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The world is experiencing a sustainability renaissance. With all of the concern about climate change and diminishing resources, consumers are more ready and willing than ever before to reduce waste by switching to recyclable and reusable options (even when they cost significantly more!). Zero waste is in, and for good reason.
Consumer demand for sustainability
A recent survey by Neilson showed that 81% of consumers say that it is important or very important to them for companies to implement changes that will positively affect, or at least reduce harm to the environment. In the same questionnaire, “73 percent of respondents said they would either definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment, while 38 percent said they would pay higher-than-average prices for products made with sustainable materials.”
Many people are choosing to do their part to make a difference and reduce waste on an individual and household level; products such as metal straws, stainless steel and glass water bottles, beeswax food wraps, and canvas grocery bags are in high demand. New, innovative companies such as Loop are creating reusable packaging that consumers can return to the manufacturer to reduce the large amount of waste generated by the food packing industry. Clearly, as evidenced by the overflowing bins on the side of the street on trash day and the low rate of actually recycling recyclables, we still have a long way to go. However, the biggest source of waste in our country today is something consumers can’t do much about on an individual level, and that is commercial waste from big businesses.
What is business packaging waste?
Business, commercial, and industrial waste is waste that is generated on a commercial or industrial scale by big businesses. Cardboard boxes, single use drums, wooden pallets, and other forms of packaging that are used in the supply chains of businesses comprise the largest amount of the waste created in the US. Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nestle, and other companies are still manufacturing single use plastics from virgin petroleum at an alarming rate. According to this article, “more than 4 million tons of plastic debris pour into marine ecosystems every year. It’s estimated that, by 2050, there will be more plastic garbage than fish in the oceans. Much of this will be single-use packaging.”
Don’t fall behind the times
Some companies are taking steps to counteract the waste and improve sustainability, but others are not, which could prove to be a mistake. Tom Szaky, CEO of Loop and Terracycle, says, “Some organizations… are taking these issues seriously and making the difficult decisions that may negatively impact the short term but lay the foundation to be relevant in the long term. Inversely, organizations — like many big food companies in the U.S. — are blind to what’s coming and will likely be overtaken by startups that are building their business models around the new reality that is emerging.”
How can your business make the shift?
Fortunately, business models based on the return credit system (such as the aforementioned startup Loop) as well as shifting to recycled materials and reusable shipping supplies are all options that will continue to gain traction over the coming years. Rather than simply creating recyclable products that will end up in landfills regardless of the intent of the manufacturer (the end user recycling rate is only about 9%), a better idea is to set up ways that will more or less “close the loop” of the waste lifecycle.
This is where recyclable, reusable containers and shipping supplies can help. Below are a few examples of ways you can reduce waste and even save money in the long term by switching from single use, disposable products to reusable.
Simple Reusable Packaging Swaps
Pallet-sized plastic bulk containers have become widespread over the last few decades, but many companies are still using wasteful paper-based gaylords and other single-use packaging options. Such waste-based systems often rely on single use plastic wraps or interior cardboard boxes to protect and support the contents. But reusable plastic bulk containers offer even better protection with absolutely no waste.
Plastic bulk containers are relatively lightweight and extremely durable. Options such as collapsible sidewalls or nesting designs make return transport even more efficient. Plus, these bulk bins provide unparalleled stacking and other safety features. And even though the bins may be large, they’re designed to accommodate dunnage and/or interior reusable containers, which can make them the perfect solution for even the smallest or most fragile of goods.
Recyclable Plastic Pallets
It is estimated that about 50% of the lumber grown in the U.S. is destined for wooden pallets. Because half of them are only used once, and the ones that are reused only last about a year, they are a problematic source of waste. Since they are nearly 40 pounds and take up a lot of space, they also cost more in shipping costs and storage.
A good alternative to wooden pallets are reusable plastic pallets, which are stackable, nestable, lightweight (weighing as low as 10 lbs), and last up to 10 years. They’re often even cheaper than wood pallets. They are generally made from recyclable materials and can also be recycled, effectively closing the waste loop.
RPCs and Attached Lid Containers
95% of all products in the United States are shipped in cardboard boxes, and close to 100 billion of them are manufactured every year. Even if 75% of those are recycled, that is a lot of waste! Considering the fact that cardboard is not very durable, isn’t effective for heavy or wet items, and are typically only used once, a better option to consider for your business would be reusable plastic containers (RPCs) and attached lid containers.
According to the Reusable Packaging Association, RPCs require almost 40% less total energy, produce 95% less total solid waste, and generate 29% less total greenhouse gas emissions when compared with disposable cardboard boxes.
Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs)
Barrels and drums, used to store and transport liquids, agricultural products such as seeds and grains, food syrups, paints, petrochemical products, and more, are typically only used once. They are also round, which leaves a lot of dead space in between units when shipping and storage. Not only do they create more industrial waste, all of the empty space means that more fuel is used for shipping less material.
A much better option for many operations would be to switch to reusable plastic intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), which can be used repeatedly, come in a wide variety of styles for various applications, and are cubic in shape to save shipping costs.
Bulk Bags (FIBCs)
A great option to replace single use paper and canvas bags used to transport and store dry, flowable products such as powders, sand, grains, granules, etc. are bulk bags, or flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs). FIBCs, unlike traditional sacks, can be reused many times. They are very lightweight, collapse flat to return, are sturdy enough to last a long time, making them not only more eco friendly but cost effective as well.
End of Life
Another benefit to choosing reusable plastic supplies for your business is that they are often fully recyclable themselves. When they reach the end of their life cycle, instead of ending up in a landfill, they can be created into something new.
For even more ideas on how to create more sustainability in your business, check out these 6 must-have solutions for zero waste supply chain packaging.
If you have any questions about reusable containers or more sustainable choices in your business regarding your shipping and storage needs, contact us for a consultation!
