The paperboard gaylord may be on its way to extinction, but it won´t give up without a fight.
Anyone who has visited any sort of plastics plant has seen them: large boxes with plastic film liners, used for transporting resin. Usually they have the name of a supplier on all four sides. The boxes are returned, recycled or reused, but rarely thrown away unless they get wet or torn.
Often the boxes are reused for so long that it´s not unusual to see gaylords in processors´ plants with logos from defunct or renamed resin suppliers. Someday we´re going to see an industry old-timer on PBS´ Antiques Roadshow getting price quotes on empty gaylords for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.´s PET resin, or USI Chemicals Co.´s polyethylene.
Several companies make durable plastic versions of the gaylords. They cost more than paperboard but last longer, so the manufacturers — usually injection molders or structural foam molders — figure the plastic versions save money over the long term. But they´ve been slow to catch on among most suppliers, either because of the higher initial cost or the difficulty making sure the empties are returned to the right place.
Now a European trade group for resin suppliers is encouraging its members to take a tentative first step toward using plastic transport packaging. The Brussels, Belgium-based Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe helped develop and test two sizes of plastic pallets specifically to meet the needs resin suppliers.
APME wants its members to start using the pallets, which are made from recycled plastic, for in-house or closed-loop operations. Eventually it expects the plastic variety to replace less-durable wood pallets.
The Europeans are well-positioned to experiment with this new packaging because they´ve already got a wooden-pallet-pooling system that easily can start handling the plastic variety. Once those pallets catch on in Europe, expect them to spread to other markets. Next will be new sizes, including the gaylord varieties.
Expect some regional differences in how quickly plastics catch on in this market. In dry climates like Southern California and Arizona, it´s not usual to see full paperboard pallets stored outdoors, even at night. You don´t see that in New England or Florida. Those wetter locales might be quicker to adopt plastic gaylords and pallets.
Still, it´s curious that resin suppliers have been slow to apply plastics in this application. APME´s efforts should help hasten the switch.
Meanwhile, suppliers and processors should resist the temptation to use virgin resin to make the containers, even if that means paying a small premium for the finished product. That is a good use for recycled plastics, and it would be a shame for recyclers to develop the market, then lose the application.