Unusual fiber packaging finding worldwide success

A Dutch converter of fiber drums has found a successful way to use recycled newprint in the production of fiber-based containers for a variety of packaging uses.

Dorpak bv, Dordrecht, the Netherlands, converts tons of recycled paper into superbly printed, environmentally sensitive rectangular containers. The astonishing worldwide success of the product has led to the almost generic adoption of the word Dorpaks for the unusually shaped rectangular, reusable and recyclable fiber-based container.

Dorpak bv has its headquarters and plant just outside the southern Dutch town of Dordrecht. It began operations in 1970, financed by the well-known German packaging firm, Weidenhammer Packungen Kg, headed by Herr Arthur Werdenhammer. Initial output was relatively simple fiber drums targeted at the 30-liter detergent market.

Recycled paperboard was sourced from Germany, and the firm's main customers were Procter and Gamble and Lever Bros. in the Netherlands. In 1982, with Procter and Gamble changing their overall packaging direction, Dorpak began to diversify into other markets and sizes.

The conventional Dorpak container construction is recycled newsprint(RN)/polyvinyl alcohol glue/RN/polyvinyl alcohol glue/RN/label (RN). The label is offset printed, and the entire construction is about 900-mm thick. Containers and bottoms are made of 85% recycled paperboard. Reclosable, locking lids have an easy-open tab feature and can be made in a variety of thicknesses and plastics. Paperlids are also used. The handle is high-density polyethylene.

The host for my visit to Dorpak was Ton Knipscheer, commercial manager. The proprietary converting machine, located at the Dordrecht plant is an in-line machine that fabricates the three-layer and label construction in one operation.

Recycled newsprint, the basic material, is sourced from Germany and the Netherlands. Dorpak's entire floor and warehouse appeared to be full of these superbly printed containers with labels printed in German, Spanish, Hebrew and Italian, aimed for the export market. Presently, 30% of the firm's production is used domestically with 60% in Europe and 10% exported to other parts of the world.

Current European markets include detergents (50%), charcoal (10%), food service (10%) and cat litter (10%), with fertilizers, dog food, bulbs and others accounting for the rest. Small volume runs are quite practical, and label variations allow for different markets because of Dorpak's unique construction.

"We're looking actively at niche markets worldwide, where quality and full-service are extremely important," Knipscheer said. "A novel example is charcoal where our package lends itself as a value-added product." He also discussed how Dorpaks fit into the European environmental scheme.

It appears the use of fiber-based packaging is quite popular in Europe. It's considered to be a renewable resource and quite compatible with Duales System Deutschland (DSD) in Germany. The latter charges less to use its green dot for fiber-based packaging than for other materials. The added boost is that the Dorpak construction is viewed positively in the recycling area.

Compliance with the DSD has led Alpin, Germany's leading paint manufacturer, to test a Dorpak-type container for 10 liters of house paint. The unit, named Oko-Pack, consists of two primary components, the paperboard outer container and an inner polyethylene liner with a rigid polyethylene rim. When the container has been emptied, the consumer can rinse the latex paint off the liner. Separation is then accomplished from the paperboard drum and recycling is facilitated.

Savings are quite substantial in the DSD system fee schedule. The cost for using the green dot is $.50/unit versus $1 for the 10-liter plastic bucket. There are still problems in overall costs for the Oko-Pack.

Knipscheer also discussed Dorpak's US operation. In 1991, Tyco, headquartrered in the Netherlands, began to use Dorpaks for toys. The huge success of toys in these containers soon led to interest in the US, and Cin-made Corp., Cincinnati, OH, made an agreement with Dorpak bv to be the licensed manufacturer of paperboard drums in North America. The machine was leased from Dorpak bv. To handle drum production in the US, Dorpak Inc. was established as a separate corporate entity.

Recycled newsprint is imported to the US from the Netherlands. On the production line, formed and glued drum blanks are joined with paperboard bottoms die cut by Loroco Industries, Cincinnati, OH, from chipboard rolls supplied by Sonoco Products Co., Hartsville, SC.

When the bottoms are glued in place, the tops and bottoms of the drum wells are curled in. The net result is the walls are stronger, and the top curl creates a bead which then is fitted with a vacuum-formed polystyrene snap-on lid.

Markets in North America include pet foods, lawn and garden chemicals, detergents and toys. A recent adaptation of the Dorpak has been 10- and 25- lb. dog-food containers. The Dorpak container is designed to be easy-to-handle, carry, open, pour from and store. Marketed in supermarkets, mass-merchandise stores and warehouse clubs in Wisconsin, Illinois, Alabama and on the West Coast, the premium dog-food package features a label printed in six colors, plus ultraviolet coating and a color-matched recycled polypropylene handle and polystyrene friction-fit lid.


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