Sunday, October 07, 2007
It's fill packaging, just better
I recently received some samples from Texas Instruments and was pleasantly surprised — actually blown away — by their fill packaging. Blown away by fill packaging? Let me explain...
Most of the fill packaging I have seen before normally involved polystyrene "chips" — basically plastic. What happens to those polystyrene chips normally? Well, expanded polystyrene is considered uneconomical to recycle (in South Africa at least) and ends up in landfills (or strewn around the countryside, waterways, etc.)
So I take out my samples and they are wrapped in paper — not just any paper, but a special expanded paper. Lucky for me, the manufacturer was smart enough to put their website onto the packaging: www.geami.com.
Go check it out. It is paper with little slits cut into it. The slits cause the paper to expand when removed from the roll. This is a really great way to avoid bubble wrap, polystyrene chips, and other plastic packaging. They have some videos and cost comparisons that are worth checking out. If TI is using them for the free samples they ship all over the world (and most likely everything that they ship), then that alone must imply that this packaging is a good and viable option.
Other than the direct advantages of the Geami packaging, it can also be transported in its unexpanded form, which reduces the toll that transportation has on the environment.
The beauty of this product is that it is a simple and elegant packaging solution that is easily recyclable and improves not just the environmental friendliness of the packaging, but ALSO reduces the cost. A great example of engineering simplicity.
There are some other alternatives to polystyrene which are similar, but made from biodegradable compounds. It is hard to compare these with polystyrene because I do not know enough about them, but there are a couple of questions that come to mind (if anyone can answer these for me, please do):
- How do these products compare on cost?
- What is the impact of bioplastics on food prices? (I believe this is a big issue with biofuels and bioplastics)
- How recyclable are they? (recycling is generally better than allowing them to degrade in landfills)
From The Plastics Federation of South Africa (scroll to the part about "The Plastics Recyling Sequence" and find polystyrene),
"The polystyrene mostly seen is the white, very light, friable, expanded or foamed polystyrene (PS-E). Although this material is recyclable it has such a large volume to mass ratio that it is completely uneconomical to transport and recycle at present."Also see polystyrene recycling on Isolite's website.
Notice how expanded polystyrene products are absent from the list of recyclables for Cape Town, and on the non–recyclable side for Johannesburg.
Technorati tags : environment, recycling, waste, packaging, paper
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Engineer Simplicity specialises in the design and development of electronic products.
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