When the words “plastic” and “sustainability” are used together in a sentence, often, there is a negative sentiment regarding plastics. Single-use plastics such as straws, cling wrap, and resealable bags are not considered sustainable because it is a waste of materials to use something only one time then throw it away. However, reusable plastics can promote sustainability efforts, and one place where this is especially true is in the food supply chain.
The journey that a tomato takes from farm to table is more affordable and easier to complete thanks to reusable plastics. Consumers regularly shop for tomatoes. In fact, 72% of consumers surveyed purchase tomatoes weekly or more often. Nearly half purchase three or four tomatoes at a time.
Today’s consumers are growing more concerned about the journey their food takes before it reaches their table, which is why farm-to-table restaurants have grown in popularity. Without reusable plastics, the journey a tomato takes could take longer and would undoubtedly be more costly, resulting in a higher price for the consumer.
Let’s take a look at the supply chain of a tomato and how reusable plastics make the production possible and reduce waste, both economic and environmental.
The tomatoes we know and buy would be nonexistent without the use of reusable plastics. From the initial planting of a tomato seed, farmers now rely on carefully sourced plastic systems to help them grow safely and naturally.
Old systems of tomato farming required tremendous amounts of non-eco-friendly products. Those containers and other products were often metal, wood or paper-based. In addition to requiring the felling of many trees and the waste of mining operations, metal, wood, and paper products typically weigh much more than plastic alternatives. The excess weight, from the forest or mine to the field, raised shipping costs, required more fuel for transport, and added to the carbon footprint of the tomato industry.
To grow tomatoes, modern farmers use plastic seedling trays, fiberglass hydroponic trays, plastic irrigation systems to water the tomato plants. And, plastic greenhouse covers allow farmers to grow fruits and vegetables in all kinds of weather, yielding more abundant crops and more supply. These practices of growing more produce in a smaller area with better utilization of water and other resources is just the beginning of the sustainability story.
When farmers harvest tomatoes, they are placed in containers to transport them off the field. Plastic harvest bins are the preferred method for gathering not just thousands of tomatoes but also many other types of produce. “The harvest bins are the foundation of our farming operation, they’re reusable to the point of five to six years,” says Louis DeMaso, Sustainability and Operations Analyst for Lipman Family Farms located in Immokalee, Florida. “They hold about 5,000 pounds [so we use them] anytime we transport our bins from farm to packinghouse.”
One reason so many farmers have turned to these plastic bins for gathering their harvests is that these bins can come equipped with features that make harvesting easier depending on the type of produce. For example, some bins are built with ventilation, while other bins have solid walls that are made to hold very small or liquid items. These features can reduce the amount of damage done to the produce and food products, which means they may not have to charge as much per piece.
Many harvest bins are also collapsible, making them easier to store when they are not being used and reducing the cost of return freight by as much as 3:1 when they’re empty. Another option is to rent agricultural containers only for the harvest season. By renting, the farmer has enough plastic containers for his entire crop but does not need to invest resources in storage or maintenance of the containers for the full year. Plus, the same rented containers can be used by multiple farmers throughout the year, increasing their green impact. All of this leads to reduced costs for the consumer.
But perhaps the most crucial reason that plastic harvest bins have become preferable in agriculture explains DeMaso is that “from the food safety perspective, plastic is much cleaner.”
Michael Schadler, Executive Vice President of the Florida Tomato Exchange and Manager of the Florida Tomato Committee, agrees. “Plastic is easy to clean and sanitize. It is easy to assure food safety for the end-user.”
Plastic is safer for food storage due to its nonporous nature. It does not absorb moisture, so it is not a hospitable place for bacteria to grow. Washing plastic with sanitizer virtually guarantees a clean surface because substances cannot become trapped within the plastic, unlike cardboard, which very readily absorbs moisture, dirt, and germs. So, consumers should feel at ease knowing their tomatoes were contained in plastic as opposed to cheaper products like wood or cardboard.
And from an environmental perspective, there is nothing less sustainable than losing an entire crop or shipment due to contamination. The natural resources and carbon required in even the most efficient growing, picking, and moving processes are all a net loss when products are recalled or destroyed due to contamination.
After harvest, the tomatoes are then shipped to a packinghouse where they get washed, treated, and packed for shipping to different types of customers. Processors are able to use specially designed reusable plastic crates and trays to ensure everything from proper ventilation to automated sorting — all steps to reduce waste. Some are sent for further processing into products such as canned tomatoes, tomato paste, or pizza sauces. Other tomatoes are shipped whole to clients such as grocery stores and restaurants, and these are packaged individually before delivery.
“Plastic packaging is an important part of transporting because of the nature of our product; they’re wet, and they tend to decay,” says DeMaso of Lipman Family Farms. DeMaso has consulted with packaging experts and determined that cardboard would result in too much lost and increased costs. “The problem [with cardboard boxes] is they fall apart when wet. With the humidity in Florida, the change in temperature with cold storage from a truck… it isn’t conducive. Plastic holds up well in a variety of conditions.”
The packaging containing whole tomatoes for grocers, such as clamshell containers or shrink wrap, is often one-time use plastic, because you will throw the packaging away after you get the tomatoes home. But, the truth is that plastic packaging for this purpose is not just extremely cost-effective but also safer. “Single-use plastic is hard to get rid of when sending to consumers in the produce industry,” says DeMaso. “We need to make sure food safety and sanitation are on-point, so we’re not trading contaminants. Disposable plastic is a problem, [so] it’s a matter of making sure we are using as little as possible.”
But most tomatoes aren’t sent whole to grocers. Rather, they’re processed into the sauces, soups, and meals we all enjoy. For this purpose, many packinghouses rely on intermediate bulk containers. These containers, known as IBCs, are essentially large, plastic boxes on pallet bases. They’re designed for liquid-based products and able to hold over 300 gallons of tomato juices, slurries, sauces, soups, and pastes. Their square designs, high load capacities, and multi-year reusability make IBCs far superior to traditional barrels and tanks for large quantities of tomato products. Today, they’re used for everything from salsas to juices.
