The cardboard box is a standard container of the apparel supply chain, carrying clothing as it travels from factories to warehouses and store floors. However, to improve sustainability in transporting goods, companies should adopt alternatives to tree-based boxes.
More than 80 billion corrugated boxes are used in the U.S. each year. While these boxes are often recycled at end of life, recycling frequently happens after just a single use.
Pact Retail Accessories, which specializes in reusable products such as garment hangers and security sensors, has introduced the PolyBox, a polymer-based box that is a substitute for cardboard packaging, enabling garment boxes to be reused and no longer discarded for recycling after one use. The reusable PolyBox minimizes overall costs compared to single-use corrugate and will advance retailers’ waste reduction goals.
“We must continue to explore innovative ways to reduce our single-use packaging,” said Nancy Justice, senior vice president of North America for Pact Retail Accessories. “The work we are doing at Pact Retail Accessories is to keep testing new packaging that focuses on reusable solutions. It requires the retailer and national brands to make big and bold decisions to think outside the corrugated box. We can help upstream and downstream in their supply chain to make a difference now.”
Pact will send batch volumes of boxes from its reuse facilities to customer garment manufacturers. Additional value can be gained by using the same PolyBox to ship Pact’s reusable hangers to be repurposed for garment transport, further reducing corrugated use in the supply chain pipeline. Once the goods arrive at stores, the merchant will flat pack the boxes and send them to Pact’s facility. There, the boxes undergo quality and damage checks before being sent back into rotation.
Once the box is no longer reusable, it will be granulated and the resin will be recycled to make new boxes or other products such as hangers, thus ensuring a true “closed loop” solution with massive environmental benefits. Pact produces the PolyBox using single material types to reduce contamination of resin when recycled.
Although the initial creation of a PolyBox has a larger carbon footprint than a corrugated cardboard box, after just one reuse, the greenhouse gas emissions become lower than those for single-use cardboard containers.
The PolyBox comes in a variety of box sizes that are available for production use, and Pact can customize box dimensions for a retailer’s needs. The boxes can also be adapted to meet specifications, such as labeling and sealing needs. The PolyBox was designed to protect and easily transport garments, with resistance to water and chemicals, and the material also keeps clothing dust-free. The boxes are lightweight, yet they are strong and made to meet drop tests.
The benefits of PolyBox Reuse are abundant. For one, Pact typically sees low program costs with measurable and obtainable ROI. The PolyBox also requires minor adjustment of the retailer’s existing supply chain, and it can be introduced gradually in the pipeline and mixed with the corrugated cycle. The PolyBox also eliminates corrugated disposal issues and allows for maximum cubing of freight.
Pact launched the PolyBox in 2022 with successful retail trials at merchants in the United Kingdom and Australia.
In its debut year, the PolyBox was named a finalist in the Reuse/Refill category in the first ever U.S. Plastics Pact Sustainable Packaging Innovation Awards. Finalists were selected based on their entries in the Walmart Circular Connector and will be showcased through the tool to highlight packaging innovation.
Since 1989, Pact Retail Accessories has been working with leading apparel retailers to develop and incorporate reuse solutions to improve their economic and environmental goals. Over the past 30 years, the company has grown its global operational footprint and has consistently met its customers’ expectations as their global apparel sourcing needs and waste reduction goals have evolved. Today, Pact supports platforms for hangers, security tags and now polymer boxes that allow its partners to achieve reuse rates of over 90 percent in many cases.
Reusing an item multiple times creates a carbon footprint that is up to 64 percent lower than a comparable single-use option. It also uses up to 86 percent less water.
“Where feasible, reusable merchandising techniques can eliminate a significant amount of waste,” said Camillo Colombo, executive general manager of Pact Retail Accessories. “Behind reduction, reuse is the highest order on the waste hierarchy and it is essential in reducing environmental impacts.”
Click here to learn more about Pact Retail Accessories.