Updated: Jun 17
Sometimes there is no substitute for simplicity--even when you're dealing with a problem as complex as landfill waste reduction. Calgary-based Amici Enterprises Inc. offers a compelling case in point.
Founded in 1991 by two long-time veterans of the agri-food industry, the little company has come a long way over the years in making serious inroads in the Canadian food industry with its unique, yet stunningly simple, alternative to conventional stretchwrapping film for stabilizing pallet loads during transport.
Called Envirowrapper, the company's invention is as good an example of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) Principle at work as there is –at least in the context of food products distribution and transit.
Essentially a piece of plastic material with straps and buckles on each end, the Envirowrappers offer "an economical, environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic stretchwrap currently used in the transportation industry to secure products onto pallets to prevent shifting or toppling," says Amici president Frank Gallucci.
The Envirowrappers–made of lightweight but extremely durable polypropylene – can be easily applied and removed from a pallet load by one person with their quick-release buckles, complemented by another buckle with a belt for easy roll-up and storage.
Not only have they already proven themselves as a reliable means of reducing costs and damages associated with unstable loads, points out Gallucci, with their life expectancy of three to five years they can significantly help reduce the amount of stretchwrap manufacturers need to purchase, manufacture and, ultimately, discard.
It is, in fact, this environmental advantage offered by the reusable pallet wrapper that has recently earned Amici the 1998 Pollution Prevention Innovations award from the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME) – one of only four winners of the awards handed out at the Canadian Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Vancouver in late April.
"Alberta's Action on Waste [committee] estimates that well over 5,000 tonnes of plastic stretchwrap, the equivalent of 2,500 Ford Explorers, ends up in Alberta landfills each year," Gallucci notes. "If you multiply this figure for Canada and the U.S., it's a significant amount of waste.
"It is a wonder nobody has made it more of an issue. Now, manufacturers and distributors, and ultimately the customers who must dispose of the plastic, can decide whether to stay with the status quo or try to make a difference."
Currently, one of the most popular methods of moving product is to put them on pallets and then apply a plastic stretch wrapping to the load to keep it from shifting.
Although this is a low-cost way of shipping products from one point to another, the low costs add up over the years, as this plastic can only be used once, and is then usually thrown into a waste bin and then discarded. At present, recycling facilities for stretch wrap are rare, so consequently tonnes of plastic stretch wrap go into landfills every year.
Whatever its environmental merits, however, the Envirowrapper would be an utterly useless commercial proposition if it didn't do the job for which it was originally designed. On this score, too, the Envirowrapper is an unqualified success.
Not only is it easily applied and/or removed by one person in a matter of seconds, it can be worked on either cubed or odd-shaped loads; it can work on single or multi-drop pallet loads; it's offered in opaque or semi-transparent material constructions; and its materials allow for direct, four-color printing.
Offered in custom sizes as well, the wrappers are guaranteed for six months against material and workmanship defects, according to the company, and in many cases easily pay for themselves within a year of service.
"One of the first customers to use the Envirowrappers was Linkfast, current contractor for the Overwaitea Food Group's Alberta Division. They worked closely with us as they believed in the product right from the start," recalls Gallucci. "Approximately two-and-a-half years ago, Linkfast purchased and started using the wrappers in 52 per cent of their Calgary operations--with significant results.
"By eliminating the use of plastic stretch wrap, they paid for their wrappers in less than a year, while their customers have reduced their waste disposal charges," he says. "To date, over 12,000 rolls of stretch wrap, which normally would have been used and destined for landfills, have been eliminated.
With approximately two to three years of life left in each wrapper, Linkfast can reinvest the tens of thousands of dollars in savings each year into other areas, and a potential 24,000 to 30,000 rolls of stretch wrap will not need to be produced or go into landfills.
With a proven track record and a few product design modifications, Amici--which is certified under the stringent ISO 9002 international standards series for quality management assurance--has been successfully recruiting a growing number of Alberta-based customers.
These include Bridge Brand Food Services, Lilydale Foods, Brewers Distributors, London Drugs, I and S Foodservices, Clauson Cold and Cooler, News West and Preferred Meats.
The company is also pursuing exporting opportunities for the Envirowrapper – which is patented both in U.S. and Canada – having recently sold the product to the U.S.-based News Group and Summit Logistics, the current distribution contractor for Safeway California.
Prior to receiving the CCME award, Amici took part in the Enviro Business Expo in Calgary, where a group of editors from leading environmental and purchasing publications selected the company as winner of the show's Best Amenities or Supply Award.
"We were delighted to win the award," says Gallucci, "as it helps us spread the word that there is a product that tries to address the waste problem."