Plastic food packaging can keep costs down for the consumer while ensuring the food stays fresh and protected, which reduces food waste. Plastic packaging is also better for addressing food safety concerns because it provides a protective barrier against germs and UV light. And again, as plastic is nonporous, it is far less likely for mold or bacteria to grow within the packaging while being shipped.
Separate from consumer packaging, however, are the pallets and large containers into which the consumer products are placed, stored, and shipped. It’s an arena that often is unseen on the consumer side but bears tremendous environmental and financial implications. Fortunately, there are a lot of green products at play.
Many grocers now rely on reusable plastic containers (known as “RPCs” in the industry) to distribute and display loose produce or large quantities of smaller packages. These lightweight, foldable containers often comprise the “shelves” of produce displays. They’re easily stacked and shipped on equally reusable plastic pallets — a far safer and less wasteful alternative to single-use cardboard boxes and wooden pallets.
Schadler of the Florida Tomato Exchange and Florida Tomato Committee explains how important RPCs are in this stage of the tomato lifecycle. “Once they come in from the field bins, they get delivered to the packinghouse, cleaned and sorted, [then] the tomatoes get packed into RPCs and sent directly to customers. The RPC is used directly in the grocery store or restaurant level.” Once emptied, RPCs are designed to fold flat, stack neatly, and be sent back to their original point of origin — whether it be a farm, factory, or distributor.
Many tomato farmers and distributors also use plastic shipping pallets that are far lighter and take up much less vertical space than traditional pallets. These plastic pallets can weigh as little as 10 pounds and many styles are designed to “nest” into one another when they’re empty and stacked. It’s an ideal cost-savings measure for when pallets are sent back to be reused.
“It’s a closed-loop system, and they’re cost-effective,” says Ed Treacy, Vice President of Supply Chain and Sustainability at the Produce Marketing Association. A closed-looped system means that all the materials, from pallets to RPCs, used to ship the products are sent back to their source to be reused. This means no materials are wasted in the process. This method of using plastic to ship is very cost-effective, helping to keep overall costs down.
Again, the strength and durability of plastic make this a preferable material. With plastic’s nonporous nature, it does not absorb bacteria, awarding it a safer bet against its cardboard or wooden cousin.
For international transit, especially, plastic is preferable because the supply chain is longer. The durability of plastic, as opposed to wood, means the containers are better suited for a long journey, even with hundreds of pounds of produce stacked on top of them. Plastic is often also easier to pass through international customs, as they’re naturally less likely to harbor dangerous germs, molds, or other contaminants.
A Sustainable Option
Now the tomato has made it to from the retail store to your kitchen or onto your dinner plate at a restaurant. The process repeats itself throughout the country.
All the plastics used to grow, harvest, ship, store, process, and sell the tomatoes are reusable, but eventually, these containers will break down and need replacing. Fortunately, plastics can be recycled and made into other products, instead of being tossed in a landfill.
Meanwhile, wood pallets and treated cardboard boxes are not as easily recycled. Some softwood pallets can be ground down into mulch, but many end up in landfills. As for hardwood pallets, they are even less sustainable because the trees needed to create these pallets do not grow as quickly as the pallets break down. And the treated cardboard boxes? Many are destined for landfills.
“You’ve got to look at the impact to the environment to using these bins versus using the alternative packaging,” says Treacy of the Produce Marketing Association.
Throughout the lifecycle of a tomato, reusable plastics help to:
- Keep costs down for both the farmers and the consumers
- Yield bigger, higher-quality crops
- Ensure food safety
- Maintain food freshness
- Cut down on food waste
- Reduce the carbon footprint caused by the agriculture industry
- Reduce the number of wood pallets and cardboard boxes that end up in landfills
Looking at all of these advantages, it becomes clear why reusable plastics have become a staple not just for agricultural supply chains but also for supply chains in nearly every industry. Of course, agricultural shipping has additional concerns when it comes to maintaining food safety. Luckily, plastics are also the ideal solution for these concerns, while also being the sustainable option.
When you got into the business of brewing beer, you probably thought your top concerns would be related to the actual brewing process. However, once breweries start shipping their products, the owners quickly realize that logistics are a massive part of their business. In fact, learning how to ship your product efficiently is one of the most significant factors that will affect your bottom line.
Using this guide, you can get a handle on what your shipping needs will be so that you can be armed with information when you reach out to carriers for shipping quotes.
Because pallets are a common way of shipping goods, an excellent place to start is to determine how many pallets you will need per shipment. A standard-sized pallet is 48 by 40 inches, so for this article, we’ll refer to that size only. First, we’ll learn about some of the basic terms used when discussing freight shipments; then, we’ll discuss how to determine the size of your freight accurately.
Freight Size – Full Truckload vs. Less-Than-Truckload
If the products you are shipping will take up an entire truck, then your shipment is considered a full truckload, denoted as TL. Conversely, if your products will not fill up a whole truck, this is considered less than a truckload, or LTL. Generally, a shipment with fewer than 10 standard sized 48 x 40-inch pallets or that weighs less than 15,000 pounds will be considered LTL, but different carriers may have different standards, so it is a good idea to confirm this with any shipping carrier you are considering using.
While the difference between TL and LTL seems straightforward, there are other factors to consider when determining your freight size.
LTL — Less Than Load
If your freight does not take up an entire truck, then you are renting space on a shipping truck that is used by other companies as well. This means that there could be additional stops before your product is delivered. However, because you are splitting the cost of the truck, LTL shipping can be more cost-effective.
TL — Truckload
When shipping a truckload, your product is the only one on the truck. This means that your beer will be picked up and delivered directly to its destination. Additionally, there is less risk of damage during transport because no one will be handling the freight during subsequent stops. For these reasons, some companies choose to purchase the entire truckload even if their product does not physically take up all the space on the truck.
