The use of appropriate packaging materials for storage and shipping is a key aspect of B2B operations, especially in terms of product security. Poorly packaged items can not only incur extra costs for both sellers and buyers but also lead to a sense of disappointment for the end-use when a damaged good is delivered.
Foam-based packaging is a material that addresses these very challenges and ensures that products come out of the package in the same condition as when they went in.
The foam packaging market is gaining widespread prominence in recent years, as the material is capable of providing adequate protection for a business’s items in case they are dropped or jostled during the shipping process. Foam-based packaging has a vast application potential and is thus one of the most preferred packing materials used by businesses.
The role of foam packing in B2B packaging operations
B2B packaging designs have undergone consistent evolutions over the years. More and more B2B companies are now considering packaging to be an integral marketing tool, instead of simply a means of protection for a product.
Attributed partially to trends like the rise of e-commerce and subscription services, packaging is no longer associated with just a box that needs to be transported between two destinations, but instead encompasses much more.
Loss or damage of products during transit is one of the most important pain points for B2B companies. In order to mitigate the risk of these situations, and to keep their packages safe during transit, many of these companies are turning towards foam packaging, in order to leverage the products robust protection and insulation benefits, thereby eliminating the fear of losing sales of damaged packages.
Packing foam serves multiple purposes. For instance, in terms of product protection during shipping, foam can ensure safety, given its robust shock and impact absorption properties. Also, the product can be designed to mold to the contours of the product, thus making it ideal for the transport of a range of different items. High-quality foam-based packaging provides a cushioning effect to the package, protecting the items inside from falls and bumps.
However, protection is not the only function of packing foam. The products are also beneficial from a branding point of view, as they help add a more professional element to the package. When customers see a delivery box safely packed with foam, for instance, it can significantly increase affinity towards the brand by establishing a line of trust stemming from the measures taken by the company to deliver the product in optimum condition.
Additionally, foam-based packaging is also economical. This is due to the lightweight nature of the product that makes it relatively easier to customize and produce, in turn making it more affordable.
Foam-based packaging comes in several different types and styles, which can be customized according to the specified needs of individual products. Based on material, the foam packaging industry is classified broadly into several types, such as Polyurethane, Polystyrene, and Polyvinyl Chloride, among others. These packing foams can be used for myriad purposes spanning insulation, cushioning, mattress, packaging, and others.
Combined with conventional corrugated packaging, foam-based packaging provides a robust solution for ensuring optimum protection of the products during transit and also ensure a positive first impression for customers once they receive the shipment.
Usage of foam in reusable packaging systems
Reusable packaging refers to packaging intended for multiple uses and is thus constructed for this function. While initial investments may be high, the reuse of packaging across myriad applications allows for rapid return on investment over a series of trips or uses, and lower costs-per-trip than single trips.
Reusable packaging is engineered using a range of durable materials, spanning metals, wood, foam, polymers, composites and more. These packaging solutions facilitate much higher savings than their single-use counterparts, owing to quantitative verification across a range of applications.
Foam plays an integral role in reusable packaging, owing to its cost-effective, versatile and recyclable nature. Modern foam-based reusable packaging is being engineered with several new features, designed to deliver value to users in terms of enhanced productivity and ergonomics, storage & transport efficiencies, product quality, supply chain visibility, safety, etc.
For instance, in 2016, Worldwide Foam, a leading contributor to the reusable packaging sector, announced its novel foam sheet solution, dubbed Worldcell™. The microcellular extruded polypropylene sheet featured numerous advantages, including a 100% recyclable material, including laminated materials sans glue, making it ideal for reusable packaging applications.
Likewise, in 2018, Borealis and Bockatech inked a collaboration to bring together the EcoCore technology from Bockatech and the material grades BH381MO and Daploy WB140HMS of Borealis to develop novel lightweight foam injection molding solutions, as an eco-friendly way to create high performance reusable and recyclable packaging.
Reusability and recyclability in foam packaging in a circular economy
In a circular economy, waste is virtually non-existent. However, many current packaging materials turn into waste immediately after their first use which means that these items either need to be easily recyclable or be eliminated altogether. Even though common packaging materials like packing foams and EPS are difficult to recycle, they are used extensively in packaging applications as they can help prevent damage to the packages during shipments due to their strong cushioning characteristics.
However, various municipal recycling programs are unable to accept foams into their operations as it is cost-prohibitive and quite challenging to collect and recycle and reuse these materials. Furthermore, as foams are predominantly polymeric, they pose a considerable challenge to sustainability, especially since only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled globally, according to analysts’ claims.
In the modern world, however, attempts are underway to increase the recyclability and reusability of these packing foams, most notably an effort in Canada, dubbed Polystyvert. This service was developed as a solution to the problem of polystyrene recycling, by using a machine that recycles the plastic on-premise at firms that use these packaging products, thus eliminating the issue of transport. The machine is then used to dissolve the material using essential oils, a process that helps separate the polystyrene from the materials so it can be reused as packaging.