Trail Blazing

Curtis Packaging, a converter of premium folding cartons, proves that “going green” and “making green” don't have to be mutually exclusive. Not only is the company's 150,000-sq-ft headquarters powered by 100% renewable energy (85% wind power, 15% hydroelectric), it also spent the past two years working with The CarbonNeutral Co. to become one of the first 100% carbon-neutral printing and packaging companies in North America.

Oh, by the way, sales have increased from $20 million to more than $40 million at the family-run company over the past five years, while the sustainable packaging program was being developed and implemented. Don Droppo Jr., senior VP of marketing at Curtis, says that is no mere coincidence.

“We've been growing through a lot of innovation, a lot of great people, and very new equipment. Our effort on improving the environment was just one component of our growth,” he says. “But what we've said to a lot of our customers is, ‘With all things being equal — price, service, and quality — wouldn't you rather do business with someone who's doing what they can to positively impact the environment on a grass roots level?’

“Obviously, you have to be economically sustainable,” adds Droppo, who is also a partner in the business that employs 165 people, “but if you can do it in such a way as to be environmentally sustainable at the same time, that's just the ultimate success. The greener customers want to do business with other like-minded companies.”

Offsetting Emissions

Droppo says he personally began his campaign to make Curtis as “environmentally friendly” as possible when he joined the company five years ago, well before the catchphrase “sustainability” entered the corporate vernacular. It started, he says, by identifying ways the company could be more planet friendly, using less hazardous materials and only “clean” sources of energy such as wind and hydroelectric power to fuel growth. He says those efforts alone offset 70% of its carbon footprint.

“We were really kind of blazing the trail with that whole idea of sustainability. Five years ago, we didn't use the term sustainability; it was more just sound business practice.”

Acknowledging that no manufacturer can eliminate totally the use of carbon-producing fossil fuels for shipping and sales-related travel, Curtis then turned to London-based CarbonNeutral Co. to help offset the global impact of its CO2 use by investing in a number of independently audited projects, including the Mynydd-Y-Garnedd forestry project in Wales and the Rhine-Ruhr methane capture project in Germany. Curtis also supports a local reforestation project that helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions in its own town.

“We did an overall analysis of our carbon footprint, and we tried to reduce everything we could, but there are unavoidable emissions: The salespeople obviously need cars, and we use an 18-wheeler to ship product,” Droppo explains. To offset those, the company purchases renewable energy certificates that credit the company's positive environmental initiatives, resulting in certification by the Forest Stewardship Council as 100% carbon neutral. The certificates are purchased through Community Energy, a developer of wind energy.

Investment Benefits Customers

Curtis invested more than $20 million in capital expenditures in the past seven years, says Droppo. It made production workflow more efficient and more responsive by inaugurating a Heidelberg Dymatrix 12 CSB die-cutter in the summer of 2007. The 40×55-in. system is said to be the first to be installed by Heidelberg USA and the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

“We invested in this advanced finishing technology in order to bring more benefits to our customers,” he says. “This system is fast, processing 8,000 sheets per hour. It produces high quality cuts with a force of 674 tons, and it delivers a high degree of automation so we can go from job to job more quickly. All are key considerations for our clients.

“The Dymatrix's exclusive moving upper platen enables it to maintain level sheet travel from feeder to delivery. This results in a cleaner die-cut and a more satisfied customer.”

Another new piece of equipment, an Omega Allpro-110 high-speed production folder/gluer from Duran Machinery, is engineered with a split bi-fold carrier, pre-fold, and register section. It has a servo-driven back fold and can manufacture all types of sizes and styles, including four- and six-corner cartons. The machine is fully computerized and features semi-automatic setup and job data storage.

Foil Alternative

The company also has developed its own eco-friendly packaging, CurtCHROME, a 100% biodegradable and recyclable boardstock that replaces foil and metallized film in folding carton production. The substrate is produced on a 51-in. KBA Rapida offset press that uses a special dispersion coater and dryer prior to its eight printing stations. The process allows the laydown of a proprietary heavy silver metallic ink as soon as it enters the press, followed by printing and a topcoating to seal the reflective base.

