Paper products have been used for generations to pack and protect products. Most contain a high recycled content, are recyclable and biodegradable, and all paper pulp comes from sustainable softwood sources. As we try to reduce the volume of non-degradable plastic packaging finding its way to landfill and polluting our oceans, it’s time we revisited some of these traditional packaging materials.
Tissue, the lightest and softest paper packaging material, serves two purposes in packaging – presentation and protection. Bleached to a bright white or dyed in a spectrum of bold colours, it builds anticipation and expresses luxury as a gift is unwrapped. But care needs to be taken with these tissues, as bleaching and dyeing agents can easily spoil surfaces such as fabrics, precious metals and even paper.
Acid-free tissue has a value of pH 6-7 (neutral) so it is suitable for delicate surfaces and archival work. It also serves as a lightweight, low-bulk deterrent to scratching and tarnishing.
Sturdier than tissue and offering good bulking properties and better tear-resistance, news offcuts are a by-product of the newsprint paper manufacturing process. While flea-market traders may still use discarded tabloids to wrap sold goods, news offcuts offer a cleaner, more hygienic and more professional-looking alternative.
Next up on our list by strength is kraft. This strong and widely-used paper is made by digesting softwood pulp in a solution containing sodium sulphide and sodium hydroxide that dissolves the lignin in the pulp to leave behind the cellulose fibres. Reduced lignin and high sulphur content are what give kraft papers their strength – ‘kraft’ is the German word for strength. Kraft paper also has good water-resistance which makes it a useful material for outer packaging.
The strongest kraft is called pure kraft which is unbleached and made from a minimum of 80% virgin wood pulp. It has a better surface finish than imitation kraft, which is made from recycled fibres. Although not as strong, the whiteness and smoother surface of bleached kraft makes it a popular option for printed and presentation packaging.
Kraft paper is sold in sheet and roll form for general packaging, where its strength and water-resistance make it ideal for bundling printed products, interleaving between layers within a carton and between carton layers on a pallet. Brown and white kraft bags are also manufactured for the small retail market, primarily for the sale of loose items such as fruit and vegetables, confectionery and fixings. Their decline has followed the slow demise of small, independent traders in favour of larger national retailers who favour plastic pre-packs; it will be interesting to see whether planned reduction and removal of plastic packaging from the supply chain will result in a renaissance for these products.
Specialist kraft papers
Heavy imitation kraft paper coated on both sides with a non-slip, non-adhesive coating makes highly-efficient anti-slip sheets which, when placed between layers of cartons on a pallet, maintain load stability up to a tilt angle of 45 degrees. The coating’s water-repellent properties also reduce the risk of water damage due to capillary action through the load. Use of anti-slip sheets or even uncoated layer sheets augments – and frequently reduces – the use of less eco-friendly pallet products such as stretch wrap film and strapping.
While not so environmentally-friendly, kraft union paper – made by laminating bitumen between two layers of kraft paper – is an excellent puncture-resistant waterproofing product used to line pallets and export crates and protect heavy components from corrosion. It is also very effective at protecting products stored outdoors from UV damage.
The new X-FILL void fill and X-PAD protective padding systems from Pacplan® both use kraft paper to create high-bulk, sustainable, recyclable void fill on demand. This has returned kraft to the forefront of the Southgate product range and as it offers greater strength and water-resistance than other paper packaging, it’ likely that kraft will play a significant part in the drive towards plastic-free packaging.
Southgate supply a wide range of packaging papers and the Pacplan X-FILL and X-PAD through their network of approved distributors throughout the UK and across Europe.