Refashioning Packaging from EPS to Molded Fiber

Thermofibre logo tf only with space

Companies across the globe are looking for sustainable solutions for their product line. Some may need cushion packaging for freight purposes and some may be looking for an entirely new design that is environmentally friendly. Either way, there is a common goal to use less non-recyclable EPS and if possible, move into a 100% foam free application that will accommodate the product successfully.

Change is Good

This process relies on a strong foundation of engineering and design. For an example of the processes involved, let’s review making a switch from EPS (expanded polystyrene) to a molded fiber recyclable design. Points that must be considered are;

  • Material – closed cell EPS to a porous molded pulp. EPS packaging relies on product density for cushioning, molded pulp uses structure for cushioning. One can achieve the same cushion or better in the given carton space. However, engineering experience and expertise are required to design the right geometry.
  • EPS packaging has typically very low and in some cases no draft angled. Draft angles refers to slant of the part so that it can be removed from the tool.  Molded pulp parts have 5 to 7 degrees of draft so that the wet pulp part slides out of the tool; another design factor in developing a replacement pulp part.
  • Weight of the product – The weight of the product will determine the type of pulp needed to keep the product safe during transport.   The difference between them are distinguished by the outside look and feel, wall thickness and particulate that results from any friction that may result from the freight experience.

In addition, the banning of expanded polystyrene (EPS) beads, coolers and Styrofoam food containers has been put into place in the state of California as of November 1, 2020, according to Californians Against Waste. Other cities following suit are New York, Miami Beach, Seattle and Washington D.C. On even a larger scale, European countries are setting ambitious standards to ban items made of EPS. The council is planning for guidelines to be implemented over the next ten years and have one plan for all countries to follow for a circular economy. This is a commendable bold action and one that is relevant for our world.

In conclusion, the sustainable solution will offer a conscientious benefit to the environment. Other benefits to changing to a sustainable packaging are reduced deliveries and less warehouse storage space needed due to the fact that molded pulp nests well. In addition, customers will be pleased to receive a product that is packaged in a recyclable material. Lastly, in the majority of instances, there may be a drop in the unit cost when switching from an EPS part to one made of molded fiber which would be a pleasant surprise. The end  result of having an eco-friendly product that takes an active role in a circular economy is most definitely worth making the change.