Type of Truck – Dry Van vs. Reefer
The kind of truck you will be using to deliver your beer will also impact your shipping costs. If you are a small brewery that is shipping beer to local restaurants, you may be able to get away with a truck that has no type of climate control, also known as a dry van. A dry van is typically a more cost-effective option but be aware that the lack of climate control could cause other issues to arise, as Brad Rice, Logistics Manager for 3 Daughters Brewery in St. Petersburg, Florida, has experienced. “Since we use cardboard cases for our cans, here in Florida, when it’s warm out, we have to use fans to remove the moisture from the cans, so it doesn’t soak the cardboard case. If you transport those pallets with wet trays, they will move and fall.”
For beer that is going to be shipped a longer distance — or if you do not want to risk sacrificing quality due to temperature changes — a refrigerated trailer, also known as a reefer, is best. However, keep in mind that a climate-controlled truck weighs more when empty than a non-refrigerated truck, so it may not be able to carry as heavy of a load to remain below the maximum legal weight allowed on the road. So, if you are hoping to send as large a shipment as possible for the lowest cost, a refrigerated truck might not work for you.
How Big Is My Load?
Now it’s time to determine the number of pallets needed for your shipment. We will look at shipping multiple sizes of kegs, as well as beer cans and bottles.
Here is a guideline to how many kegs you can fit on a standard 48 x 40-inch pallet:
- 1/6 bbl – 20 per pallet
- 1/4 bbl – 14 per pallet
- 1/2 bbl – 8 per pallet
A pallet stacked with full kegs weighs approximately 1,200 – 1,400 pounds. Pallets can only be stacked two-high because the pallet on the bottom will not be able to hold more weight than that. So, for example, if you need to ship 40 1/2-barrel kegs, you will need five pallets, and they will weigh around 6,000 — 7,000 pounds. The volume would be 2 x 2 stacked pallets, and then one unstacked pallet.
Additionally, if the empty kegs will be shipped back to your brewery, then you will need to factor this into your shipping costs as well. The approximate weight of empty kegs are as follows:
- 1/2 bbl keg – 30lbs.
- 1/4 bbl keg – 22lbs.
- 1/6 bbl keg – 16lbs.
Bottles and Cans
A 12-pack case of 12 oz. beer weighs approximately 20 pounds. It is crucial not to overstack cases of beer, because they can shift during transport. Because of this, a good rule of thumb is to stack approximately 100 cases of beer, or no more than 2,200 pounds, per pallet.
The calculations above will help you find out the weight and volume of the product itself, but your pallets also determine the total weight of your freight. “A lot of people forget to add the pallet weight to it,” says Sean Higgins, Production Manager at Sea Dog Brewing Company. “If we send a full truckload, it can have up to 44 pallets, and with 20-25 pound pallets, you can be overweight.”
What Are the Best Pallets for Beer Shipment?
While it may be tempting to purchase the cheapest pallets available so that you can keep your bottom line down and get your product out, this way of thinking can come back to haunt you. You could end up losing product in transit, damaging your truck, or — even worse — injuring an employee. Pallets today come in many different materials and with numerous features, so you can easily find the ideal pallets for storing and shipping your beer.
Wood Pallets vs. Plastic Pallets
Wood has long been the go-to pallet material for many industries, including breweries, due to the low initial cost. But, many companies — and foodservice companies especially — are discovering the benefits of plastic pallets. As Higgins from Sea Dog Brewing states, “With wood pallets, if [kegs] are not centered properly, the wood pallets will break. You’ll add more time to your day, more aggravation. It can happen in transit and cause damage to trucks as well.”
Plastic pallets are much sturdier than wood pallets, meaning fewer delays caused by broken pallets. Some of the other benefits of plastic pallets include that they are:
- Sanitary because they are nonporous and easy to clean, while wood pallets can absorb liquids and become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, generally things you do not want next to your beer!
- Made with smoother sides than wood pallets, so they are less likely to damage your packaging.
- Sustainable and a better option for companies that pride themselves on being green, as plastic creates less waste than wood.
- Cost-effective, because plastic pallets will last longer than wood so they can reduce your freight costs long term.
- Lighter, reducing freight costs and improving ease of handling.
- Longer lasting, while the average wood pallet is typically disused within three years, plastic pallets are often rated to last for a minimum of ten years.
If you already have wood pallets, that doesn’t mean your product is doomed. Many breweries still use wood pallets without issue. When the time comes to replace broken pallets or add pallets as your inventory grows, however, it is advisable to consider plastic pallets.
Once you have decided on your pallet material, there are also an array of pallet features that can safeguard your product and your employees. Plastic pallets can come equipped with ledges, interlocking feet, tie-down points, and solid tops that distribute weight more evenly. These features can be the difference between your beer arriving safely or topping over on a bumpy road. What’s more, the stackable pallets nest inside one another once empty. So, when the empty pallets are shipped back, they will take up less volume, which could reduce your freight costs.
Preventing Load Shift
Even when using the best pallets, full cases or kegs of beer are likely to shift around during transit unless adequately secured. “We use strapping for our kegs to create a single weight to keep it more balanced,” says Higgins of Sea Dog Brewing Company. “We’ll strap them with a plastic strap. Then we’ll wrap them in case the strap breaks for a security blanket.” Many breweries will use industrial-strength shrink wrap to wrap the pallets and their contents as another way to create a single weight out of each pallet load.
If you or your employees are loading the truck yourself, then consideration must also be taken at that time to prevent load shift. “We try to match our pallets to about the same weight on either side of the truck so it’s balanced,” says Rice. Plus, you will likely hit the weight limit a truck can carry before you take up the full volume of the truck, so you must be mindful of the weight of your entire load, beer and pallets included.
Reusable Transport Packaging Can Help You Choose the Best Pallets for Your Brewery
This information can be used as a guideline to help you determine the approximate amount of pallets you will need and the space you may require on a carrier’s truck, but keep in mind that the weight and volume of your specific product and packaging could be affected by several different components. For instance, 3 Daughters Brewery uses six-pack plastic rings on the tops of their cans, so Rice says, “the higher they are stacked, the more they will shift in transit.” It is important to determine precisely how much product you can fit on each pallet and how high the pallets can be stacked.
