At first glance, eggs and lithium ion batteries don’t have much in common. But, both do require special packaging protection during shipping. Dig a little deeper, which we did, and you discover that a combination of specialized packaging design and specialty resin formulations can protect both as they move through the supply chain.
Now, if you’re wondering how eggs and lithium ion batteries wound up together in this column, you need look no further than Pack Expo Las Vegas. Both were on the conference program.
That’s when the Reusable Packaging Association awarded Kroger and Polymer Logistics the association’s 2019 Excellence in Reusable Packaging award. It recognizes a pilot program of retail ready packaging for eggs. According to Kroger, the design reduces its distribution costs by up to 66% and removes 6,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from its egg supply chain. Oh, yes, the eggs don’t get scrambled on the way to the store either.
Then, there’s the matter of the supply chain for lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles. Given that these are hazardous materials, regulations matter. And, it all starts with package design. Recently, the Department of Transportation granted ORBIS certification to develop, test and certify packaging for the safe transport of lithium ion batteries. Not every packaging supplier has earned that certification, so it’s a big deal.
But back to the eggs. The key person here is Paul Pederson, senior vice president for food safety, meat and dairy supply chain at Polymer Logistics. He explains that in close cooperation with Kroger his company developed the CleanPal plastic pallet. This is the base for each unit load of eggs shipped.
Now, this is no ordinary plastic pallet. It has patent pending written all over it. Key features are channels and grommets on the pallet deck that keep containers full of egg cartons in place during shipment and on display at the store even at a 45-degree angle. The pallets, which are half the weight of previous designs, are nestable for return trips to the egg factory, saving many return truckloads and those carbon dioxide emissions.
The pallets, says Pederson, are made of a 100% recycled proprietary polypropylene blend. And after it reaches the end of its useful life, the pallet is recyclable once again, he adds. Not only is the resin tough, but it can hold up to temperatures ranging from -40°F to 180°F.
Then we talked to Sean Momsen, market manager for custom products at ORBIS. The company runs a product performance and endurance testing lab for these lithium ion battery containers at its Menasha, Wisc., facility. Specifically, this is for packaging that meets the 49CFR178.517 DOT standards, if you were wondering.
The key objective is to ensure the integrity of the batteries during shipment. We’ve all heard of the horror stories of thermal runaway (fires) of laptop batteries, and these car batteries are no different. They need protection during transit.
Momsen explains that the answer here is a cross-linked high-density polyethylene closed cell foam. Not only is it strong, but it provides vibration damping. Impact resistance meets DOT standards. And, the container design safely secures the batteries during transit.
So there you have it, two great stories about the packaging required so you can drive your electric vehicle to the store and pick up your eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast.
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