The inability of waxed corrugated boxes to be recycled generates cost from sending them to landfills rather than income from recycling them. Producers of poultry, produce, seafood and stone are in some of the industries for which an effective and recyclable corrugated box has been the holy grail.
Many companies produce recyclable corrugated boxes that are designed to replace waxed ones, but few are chosen. Among those few are Greencoat® wax-free corrugated, repulpable boxes from Interstate Container. “We saw the writing on the wall several years ago and learned to replace wax boxes,” Director of Global Greencoat Peter Bugas recalls. “2004 is when we began a number of different trials.
“Mountaire Farms – a poultry processing operation – worked with us extensively, and in 2010, we transitioned their largest facility in North Carolina to Greencoat®, and that triggered everything,” he remembers. “So it took us five to six years to develop a market-ready product in coordination with Mountaire Farms. They worked with us through all the trials and errors and things that didn’t work and did, and we received the FDA certification in 2009. If you claim your box is recyclable and reprocessable, the FDA has very strict protocols you must meet to make that claim.”
Interstate Container also received the first-ever Pioneer Award from the Global Green Coalition for Resource Recovery, a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization committed to addressing some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
The particulars of the Greencoat® process are held close to the vest by Interstate Container. “We’re not sending board out to be treated – we do it all in-house,” Bugas emphasizes. “That gives us a competitive advantage in performance. We feel our process manufactures the best-performing wax replacement package on the market. The performance of ours is incrementally better than any others out there.”
End-users save the expense of landfilling their boxes and generate a modest income from recycling them. “Generally, these types of boxes are pretty heavy in virgin fiber,” Bugas maintains. “It’s an extremely good fiber source for mills.”
Interstate Container has an in-house R&D staff that continues to evolve Greencoat®. “We are in continuous R&D to improve both the finished product and the process itself,” Bugas stresses. “If you’re not changing and improving, somebody else will be, so it’s imperative to us that we continue to stay ahead. Greencoat® has improved significantly since 2009 from a performance standpoint.”
R&D also develops products for additional industries that could benefit from Greencoat products. “We continue to find new applications,” Bugas says.
The boxes that Interstate Container produces for companies that supply flat decorative stone used on the sides of buildings are designed to handle heavier weight and are water-resistant. Each customer’s application is unique, which is why Interstate Container produces its boxes only for custom orders instead of for inventory.
Variables can include how much weight the box has to hold – it might be 25 or 100 pounds – whether it is packed indoors or outdoors, and how much water is in the product. “The unique thing is no matter who we go after, they’re all very application-driven,” Bugas adds. “There’s no silver bullet that takes care of one thing for stone, poultry or seafood. It’s all in how they treat it and what their conditions are like. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.”
Committed to Improvement
Greencoat® products are manufactured at two plants – one in Cambridge, Md., and the other in Columbia, S.C. The company produces and ships approximately 4.5 million to 5 million wax-free corrugated boxes monthly from the two facilities combined.
Bugas attributes Greencoat’s success to the employees’ drive to succeed and corporate leadership’s support of those efforts. “You can’t do it without the leaders and the employees’ commitment,” he says.
Interstate Container recruits its employees from its local communities. “They care about what they do and you can’t teach that,” he notes. “Once you have them, you train them, you teach them and you keep them.”