Global Company Ranpak Expands its Sustainable Packaging Portfolio

Concord, OH-based Ranpak is bringing drain-safe, plant-based cool gel packs to the U.S. with the acquisition of European company Recycold. Through the years it expanded its portfolio of sustainable packaging mainly for e-commerce and manufacturers, with offerings like curbside-recyclable paper cushioning to protect products during shipping and paper pads that insulate perishables.

Arlene Karidis, Freelance writer

March 8, 2022

5 Min Read
Ranpak
Ranpak

Global company Ranpak went into business five decades ago to make paper packaging for shipping. Through the years it expanded its portfolio of sustainable packaging mainly for e-commerce and manufacturers, with offerings like curbside-recyclable paper cushioning to protect products during shipping and paper pads that insulate perishables. Along the way it’s invested in innovations from robotic production line workers to an unconventional fiber feedstock that’s an alternative to wood pulp.

Now the Concord, OH-based company is bringing drain-safe, plant-based cool gel packs to the U.S. with the acquisition of European company Recycold.

“What we are focused on doing is creating a broader portfolio of more sustainable packaging alternatives to meet end users’ specific needs … to offer a suite of products for packaging whatever is coming off of their fulfillment lines,” says David Murgio, Ranpak’s chief sustainability officer.

A common theme is to cut packaging waste by minimizing materials and providing ecofriendly alternatives to plastic, with the later being a huge driver.

“While a lot of engineers are doing great work to figure out ways to make plastics recyclable the reality is recycling infrastructure is not ready for most of it. So, when you for instance get an air pillow in a package, even if it’s labeled recyclable, it typically gets sorted out and sent to landfills,” Murgio says. That’s not the case with paper.

The gel packs aren’t suited for curbside programs, but they provide an alternative to most traditional gel packs as they are drain safe, with no goo residue. Depending on the product being boxed and shipped, the insulating paper pads may be sufficient, or the two applications may be used together.

The pads work where only insulation is needed as temperature protection; think fruits. The gel packs are for products like meats that require a cooling agent.

The way Ranpak sees it, the Recycold acquisition is about having that additional technology in its tent.

“It gives us a product we can expand on and marry to our existing insulating product line, so we can offer customers more options,” Murgio says.

Other expansions include a recent move to complement a Ranpak division called R Squared. R Squared designs machine learning and computer vision systems that sense products on a conveyor belt and communicate to equipment how much packaging material is required to fit that product, ultimately mitigating excess.  

It’s invested in tech company Pickle Robot who makes robots that take boxes off the end of the line, sort, and palletize them for shipping.

So it’s synergistic with R Squared, as Pickle Robot uses similar technology in order to take fulfillment from filling and sealing the box to the next step, Murgio says.

Ranpak’s also leaning toward another type of fiber-based feedstock through its investment in a German company called Creapaper. Referring to itself as “the grasspaper company,” it takes dried hey from farms in Europe and turns it into pellets that mills use to make paper.

“We believe in sustainably managed forests and look to source FSC-certified feedstock. But even those forests take about 15 to 20 years to regenerate. Grass grows much quicker, and what gets used is what farmers otherwise burn or destroy. So, it’s exciting to make something useful out of it,” Murgio says.

Within its own operations, Ranpak recycles about 95% of its waste. It’s set targets for 2030 including to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and Scope 2) by at least 46%; source an aggregate paper supply of at least 75% recycled pulp, including at least 25% from post-consumer waste or alternative pulp; and sell 100% of its paper products as FSC-certified.

“So, we are committed to walk the talk. To not only sell more sustainable alternatives and seek to create a more sustainable supply chain—but we are doing what we can to make our own operations more sustainable,” Murgio says.

The company’s vendor, Gateway Recycling, takes about 75 to 120 tons each month of discards from Ranpak’s Ohio headquarters. It’s a mix largely of cardboard, mill wraps, mixed paper, and office recycling. That collection saves 1,100 to 2,000 trees, water, and electricity, according to Judy Battig, senior account executive, Gateway Recycling.

All of the browns–legal pads, chipboard, kraft paper – are recycled, and the office paper is sent to a mill to be de-inked, pulped, and put back into paper products.

Battig points to Ranpak’s most recent business transaction as an example of how the company reaches toward its ambitions.

“By adding Recycold to its portfolio of sustainable cold chain packaging solutions, Ranpak will further bolster its position as a highly effective thermal solution provider globally. We can see Ranpak expanding their range of products to create complete solutions on a regular basis. That gives us confidence in our partnership, and it gives us access to the sustainable solutions that we need for business in our industry,” Battig says.

Murgio thinks back to Ranpak’s start, decades before he came on board; then he comes full circle.

“This company has been around for 50 years and has been about finding sustainable packaging alternatives from its beginning.

Back then ecommerce was not a thing. Sustainability was not a thing. Automation was not a thing. But today we are at the cusp of these three megatrends. Given these trends, creating sustainable alternatives to protect products is more in demand than it has ever been. Now Ranpak is at the center of these megatrends. Fifty years ago, who would have guessed? And here we are, ready to go.”

About the Author(s)

Arlene Karidis

Freelance writer, Waste360

Arlene Karidis has 30 years’ cumulative experience reporting on health and environmental topics for B2B and consumer publications of a global, national and/or regional reach, including Waste360, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and lifestyle and parenting magazines. In between her assignments, Arlene does yoga, Pilates, takes long walks, and works her body in other ways that won’t bang up her somewhat challenged knees; drinks wine;  hangs with her family and other good friends and on really slow weekends, entertains herself watching her cat get happy on catnip and play with new toys.

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