There is a lot of diversity in plastic pallets, there are hundreds of sizes and styles to choose from. It is best to purchase pallets for beer shipments before you need to send your product out. Giving yourself enough time for these decisions can help ensure availability and that you get the perfect pallet for your operation.
Additionally, if the standard 40 x 48-inch pallet discussed is not the right size for your needs, there are pallets in many different sizes, including pallets designed specifically for individual barrel containers and single kegs. If you would like any additional information on the types of pallets available or would like to discuss any other packaging needs, contact Reusable Transport Packaging for a free consultation.
(And special thanks to our craft beer club friends for the mention!)
Reusable packaging has become a focal point of manufacturing supply chains. As efforts advance to gain efficiency, improve standardization, and embrace zero-waste supply chain strategies, manufacturers worldwide are turning to plastic reusable containers like never before. From auto manufactures to technology assembly, reusable plastic containers are the future.
Plastic manufacturing containers are often the best value for warehouses and assembly plants. Plastic containers offer several benefits over traditional wood-based and paper-based packaging. In many cases, plastic is also preferable to metal bins. The preference for plastic containers comes from their benefits:
- Light weight: Making handling a breeze and saving on freight costs
- Increased safety: Eliminating structural weakness caused by rot and moisture while also remaining free from sharp metal edges and rust
- Abrasion resistance: Unlike metal and wood, plastic containers generally have smoother and softer surfaces, reducing scratches and dents to sensitive products
- Cleanliness: Easily rinsed, washed, and returned to service, reducing product damage due to staining, marks, and other contamination
- Efficiency: Design features reduce costs incurred by return freight, storage, and stack limitations, while also increasing speed and accessibility for assembly, inventory, and storage operations
When it comes to manufacturing, there are hundreds of container styles and options available. Here’s our summary of the best manufacturing packaging in the industry today:
The Top Manufacturing Bulk Containers
Bulk containers are used to ship, store, and stage everything from auto-body panels to medical devices to teddy bears. When it comes to bulk bins, manufacturers value durability and convenience. And while available in virtually any size, bulk containers that fit automotive standards continue to reign in factories worldwide. The most popular bulk containers for manufacturing feature collapsible (“knockdown”) side walls that easily fold inward to reduce space when not in use.
Our picks for the top manufacturing bulk containers are:
One of the most popular bulk containers ever designed, this container’s standard duty model accommodates loads up to 1,500 lbs., while the container itself weighs only 102 lbs. It’s built to last, but also easily field-repairable. The interior height accommodates loads up to 21″ tall. It collapses when empty to just over 12″ tall, enabling 252 containers to fit in one 53′ trailer.
This heavy duty bulk container is rated to carry loads up to 2,500 lbs. It also features an impressive 27″ product clearance height on the interior. This extra capacity comes from an additional 20 lbs. of molded plastic — raising its tare weight to 122 lbs. Nevertheless, it also folds to just over 12″ in height when empty.
The Top Manufacturing Handheld Storage Containers
Sorting, storing, and accessing components is important to best practices for manufacturers. Having the right parts, right where they’re needed, increases factory productivity and reduces the bottom line. Everything from gaskets to semiconductors deserve correct manufacturing containers. And while there are literally hundreds of bins, cases, crates, and totes to choose from, here are a couple of our favorite ones.
The perfect storage bin, these plastic containers hold nearly 1 cubic foot of material weighing up to 60 lbs. They stack neatly or they can hang from louvered rails, racks, and carts. These bins also have a wide number of labeling, divider, and lid options. They come in a variety of colors and dozens of size options.
This series of containers is designed to maximize pallet loads. Sized specifically to fit on 48″ x 45″ plastic pallets, these bins make the most of every inch. With smooth interiors and height options of 7″, 9″, 11″, and 14″, they’re built for a wide range of components. They also feature secure stackability across the entire line — perfect for mixed products or split-case distribution.
The Top Manufacturing Assembly Automation Containers
Manufacturers need to keep their products moving and accessible. As the industries continue to move toward automation, having the perfect containers has become paramount to assembly line efficiency. Fortunately, the reusable packing industry has created hundreds of solutions to meet this need. Today, we carry hundreds of styles of containers, trays, and bins that have features such as traction bottoms for conveyor belts, multiple points for robots to grab, and recessed grips and handle holes that permit manual container handling.
From one of our most popular container model lines, this automation container does it all. It stacks securely. It has a variety of traction bottom surface options. The container also maximizes robotic usability by providing one of the highest ratios of grip and lift points. This style is available in a wide range of sizes for every use, including the popular 24″ x 16″ x 3″ – Automation Tray.
Originally designed for the foodservice industry, fiberglass trays have been quickly adopted by technology and pharmaceutical manufacturers. They protect sensitive products from electrostatic charges. Functionally, fiberglass trays and containers provide unparalleled structural strength. They also have the smoothest surfaces, making them ideal for the most sensitive of chemicals, compounds, and elements. Sizes range from shallow trays to large, sealable containers.
As cannabis and hemp production continue to gain momentum in the American marketplace, the need for efficient and industry-tailored solutions has become urgent. Proper processing, packaging, and storage solutions are essential to the operation and viability of professional cannabis businesses.
Finding the right containers for bucking is essential. But beyond that, cannabis and hemp producers are now facing a wide array of processing containers and long-term storage solutions. Packaging plays an integral role in the cannabis processing and storage.
For cannabis processing, every detail matters. Controlling the heat, gaseous discharge, moisture content, and oxygen exposure has a direct impact on the decarboxylation and the subsequent quality of the final product. Protecting the delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol from destructive pyrolysis and degradative oxidation has a profound impact the bottom line. And amid all of this, the universal factors of ease of use, configuration, and longterm value remain.