Not only is CurtCHROME better for the environment, Droppo says it also reduces the lead times associated with traditional foil laminate and hot foil stamping and cuts costs by 35%. He notes that a number of Fortune 500 consumer products and others that were once printed on traditional foil have since switched to CurtCHROME.

“We have transitioned a lot of customers over from the foil laminated product — that in most cases gets thrown away in the landfill — to a fully recyclable, fully biodegradable product, and they're not compromising the look at all,” says Droppo. “We're not only saving them money, but we've prevented over five million sheets from going into a landfill because they can't be recycled.”

Timing Is Everything

Curtis's sustainability timing, says Droppo, couldn't have been better. Just as the company began instituting its “green” campaign, Wal-Mart unveiled its Packaging Scorecard, which aims to reduce packaging across its supply chain by 5% by 2013. (See the September 2007 issue of PFFC for more details.) The scorecard is a measurement tool that allows suppliers to evaluate themselves relative to other suppliers, based on specific metrics of its packaging. Key points include CO2 per ton of production, transportation, recycled material content, recovery value, renewable energy, and innovation, all of which Curtis has been addressing through its own sustainability program.

“They say that everything in life is timing,” adds Droppo. “We started rolling out these initiatives two years ago by going 100% renewable energy, and sure enough Wal-Mart comes out with this giant mandate regarding its packaging, putting it on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. And there we were already laying the groundwork with some of our perspective clients, so the two went very closely hand in hand. Now we're able to very positively impact our customers' scorecards if they do business with Wal-Mart.”

Droppo points to the likes of Ben & Jerry's and Newman's Own as “companies that bring a little more to the table than just making a profit. That's why we're trying to give back and do what we can to help our state and our town.” And he says that a number of Fortune 500 companies, including Kellogg's and Target, have contacted Curtis about doing business with them, “and you know you're doing something right when these companies are calling you.”

“For a company of our size, I sincerely believe we're doing the right thing,” explains Droppo. “A lot of companies are doing it for the wrong reasons; all they're doing it for is the marketing. And, yes, marketing is a side benefit. But they're not getting it engrained into their culture. It's woven into the fabric and the DNA of Curtis Packaging that we want to be the most environmentally friendly company out there. We always want to do the right thing, and we want to give those options to our customers who also want to be environmentally friendly.”

Contributing Editor Edward Boyle, based in Reading, PA, has covered the converting industry for more than 23 years. Contact him at EJB Communications; 610-670-4680; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Converter Info

Curtis Packaging | 44 Berkshire Rd., Sandy Hook, CT 06482 | 203-426-5861 |

PCW: Partners Curb Waste

Curtis Packaging partnered with Monadnock Paper Mills to develop the Envi line of environmental packaging grades designed for folding boxes, luxury shopping bags, set-up boxes, tubes, price tickets, and hang tags (see PFFC, January 2008, p4). The first product was Envi Folding Box Board (FBB), an 18-pt, single-ply uncoated paperboard used for fragrance, cosmetics, gourmet food, wine, spirits, and entertainment packaging. Made in a bright white shade and featuring exceptional surface uniformity for high print clarity and fidelity, Envi FBB is made with 80% post-consumer waste (PCW), reportedly among the highest recycled content level currently available.

“A very powerful message is that our clients can now use it for their packaging, because both of our companies have worked very hard to attain their environmental status,” notes Don Droppo Jr., senior VP of sales and marketing at Curtis. “And we will continue to challenge our other suppliers in all facets of the business.”

Monadnock Paper Mills |

Supplier Info

Learn More

Two years ago, PFFC interviewed Donald Droppo Sr., chairman/CEO of Curtis Packaging, for our popular “Experience Speaks” column. To read how he changed his management style, handles difficult customers, and retains good employees, see February 2006 p80 or visit our website at

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