Inbound Logistics | July 2022

exclusively made of wood, such as the variety supplied by iGPS Logistics. Plastic pallets were shown to have a longer lifespan than similar wood block pallets, according to a 2020 study conducted by Environmental Resource Management, a global consultancy. The study concluded that iGPS’s virgin and recycled plastic pallets have signicantly less environmental impact than pooled multi-use wood pallets. In fact, iGPS recycled more than 32 million pounds of post-consumer and post-industrial plastic into pallets in 2021 alone. That gure represents just part of the more than 208 million pounds the company has recycled over the past seven years. The company estimates that by shipping lighter plastic pallets, their customers kept more than 28 million pounds of greenhouse emissions out of the atmosphere in 2021. OUT OF THE POOL iGPS was founded as a plastic pallet pooling company. “We identied an opportunity early on that plastic would perform more efciently and effectively in the supply chain,” says Harrison Dean, executive vice president. “Being lighter weight, plastic pallets allow you to cube a truck out versus weight it out. Their streamlined design means they perform more efciently in automated circumstances.” Plastic pallets keep their structural integrity, unlike wooden pallets that are prone to splintering. Moisture might cause a wooden pallet to expand whereas a plastic pallet maintains its dimensions throughout the entire supply chain. iGPS’s plastic pallets are outtted with RFID chips to keep track of them throughout their lifecycle— which averages 7 to 10 years depending on the product. After that they will, without a doubt, be recycled into a new generation. Ultimately, new generations of packaging and support systems are how

iGPS o‘ers plastic pallets that are 100% recyclable and sustainable, and can make more than 100 trips in their lifetime. They then enter a recycling system to be reground, reformed, and reborn as a new pallet.

air on a truck,” says Nottestad. “With reusable packaging you start to home in on some standards that t the efciencies for the majority of your product. Those standards then become the basis to build off and around other parts of your process to achieve added efciencies.” Using dividers or subdividing containers is common; it ensures that a plastic tote, for example, is densely packed rather than sitting half full. “Trying to drive as much cube as possible into containers has long been a focus for ORBIS, but we look at it across the entire supply chain,” says Nottestad. Concern extends beyond a single point of use. In other words, ORBIS wants to know where that tote is going next. Will it be palletized? Will that pallet then end up on a truck? Will ORBIS cube out the truck and take all these factors into consideration? Inefciencies in a transport vehicle can quickly offset savings achieved elsewhere. “We keep all that in mind,” says Nottestad. CHOOSING REUSING Smart and sustainable packaging solutions are just one piece of the puzzle. Shipping pallets—those ubiquitous workhorses that basically serve as the underpinnings of the entire supply chain—deserve consideration too. Companies are beginning to discover the value of recycled plastic pallets, once

subsidiary of Menasha Corporation, the company’s focus has always centered on providing quality reusable packaging. In recent years, as e-commerce has evolved and accelerated, ORBIS has paid particular attention to the distribution environment. SO LNG, SINGLE USE In today’s circular economy, limited or single-use packaging solutions such as ber corrugated boxes and wood pallets are falling out of favor. Plastic on the other hand—especially varieties that, at the end of their lifecycle, can be recovered, recycled, and reprocessed into new packaging products—are getting the thumbs up and falling in line with customers’ expectations regarding sustainability. As studies note, consumers have a more positive image of and are more loyal to a company that supports social and/or environmental issues. “It’s such a good environment right now for returnable packaging,” notes Nottestad. “Areas of the supply chain are evaluating it more seriously than they have in the past. They’re coming back and looking at it again.” Some of the drivers prompting that second look include seeking to improve labor inefciencies, reduce costs, and achieve throughput objectives and sustainability goals. Rightsizing factors into this domain as well. “You don’t want to ship a lot of

e-commerce will continue to scale its inefciencies and become more sustainable.


164 Inbound Logistics • July 2022

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