There are many differences in long-term cannabis packaging solutions, each providing unique advantages. As the leading provider of reusable agricultural packaging, we are happy to provide our expert perspective on the pros and cons of the top long-term cannabis storage solutions.
Reusable Cannabis Intermediate Bulk Containers
Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) are an agricultural and production standard. They provide food-grade and medical-grade storage. Additionally, they produce incredible operational efficiency; they’re lighter than metal containers, stronger than bags, and they’re more durable than corrugated packaging. Plus, many styles of IBCs stack safely and they can collapse or nest when empty to optimize their own shipping and storage costs.
As it pertains to cannabis storage, IBCs provide a unique advantage: security. IBCs often accommodate security locks. They’re among the most tamper proof storage solutions.
Additionally, due to their unparalleled structural strength, puncture resistance, and reinforced walls, IBCs provide secure stacking. The ability to stack full bins in multiple heights provides unparalleled warehouse efficiency. And IBCs also reduce product damage and loss due to crushing. And their solid walls and lids provide a degree of thermal insulation not found in poly bag storage solutions.
39 x 31 x 38 – 105 Gallon IBC
A favorite of cannabis producers, this IBC features airtight seals, a multi-access lid, and a gas-release valve. This IBC doesn’t require a liner, eliminating waste entirely. The unique raised footed base design allows each bin to be opened and its contents accessed, assessed, and measured — all without having to unstack the IBCs resting on top of it.
Cannabis Vacuum Packaging
Vacuum packaging provides cannabis processors with control over environmental exposure to their product. By withdrawing atmospheric air and moisture, cannabis maintains its quality longer. Producers likewise benefit from calculable degrees of control over the curing and preservation of their product.
Vacuum packaging for cannabis generally makes use of mid-sized, free-standing packers. These machines typically accommodate product bags holding up to two cubic feet. They remove the atmosphere and use heat to hermetically seal the bags.
Vacuum poly bags are the most lightweight packaging solution available. They’re fully recyclable. Using vacuum sealing for cannabis also provides a malleable container for the preservation, storage, and shipping of products. The packaging can be shaped to fit a wide array of spaces and processes.
21 x 20 x 8 Chamber Modified Atmosphere Packer
Perfect for small packers, this machine provides incredible ease of use. It’s a fully-contained, free-standing workstation. It is able to accommodate cannabis and hemp in capacities over 1.8 cubic feet. As an added value, this packer also provides the functionality for gas flushing for modified atmosphere packaging (see below).
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)
Building upon the foundation of vacuum packaging, modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) raises the level of control and protection to the highest levels. Machine packers equipped with the ability to produce MAP are able to:
- remove unwanted environmental air and contaminants;
- flush the pre-sealed bags with desired gasses; and
- hermetically seal the gas-flushed poly bags
This combination: vacuuming, flushing, and sealing produces the longest shelf life for cannabis products. It provides direct and measured control of decarboxylation, allowing optimal management of cannabinolic acid and subsequent THC.
As with vacuum packaging alone, MAP machine packers range in sizes and generally make use of poly bags. They can be set to operate as freestanding workstations, in conjunction with automated conveyors, or as free-moving roll-around machines. Larger packers are able to accommodate the bags and liners of pallet-sized bulk containers, IBCs, and tanks. Once sealed, the packages can either exist as a self-contained bail or be allowed to remain within the protection of a case, bulk container, or other such storage device.
Mark III Modified Atmosphere Packer
Perfect for high-quantity packers, this machine provides incredible ease of use. This model works with a variety of container sizes, including individual bags, lined cases, bulk bins, totes, gaylords, barrels, or super-sacks. It provides incredible efficiency with multi-gas flushing and vacuum options. It features a bag stretcher, which ensures your bags remain wrinkle free, and its 100% stainless steel construction keep it easily FSMA, FDA, and USDA compliant.
While these are a few of our favorite and most popular cannabis and hemp storage options, there are many to choose from. Our team of experts would love to learn more about your operation and to help you find the perfect solutions. For a full product consultation, please contact our team today. Additionally, please consider browsing for ideas and learning more in our:
With the ever-widening legalization of cannabis in Canada and the United States, growers are quickly embracing innovative solutions to optimize the handling and processing of medical and recreational marijuana. As America’s “largest cash crop” transitions from small scale pot growers to industrial cannabis operations, producers are scrambling to find the best ways to grow, harvest, process, store, and distribute everything from stem to bud.
Since the legalization of marijuana, reusable packaging containers have been an invaluable part of the cannabis industry. And while some growers are still dealing with the waste of household containers purchased from big box retailers, serious producers have rapidly adopted industrial-grade containers. Industrial agricultural containers provide the best value, durability, and functionality for the cannabis industry. The use of standard, industrial cannabis containers increases efficiency and helps to preserve the value of crops — positively impacting both the top line and bottom line of cannabusinesses.
The Top Reusable Containers for Cannabis
The Collapsible Cannabis Reusable Plastic Container (RPC)
A favorite for cannabis growers, RPCs are perfectly suited to hand bucking, weighing, and drying. Lightweight, inexpensive, and durable, these plastic containers are an all-round best value. Growers can harvest buds directly into the containers. Their bases and top edges have nesting features that allow them to stack securely. The containers’ vented sidewalls and bases then allow for maximum airflow during drying. All this means the buds require only a single touch, reducing contamination and loss and potentially preserving cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. When not in use, the RPCs fold easily and stack securely — saving space and return freight costs.
Bulk Cannabis Harvest Containers
For whole-plant cannabis harvesting, vented agricultural bulk containers provide the best value. From root to bud, these containers hold it all. Available in various sizes and heights, these containers are used to carry large quantities of cannabis. Built for field harvesting, resistant to contaminants, and easily washable, they are among the strongest and most durable bulk packaging products. Key design options include either fixed walls or collapsible walls, providing optimization for any operation.
