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Plastic return crate saves flower sector thousands of boxes

13 juni 2024

Packaging wholesaler and producer Argos is responding to the upcoming European Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulations (PPWR) with a sustainable and multi-use flower crate. A regulation that focuses on reusable and recyclable packaging. The new plastic crate saves the flower exporters Celdomy, Heemskerk Flowers and Floral Trade Group, among others, thousands of one-way shipping boxes every year and thus prevents waste.

Every day, millions of fresh flowers go from the Netherlands to florists abroad. From the auction, the flowers go in auction buckets to the exporters who repackage the bunches of flowers in cardboard transport packaging that fits on the so-called CC trolley, also known as a Danish trolley. The fully loaded flower carts go into the truck and via road transport to florists across Europe. The Danish trolleys are returned via a pool system, the one-way cardboard boxes are left behind as waste. Because of the PPWR and requests from the market to do something about the substantial flow of single-use packaging, Argos decided two years ago to set up a working group to develop a multi-use plastic flower crate. To share the costs, a consortium was formed for this purpose with flower exporters Celdomy, Heemskerk Flowers and Floral Trade Group. 'We are not avoiding these developments,' says commercial manager Bernard van der Valk. 'Despite being at the expense of box volume, the crate is a better solution in the long run. We are ahead of the music.'


Fltr: Commercial manager Bernard van der Valk, Sustainability & Innovation specialist Miquel van den Ende and Account manager Sander de Hoog.

Various characteristics

'Efficiency in the packaging process, optimal loading for sustainable transport and maintaining the quality of the flowers were central to the development of the new crate,' says account manager Sander de Hoog. 'For example, we have equipped the crate with adjustable support brackets. With this efficient and sustainable loading system, you can achieve a 60% or 100% filling volume. With half-full crates, this prevents too much air from being transported. Thanks to the adjustable bracket, we can now fit 11 full crates on a Danish trolley and 16 crates that are 60% loaded. For return transport, the bracket collapses and at least 30 crates can be nested on the trolley return.'
The HDPE crate is further packed with useful and innovative features. The bottom, for example, is made of foamed HDPE, which means less material is needed, the crate is lightweight and still offers sufficient strength. The bottom does remain flexible, so it does not tear. In addition, the bottom is convex with holes at the corners for drainage of excess moisture. There are sufficient ventilation holes on the sides for cooling during transport and there are several fixing brackets near the top edges, behind which packers can hook elastic bands to cover the crates with, for instance, a cardboard lid.  This can also be done with straps, for which there are special notches. Furthermore, there are embossed surfaces on all sides for attaching stickers or an RFID label.

Sustainability Specialist

With the introduction of the flower crate, Argos anticipates the European PPWR regulations that require companies to make 40% of their transport and sales packaging reusable from 1 January 2030. Partly for this reason, Argos has invested extra by hiring a Sustainability & Innovation Specialist. This is Miquel van den Ende, who since the beginning of this year has been dealing with all packaging regulations and supporting sales to provide even better advice on sustainable packaging. 'Creating my position shows the direction Argos has taken,' says Van den Ende. 'There is a lot going on in terms of legislation and operations. Consider, for example, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). This new European directive requires certain companies to issue a sustainability report. This is not mandatory for us at the moment, but we are taking our responsibility and will start doing so now.' 'Furthermore, we are already looking ahead to the upcoming PPWR regulations and are trying to align our current range to this as much as possible. From there, we want to further advise our customers. We therefore see Argos as a knowledge partner on this subject and will gladly take our customers through the new legislation if the need arises.

Thanks to the adjustable bracket, 11 full crates fit on a Danish trolley and 16 crates loaded 60%. For return transport, the bracket folds and at least 30 crates can be nested on the trolley return.

Challenges

The upcoming regulations also push for 10-35% recycled content by 2030. For food packaging, this is not easy, Van den Ende believes. 'This will require a substantial flow of food safe recycled plastic. This is a challenge for the entire market, especially when you consider the availability of this.'
'Of course, material reduction also remains a spearhead and we are continuously working on it. For example, we have recently been able to supply an even thinner stretch film for sealing pallet shipments and we have introduced a paper flow pack for fresh, dried and frozen fruit and vegetables.' Van den Ende adds right away that paper is not beatific. 'Paper is not always better than plastic, but due to legislation from France, paper fruit and vegetable packaging is currently in high demand. However, it remains to be seen until the end of this year on the final PPWR whether this will continue. The regulations on reusable packaging will not change and we already have a solution for that with our flower crate.'

Source: VerpakkingsManagement

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