The three items in this article title might seem almost random and decoupled. What put them all together was a recent order of a pair of Asics running shoes from an online reseller. The shipment came in a plastic envelope which housed the medium-sized corrugated cardboard box with the Gel Nimbus 12 jogging pair. They have these gel soles which gradually stiffen up and absorb pressure from the pavement and the foot on the inside – much like the wavy triangle flutes in the walls of shipping and cardboard boxes.
Following the outline for resin and recycling codes, I was expecting to find the C PAP logo in the triangle of three arrows. Much to my surprise, the cardboard box was marked twice with a PVC-free logo on the side and on bottom. In addition, there also was a sticker saying that the product is accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association. OK, so they meant to write pediatric however some fine folk in China, after a couple of too many chardonnays, misspelled it – no big deal. Almost. Good thing we have the internet – podiatry, as it turns out, is a medical branch dedicated to studying, researching and treatment of specifics as they relate to feet, ankles and the lower part of the leg overall. No spelling errors on the box. Added podiatry to the list of new vocabulary items. It was only mentioned once on the box though. Now what is it with PVC free?
The topic of PVC has been a repeat guest on this website since many clamshell packaging styles are actually made of PVC plastic. Their user-friendliness has been brought up a few times where power tools become needed to open the packaging and retailers would refuse to carry items in certain categories unless they come in clamshells or blister packs. This ongoing struggle between manufacturers, retailers and consumes opens a whole new aspect when PVC is slightly researched.
PVC has resin code (recycling symbol) 3 and sometimes has the letter “v” in the recycling triangle on bottom of products. The are two campaigners on the Internet voicing opinions in opposite directions. One clams that all PVC packaging (also known as vinyl) and anything containing vinyl chrolide or phthalates is extremely dangerous to the human health. This is especially true for children and according to their research, there is direct evidence between PVC usage in schools for floors, binders, pens etc. and carcinogenic processes. What is more, PVC is not accepted well my reclaimers in the recycling processes and should not and cannot be mixed with other recyclable plastics. It is also unclear what it does when exposed to higher temperature.
The other camp, in return, maintains that PVC is rather safe, it has been around for a long time and is researched well and with proven qualities. What is more, its chlorine base makes it flame retardant and extra safe for use in construction. It can and is currently recycled and it can also be incinerated or even deposited in landfills safely. There also was a recent trend in home décor when people replaced their wood and aluminum window frames with polyvinyl chloride.
While this blog is far from willing to manipulate public moods or perceptions, it clearly looks that paper products appear to be a lot safer than any plastics. Cardboard and derivatives are mainly made from trees, crops or recycled mass. The first two can be replanted and repopulated. There appears to be a lot more transparency on where paper came from and where it went after use. Plastics, on the other hand, are veiled in this petroleum origin uncertainty and even when manufacturers claim they can be made from salt, there is something which makes consumers dubious. Cardboard boxes seem to be simpler. If paint and packing tape is removed – it would be only pure containerboard left.
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Thermoform packaging enclosures are typically of two styles – blister and clamshell packaging. They are closely related to small and large cardboard boxes since many of the items meant to go on store shelves are always shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes. They are really popular in scenarios when merchandise is displayed in retail ready packaging – a style of packaging designed to be self sufficient, pleasing and flexible so that retailers can make the most of their trade floor areas and use even remote sections.
Blister and clamshell packaging are both made of thermoform plastics. This generally suggests that this style of polymers go through a process of thermoforming. During it, plastic is heated to where it can be blown, molded, bent or otherwise manipulated into a desired shape, strength and size. An example of thermoforming material is polyvinyl chloride or PVC. Its resin code is 3 – so it can be seen in a triangle of arrows with the number three in it on the bottom of bottles and other plastic packaging. It is often used as material for piping, various containers, some bottles not designed for foods or beverages such as laundry detergent, motor oil etc.
Clamshell packaging is clear and see-through on all its sides. It can be hung on peg displays, lined up on shelves next to other items or live in a retail ready packaging display of sorts. Blister packaging would normally contain some sort of plastic or cardboard backing and only have its front part transparent. Some examples of blister packaging are battery packs, remote controls, scissors etc. Here is the link to further details on blister and clamshell packaging.
