Molded pulp is often considered a sustainable packaging material, as defined by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, since it is produced from recycled materials, and can be recycled again after its useful life-cycle. Molded pulp products can be made waterproof with a spray or dip coating of wax.
Molded pulp packaging is made from a variety of fibrous materials, such as recycled paper, cardboard or other natural fibers (sugarcane, bamboo, wheat straw). The raw materials help determine the color, surface texture and strength of the packaging.
Molded pulp packaging is formed to shape. So, unlike cardboard boxes, it does not start as a flat sheet. Instead, it is designed with round corners and complex three-dimensional shapes. Egg cartons are a great example.
In recent years, the manufacturing technology has improved so the final products have a smoother surface and a more sophisticated look & feel. With the improved appearance, pulp packaging is now being used for a wide range of applications, in addition to traditional protective packaging (end caps, egg cartons).
The growing importance of sustainability has also helped make pulp packaging an attractive option. Not only can it be made from recycled materials, it can also be easily recycled again after its useful life-cycle. If it doesn’t make it to the landfill or recycling facility, the fibers in pulp packaging are biodegradable, unlike plastic and Styrofoam (EPS) packaging.
The International Molded Fiber Association (IMFA) has identified four distinct types of molded pulp based on the manufacturing process.
As trendsetters such as Walmart have shown, working with suppliers to create sustainable packaging is vital for retailers and manufacturers looking to satisfy consumer demands, sustainability, storage, and disposal costs, as well as promote their concern for the environment to consumers.
The issue of disposal difficulties with many non-renewable materials has only served to heighten interest in this field and accelerate adoption of sustainable packaging.
With sustainability as their mantra, packaging developers are expanding the possibilities available with bamboo/wheat straw/ sugarcane molded fiber packaging applications. As a result, more retailers, manufacturers, and consumers in markets are adopting sustainable molded fiber packaging.
Today, molded fiber’s packaging capabilities range from vegetable trays, clamshell boxes, mushroom tills and retail packaging for cosmetics to protective packs for jarred candles, cushions for computers, and inserts for mobile phones.