Ranpak Life Cycle Analysis: With a Focus on Recycled Paper

History of the company-

“Founded in 1972, Ranpak’s goal was to create the first environmentally responsible packaging material to effectively cushion and protect products during shipment. Today, Ranpak is still committed to this goal. Our packaging material is 100% recyclable, renewable and biodegradable making it an environmentally friendly alternative to other packaging materials on the markets.”

Ranpak’s headquarters is based out of Ohio. With worldwide distribution serving six continents and manufacturing facilities in Ohio, Nevada, Kansas, Europe, the Netherlands and Asia, Ranpak is able to serve an international customer base with consistent quality and service all directed toward improving the environment and the customer’s bottom line. They also have a sales office in Singapore.

Ranpak is known as the cheap and green packaging cooperation, using only recyclable paper packaging.

o In 1972, Ranpak invented an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based packaging materials.

o In 2002, named one of the Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in America by Inc Magazine.

o Inc Magazine ranked the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in the country based upon the number of patents issued in the last five years. Ranpak, in 10th place, has 103 U.S. patents and another 100 abroad. Ranpak was the only company not in the medical/ pharmaceutical or the hardware/software fields to make the top 10 list.

o In 2005 & 2006, Named as an eVolution of Manufacturing Award Recipient

Materials in paper-

Ranpak paper is made from all-natural kraft paper that is 100% biodegradable, reusable, recyclable and renewable. On average, their paper is made from 35-50% recycled paper. Most of the material used in Ranpak’s paper is derived from sawmill residuals (left over wood chips after the dimensional lumber is cut from a log). These are domestic trees that are primarily pine and fir, harvested then replanted for the lumber and building material industry. The paper is also Uncoated Unbleached Kraft, as it will limit the possibility of chemical contamination down the line.

Ranpak reported that the forest products industry plants more than 1.7 million trees per day, growing more than is harvested annually to ensure a reliable source of raw materials. Over the past 50 years, the forests in the U.S. have increased by nearly 40% and by 10 million acres between 1987 and 2002.

Manufacturing facilities-

Ranpak performs preventative maintenance routinely on all paper converting equipment to optimize uptime and energy efficiencies. Over 99% of Ranpak’s manufacturing scrap is recycled or sold for reuse such as paper scrap, cardboard cores, plastic from obsolete machinery, returned machinery and used equipment oil. Scrap from the machines is separated and sold for reuse, as the scrap is stored on site until a full truckload is available maximizing fuel efficiencies.

Ranpak works with SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) Certified paper suppliers ensuring their paper comes from a responsible source, backed by a rigorous, third-party certifi cation audit. Ranpak’s paper suppliers must also comply with the Lacey Act, which prevents illegal logging practices.

Ranpak also continuously reviews their manufacturing processes to see where waste can be reduced and minimized.

Ranpak only works with virgin paper suppliers that are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. The Forest Stewardship Council ensures that the supplier manages the forests in such a way that the biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes are maintained.

The Manufacturing Process of Paper-

Making pulp

Several processes are commonly used to convert logs to wood pulp. In the mechanical process, logs are first tumbled in drums to remove the bark. The logs are then sent to grinders, which break the wood down into pulp by pressing it between huge revolving slabs. The pulp is filtered to remove foreign objects. In the chemical process, wood chips from de-barked logs are cooked in a chemical solution. This is done in huge vats called digesters. The chips are fed into the digester, and then boiled at high pressure in a solution of 
sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide. The chips dissolve into pulp in the solution. Next the pulp is sent through filters. Bleach may be added at this stage, or colorings. The pulp is sent to the paper plant.

Beating

The pulp is next put through a pounding and squeezing process called, appropriately enough, beating. Inside a large tub, the pulp is subjected to the effect of machine beaters. At this point, various filler materials can be added such as chalks, clays, or chemicals such as titanium oxide. These additives will influence the opacity and other qualities of the final product. Sizings are also added at this point. Sizing affects the way the paper will react with various inks. Without any sizing at all, a paper will be too absorbent for most uses except as a desk blotter. A sizing such as starch makes the paper resistant to water-based ink (inks actually sit on top of a sheet of paper, rather than sinking in). A variety of sizings, generally rosins and gums, are available depending on the eventual use of the paper. Paper that will receive a printed design, such as gift wrapping, requires a particular formula of sizing that will make the paper accept the printing properly.

