For more than 100 years now, corrugated boxes have reigned as the go-to method of transport packaging. Corrugated materials are everywhere around us. They’re used to display, promote and package just about every product you see and buy on earth. Whether it’s food, toys, office supplies, computers, clothes, furniture or electronics, everything we buy every day has traveled some distance to reach us. Our products all typically arrive to us safely protected by a corrugated container.
The origins of corrugated go back to shipping and packaging operations in the 19th century. It is wildly popular and widely used today throughout most of the world for many different reasons including light weight, practicality, usefulness, renewablility and recyclability. Corrugated protects many different products during transit from the manufacturer all the way to the point of sale, or direct to the consumer’s home. Corrugated also offers limitless design possibilities along with merchandising appeal. Even when the destination has been reached, corrugated can be recycled and used for the same purpose all over again.
What is corrugated?
Take a piece of paper and add waves in it (known as flutes). Glue the fluted paper to layers of strong linerboard and presto — you’ve got a tough piece of combined board that can take a beating while protecting what’s inside.
Corrugated manufacturers continue to innovate their products to evolve with market changes like distribution systems, retailers, and changing consumer demands. Manufacturers are continuously developing ways to build stronger paper, that’s lightweight and water resistant.
The corrugated industry remains versatile in order to evolve to ever-changing demands. Corrugated facilities are stacked with machine automated technology that help them rack up $23 billion in the United States alone every year. As populations grow, corrugated is likely to remain as the best transport packaging available, transporting products and materials safely all around the world.
The raw materials that create corrugated are pulp from cellulose fiber from trees such as pine, fir, cedar from forests in the U.S. states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Many companies, including Fruit Growers Supply, aim to only use trees that are grown and harvested through sustainable, environmentally friendly methods that cause no damage to wildlife or nearby indigenous tribes. After the trees are cut and limbs are removed, the trunks are sent to a paper mill where a chemical process breaks down wood chips into pulp and is used in paper products.
Mechanical, chemical and semi-chemical techniques are used at a paper mill to separate fibers. Then machines separate wood into smaller pieces. Today, the lumber industry’s byproducts like sawdust and small chips that used to be burned as waste, can be used to make paper. Recycled paper makes up one third of raw materials for the paper industry.
The Corrugating Adhesive System
Corrugators use an adhesive known as starch. While paper is the primary source for corrugated, starch is the only part of the process that’s made to order. Water and chemicals are used together to adhere the linerboard ato the medium. Mixtures can be adjusted also, depending on the needs and desired outcome of the corrugator.
A machine corrugator places flutes in the medium and glues it to linerboard to develop combined board. Typically corrugators are about 300 feet long and 20 feet high. They are extremely expensive machines that cost about a million dollars. These machines are capable of producing several flutes including A, B, C, E, F and more. They also have equipment to specifically customize boards to meet customer specs. Sometimes containerboards can receive water, grease or slip resistant treatments, or to resist tearing or bulge by using internal tapes or strings. The appearance can also be changed with bleached, colored or preprinted linerboard.
Not yet a box at this early stage, the combined board must now be made into a box blank. This is a flat sheet of cut out combined board. At this point it has been cut out, scored and slotted. Printer-slotters, die cutters, or flexo folder-gluers can all be used to make it into a box blank.
Often times, depending on needs, boxes might be made up on-site after it leaves the corrugated facility. Others are prepared at the plant with a stitcher, taper or flexo folder-gluer. Stitchers and tapers combine corrugated box blank ends together with staples or tape.
A laminator machine glues layers of single or multi-wall corrugated board together to create strength. This machine is typically used for bulk bins, corrugated sheets for pads and specialty applications.
Often times special requirements are needed for added protection or better organization. Foam sheets, plastic films or extra corrugated board can all be used to help. Laminated corrugated pads, corrugated boards glued to plastic films, pre-glued trays and box bottoms, die cut shapes, and corrugated partitions are all examples of specialty processes.
Sustainability and Recycling in the Corrugated industry
There are several benefits to corrugated as it pertains to recyclability and sustainability. Here are a few:
- Manufacturers can use earth-friendly inks
- Certain types of starches used have been developed so that they are not harmful to the ozone.
- Formaldehyde use, which is proven to be a hazardous emission, has been significantly regulated and reduced in today’s modern manufacturing processes.
- Water waste by the industry has significantly diminished from past levels thanks to the Clean Water Act in the 80’s.
- Recycling is encouraged by corrugated manufacturers to their suppliers and end users. Environmentally conscious companies choose to source paper from sustainable suppliers, while reducing and recycling their own paper waste.
- Health and safety requirements today have also lead corrugated manufacturers to produce boxes that can safely carry food without creating health risks.
- The corrugated industry aims to create green packaging materials. Corrugated’s recycling rate is beyond that of all other packaging materials used today, and uses less raw materials to do it.
Learn more about corrugated products
Please visit Fruit Growers Supply for more information about how cartons made from corrugated can be used by local businesses for all of your produce shipping needs. Fruit Growers has perfected a method of producing corrugated that is technologically advanced, fast paced, and environmentally friendly.
Credit: The Fiber Box Association at www.fiberbox.org