They look like packing peanuts, and in many ways, they are. But they’re also not.

In fact, Sealed Air’s PakNatural loose fill solution is really so much more.

In addition to providing superior protection and producing less dust than ordinary peanuts, this innovative protective packaging product made from non-food, renewable materials has greater inherent strength over starch-based loose fill packing, says Tim McInerney, Sustainable Solutions Business Manager for Sealed Air protective packaging.

They also provide superior anti-static performance over expanded polystyrene products, he adds.

“Another differentiator is that typically loose fill doesn’t offer much protection capabilities,” McInerney tells Leo Rommel of Industry Today. “It just sort of fills the void in the box.”

That is not the case with PakNatural, he says.

“This material, because of its structure and how it aligns itself in the box, actually provides modest cushioning capabilities to offer better protection,” McInerney says.

He adds that many operations already designed for loose fill packaging can easily switch to PakNatural loose fill without making changes to their current packaging process.

Sealed Air, based in Elmwood Park, N.J., and a leader in protective packaging, previously did not offer loose fill packaging. The “environmental and performance positioning did not fit with our company’s vision,” Mark Bourke, PakNatural Sales Development Manager at Sealed Air, said last year.

But the recently-released PakNatural loose fill – certified as biodegradable and compostable by three independent international organizations – offers sustainability and performance benefits at competitive prices, McInerney says.

“It’s a compostable material,” he adds. “We’ve recently broadened the portfolio in that line with a natural and compostable bag, called the PakNatural Biodegradable Cushion Bag, that the loose fill is put into that provides a sort of containment for the traditional peanuts that offers even greater protective cushioning capabilities.”

According to McInerney, Sealed Air has always been positioned around sustainability and three other key elements: price, performance, and “the environmental profile of the material itself.”

PakNatural loose fill solution highlights these initiatives.

“We’ve really been successful in delivering that value proposition,” he says.

McInerney says that a large area of the company’s focus has been on the performance aspects of its product lines.

“We’ve always had a focus on the carbon footprint of our customer’s products,” he says. “For example, take a computer manufacturer. If that computer got damaged, the carbon footprint, and everything that goes into manufacturing that computer, certainly dwarfs that of any packaging used. So, it’s always been critical to deliver that value proposition in a way that was very focused on reducing damage and providing operational efficiencies for our customers’ operations.”

Providing high-quality products that reduce costs and environmental impact through the supply chain is simply a Sealed Air specialty, he adds.

“We have a big focus on renewable materials as well as the end of life story of compostability,” he says. “Typically, efficiencies in the beginning of life have involved using more recyclable content. Then, at the end of life, the goal has been to have it be recyclable material. Of course, you want to get into that curbside recycling infrastructure. All of this is developed with a very key focus on maintaining levels of performance or improving them while having these materials be affordable to our customers.”

Here’s an example: Last year, the company introduced Restore Mushroom Packaging, a 100 percent renewable protective packaging solution made from non-food agricultural byproducts and mycelium, otherwise known as mushroom roots.

The first commercialized use of the technology by Ecovative Design, Restore Mushroom Packaging harnesses the power of mycelium to bind agricultural waste into a molded shape that offers customers an all-natural, engineered protective packaging solution that McInerney says is home compostable.

Likewise, the cushions are custom-engineered to meet customers’ individual needs and are grown through a low-energy and automated process, which involves filling the raw materials evenly into forms that allow them to take the final shapes.

The mycelium is mixed with regionally sourced agricultural waste and grows indoors without the need for light, watering, or petrochemicals, McInerney says, adding that they are completely biodegradable and home compostable, allowing for easy and environmentally sound disposal.

The product line can be used for most cushioning and blocking and bracing scenarios and nearly any application, including automotive parts, lighting fixtures, and even electronics.

McInerney says that Sealed Air will continue to showcase how innovative thinking can change the way natural resources are used and defy antiquated manufacturing boundaries.

“We’re very committed to protecting people, resources, and the planet with solutions that eliminate waste and maximize operational efficiencies,” he says. “There’s an internal aspect of that where we manage our operations and our supply chain safely and efficiently. We develop products and solutions that are designed to reduce waste while minimizing the use of resources. That’s always been a focus of our R&D efforts.”

About Sealed Air
Sealed Air is a global leader in food safety and security, facility hygiene, and product protection. With widely recognized and inventive brands such as Bubble Wrap® brand cushioning, Cryovac® brand food packaging solutions, and Diversey™ brand cleaning and hygiene solutions, Sealed Air offers efficient and sustainable solutions that create business value for customers, enhance the quality of life for consumers, and provide a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations. Sealed Air generated revenue of approximately $7.6 billion in 2012, and has approximately 25,000 employees who serve customers in 175 countries.


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