April 2022 may seem a while away yet, but it will be here sooner than you think. That’s the date when all types of plastic packaging must contain a minimum of 30% recycled content. The plastic packaging tax is the first real step towards the UK tackling the rising problem of plastic used in everyday packaging and encouraging the reduction of virgin plastic manufacture. But things aren’t always as simple they seem. What may seem a commendable goal may in actual fact in some cases cause more harm than good. So how can that be? It seems fairly obvious that the less virgin plastic made, the better. Read on to find out more about our modern day crisis.  And yes – it will affect pallet wrap!

Putting plastic in its place

Following the UK ban of  plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds this year, the Government’s long term strategy to stem the tide of plastic in our environment continues to look at all single use plastics. Top of the agenda is packaging. We are all familiar with the rise of plastic packaging in the supermarkets when we buy our fruit and vegetables. One supermarket, Iceland, took the brave step of publishing the details of their plastic consumption with the hope that others follow suit and collectively work to reduce the amount used.

And of course, it’s not just about the amount of plastic made, it’s also how it’s disposed of too. The Circular Economy shows how used plastic can re-enter the system, be collected and re-purposed. You may have heard of the term Post Consumer Waste or PCW. This is recovered plastic which is re-introduced back into the cycle. For example, our plastic sacks are made from 98% PCW plastic and are also recyclable.

Does my company have to pay plastic packaging tax?

So all UK producers and all importers of plastic packaging will have to pay this tax. It applies to all plastic packaging either produced or imported into the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.  This will see a tax of £200 per tonne of plastic packaging made from less than 30% recycled plastic. And it would seem this could be just the starting point in terms of the 30% identified, so don’t be surprised to see that increase. How companies will go about securing or creating products with this amount of recycled content will be the stuff of many conversations in supply chains across the UK.

Post Consumer Waste

We mentioned PCW at the start of the article which stops single use plastics going to landfill. But what are the mechanisms in place to recover this plastic? Can you be sure that the empty plastic bottles you so diligently put in the recycling bin each week actually end up in the packaging in the supermarket? And it would also depend on where you live too! Some councils have got great systems in place to give your recycling a new lease of life while others, not so much. Imagine how hard it will be for industry to recover and introduce the right plastics into their supply chains for manufacture. The statistics speak for themselves where only 9% of plastic in the US and 15% Europe gets recycled.

It gets a bit technical!

The problem is not all plastic can be recycled. It depends what it was in a “previous life” and how many times it has been recycled too. There are also safety considerations to take into account. The process of recycling plastic can produce VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) if not processed correctly. There’s also the issue of contamination which can hamper the recycling process.

So perhaps the answer is just to use less!

How to use less pallet wrap

Pallet wrap in warehouse

Make better use of pallet wrap to reduce your plastic packaging tax burden

It is estimated that in the UK, over 150,000 tons of pallet wrap is used every year. It’s hard to imagine what that kind of volume looks like. To try to put it into perspective, 150,000 tonnes of used pallet wrap would take up the space of approximately 75,000 double decker buses!!

All pallet wrap can be recycled, but unfortunately could not be used to make new pallet wrap. The particular quality of pallet wrap that provides that all important ‘stretch’ gets broken down in the recycling process. There is no pallet wrap currently on the market that contains 30% recycled content. If it were possible to develop a recycled stretch film, it would need to be extremely thick so more plastic is required in the process, that defeats the object of plastic reduction. So what’s the answer to reducing plastic consumption with pallet wrap and avoiding the plastic packaging tax?

High performance pallet wrap

You might be tempted to put off taking any action to do with your pallet wrap until nearer April 2020, but actually you can start making savings right now. Typically most users would be using a standard film around the 20 micron value. This means having to use a lot of plastic to ensure pallet stability – remember our double decker bus? And a lot of plastic means more tax penalties.

By using a high performance film, you can make savings straight away on the amount of plastic you use, reducing your tax liability as well as cost. 

