Packaging plays an important role for our products in two ways: Firstly, it protects our products from external influences and ensures that they reach the customer undamaged. Secondly, packaging guarantees that the environment will not be negatively impacted by substances leaking out. The packaging must therefore remain safe throughout the product's entire life cycle – during transport, storage, usage, and disposal.
In addition to safety, efficient resource use also plays a crucial role. We identify potential areas for optimizing our resources in order to, for example, reduce material usage during packaging manufacture without compromising quality and safety. We also strive to increase the percentage of materials that minimally impact the environment.
The majority of corrugated boxes we use globally are environmentally certified, e.g. according to the standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and/or the Programs for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).
Packaging for the products of our life science business
The life science business is currently developing a sustainable packaging strategy. One important aspect of the strategy is that we want to continue to deliver our products in packaging that is safe and easy for our customers to use, while helping them reduce their own impact on the environment. We are therefore working on several initiatives, including ones to develop reusable packaging systems and to reduce the use of foam components. Here are a few examples:
- Glass bottles are still the most preferred packaging for reagents. Although glass is an inert material, it is highly fragile. In order to increase product safety, we therefore developed the Safebreak bottle, which is coated in plastic (PE) to prevent acids from leaking out if the glass breaks. Should the bottle fall and break, the acid and glass splinters are securely contained within the PE coating. The Safebreak bottles can be recycled or disposed of with conventional glass bottles since the PE coating does not interfere with the glass recycling process.
- Glass reagent bottles have traditionally been secured with EPS (expanded polystyrene) molded foam to prevent them from bumping into each other or falling during transportation and breaking. While EPS is an effective cushioning material, it is produced from non-renewable petrochemicals and hard to recycle. Also EPS packaging is bulky and difficult to store. In recent years, the life science business has thus been replacing EPS foam with molded fiber components (molded pulp), consisting of cellulose and recycled paper, as part of a replacement program. The use of molded pulp reduces the amount of packaging waste for our customers, because it is easily recycled with other paper materials and can be compacted for storage and transportation. In Germany, we replaced 600,000 EPS molded foam components by the end of 2013. During 2014, we extended the EPS foam replacement program and are now replacing more than 1 million packaging components per year in Germany. In France, we are replacing 12,000 packaging components per year. In India, we initially conducted additional investigations because of the climate conditions found there. In 2015 we will start exporting solvents from our and product lines in molded pulp parts. Currently we are using a honeycomb corrugate material to replace EPS foam in the United States, but we are also investigating the use of molded pulp there.
- In Europe, solvents for large-scale application in preparative chromatography are supplied in returnable stainless steel containers, and in the United States, returnable stainless steel containers are utilized in the ReCycler® Program. By using these containers, we are significantly reducing the consumption of primary packaging materials. Since the stainless steel containers can be shipped without any secondary packaging material, we are also reducing packaging by eliminating the cardboard boxes and molded pulp inserts used when shipping glass bottles.
- For our utilized for lab water purification, molded pulp cushioning is used for the product accessories. The used to be packaged with polyethylene, but now they utilize a custom molded pulp cushioning material that is made from 100% recycled fiber and is fully recyclable. We have thus also reduced the number of pallets required to store the material by 90%.
- We have developed a custom reusable totes program for two of our U.S.-based customers for the bulk delivery of our Millistak+® Pod Disposable Depth Filters. This program offers these customers a clean-room ready solution that can be reused up to 90 times. In 2013, we conducted a life cycle assessment to compare the environmental benefits of reusable totes versus corrugated packaging. Each tote can transport up to 900 units before being recycled, resulting in a 95% reduction in packaging materials consumed. We are also pursuing opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of distribution by working on direct ship to customers and other logistics efficiencies.
- Our for volumetric solutions was designed to make titration more reliable and less wasteful. Constructed from a recyclable corrugated outer box and durable inner bag, the packaging features a unique built-in contamination-proof dispenser tap and is less than half the weight of conventional plastic bottles. Recyclability is improved since the outer box can be fully recycled. We conducted a product carbon footprint analysis comparing the Titripac® and plastic bottle packaging systems, and found that the reduced material weight and high recyclability of Titripac® result in an overall reduction of 61% in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions. Because this packaging design keeps the product safe from contamination, the chemical product can be used effectively to the last drop, thereby wasting less.
- In 2013 the life science business developed new user guide booklets from our Millex® Syringe Filter devices manufactured in Cork, Ireland. The new user guide design used less material and was more compact, reducing the weight of the booklet by approximately 50%, saving 4,700 kg of paper in 2013 and 6,200 kg of paper in 2014. This also reduced greenhouse gas emissions from paper production and product distribution by 38 metric tons CO2e in 2013 and 51 metric tons CO2e in 2014.
Packaging for Performance Materials products
In South Korea, the Performance Materials business utilizes a patented system of stainless steel canisters that are filled with liquid crystal mixtures at the Poseung site and delivered to South Korean display manufacturers. Our Standard Canisters (MSCs) can be utilized directly on the production lines without decanting. The empty canisters are then sent back to the company where they are cleaned under validated conditions. The MSCs are reused within a closed system over multiple years. A reusable polypropylene box serves as outer packaging. Similar systems are in use at other liquid crystal mixture production sites in Asia.