This style of thermoform packaging often introduces a number challenges to all stakeholders of the packaging and shipping industry plus a rather evident inconvenience for the end consumers. Blister packaging on large items are hard to open already. This difficulty level is escalated to mere impossibility in clamshell packaging. Tools are commonly used to split the packaging open and their use might lead to merchandise damage in the process. What is more, thermoform plastic packaging is so solid that as soon as items are loaded in large cardboard boxes, packaging suppliers are already faced with an over-packaging situation leading to extra fuel usage and bulky loads.
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Cardboard boxes saw a major rise in popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century. This coincides with two relevant facts – industrialization and invention of corrugated fiberboard. While the latter was conceived in the 1800s it did not really see major rise in demand and proliferation until early1900s. What changed with it was the design of the corrugated fiberboard sandwich – the building block of modern boxes as we know them. This empowered large cardboard boxes to carry heavier and bulkier loads securely and confidently and survive transportation and handling.
The era of industrialization drove enterprises to look for raw materials and customers across greater distances. They needed means of transportation to haul and hold their goods and supplies. Corrugated fiberboard is the commercial helping hand which met that demand and remained popular ever since. Some of its unique qualities such as limited barrier protection, cleanness, edge crust test, puncture resistance etc. contribute greatly to safe travels of goods and merchandise across local, state and even international borders. What is more, even characteristics such as water resistance and fire retardation (unheard of in the past) can be added to the paperboard and make the shipping boxes stronger and more secure. One could even go as far as to say that corrugated cardboard boxes were the driving factor and the enabler behind the overwhelmingly popular online trade.
It is rather natural that such a voluminous industrial branch such as the packaging industry would drag other businesses and innovation ahead. Chemical industry with the various inks and even food coloring (to make shipping in boxes safer and avoid reactions), the plethora of plastics with various design and purposes in mind, packing tape, municipal recycling facilities etc. Polystyrene sheets are such an example also – they are typically used in the construction area and in other fields such as foam pipe insulation etc. In addition, polystyrene sheets can be placed along the walls of large shipping boxes and provide extra cushioning and piece of mind. Packing tape has also undergone a makeover and branched off into various kinds of tape serving different purposes – duct tape (now available clear and in its low residue version), electrical, masking and frog tape, office and even reflective tape. Cardboard boxes proved to be a solid helper and a needed means of business.
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Packing tape is essential when preparing a large cardboard box to become a shipping parcel and be picked up by a mailman or a courier employee. This is the full post on packing tape. While other kinds of tape such as duct, frog, masking, electrical etc. are great products, they should be avoided to pack shipments on account of two reasons – they do not slide well on belts, trucks and hand carts and are sometimes sticky on their outside. What is more, paper backing tape masking tape is simply not strong enough. As a result a package may sustain damages while in motion and never make it to the destination. Here is reason two – it may really make USPS employees upset since they have their own speed and pattern of work and any deviation can lead to frustration. No one wants them to take it out on your package as soon as you turn and leave the post office especially if you did not purchase insurance.
Currently 3M have gone in the game of style and diversified their large cardboard boxes packing variety with three new flavors – clear duct tape, no residue duct tape and mounting tape. While mounting tape is somewhat unrelated to cardboard boxes since it is double-sided and mostly designed to attach items to non-moving surfaces, the other two kinds are very relevant. Duct tape is typically available in black and the classic silver. Clear is all new color for duct! The no residue version is guaranteed to pick itself up and leave no residue and no mess for up to six months according to the manufacturer. It is somewhat similar to j-lar tape which contains no acid and does not turn yellow over time. 3M also claim that the no residue edition is appropriate for indoor and outdoor use – it can be very convenient for convention and other special event centers where cords have to be taped across floors and other temporary surfaces without leaving any sticky leftovers. The clear tape is also reportedly as strong as its classic version and is suggested to perform subtle repairs where looks and appearance are important with no strength compromise.
While both of these kinds of tape are excellent and easy to work with (they tear off with no scissors making them uniquely versatile), they are not designed to be used with cardboard boxes. It is true that the clear one could probably go for regular packing tape yet never underestimate the trained eye of a bored post office employee who really gets his kicks off of sending you home with your box and making you re-do it to set an example for the rest of the folks at the shipping and mailing counter. I wonder if 3M might be willing to make a special packing duct tape with the USPS logo to keep all sides in this predicament satisfied. It could well be worth it if the right opportunity presents itself.