Pulp to paper

In order to finally turn the pulp into paper, the pulp is fed or pumped into giant, automated machines. One common type is called the Fourdrinier machine, which was invented in England in 1807. Pulp is fed into the Fourdrinier machine on a moving belt of fine mesh screening. The pulp is squeezed through a series of rollers, while suction devices below the belt drain off water. If the paper is to receive a watermark, a device called a dandy moves across the sheet of pulp and presses a design into it. The paper then moves onto the press section of the machine, where it is pressed between rollers of wool felt. The paper then passes over a series of steam-heated cylinders to remove the remaining water. A large machine may have from 40 to 70 drying cylinders.

Finishing

Finally, the dried paper is wound onto large reels, where it will be further processed depending on its ultimate use. Paper is smoothed and compacted further by passing through metal rollers called calendars. A particular finish, whether soft and dull or hard and shiny, can be imparted by the calendars. Passing through a vat of sizing material may further finish the paper. It may also receive a coating, which is either brushed on or rolled on. Coating adds chemicals or pigments to the paper’s surface, supplementing the sizings and fillers from earlier in the process. Fine clay is often used as a coating. The paper may next be supercalendered, that is, run through extremely smooth calendar rollers, for a final time. Then the paper is cut to the desired size.

Transportation-

Ranpak has 5 manufacturing facilities located worldwide to optimize shipping distances to their distributors while reducing the carbon footprint. Most of Ranpak’s products can be double-stacked for optimizing truck space utilization. Also, navigation software is also available to all of Ranpak’s external sales force and service technicians to optimize trips for increased fuel efficiency and a lower carbon footprint. Ranpak also maintains a fleet of high-efficiency vehicles that are always being updated to ensure the best fuel efficiency.

Decomposition-

Ranpak paper is recyclable and biodegradable. This makes the process of throwing away very easy. Many companies will either continue to reuse the paper or will just simply recycle it along with corrugated boxes, newspapers and other materials. It decomposes within 2 weeks to 2 months depending upon the temperature and thickness of the paper.

How is Paper Recycled-

Sorting

Successful recycling requires clean recovered paper, so you must keep your paper free from contaminants, such as food, plastic, metal, and other trash, which make paper difficult to recycle. Contaminated paper that cannot be recycled must be composted, burned for energy, or land filled.

Re-pulping and Screening

The paper moves by conveyor to a big vat called a pulper, which contains water and chemicals. The pulper chops the recovered paper into small pieces. Heating the mixture breaks the paper down more quickly into tiny strands of cellulose

(organic plant material) called fibers. Eventually, the old paper turns into a mushy mixture called pulp.

Screening occurs when the pulp is forced through screens containing holes and slots of various shapes and sizes. The screens remove small contaminants such as bits of plastic and globs of glue.

Cleaning

Mills also clean pulp by spinning it around in large cone-shaped cylinders. Heavy contaminants like staples are thrown to the outside of the cone and fall through the bottom of the cylinder. Lighter contaminants collect in the center of the cone and are removed.

Deinking

Sometimes the pulp must undergo a “pulp laundering” operation called deinking (de-inking) to remove printing ink and sticky materials like glue residue and adhesives. Papermakers often use a combination of two deinking processes. Small particles of ink are rinsed from the pulp with water in a process called washing. Larger particles and stickies are removed with air bubbles in another process called flotation.

During flotation deinking, pulp is fed into a large vat called a flotation cell, where air and soap-like chemicals call surfactants are injected into the pulp. The surfactants cause ink and stickies to loosen from the pulp and stick to the air bubbles as they float to the top of the mixture. The inky air bubbles create foam or froth that is removed from the top, leaving only the clean pulp behind.

Refining, Bleaching and Color Stripping

During refining, the pulp is beaten to make the recycled fibers swell, making them ideal for papermaking. If the pulp contains any large bundles of fibers, refining separates them into individual fibers. If the recovered paper is colored, color-stripping chemicals remove the dyes from the paper.

