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Are cardboard cartons a thing of the past?

Are cardboard cartons a thing of the past?

A packhouse in the Orange River area is using the Euro Pool System to export table grapes to one of Germany’s largest supermarket groups.

The Euro Pool System was started in 1992 as a co-operation between three fruit and vegetable markets in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany to standardise packaging for fruits and vegetables. Initially the system was of rigid containers, but return logistics led to the development in 1997 of the folding tray, which can reduce stacked empty volumes by up to 86%.

The system works by ordering the required quantity of trays for a fixed period, in this case two months, and paying the rental and the deposit to the local service centre in Kakamas, Northern Cape. The trays are supplied as stacked flat to the producer.

At the packhouse, the trays are unfolded and the grapes in retail packs placed in the tray. The full trays are stacked on pallets for placing in the rapid cooling tunnels.

The trays are of robust construction and have far more ventilation area than most cardboard cartons presently in use. The many ventilation openings on all sides and in the base enhance the cooling rate of the pallets.

After cooling, the pallets are containerised and shipped to their European destination. The deposit paid on the trays is refunded to the producer and transferred to the retailer once the product reaches the retailer’s distribution depot.

The product is displayed in the Euro Pool trays and once emptied, the trays are folded flat and returned to the nearest service centre in Europe. There are 50 Euro Pool centres in 11 European countries. South Africa has three service centres located in Kakamas, Paarl (Western Cape), and Marble Hall (Limpopo).

After each return, the trays are subjected to a special hygienic cleaning before being dispatched to the next client. The sturdy Euro Pool tray has an estimated life span of 10 years and provides added protection to the product during the logistics chain. The knock-down, re-useable tray over its life span of 10 years will add far less to the carbon footprint of perishables distribution in comparison to the recycling of the alternative cardboard carton.

One resistance to the knock-down tray is the lack of space for branding, but on the other hand, in many instances the product is removed from the cartons before being placed on retail display counters or into refrigerated vending cabinets.

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