IF you entered Corrpak's main office on Marcus Garvey Drive up to two weeks ago, you would have seen a carton box on the floor. That would have seemed ordinary enough, given that it's a box-making company, except this box was filled with water but was neither leaking nor soggy.
"It's not just a box," Corrpak's general manager Shelley Sterling said.
And based on her description of the square-shaped object, it appeared that she was right.
"It's a water-resistant box coated with a protein-based chemical that is non-toxic, food safe, FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved, biodegradable, [and] recyclable," she told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
And yet, she continued, they are "equivalent in every way to a wax box in terms of strength, in terms of capability, in terms of durability".
In the world of commercial packaging, the standard for creating leak-proof boxes is to coat them with wax. The practice, however, is environmentally unfriendly as wax-coated boxes are not recyclable and, increasingly, manufacturers are seeking alternatives.
For Corrpak, the largest player in the local cardboard box market, the choice was GREENCOAT, which it will shortly be introducing. It is billed by US-based manufacturer Interstate Container as "ultra-strong, compostable, FBA [Franchise Brokers Association]-certified, 100 per cent recyclable and repulpable".
A statement on the company's website added: "It offers cost savings over wax boxes in most cases. It withstands tremendous exposure to moisture, rough handling, long storage, and transportation, and the ins-and-outs of cold-to-hot environmental conditions."
The 'green' alternative also eliminates the need for other non-recyclable packaging options, such as styrofoam and plastics.
Sterling said Corrpak, which has the rights to use GREENCOAT in Jamaica and the Caribbean, was searching for about three years for an alternative to wax.
"We've been asked repeatedly to do waxed boxes and we chose not to go down that road because we did not want to be putting something into the environment that we didn't have to put out there," she said.
The company first showcased the 'green' boxes at the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association expo at the National Arena at the end on April. There, Sterling's team displayed a fish tank and a cooler fashioned out of the leak-proof boxes.
"We had one set up with stones and plants and goldfish and the other one set up with ice and beer. We did it, not because boxes are intended to be fish tanks, [but] because we wanted to prove the technology," said Sterling.
"It was a very interesting experience because people didn't believe... they were sure we were changing the boxes," she added, laughing.
"Everybody says boxes can't be waterproof unless they're waxed. These are not waxed. So we proved (them wrong)," she said, matter-of-factly.
GREENCOAT is one of several 'green' initiatives that Corrpak has incorporated into its operations. The company, which turned six years old last month, recycles all its paper waste, it uses capacitors to control its electricity usage, and it redirects steam from its operations back into the system.
"When we first started, we used to send it to the dump and we had to pay a trucker, but then about three or four years ago, we started baling our waste and exporting it for recycling," the general manager told Environment Watch.
"We ship, every month, four to six 40-feet containers to wherever we are able to get the best price. We've gone to India, Italy, Asia, Colombia, all over the world," she said, adding that instead of being cost-centric, it's a revenue generator and we're now earning something from it that covers the cost of the baling.
The earnings are not sizeable, she admitted, but it "covers the cost of exporting".
"It costs us more per kg to buy paper than when we're selling, but that's not what we're comparing. We're comparing what it costs us to hire a truck to take it to the dump versus what it costs us to create the bales and export them for recycling and the revenue we get from that," said Sterling.
On the subject of energy conservation, Corrpak, which has a 24-hour operation from Monday to Friday, installed capacitor banks to help reduce costs and implemented a system where steam from its heavy-duty equipment is re-routed to the boiler and not blown off into the atmosphere.
Capacitors are much like batteries. They allow for a steady flow of energy, a smoothing out, if you will, rather than peaks and dips according to demand.
Sterling would not divulge the savings to the company in terms of dollars, saying instead that it amounts to a 20 per cent reduction in its electricity bill.
"We put in capacitor banks about a year ago too and it affected our kVA [kilovolt-ampere] demand charge and reduced our bill on that side by about 20-21 per cent.
"We had extensive discussions with JPS [Jamaica Public Service] before we did it because we didn't know what we could do to control our energy costs, and there were challenges when it comes to things like night operations and since we were growing and getting to a place where we were going to run a 24-hour operation," she said.
Plant engineer Oswin Thomas explained the steam redirection process.
"The boiler generates steam and sends it to different machines. The different stations utilise the steam then turn it into condensation and that heats up the cold water in the boiler. In doing that, the boiler would not heat up cold water, but maintain the temperature of the already heated water.
"It's a closed loop so the heat stays in the system and is not blown off," he told Environment Watch.
Asked whether the company's motive for implementing the various strategies was out of genuine concern for the environment or tied to its bottomline, Sterling said "one hand washes the other".
"I think in some of the cases we've been able to satisfy each concern. So like with the waste recycling, it satisfies both things: We're not putting garbage into our landfills and we're generating an income from it," she said.
The Corrpak GM added: "We're always looking for [ways to be environmentally friendly] and as we find additional opportunities and figure out how we do it, we get it done."