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Reflective tape is available in many colors, styles and sizes. In essence, its surface incorporates tiny reflectors attached to adhesive polyvinyl chloride backing. These reflectors return light when shone into them and help motorist get a feeling or size or dimensions as needed. They can also be attached to entryways, fences, milestone markers, divider lines, speed bumps etc. which are in locations where more visibility is advisable. Some roadside establishments also use them to stand out in signs or other styles of advertisements.
Certain commercial areas are regulated by code and require reflective tape or even anti slip tape on steps, low visible areas, clear and transparent doors, some tricky edges or protrusions etc. Similar regulations are in effect for commercial vehicles with above certain clearance dimensions. Same applies when towing boats etc. They have to be signaled with reflective tape and driving at night may or may not be allowed. All other loads which are awkward, extra long or unusual in size have to be clearly marked with reflective tape and visible.
Reflective tape can also be referred to as UV reflective tape. Often it is used with one simple idea in mind – to stand out. The reason for this could be safety or style. Certain newer commercial messaging on the outside or large cardboard boxes integrates tape reflective signal dyes in order to make the boxes visible when in transport vehicles especially at low light. Manufacturing such printing labels on the outside of the cardboard boxes carries an additional cost factor yet it could be rewarding at special events when items are simply packed in bulk big containers and this could be the only way to stand out.
In addition, reflective tape is often included in parts of clothing such as the one picture below. Running and often any outdoor gear such as hats, helmets, shoes, backapacks etc. have elements of reflective tape to inform drivers and protect runners, bikers etc. Having them on clothing used for outdoor activities is strongly recommended – running at dusk or early in the morning in all-dark clothes along a road where automobiles and pedestrians share the road might cause trouble.
Here is the link to the full post on reflective tape
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Recycled cardboard, after suitable treatment, can be used by paper mills and publishing houses to manufacture books for children. These books are a lot like regular books made from standard craft paper with larger print and stiffer cardboard pages or covers. Antibacterial and fire retarding elements can be mixed in with the paper pulp for cleaner, safer and easier to maintain bacteria-free paper products.
Most useful for children are books with little text and more instructional pictures. They come in handy when building healthy habits such as to wash hands, brush teeth, keep toys clean and tidy up rooms regularly. Such props can be used to introduce the little ones to basics in biology, physics and anatomy. By incorporating moving cardboard parts, these books can even simulate movement and expose the growing students to some elements of dynamics and athletics. What is more, these rich in color publications can familiarize children with farming, agriculture and some space and galaxy rudiments. Such style of learning activities could be a good alternative to modern LCD screens and other electronic media which appears to be imminent in our lives later on.
While not all-ready to sit for a driver’s license exam quite yet, cardboard books and leaflets could easily present some basic traffic rules and common sense ideas such as traffic lights, underground passages etc. What is more, these corrugated fiberboard helpers can be used to lay the foundation of early reading and spelling skills by having their covers present letter, numbers, syllables vs consonants etc. A topic which is traditionally difficult for kids in modern lives is the mechanical clock. Having digital displays all around, use of early time props such as cardboard clocks with mechanical hands could initiate an early start in the knowledge of time specifics. Classic stories by authors like Andersen, Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Pushkin are also all time favorites and take a full advantage of the color print and custom shape of cardboard books and covers.
The use of recycled paper in publishing, especially in books for children, is yet another example of the unique features and wealth of available applications for cardboard. It appears that elements of this seemingly dull corrugated material can be found in nearly all spheres of human knowledge and are rather invaluable for businesses and establishments outside of the packaging arena. In addition, some other items on the shelves of packaging suppliers, such as polystyrene for example, could also be considered for use by toy manufacturers or playground engineers. Polystyrene sheets have excellent qualities such as low thermal conductivity and high inertness which make them safe and solid for use in indoor environments.