So how does it work?

The benefit of high performance pallet wrap means that you need much less of it. This is because the technology involved in creating it means film thickness can be reduced to as little as 8 micron.

What does this mean for you and the plastic packaging tax?

Your pallet wrap won’t include 30% recycled plastic content so you can’t avoid the tax  – but high performance pallet wrap does mean you will use less.

And because you’re using less, you’ll end up paying less tax.

And the even better news?

You don’t have to wait until April 2022 to enjoy these savings, you can start reducing your plastic consumption and save money today!

How does it stack up?

If you’re currently spending 50p per pallet on wrap, this could see you gain savings of over 40% per pallet. And remember our double decker again, now we’re talking only 45,000 buses for an average rather than 75,000. That’s pretty remarkable isn’t it!

It’s definitely worth taking a little bit of time to understand how much pallet wrap you’re using as well as the micron so you can get an idea of the potential savings that you can make right now. Why not drop us a quick email using the form below so we can work out how many double decker buses you can save!

Act now – don’t wait until April 2020!

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In today’s time-poor commercial environment, it is vital to remove bottlenecks in the packaging process. Whether your goods arriving in the packing area are intended to be shipped swiftly or to be stored for later processes, few machines will do that work faster than an electric strapping machine. If you need to collate a number of packages into one, closing single boxes, or adding external protection – all in a timely and secure manner everyday – then read on!

What’s on the strapping machine market?

Have you had an initial look around, only to think the various different options are baffling? On the one hand, some machines are large enough to fill a small room. You’ll see other businesses benefiting most from using hand-held apparatus. Let us help you by categorising the main types of strapping machine. They all serve a purpose, so working out the best one for you requires some analysis of the numbers in your own operation.

Automatic strapping machines

Fully automatic strapping machine

Fully automatic strapping machine

Do you handle hundreds of small-to-medium packs say from the size of small, fat book up to a boxed domestic microwave? Adding a fully automatic strapping machine to the end of the line is likely to be hugely rewarding in terms of labour saved and efficiency. Output in excess of 35 straps per minute can be achieved, while high speed machines offer around 50 per minute. Warranty is for 12 months and reliability is good. Operators should not need to be involved with any more than the most basic maintenance.

Will the budget stretch to something around £4000? Spreading the cost may be an option. There’s finance up to 3 years available to successful applicants, along with possible tax relief on capital expenditure. You could save money by having a model with button or foot control instead of a magic eye to activate the sealing cycle. Strap widths range from 9 mm-15 mm.

Semi-automatic strapping machines

Semi automatic strapping machine

Semi automatic strapping machine

Choosing a semi-automatic machine is not necessarily a poor option at all. For those with a huge variation in package sizes (here the ceiling’s the limit, just so long are able to move the item safely and directly against the ‘stop’ of the machine’s loading position. This can be tricky if the item is an irregular shape). Feeding the strap out and back in will take longer – and the sealing cycle could also add a second or two, subject to the gauge of strap and settings. The shear versatility is what wins here.

Packages per day could be counted in tens rather than hundreds to be viable and one machine could conceivably be shared by a few of operators. They can be moved around too on 4 lockable castors to minimise the distances for packs to be transported. Moderately fragile items may be accommodated (such as boxed fresh flowers) thanks to adjustable tension control. Strap widths from 5 mm-15.5 mm. Depending on model, prices start around £700.

Hand held strapping machines

Why use a hand-held strapping machine? These are cordless and so can be carried to the product that needs to be packaged, saving loads of time, energy and machine handling. Employed vertically or horizontally they tension, heat-seal and cut at the squeeze of a trigger once you have fed both ends of the plastic strap into the machine. Expect up to 400 straps per charge of a new battery, subject to variables such as the prevailing temperature. Components may wear and need replacing and regular servicing is advisable.

