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Circular Life Cycle and Sustainable Development of Beverage Crates

The beverage industry was one of the first industries to pioneer what we now call a circular approach to packaging products.

Producing the first recyclable plastic crate in 1964, we were a decade ahead of industrial analysts  who sketched the first known concept of a closed-loop or circular economy in a European Commission report in 1976. Circularity simply made sense to the industry, and continues to drive resource efficiency in today’s beverage supply chains.

Packaging has many roles in the product life cycle; to contain a liquid or solid product; to protect the product from damage; to transport the product; to advertise a product or brand at Point of Sale (POS); and enable easy use of the product by customers or consumers. The right packaging can also reduce waste, costs and complexity from the supply chain. No consumer brand can exist without packaging and in an economy of rising resource prices, saturated markets and other market pressures, it is important to choose the right packaging.

Plastics have revolutionized the global economy - providing durable, hygienic, lightweight and reusable alternatives to other packaging materials for certain applications as evaluated by American Chemistry Council and TruCost.

However, oil-based materials also have a significant environmental impact. The beverage industry has increasingly recognized the importance of using plastics responsibly and is working to build a New Plastics Economy driven by innovation, designed for circularity, high-quality recycling and strong secondary-material markets. Injection-moulded crates have become an increasingly popular packaging solution; putting durability, reusability and recyclability at the heart of their sustainable design.

Circular by design

The life cycle of a beverage crate is purposely designed to be circular.

Starting their life as a bespoke design concept, their features make them durable to protect the product; easy to handle; stackable to ensure the most efficient logistics and made from just the right amount of material. 

A high-quality, reliable stock of Polyethylene (HDPE) Polypropylene (PP) regrind and, increasingly less frequently, virgin feedstock must then be sourced at DS Smith’s Plastics Division, this material originates primarily from the Injection Moulding business segment, from the customer or other 3rd party organizations. As they are manufactured from single material HDPE or PP, the crates are designed for recyclability.

The bespoke mould is then injected with heated plastic and fresh labels are applied. To further improve their recyclable properties, a technique has been developed for producing monolayer in-mould labels (IML) out of the same material as the crate so the labels made of HDPE or PP can be recycled as well – making the crates 100% recyclable.

The crates are then shipped to the customer and their stackable properties allow them to use the vehicle’s space in the most efficient manner.

Plastics’ Injection-moulded beverage crates are highly durable and ensure a full warranty under rigorous manipulation procedures and outdoor usage – providing a strong protection for the beverage products.

When the crates finally reach end-of-life they can be reground and turned into new crates for a resource-efficient life-cycle approach, designed for circularity.