Packaging protects our products from external influences and ensures that they reach the customer undamaged. It also prevents materials from leaking. Our packaging must therefore remain intact across the product's entire life cycle – from transport to storage, and from usage to end of life.
Beyond safety, we also strive to design packaging that uses as few natural resources as possible. We are therefore working to reduce the amount of material required and are increasingly utilizing environmentally sustainable materials where possible. In the process, we ensure that the quality and safety of the packaging is not adversely affected.
Sustainable packaging strategy
We aim to deliver our products in packaging that is safe and easy for our customers to handle, as well as sustainable.
The more than 300,000 products of our Life Science business sector – ranging from biochemicals to lab chemicals, from filter materials and systems to instruments – pose a wide range of challenges when it comes to packaging. We strive to improve the sustainability of their packaging through measures such as reusable packaging systems, or by avoiding the use of polystyrene. Our sustainable packaging strategy for our Life Science business sector stipulates the framework for this approach. A variety of guidelines help our experts to consider sustainable packaging alternatives and implement them during the product development stage.
We also work to enhance the sustainability of our packaging design for our Performance Materials products such as liquid crystals and pigments.
Certified cardboard boxes
The majority of the corrugated cardboard boxes we use worldwide are certified to the standards governing sustainable forestry. These include the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC).
A variety of solutions for an extensive product portfolio
Our initiatives for sustainable packaging systems are as varied as our product portfolio. Here are several examples:
Cellulose instead of polystyrene
In the past, we secured glass reagent bottles using expanded polystyrene (EPS) molded foam to prevent them from breaking during transport. While EPS, also known as Styrofoam®, is an excellent cushioning material, it is manufactured from non-renewable petrochemicals. It is also difficult to recycle and takes up a lot of storage room. By contrast, molded pulp components can be easily recycled with other paper materials and compacted together for storage and transport. We have a substitution program in place that is working on solutions to replace EPS with molded components made of cellulose and recycled paper pulp.
When shipping items from our major distribution centers in the United States and Germany, a large portion of our reagent bottles are secured using molded pulp components. In 2015 and 2016, we conducted numerous safety tests on various molded pulp part designs to pad 4X4 liter bottles in shipping boxes. In 2017, we plan to start using pulp components for this package size, which will replace approximately 350,000 molded EPS parts per year. We are currently conducting safety tests on various pulp designs for shipping individual bottles of various sizes.
More cardboard instead of plastic
The analytical technique of titration is utilized in laboratories to assure the quality of various products by verifying the purity of the raw materials. Although the necessary solvents are conventionally packaged in plastic bottles, we use Titripac® because it offers a more environmentally compatible alternative for supplying solvents to our Life Science customers. By employing a cardboard carton and plastic liner with an integrated withdrawal tap, we made the packaging more recyclable while also cutting down the weight by more than half. As a result, the greenhouse gas emissions arising across the entire life cycle of the product are 61% lower than for plastic bottles. Because the withdrawal tap protects the product against contamination, the contents can be used to the very last drop, thereby reducing chemical waste. In 2016, Titripac® was recognized with the Green Good Design Award for sustainable product design.
Reusing EPS boxes
Many of our Life Science products must be kept cool during shipping and are therefore packed in special Styrofoam® boxes. To mitigate waste, we offer our U.S. customers the option of sending us back these boxes. If they are fully functional, we reuse them, which, at more than 20,000 boxes per year, reduces waste. We are in the process of expanding this program to serve customers outside of the United States as well.
Reusing liquid crystal canisters
In Korea and Taiwan, our Performance Materials liquid crystal mixtures are delivered to display manufacturers in stainless steel canisters. Our customers utilize these standardized canisters directly on their production lines without decanting. The empty containers are then sent back to us and cleaned. Within this closed system, these canisters can be reused over several years.
Steel instead of glass
Thanks to our EMD ReCycler® bulk product delivery system, our solvents are delivered to our U.S.-based Life Science customers in special reusable steel containers. They can return the empty containers to us for refilling. Through this program, we are significantly reducing the consumption of primary packaging materials. Because the stainless steel containers are shipped without additional packaging, we are also saving a lot of the packaging material normally needed to ship glass bottles, which must be packed in boxes and cushioned by molded components.
In Europe, we also deliver solvents required in bulk quantities for preparative chromatography in reusable stainless steel barrels and drums. Our customers send the empty containers back to us, where they are properly cleaned and then reused. Approximately 20,000 of our stainless steel barrels and 20,000 stainless steel drums are currently in circulation across Europe. The rate of return is 90% for the barrels and around 50% for the drums.