They are favourites in timber yards for example, where long lengths of cut timber can be bundled speedily, ensuring orders are collated and made rigid. Any number of bulky items may be handled just as well. These are best not lost in the yard though. Expect to pay something around £2000 per unit.

Manual strapping machines

Let’s go back to basics with a manual machine. This is where it all began, with sealing achieved using metal clips that have to be crimped onto the strapping where both ends meet after tightly encompassing the package. The popular combination tool will tension, crimp the seal and sever the unused strap in one multi tool, but this operation is many times slower than the electrical options above so best only for a handful of uses per day. These are best used on a horizontal surface such as the top of a carton or low, flat pallet. Where this is not possible, then the use of a separate tensioner and crimper-cutter is recommended. Expect to pay around £70+ for either kit, depending on quality.

Our own experience

In our own stores environment back in the early ‘90’s, we procrastinated for a while, but once we bought our own semi-automatic machine, we never looked back! Now we are two machines down the line. We found that delivery drivers much preferred taking our packages if they had 2 straps across the trunk and one across the length. They could carry a bundle in each hand by using the long strap as a handle. This speeded up loading and unloading times, as well as keeping orders for each site more accessible in transit and greatly reduced the number of instances where items became lost or forgotten. Quite a win-win!

Strapping materials

The most popular strapping material by metres consumed is polypropylene, being both tough and economical. It is suitable for light to medium weight packages and pallets. Generally, the thicker the band, the greater the breaking strain. Although quoted figures may sound high, starting around 130 KG for 12 mm strap, you must bear in mind the forces in a drop or collision will multiply the weight of the package by a factor of several times according to the terminal speed.

There are colours available in most sizes and where greater security and branding is required, then colour printing is available. Fact: Parcels and pallets secured with plain, un-printed packaging are more susceptible to pilferage. Bespoke printed strapping will not be opened it seems and resealed in transit!

Plastic or paper strapping?

For scenarios where greater tensional strength is required then polyester is superior to polypropylene banding. It has substantially higher retained tension and flexibility. Polyester has often been introduced in the packing of heavy items where in the past steel strap would have been the only option. (Environmental impact: packaging need not be single-use if we close the loop….!)

Polypropylene (PP) is a plastic that can be recycled for use in other items such as plant pots. Polyester (PET) strapping is available with recycled content. It can be effectively recycled for further use as strapping without the need to ever go to landfill. Paper strap is a recent addition for those seeking an environmental presentation. Suitable for both auto and semi-auto machinery, it can also be recycled.

At a glance

Strapping machines comparison

So what’s the right one for me?

In summing up, be assured that considerable amounts of time can be saved by using the above machines. When the (ever-rising) cost of labour is factored in, then the outlay is quite readily justifiable, subject to proper analysis. There is a right ‘horse for the course’ for you out there.

It is crucial to know your figures. For example, number of of packages to be processed per day/hour/minute, number of straps per parcel, usual weight per pack, size range of popular packs (to ensure you specify the correct arch dimensions for the automatic strapping machine). With sufficient space to circulate (or the adoption of conveyor belts) the flow rate can be little short of amazing.

We recommend you discuss your own challenge with a packaging professional, ideally on-site, before pressing the green button. The best use of resources will likely include a designated pathway from A to B, ensuring the minimum amount of labour to achieve the maximum throughput.

And remember, success brings success! Your happy customers will come back to you, so the chances are you’ll soon be exceeding your projected figures!

Want to know more? Ask your questions here:

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We are now almost a third of the way through the last quarter of 2019. After what has been a challenging year for retail, the high street must be holding it’s breath for the end of political turmoil to concentrate on the business of Christmas. Competition as fierce as always, getting customers through the door is key. So what has the biggest influence on footfall? Your window display! So how can you stand out in the crowd and engage with customers in the short moments it takes to walk passed your window? We take a look at some great things you could be thinking about to make the most of the next 2 months.

