Case Study: Alternative Packaging Materials

The Challenge:

Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer and imports a number of specialist and highly sensitive items and materials. In addition to easily recycled packaging, this also gives rise to a number of plastic foams from a variety of polymers and in various quantities. These foams vary from very small offcuts to over three metres in length. Serco is a facilities management company that manage services at Airbus in Filton and are committed to achieving zero waste to landfill. They approached Collecteco to find alternatives to landfilling this foam.

The Solution:

Collecteco cleared about 100 cubic yards of this waste stream as an alternative to sending it to landfill –enough to cover at least one football pitch! Recycling was not an option because there were too many different polymers and the machinery required for a “one-off” didn’t justify the investment. Energy from waste was an option to avoid landfill, but only if all else failed and even then we would need to pre-shred some material. Reuse opportunities quickly arose for this waste stream in the form of alternatives to virgin packaging materials for The Chrysalis and Shakspeare Glass and for The Children’s Scrapstore who used the large sections for their PlayPods.

The Chrysalis is a not-for-profit social enterprise that exists to promote and facilitate reuse. It reuses thousands of tonnes of reusable items every year and these sometimes need to be sent by courier across the UK or to further afield with recent items travelling to Ghana and the USA. When items are sent by courier they need to be well packaged to avoid damage. The Chrysalis sources reused packaging and the foam from Airbus came at a time when its current stocks were running low.

Shakspeare Glass is a Taunton-based glass blower that makes beautiful glass items ranging from egg cups to commissioned sculptures. The company has stockists all over the UK and as far as the Isle of Arran, so items have got to be sent out well packaged. The foam from Airbus provided a fantastic alternative to new packaging usually made from virgin materials. It also gave the added benefit of being able to be cut to shape when the packaging had to be a very tight fit to prevent damage. On its local routes that it services from its own vehicles, there is also the opportunity for Shakspeare to “take back” packaging for reuse for future deliveries.

The Children’s Scrapstore’s motto is “making wastethings playthings” and it does this by passing on clean, reusable items to schools, nurseries and other like organisations. It had already collected some foam directly from Airbus, but with space at a premium, it could not take more at the time. The larger sections of foam were of most interest to the charity for use in their Play Pods –these are sheds filled with large items that allow children to explore a range of skills through play. The Chrysalis is a 20,000 square foot, racked-out facility, which means that it can accommodate large quantities of materials when needed and “store” these until homes (demand) can be found. This was especially of use in this case because it allowed the Scrapstore to redistribute the foam over time without its warehouse filling-up with foam and therefore potentially damaging other areas of its operations.

The Results:

+ C02 Reduction
Jobs/Training: Collection/Warehousing/Delivery/Income for Scrapstore
+ Landfill Diverted: 750kg