow and my relatives were no longer screening my phone calls. Life was beautiful.

Then sometime last year, a black cloud first appeared, looming overhead and my future in packaging was once again at risk. Packaging, environmental and retail “experts” started using a new term called sustainable packaging. I am certain the paranoid people at the Fox network will conclude that there are way too many people and organizations involved in promoting it for it to not be a liberal, left wing conspiracy of some type.

I realized I better find out more about this new threat to my livelihood and learned sustainable packaging was defined as “Packaging that does not deplete natural resources or pollute the environment”. Interesting and of course who can argue with a concept like that? It’s like asking who is in favor of babies, puppies and NASCAR. Okay, the last one was a stretch.

The problem is that the more research I did, the more I realized that everyone I read and heard was saying something different. The glass people think it is great news for them. The paper, corrugated and chipboard people think it’s a second coming for them as well.  Even my cohorts in the plastics industry think it all leads to source reduction, which results in less packaging in the waste stream. That has to be good for them too. If it is good for everyone, and good for the environment, then who is it bad for?

I guess the only person it is bad for is someone like me who is trying to understand it. I continued reading and found out about the Seven R’s:
1.    Renew(able) – use materials of renewable resources
2.    Reuse – use materials over and over when economically feasible
3.    Recycle (able) – use materials with the highest recycle content
4.    Remove – eliminate unnecessary or redundant packaging
5.    Reduce – minimize packaging materials and optimize material strength
6.    Revenue – achieve above principles at equal or lower cost
7.    Read – educate ourselves and our customers

I really hate to date myself but when I was in school, people only spoke of there being three R’s and they were reading, writing and arithmetic. (Obviously, spelling was not all that important back then.) It is however apparent someone changed two out of three and then snuck in four more R’s when I wasn’t paying attention!

What about us as consumers, who always are more concerned with quality, flavor and value than we are about the environmental impact of packaging? Packaging is good when it keeps our products fresher, or extends shelf life. We expect it to prevent tampering or pilferage. We have even come to accept it when packaging helps to sell us a product that are not as good as the material or design that was used to make it jump off the shelf and catch our eye. This is all much too confusing.

I think I have once again talked myself in, off of the ledge by realizing that we all want to do what is right for the environment and every one of our customers and clients have a different objective in mind when they call on us for help. If corrugated reduction or elimination is the goal, we know plastics as well as anyone and have the films to accomplish it. If the objective is to minimize plastic, we certainly have the film technology to reduce gauge or convert to a more environmentally friendly formulation.

Although paper and plastic fall in and out of fashion, what never changes is our customers’ need to reduce cost and improve productivity.  If we stay focused on the customer, and if we continue to be true to the application, then everything else has a way of working out. After some thought I realize I have been promoting sustainable packaging for over thirty years, I just never called it that. I wonder how that would fit on my business card? Thank goodness it appears no re-training is going to be necessary.

Dennis Salazar is the president of Salazar Packaging, Inc., a certified MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) company specializing in packaging products, equipment and solutions. With over thirty years in the packaging industry, he is known for his tongue in cheek sense of humor as well as his sustainable packaging passion and expertise.

Wal-Mart to Only Sell Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent by 2008

Wal-Mart, in a major announcement said by May 2008 it would only sell concentrated liquid laundry detergent in its US Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.  The announcement from Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores will also cover Wal-Mart Canada.

“People expect businesses to step up and work together to help solve the big challenges facing the world,” said Scott. “What we have done is work with suppliers to take water—one of our most precious natural resources—out of the liquid laundry detergent on our shelves. We simply don’t want our customers to have to choose between a product they can afford and an environmentally friendly product.”

The announcement will have major implications for the packaging industry.  As Sustainable is Good reported earlier this month, the laundry detergent industry has seen massive change in the last two years in the area of packaging and reformulation of product.  Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Dial and many others have all come out with concentrated versions of their most popular detergents.

The concentrated detergent trend in the mainstream consumer market was really started in this country by San Francisco-based Method several years ago.

In the announcement Wal-Mart said it expects to sell only concentrated detergent in all of its U.S. stores by early May 2008.  The company said the transition will occur in waves beginning in the Southern region next month, extending to the North and Midwest by February and finishing in the East coast states in April 2008.

Wal-Mart’s move will have ripple effects down through the industry and other stores who also carry the brands Wal-Mart carries.  We should expect concentrated laundry detergents to be the norm in the U.S. by the time line Wal-Mart has introduced.

Given the packaging and formulation considerations we would expect many brands to shift to concentrated versions exclusively.

See our earlier story on the growing trend of concentrated laundry detergents in the US market – the piece provides an excellent historical overview.

Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Daily Sanitizing Spray

When Oakland-based Clorox came out with their new Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface daily sanitizing spray I was impressed.  This product was a big step for the staple cleaning brand.  Known as a more conservative traditional type brand this new spray represented a change for the company.

Clorox along with other brands is facing increased competition from among others Method, based just a few miles across the bay in San Francisco.  Method is offering consumers what it considers more environmentally sound products and then placing strong emphasis on packaging design.

I think the new Clorox Anywhere is a responsible product and a perfect example not only of how a company like Clorox can react to a company like Method, but also an example of how a company can look within a highly successful brand like Clorox bleach and reformulate, producing a product that doesn’t alienate its loyal customers but is also much more responsible and practical environmentally.

I’ve seen others in the green community have criticized Clorox Anywhere as “just bleach and water” and overpriced etc.  I disagree.  While yes the product is made of water and a tiny amount of bleach – what Clorox has done is provided the consumer with the smallest amount possible of bleach necessary for the product to be effective at its mission – disinfecting.  I would much rather have a consumer use a product like this than something which is way overkill for the job.  And most mainstream products on the market today are just that.