Know your customer

Magic & Sample

Magic & Sparkle

Worried about being on trend? One thing that never goes out of style is a brand’s ability to capture the imagination and tell its story. Consider your customer’s aspirations and reflect this in your window. They need to identify with the story so it needs to be relatable and relevant.

Take a look at this window by Marks and Spencer, playing on their “festive brand alternative” that has become synonymous with Christmas. The window shows the mannequins have been transformed into fairies with their modern take on a winter wonderland. This window is sure to delight the die hard Marks & Spencer fan as well as being intriguing enough to attract new ones.

 

Eye level buy level

It makes sense to place the central element of your window display at eye level.  It makes it easier to have an instant impact on customers.  Over time, customers will look forward to seeing it when they pass by. If it is an example of clothing, it will need to inspire and cleverly sell a lifestyle rather than be seen as just a product. Again, it’s all about being engaging as well as relatable.

Clever retail

Trick or treat shop window display

Trick or treat window display

Visual merchandising is more important then ever with competition from on line as well as pop-ups and other shops on the high street. This brilliant shop window by Coles Hardware heralds the Trick or Treat season with a very clever display that cost less than $100. Humour can go a long way in capturing the imagination and getting customers through the door.

Ultimately your window display is your billboard. It’s all about creating drama, impact and the unexpected – and it doesn’t need always need big budgets!

 

 

 

Marks & Spencers photo by Millington Associates

Coles Department Store photo by Noelle Nicks

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With so many options on the market such as different pallet wrap film strengths and grades, hand and machine wrap options, blown or stretch film  – it can become pretty confusing.  You may also be looking for eco-friendly options with health and safety solutions as well as advice on how to be as efficient as possible with your pallet wrap.  This can have a huge impact on time and budget savings so there’s a lot at stake. So how can you really know which pallet wrap is the right one for your business? Let’s explore the options in detail.

Hand or machine pallet wrap?

This really comes down to the size of your business and what will be most cost effective, taking in consideration the trade off in staffing levels and labour time  versus mechanising this process. In a business where a low number of pallets are being wrapped each month, it makes sense to invest in a hand pallet wrap solution rather than the expense of machine wrap. But that’s not the end of the story! There are still plenty of opportunities to be had in terms of eco friendly options to reduce your single use plastic consumption as well as improving on health and safety in the warehouse. One such product is the Gripfilm system which boasts a whole range of features.

 

Making sense of pallet wrap

Making sense of pallet wrap

Slips and trips during the palletising process can be eliminated by this system as the user is able to work forwards around the pallet using the patented special dispenser. It promotes faster wrapping thus reducing the price per pallet in terms of reduced labour time. More than this though, Gripfilm has the capacity to reduce the cost per pallet even further as less film is needed. This is what is known in the industry as a high performance film when compared to ordinary stretch film as it much thinner. Using this could deliver a cost per pallet reduction of 40%. Something else to think about is if your operation is spread over a large area and you have lots of people picking and building orders for despatch, hand wrapping would be the preferred option. This will eliminate the travelling time to a machine wrapper and creating bottlenecks.

Time to automate?

If your business is wrapping and despatching over 15 pallets a day, it may be a good time to look at automation. There is lots of scope here to gain cost advantages based on the film and machinery used. How the machine is set up will have a huge impact on the amount of film used. The sweet spot is being able to use the least amount of film possible to stabilise the load. Getting the right machinery and the right film is critical and it may be a good time to call in some expert advice to get this optimally set up. There are many high performance films on the market which can deliver incredible results using minimal volume and therefore become eco-friendly options. Break through technologies in film materials allow for even further reduction of single use plastic consumption which improves your cost per pallet and green credentials.

Making sense of pallet wrap

To fully realise the true cost reducing potential of new pallet wrap materials and processes, why not get in touch for a completely free, no obligation review. We can provide a complete report on how and where you can save money from day 1.

 

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