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Small cardboard boxes are incredible helpers to have handy around the home or for business use. They inherit all the properties from their larger relatives and are also made of corrugated fiberboard. Certain smaller implementations such as jewelry boxes, watch boxes, cake boxes etc. could be made of regular paperboard by stacking a few layers until desired strength is reached. The strength of the material here is not so important and it is somewhat naturally anticipated since the surface is smaller so lesser area is exposed to weight. In addition, small cardboard boxes could have removable parts such as lids, extra flaps, extensions for wishes or special occasion cards etc. Hand holes are less popular in small cardboard boxes since by default they are of sizes up to 12-14 inches across their widest surface.
When buying small cardboard boxes, they are typically available in wholesale amounts such as packs of fifty or twenty five etc. By and large, these boxes are easy to unfold and open into shape. Some packing tape could be needed across the box seams and edges when shipping. In addition, some boxes come with polystyrene lined walls for extra protection. Extra sheets can be applied on the bottom if product specs call for it. Customized shipping labels could include a company logo on a small box and really make a good impression in combination with a hand written address slip – this might make partners and customers pause for a second and remember your company name. Self-sealing boxes are also available for the ultimate convenience when a quick shipment needs to be prepared.
When shipping smaller items such as DVD media, books, some clothing accessories etc., a decision has to be made whether to use a bubble padded mailer envelope or a small cardboard box. The weight of the product to be shipped should contain the right answer for this. Small but heavy items threaten to puncture through a padded mailer and sustain damages. In addition, items of unusual shape and size are also better off in a box. Small and large cardboard boxes come with special qualities such as puncture resistance, edge crush test, barrier protection etc. which can be carefully chosen and aligned with product specifications. In a sense, cardboard boxes allow for greater flexibility when preparing shipments and parcels. Utilize these specialty boxes to meet customer demand and to ensure safe and successful shipping and smiles on the receiving end.
More on small cardboard boxes
Back home to large cardboard boxes
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Cardboard boxes and containers have become inseparable part of our lives. They have grown so significant that there even exists reference to measuring the amount of manufactured cardboard boxes and using this number as an economic indicator of industrial strength of a country. It is true – over three quarters of all perishable goods are being shipped in some sort of a cardboard box or corrugated fiberboard container with similar specifics.
So how and when did cardboard in general and cardboard boxes in particular become so popular that they could now speak for the competitiveness and growth rate of whole economies or markets? Cardboard boxes come in many flavors and their inception and proliferation can be tracked down to the late 1800s. Massive popularization did not come until the beginning of the 20th century which to an extent coincides with the time of the industrialization in the United States and Europe. Now with the new emerging markets such as Brazil, India, Russia and China, it could be reasonable to expect that cardboard boxes could go through another strong phase of demand unless a different style of inexpensive and reliable product packaging becomes available soon.
The stable growth of cardboard boxes and packaging may be contributed to the increased desire for sustainable development and improved curbside collection techniques. Over 75 per cent of the cardboard in use in the US ends up being recycled and reused. This creates the ability to organize well-planned forestry management and scale it as demand/supply fluctuations suggest. In addition, these corrugated fiber remanufacturing facilities have managed to keep the price of recycled fibers low and competitive with the one of virgin raw materials.
During the author’s recent trips to Russia and Middle East a disturbing fact was uncovered. These places still have no recycling facilities in place with little existing plans to do so at this time. The fact that some of them are rather rich in natural resources and big in territory could be a further comforting factor for them to continue delaying the recycling effort and construction of such places to reduce, reuse and recycle. One could only hope that these newer societies will mature fast enough and catch on with the environmental awareness of other parts of the world so that we could all live in a cleaner and more balanced planet.
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Cardboard boxes is a generic term for a rather large category of items such as moving boxes, removal boxes, packing boxes, shipping boxes, storage boxes, gift boxes etc. All of the above for the most part are made of paper or plastic. The thicker paper they are made of is generally referred to as paperboard. Another popular material is corrugated fiberboard (or sometimes corrugated cardboard). Paperboard is heavier paper of over 200 grams per square meter and it could be single or multiply – the more layers, the stronger the product. Its corrugated counterpart is normally a commercially viable sandwich of two or more linerboards with a corrugated medium in between (also corrugated flutes).