The product contains .0095% Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach) and water.  The company has taken the guess work out of making an effective disinfectant.

Packaging Design

The product’s packaging is quite impressive.  The design of the packaging was done by Buenos Aires-based Tridimage and was custom produced by ALPLA in Georgia for Clorox.  The bottle is a custom made HDPE #2 bottle.

The design had two main goals according to Clorox’s Vicki Friedman, “comfort of use and aesthetics.”  “First, the design is an ergonomically designed bottle, created to be comfortable for the consumer to use, even with frequent application,” said Friedman.

The second area the design team addressed, aesthetics, focused on what Friedman said was a common concern they hear from consumers.  “Cleaning product packaging is generally not attractive enough to want to leave out.”  Sound familiar?  It should this is one of the key concepts behind Method’s packaging design – their idea was to make cleaning products packaging more pleasing for consumers.  Its very interesting to hear this was a key concern for Clorox and one their placed enough importance on to contact them.

Friedman said, “Because Clorox Anywhere spray is a great solution for daily sanitizing, and is gentle enough to use around kids, food and pets, they wanted a package that was attractive enough to leave out on the counter.  As a result, the package was also given an elegant look.”

I agree, the packaging on this product is close to revolutionary for a company like Clorox.  It stands out on the shelf, its elegant and works well with the product.   Friedman said graphic design on the packaging was done in-house using the Clorox Creative Services department.

I think Clorox hit a home run on this product from all aspects: environmental, packaging, design, and effectiveness.    It will be interesting to see if they continue to develop custom packaging and work on offering consumers reformulated versions of some of their other products.

Concentrated Laundry Detergents Become Latest Trend in Green Retail Packaging

One of the most noticeable green packaging trends occurring in mainstream consumer products is in laundry detergents.  Nearly every major manufacturer of laundry detergent sold in the US market is coming out with a concentrated version of their most popular product packaged in a smaller lighter plastic container.

The major companies like Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Dial are all using the new version of their laundry detergent to tout their greenness.

How did it all begin?  Concentrated laundry soaps are nothing new to the “green” marketplace, they’ve been around for years and are popular among devout green consumers.  A concentrated detergent for the mainstream market is another story.

San Francisco-based Method was yet again the principle innovator in taking a greener laundry detergent mainstream.  Backed by the considerable retail market force of Target Stores, Method’s concentrated laundry detergent gained an instant national audience.

When Method launched their laundry detergent they treated the launch more like an opening at an art gallery sending out a mailing showcasing their new small bottle and its benefits.  Like many Method products the packaging and design were far ahead of products in its class.  The bottle design was done by Karim Rashid and the graphic design was done by the team at Kate Spade.

After Method’s August 2004 launch of its concentrated laundry detergent it was just a matter of time before others followed.

Led by growing sustainability initiatives at the country’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart the major players in the laundry market all began developing concentrated versions of their detergents in smaller, lighter packaging.

The American Chemical Society published a fascinating article on Wal-Mart’s influence.

Who would be first among the giants?  Unilever’s All brand launched the “Small & Mighty” bottle containing a 3x concentrated version of its popular All detergent.  The All Small & Mighty bottle is next to the Method bottle the most interesting and innovative of bottles developed so far.  The #2 HDPE bottle is produced by Graham Packaging along with its #5 PP cap.  Graphic design was done by UK-based Vibrandt Ltd.

The bottle was designed with input from Wal-Mart with the goal of making the detergent more shelf-friendly and more sustainable.  The detergent uses 64% less water in its formulation than their traditional All detergent and the bottle is lighter making it easier and more efficient to ship and also easier to use and handle for consumers.  Through a partnership between Unilever and Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart agreed to aggressively push All Small & Mighty in its stores.   The idea was to promote the product and eliminate any concerns from consumers.  The plan worked All Small & Mighty became popular and grew.

Small & Mighty launched in February 2006 and since has appeared as packaging for their Wisk and Snuggle brands.  Unilever has not announced plans to replace all of its All & Wisk packaging with the Small & Mighty bottles.  The bottle does appear to be the main packaging for their Snuggle brand of fabric softeners.

Unilever’s success with Small & Mighty and pressure from Wal-Mart led arch rival Proctor & Gamble to develop its own concentrated formula for its brands including Tide.  The Tide 2x Ultra formula and other P&G brands like Gain, Cheer, Era & Dreft have been tested in markets and are becoming available across the US and Canada now.  P&G is planning on replacing all existing SKUs with the 2X Ultra versions from 50oz – 200oz. P&G hopes to have them available nationwide & and Canada by the beginning of spring 2008.  It has been reported P&G is planning a full scale education & media blitz for its new packaging.

Wal-Mart’s national advertising circular for this week contains a full feature on the new Tide packaging and its benefits.

The Wal-Mart web site has a whole section dubbed “Laundry Aisle Makeover” devoted to laundry detergents including announcements that consumers can soon expect a concentrated version of both Purex and Arm & Hammer detergents.  Visitors to the web site can request a free sample of 2X concentrated Purex.

The question remains how will consumers react to the new packaging of their favorite laundry detergent?  It appears retailers are confident the new packaging will succeed and be an overall positive.  In order to produce the packaging the companies have had to spend considerable sums of money designing new bottles and retrofitting equipment for production.

Will the greener packaging trend in laundry detergent stop here?  It would appear not.  The Birmingham Business Journal reported Unilever will roll out a new “green” 2X concentrate of the All brand this fall in stores in Alabama.  The new product is different than its current 3X All concentrate available now across the country.  Unilever did not respond to repeated attempts from for comment on this latest version of All.