Excessive consumption has led to dangerously high levels of CO2e in the atmosphere and we understand that packaging is a significant contributor to this. That is why at the beginning of our journey we went back to the drawing board to engineer a system that is inherently more environmentally friendly than either traditional cardboard boxes or shrink wrap packaging.
We are extremely passionate about reducing the cost and carbon footprint of secondary packaging, which is why we’re able to offer huge environmental savings to our customers today.
First we needed to reduce the amount of material and energy consumption, therefore we reduced energy by up to 90% and plastic use by 70% with the ingenuity of what we call ‘cold wrap’ technology – this excluded the need for a thick plastic film and heat entirely. As well as this, through innovative pack designs, we removed the need for cardboard boxes, reducing corrugate by up to 40%.
Secondly, we needed to ensure that our TrakRap machines were totally reusable! This is one of the reasons we use a ‘pay per wrap’ system as it not only accelerates its accessibility for manufacturers but because we have a vested interest in keeping our machines upgraded as technology evolves and servicing the machines on a regular basis ensuring you obtain optimal performance throughout. We also designed our machines using modular design so that if you no longer require the machine we can re-purpose it for other manufacturers.
Thirdly we needed to ensure that our film was 100% recyclable which is why we use LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethylene) – a ‘good plastic’ with long carbon chains, that can be recycled over and over. However, its value is diminished if it gets mixed with lower grade plastics or worse still gets out into our environment so we introduced GreenRap which is easily identifiable by its green tint and allows in-store operatives to simply pop it into our GreenSac, a returnable, reusable sack and return it to TrakRap.
A carbon footprint is the way we calculate the amount of carbon that is inherent in every product throughout its life-cycle. From its raw materials, to the way it’s manufactured, the way it’s transported, used, and finally the way it’s disposed of. It is the build up of carbon in the atmosphere that is the root cause of global warming and we have to do something about it.
Our secondary packaging solution redefines what good looks like. Take a typical box containing 12 cartons of cake slices. This has a carbon footprint of 323 KgCO2e per 1,000 packs, if virgin cardboard is used. Once the cardboard is recycled, the carbon footprint is reduced to 219 KgCO2e. With a cardboard tray and shrink wrap, it is reduced again to 187 KgCO2e.
By using the TrakRap system the carbon footprint of 1,000 packs of cake slices drops to an amazing 128 KgCO2e because of the elimination of heat from the packaging process and use of an ultra-thin stretch film. If the cardboard is removed leaving the TrakRap film alone, then this number becomes a mere 16 KgCO2e. Finally, if the TrakRap film is segregated, returned and recycled using the GreenRap system, the final number is a tiny 6 KgCO2e.
219 to 6 KgCO2e per 1,000 packs is a massive reduction! There are millions of boxes of this product alone per year and there are around 28,000 SKUs in a typical supermarket. Imagine the impact we could all make in reducing carbon and fighting climate change with TrakRap Systems.
Plastic vs. Paper Debate
The damage caused by plastics which have been irresponsibly disposed of – as highlighted in the BBC’s Blue Planet season – is driving the perception that ‘all plastics are bad.’ What is not widely acknowledged, however, is the fact that cardboard packaging has a much higher carbon footprint than plastic.
But how can we compare the damage done to the natural world by plastics being released into the environment with the damage caused by the greenhouse gas emissions associated with corrugate?
The answer is, we can’t! They are two different problems that must be defined separately in order to solve them successfully. As well as asking: ‘how do we keep plastic out of the natural environment and improve recycling and reuse rates?’, we also need to ask: ‘how do we reduce cardboard packaging’s impact on global warming?
A common misconception is that paper bags must be lower carbon than plastic. Wrong! The paper industry is highly energy intensive. Printed virgin paper typically produces between 2.5kg and 3kg CO2e per kilo of paper manufactured. This is comparable to the emissions required to produce 1kg of polypropylene plastic bags. However, paper bags have to be much heavier, so overall the paper bag ends up having a bigger footprint.
Recycled paper is roughly half as energy intensive to produce as virgin paper. But even a lightweight recycled bag produces slightly more greenhouse gas emissions as a typical plastic carrier.
Source: How Bad are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee.
CO2e emissions are accelerating global warming and the time has come for us to acknowledge the carbon footprints of all the different types of packaging. It might surprise people to know that, of all the different packaging types, plastic has the lowest carbon footprint of all, emitting far fewer greenhouse gases than paper or cardboard alternatives.
TrakRap believes in a developed economy like ours, the best packaging solution is ‘good plastic’ – plastic which is 100% recyclable and part of a closed-loop system – coupled with a minimal amount of cardboard. The difficulty now is educating consumers about the benefits of good plastic at a time when all plastics are being viewed negatively.