Corrugated fiberboard is the most popular building block of cardboard boxes. Its unique qualities make the boxes strong, stackable, puncture resistant and allow manufacturers to make them up to product specifications and industry-regulation compliance. Items as obscure as cake boxes, cupcake boxes and even a pizza box are all made from corrugated material.The advent and proliferation of cardboard boxes has led to a number of changes in all areas of the manufacturing cycle – from sustainable forestry to reusability, recyclability and eco friendly waste management processes. Cardboard is the material with one of the highest recycling percentage rates which is largely due to the fact that many curbside collection practices plus material recycling facilities are already in place. Eco friendly packaging trends call for better and smarter use of cardboard and paper products including a gradual shift in consumer mindset. Better forestry management ensures that new trees are planted and sustainable processes are set to replace whatever amounts are needed for the paper industry.
Corrugated fibers are often made from a mixture of recycled pulp and virgin raw materials. A business element here becomes relevant where the price of recycled material must be aligned with price of virgin fibers. Recycled material generally contains traces of inks, adhesive and other contaminants which have to be taken into account when determining the product strength and print-quality characteristics. Bleaching the pulp is a process aimed at improving print quality but it requires further processing and prolongs the manufacturing cycle (reflected in the final cost).
Cardboard boxes can be further broken down into categories such as shipping and moving (also removal boxes). Major differences here are intended strength and style of closing of flaps. Follow this link for a full list of the various types of boxes as regular slotted container (RSC) being the most popular style. One consideration here is that moving boxes often have removable lids and hand slots while shipping boxes allow for a good overall protection of the merchandise etc. Handy helpers here are packing tape, wrapping paper, bubble wrap and the actual packaging design. Proper packing tape is recommended as opposed to the all-favorite duct tape which is inappropriate for packing. Wrapping paper and bubble wrap should fill up the remaining empty space inside the cardboard boxes so that products do not shift and damage while en route. Packaging design is extremely valuable when transporting items of unusual weight or shape – properly designed packaging can allow for extra safety. Bankers boxes and shoe boxes are often used for storage boxes which could be acceptable as long they do not have to be commercially shipped. Follow the link to the best shipping practices.
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Thermoforming packaging is most commonly clear and sturdy plastic packing shaped around merchandise making it a retail-ready product. Thermoforms are mainly clamshells and blisters. Blisters (also blister packs) have a plastic cover and a sheet of paperboard backing and are considered less secure by retailers since cardboard can be cut easily. Clamshells completely wrap around the merchandise creating a solid piece of transparent packaging which is tough to open yet easy to see through and inspect its contents. Their use has been subject to a discussion for some time mainly by customers who complain that these packs are too difficult to open and require tools. There are several viewpoints intermixed in this argument – manufacturers, retailers, governments and customers.
The popularity of clamshell thermoforms is due to the fact that they meet a number of common requirements such as merchandise protection, theft deterrence, aesthetical appearance and ease of display, price and recycling. In this respect manufacturers popularized the blister plastic enclosures and went on about their business. Complications arise from the fact that certain online and in-store retailers mandate products to come in thermoform packaging. What is more, instead of the actual product, in some cases, this type of packaging can contain other individually packed items such as toothpaste, printer cartridges etc. This fact leads to visible over packaging, material waste and unneeded customer frustration in the product extraction process. Such instances are reported by some club stores which often cater to retailers and take up a position between business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets.
Further problems are introduced by the fact that the most common material for clamshells is PVC (polyvinyl chloride). When PVC is mixed in with the other PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recyclables, it can contaminate the stream and deteriorate quality of recycled material. In addition, PVC is reported to release heavy toxins when incinerated which has caused a number of environmental protests by eco-friendly packaging proponents. Governments have looked into implementing PET as the preferred thermoform material which is, however, more expensive. Blister packaging and clamshells add additional bulk to the garbage collection processes and further complicate waste management practices. Finally, this transparent packaging calls for larger cardboard boxes and contributes to shipping weight when cargo is transported back and forth to consumers.
Knowing the power and convincing ability of American and European retailers and lobbyists, it is safe to assume that thermoforming packaging will remain mainstream for some time. An interesting aspect of it is how stores handle returns – an opened and returned item can no longer be resealed or in any way presented on a pegged display. This is due to the fact that the plastic package has been brutalized by scissors or other power tools while it is opened. It would be interesting to find out statistics on how many items get damaged while being opened. Either way, it appears that the corporations will have it their way – starting a business with special kitchen counter power tools or inventing a contraption for opening thermoforming packaging might be a good entrepreneurial initiative.
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