Then, if white recycled paper is being made, the pulp may need to be bleached with hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, or oxygen to make it whiter and brighter. If brown recycled paper is being made, such as that used for industrial paper towels, the pulp does not need to be bleached.

Papermaking

Now the clean pulp is ready to be made into paper. The recycled fiber can be used alone, or blended with new wood fiber (called virgin fiber) to give it extra strength or smoothness.

The pulp is mixed with water and chemicals to make it 99.5% water. This watery pulp mixture enters the head box, a giant metal box at the beginning of the paper machine, and then is sprayed in a continuous wide jet onto a huge flat wire screen, which is moving very quickly through the paper machine.

On the screen, water starts to drain from the pulp, and the recycled fibers quickly begin to bond together to form a watery sheet. The sheet moves rapidly through a series of felt-covered press rollers that squeeze out more water.

The sheet, which now resembles paper, passes through a series of heated metal rollers that dry the paper. If coated paper is being made, a coating mixture can be applied near the end of the process, or in a separate process after the papermaking is completed. coating gives paper a smooth, glossy surface for printing.

Finally, the finished paper is wound into a giant roll and removed from the paper machine. One roll can be as wide as 30 feet and weigh as much as 20 tons! The roll of paper is cut into smaller rolls, or sometimes into sheets, before being shipped to a converting plant where it will be printed or made into products such as envelopes, paper bags, or boxes.

Benefits of Paper Recycling

• Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that can contribute to climate change by avoiding methane emissions and reducing energy required for a number of paper products.

• Extends the fiber supply and contributes to carbon sequestration.

• Saves considerable landfill space.

• Reduces energy and water consumption.

• Decreases the need for disposal (i.e., landfill or incineration which decreases the amount of CO2 produced).

Ranpak Offices-

Ranpak offices have recycle bins located in all common areas to encourage employee recycling. Also, employees are encouraged to turn off lights and computer equipment when not in use for increased energy savings. Ranpak also returns all obsolete computer equipment; such as used toner cartridges, to the manufacturer to be “responsibly recycled”. All printers have been programmed to use the 2-sided printing option as the default setting to reduce paper usage.

Ranpak’s HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system is computer regulated to optimize heating/air-conditioning usage and to save energy. Ranpak has also installed high efficiency toilets to reduce water usage and wastewater costs.

Ranpak: FillPak

Before FillPak, employees usually gauged by eye how much packing material should be put in a box to fill the space and protect an item during shipping. With the FillPak and AccuFill system, a box moves on a conveyor through the AccuFill sensor.

The machine scans the package and calculates how much material is needed to fill the space. The box continues to the FillPak station, where the precise amount of paper is distributed into the box. It’s simple and quick, and companies usually reduce their material usages by 10 percent to 25 percent with the system, saving them money, as well.

The FillPak station also allows several 100-cubic-foot boxes of Ranpak fanfold paper to be set up in the machine at once, which covers several days of production. This high-volume load capacity saves employees valuable time because they don’t have to walk across warehouses to get more material and reload paper into the machine.

If companies want to get even more high-tech, they can purchase Ranpak’s AutoFill system, which also closes and tapes the boxes shut. This system can fill 17 boxes per minute, while an operator can fill about five boxes per minute.

My Reaction-

I was incredibly impressed by Ranpak. They are as green a company as I have ever seen. It is truly amazing to me how everything they do, is green. From going to the bathroom to recycling just about everything they can. They truly are an innovator in the world of green.

The best idea that I could come up with for this company is to make it more used in almost any product. If we were to use this paper instead of all the plastic and peanuts that are used, we could make a huge difference in the world. The best part about the paper is it really could protect anything. It fits perfectly into the box and it keeps the product safe and tight.

The information on the company was very easy to find. They have multiple links to information on their site as well as other information on the web. Also, Ranpak was very willing to help with any questions I had for them. They sent me multiple e-mailed regarding different questions I had. I was most surprised by this. For such a huge company, they got back to me extremely quickly and were willing to answer everything I asked. There customer service really impressed me. They also sent me brochures and other material such as websites and articles about the company that Sheila thought would help with my research.

Overall, I would say this company is well on their way to establishing themselves as not only one of the best packaging companies but one of the best customer services around. I look forward to learning more about the company and hope that they will continue to grow into the face of green.

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