SUSTAINABLE INSULATED CONTAINER
A new customer contacted us after having been let down about a sustainable thermal container for food suppliers to be able to deliver high-end restaurants with quality produce. We turned this project from consultancy into a fully tested & working product in just 8 months.
After our initial consultation, we got a good understanding of the insulated container Foodchain Ltd were trying to achieve. The specifications were that the box needed to be reusable & durable, smaller than a standard pallet, easy to clean, easy to handle, protection while being transported through a third party courier network and minimal space requirements when empty.
Initially, we were looking at producing a folding container with live hinges to save as much space as possible. We had concerns that the live hinges would act as dirt traps and be difficult to clean, could possibly lead to escape of air and the hinge would become easily worn – reducing the lifecycle of the box. So our design team focussed on a stacking container with a taper in the insulated container to slot inside one another when empty to reduce the carbon footprint of the box when empty on the return journey.
With our vast experience & knowledge of containers & materials, we set out comparing the thermal qualities of materials that could be implemented into a design that fits all the requirements, whilst keeping the piece price as low as possible.
After trialing various materials, we decided the most cost-effective material that met the requirements was EPP (expanded polypropylene). This is a plastic foam material that is robust enough to take knocks & bangs over the duration of its lifecycle but also has very good insulation properties because of the trapped air in the walls. EPP is available in 45 gram, 60 gram, 90 gram, 120 gram & 180 gram densities. We opted for 60 gram density as we felt this would be robust enough to cope with any damage that may occur while being transported through a courier network while providing great insulation qualities.
Once we decided that EPP was our best choice of material, we then had a full-scale box made from our design and assigned the task to trial over a 3 month period at temperatures varying from 15-35°C. We simulated the box over a 72 hour period at different temperatures with products inside to record our findings and write a report and compile a standard operating procedure for the box.
After reading our report, our customer ordered an initial 500 boxes to be injection moulded with these boxes now in circulation in the Foodchain system. We are confident that these boxes will have a lifecycle in excess of target 50 cycles per box. Once the time comes and the box can no longer be used, the insulated container is fully recyclable.
The box was designed with the Foodchain logo branded into the lid. The side of the box also has label recesses to ensure boxes can be correctly labelled with RFID without being a snag hazard or falling off. The box footprint measures at 600mm x 500mm, ensuring you can fit 4 to the size of a standard 1200mmx1000mm pallet.