Bulk Cannabis Storage & Curing Containers
Bulk cannabis storage containers feature strong forklift bases and reinforced sidewalls. Strong enough to hold liquids, these containers are as tough as it gets. They also feature tight-fitting lids that can be secured with straps or locks. Our latest model (pictured) includes a gas pressure relief valve, enabling the removal of methane gasses during cannabis curing. Many models also have convenient access doors and panels, enabling quick product review, quality assurance testing, and inventory. Like the bulk harvest containers, they’re available with either fixed or collapsible walls.
Cannabis Storage Totes
Need a small or mid-sized storage option for your marijuana products? Instead of wasting money on household totes, upgrade and save money by buying best-in-class industrial totes. Available in virtually every size imaginable, these containers can optimize your cannabis storage needs. Options include a variety of lid designs, stack-and-nest features, colors, imprinting, and more.
Cannabis Distribution Containers
When it comes to retail distribution, no container is more trusted than the iconic attached lid tote. With interlocking “finger” lids, strong hinges, and reinforced sidewalls these containers are built to last. They also nest when empty. These distribution containers are found on the trucks, loading docks, warehouse shelves, and retail floors of stores worldwide. Often used in pharmaceutical and drug stores, these containers are perfect for split packing cannabis related products for delivery.
Why Use Reusable Packaging for Marijuana?
Simply put: Green should be green.
The cannabis industry is uniquely positioned to lead the agricultural industry in environmental responsibility. Free from the sunk costs and waste of antiquated agricultural operations, the legal cannabis industry has emerged into a packaging ecosystem fully stocked with options built through decades of proven innovation and agricultural best practices.
Plastic packaging is the most durable and sustainable option available to cannabis growers. In contrast to wasteful single-use and paper-based packaging, reusable plastic containers last for years. They’re lighter than metal, glass, and fiberglass alternatives, which improves distribution efficiency. And they’re fully recyclable.
Reusable packaging is also the cost-effective choice — saving green while going green while growing green. By choosing long-lasting, reusable plastic packaging, cannabis growers save money while preserving the environment.
Why Reusable Transport Packaging?
At Reusable Transport Packaging, we work with all of the leading reusable packaging manufacturers. Our independent expertise gives us the unique objectivity to help cannabis growers find the best possible industrial containers. Our business is built on helping our customers find the best containers at the very best prices. We’re trusted by thousands of growers, processors, distributors, and retailers to always provide the perfect packaging solution for every application.
Not sure what you need? Our solutions experts have unparalleled knowledge of the packaging industry. We help our partners analyze and optimize their cannabis operations. Contact us today for a free phone or on-site consultation.
Since the middle of the 20th century, plastic containers have emerged as the preferred handling system for agriculture. Plastic containers were an easy replacement for their wood, paper, cardboard, and metal predecessors. Plastics are lightweight, durable, waterproof, and won’t rust, rot, dust, or splinter. Today, they’re used in farms, greenhouses, orchards, vineyards, and fields worldwide.
While plastic containers have become commonplace in agriculture, their styles are endless and always evolving. We sell and have worked with every type of plastic container imaginable — from highly specialized, produce-specific lugs to generic, carry-all bulk bins — so we know what works best. To introduce you to the world of reusable agricultural containers, here’s a complete rundown of their major differences.
Agricultural bulk containers do the heavy-lifting on farms. They’re used in the field and throughout storage and processing. Bulk containers are generally defined by their large capacities and fork-compatible, “pallet-style” bases.
Harvest totes fall into a broad category that encompasses many overlapping and interchangeable container styles, including lugs, picking baskets, bins, flats, trays, and more. In general, these reusable containers are small enough to be handheld and they are used directly at the point-of harvest.
Harvest totes are often designed with specific types or sizes of produce in mind. There are flats for delicate berries, mid-sized totes for tomatoes, mushrooms, and asparagus, and deep lugs that work perfectly for melons and squash. There are even trays used for harvesting, washing, and drying herbs.
Within the world of agricultural totes, RPCs deserve their own distinction. Technically, RPCs could fall in the harvest totes category (as they’re often used to harvest fruits and vegetables), but they tend to be considered to be a class all their own.
Depending on who you talk to, the initials RPC are thought to stand for “reusable plastic container” or “returnable plastic container.” Regardless of the phrasing, the defining feature of RPCs are their collapsible sidewalls. By having hinged walls that easily snap into place for use or fold flat when empty, RPCs save a ton of space and money, both in storage and transport.
RPCs were designed primarily to provide efficiency in closed-loop distribution systems (such as grocery produce deliveries). As such, they come in a lot of retail-friendly designs. Nevertheless, due to their ease of use and durability, RPCs have quickly gained traction as a field harvest bin — making them a true farm-to-store packaging solution.
Agricultural Container Features
Fixed or Collapsible Walls
Agricultural containers with fixed walls maximize simplicity and are often the most durable options available. They’re perfect for tough environments. They tend to have fewer crevices, making them easier to clean.
The other option is collapsible containers. These plastic agricultural workhorses feature walls that lock into place when in use and fold inward when unused. This provides maximum storage and freight optimization, with the trade-off being a few additional moving parts.
Vented or Solid
The walls (and bottoms) of agricultural containers are available as either solid surfaces or with various ventilation/drainage holes. Most fruit and vegetable growers prefer vented bins, as they enable better temperature regulation, drainage, and exposure management for ethylene, nitrogen, etc. Solid wall containers, however, help retain juices, granules, and other small items, making them ideal for produce such as grapes, berries, grains, seeds, and nuts.
Nearly every type of agricultural container has some sort of stacking feature. Whether they have interlocking rims and bottoms, staggered stack-and-nest columns built into the sidewalls, or peg-and-socket corners, agricultural containers are made to maximize field performance, tuck loads, and storage. Many of the collapsible bulk containers and RPCs even offer secure stacking while fully collapsed, which keeps return trips and storage safe, secure, and tidy.
