White Paper from Delkor Systems Examines Environmental Impact of Secondary Packaging

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A comparison of the sustainability of "pad shrink" packaging systems versus RSC cases.

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The term "sustainability" is heard in boardrooms everywhere these days because it is a concept that embraces both environmental and bottom-line business concerns. For product packagers, sustainability means reconciling what can be conflicting goals: minimizing whatever negative impacts their packaging may have on the environment while adequately protecting products during shipping and handling. Packagers today are facing increasing demands for "sustainability" from every direction - consumers, retailers and nonprofit watchdog groups - with few of these groups offering specific guidelines on how to measure it. What's more, packagers are encouraged to achieve these dual goals while also controlling the costs of packaging to their customers.

The new white paper from Delkor Systems, Inc. examines the environmental advantages of pad shrink packaging as compared to traditional RSC (regular slotted containers) for secondary packaging of cans, rigid plastic bottles, glass jars, plastic jars, tapered plastic cups and paperboard canisters.

The Pad Shrink Packaging System

The pad shrink packaging system was developed in the early 1990s primarily as a means to control packaging material costs and secondarily as a means to reduce end-of-life disposal costs for customers. It achieved those primary goals by reducing secondary packaging costs for a wide variety of users by up to 50 percent compared to trays and 75 percent compared to traditional corrugated cases.

The pad shrink packaging system combines three materials to build a stable secondary package bundle that replaces the traditional corrugated container.

  •     A flat corrugated pad forms a base for rigidity
  •     A holt-melt adhesive (applied to the flat pad) temporarily bonds the primary containers to the pad during packing
  •     A low-cost, recyclable polyethylene (PE) shrink film securely encapsulates the assembled package

The resulting compact bundle often adds to savings by allowing an additional layer of packages to be added to each pallet load, thus increasing product density and reducing transportation energy and costs. The system is typically used to ship a variety of primary containers, including cans, rigid plastic bottles, glass jars, plastic jars, tapered plastic cups and paperboard canisters.

Quantifying the Environmental Advantages

While a packaging system that uses less raw material and results in less waste for landfills was presumed to be more "green," this thesis was recently confirmed empirically in a study by Allied Development Corporation of Burnsville, MN. In order to help secondary packagers to make informed decisions about the system that best meets their packaging and environmental goals, Allied compared the total environmental impact of a pad shrink system (the Spot-Pak® system from Delkor) versus a traditional corrugated RSC case when both are used to protect and transport a six-unit multipack of 10-ounce bottles of hand lotion.

Study Findings Support Pad Shrink System

When comparing the pad shrink packaging system to conventional corrugated containers, the study found that the pad shrink system reduced the amount of material to be recycled or disposed of in a landfill by 82 percent.

Due to less raw material input and less material handling, the pad shrink system reduced the amount of process energy consumption by 62 percent. While shrink film requires more energy per pound to manufacture than corrugated cardboard, its significant reduction in energy consumed during transportation and processing still made it a clear winner, according to the study.

Greenhouse gas emissions were found to be 55 percent lower with the pad shrink system. This was the result of less emissions during transportation combined with reduced process energy consumption and savings in raw materials.

Due to the pad shrink system's lower weight and greater product density, it was found to cut the amount of energy consumed in transporting the products to the point-of-sale by 11 percent.


The results of this independent study demonstrate that the pad shrink packaging system fulfills many of the eight characteristics for sustainability identified by the SPC. The study data also supports the financial and environmental advantages of using the pad shrink system rather than RSC cases for end-of-line packaging due to the system's 75 percent reduction in the volume of material - material that doesn't have to be manufactured, transported or disposed of in a landfill.

Today all packagers need to be good stewards of natural resources and to act with environmental responsibility as they compete in their various markets. By comparing the sustainability of packaging system alternatives, secondary packagers can make informed choices that will benefit both their businesses and the environment.

NOTE: To download the complete 1,800-word white paper and high-resolution graphics, go to: http://www.cccinc.com/pr/delkor/sustainability

Peter Fox
Delkor Systems, Inc.
St. Paul, MN


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