Agricultural containers are required to be made from FDA approved plastics. They’re free from many of the inorganic treatments and contaminants found in some wood and paper-based packaging options. Most plastic agriculture containers are treated with UV stabilizers to ensure their performance and beauty in the field.
Most agricultural containers are made from one of two types of plastic. The differences outlined here will not be noticeable for most users, but they may be a factor for those seeking to push the performance limits of various pallets. For those seeking highly specialized needs, there is also an alternative to the two leading materials.
High Density Polypropylene (HDPP) Containers
High Density Polypropylene (HDPP) is lightweight, durable, widely available, and used in everything from milk jugs to furniture. HDPP is slightly less rigid than HDPE (see below), which gives it better impact resistance. HDPP tends to be more cost-effective than HDPE. HDPP containers are ideal for high volume, fast paced, and tough work environments. The majority of the leading agricultural containers are made from HDPP.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Containers
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is the most common plastic in the United States. As a chemical compound, it is slightly more rigid than HDPP, which makes it stronger but also less impact resistant. It is a popular material for handheld agricultural containers.
Fiberglass containers are popular with vertical farmers and others. The hyper-rigid strength of this material keeps it from bending or sagging under heavy loads. Some models can exceed the stacking height of plastic alternatives. The smooth, nonporous composite material is exceptionally easy to clean, resists contaminants, as is temperature stable from -60° to 250° F (-51° to 121° C).
Bulk Container Sizes
The typical tractor trailer has a cargo width of 8-feet. This is why many farmers and distributors prefer bulk containers with widths of 48 inches (or slightly less). Nearly all plastic bulk containers feature 4-way fork access. This allows them to be loaded from any side, often eliminating the need for space-wasting “chimney stacking” or “narrow:narrow” load configurations.
The most commonly used footprints are:
- 48″ x 40″
- 48″ x 45″
- 48″ x 48″
For agriculture, the depth of containers is very important. When dealing with delicate produce, it’s important that the product not crush itself during transport and storage. Bulk containers come in depths as shallow as 12 inches — perfect for transporting berries and stone fruit. Going up from there, there are many size options. Most growers prefer bins in the 26 to 32 inch depth range. Some of the taller agricultural bulk containers feature internal dimensions of up to 46 inches.
Handheld Container Sizes
Harvest totes, lugs, and RPCs typically have lengths of less than 28 inches, enabling them to be manually handled with ease. When picking the right size, there are a few things to consider.
- Too Shallow: In general, you want containers that are deep enough to hold your produce without the produce protruding above the top edges of the containers. This allows full containers to stack neatly without the lower container’s contents being damaged by the upper container’s bottom.
- Too Deep: Depending on the nature of your produce, you may also need to consider the effect of the weight of the produce within the container. For instance, strawberries tend to require shallower containers so that they are not crushed by their own weight.
- Optimized Footprints: You should select handheld containers that will maximize your load and storage capacity. It is best to buy containers that will make the most of your tucks, pallets, refrigeration, processing lines, and shelving. For instance, if your apple bins are intended to ship on 40″ x 48″ plastic pallets, you will likely want to consider containers at or less than 20″ x 24″ or even 20″ x 12″.
- Retail Preference: To make the farm-to-store experience as efficient as possible, you may want to consider containers sized according to your retailers’ or consumers’ preferences. In a perfectly sized RPC, growers can harvest, process, store, ship, and retail display — all without repackaging the produce. In closed loop supply chains, some are even able to sell the produce right in the containers and then have the empty containers returned by the consumer.
The strength of plastic containers generally exceed their traditional alternatives. Even lightweight models often exceed the load capacities of paper-based packaging, such as case boxes and gaylords. Plastic bulk container options are often rated for loads well over a half ton. Handheld harvest containers and RPCs are generally rated to hold loads ranging from 30 to 50 lbs.
Container weight can have a large impact on shipping costs, rack storage, and workplace ergonomics. Using efficiently weighted containers can save you money and labor. Our agricultural bulk containers tend to be fairly lightweight; generally well under 100 lbs. for a bulk container with a full pallet base. Some of the lighter bulk bins, such as our 48″ x 44″ x 23″ hybrid shipper bin, weigh as little as 56 lbs.
Handheld containers generally have a tare weight of less than 5 lbs. Some lightweight models, such as our “Breeze Crate,” weigh less than a pound. In general, heavier containers have higher load weight capacities and are more durable.
Additional Agriculture Container Options and Features
RFID transponders can be embedded in plastic containers to provide tracking, identification, and security. RFID transponders are an ideal addition to any closed loop supply chain or return credit distribution system.
Want the efficiency of a nestable container with the options of a straight-wall bulk container? Some plastic bulk container models are available with detachable bases. This makes them ideal for systems where they will be returned empty.
Some bulk containers feature feet and runner systems that are designed to be easily field-repairable. Accidentally crush a runner with your tractor? No big deal. With certain styles of bulk containers, you can quickly remove and replace damaged parts.
Many plastic bulk containers (and even some handheld agriculture containers) feature convent access doors. This allows product to be easily reached, even when fully stacked. When closed, these access panels lock securely in place.
Customized Imprinting, Labeling & Numbering
Plastics provide a wide range of customization options. There are many hot stamping, printing, labeling, and engraving options available for everything from your branding to the container fleet number.
Metal Reinforcement Rods
Want to make a plastic bulk container even stronger? Many styles are available with either built-in or optional metal reinforcement rods. These additional supports can increase dynamic load capacities and reduce bowing on pallets loaded with uneven weight distribution.
Most plastic agricultural containers options come with UV protection. Select styles may be able to add UV protection upon request. This protects the color and structural integrity of the containers when dealing with prolonged sun exposure.
FDA Compliant Materials
There are hundreds of styles of FDA and USDA compliant plastic containers. Built with FDA approved resins (PP, PE, or fiberglass), color dyes, and treatments, these containers are designed for harvesting and processing food. All plastic agricultural containers are also easily washed and sanitized.