THE GOODS : ECONOTES : One Way to Send Those Peanuts Packing


Jim Bauer estimates that he has kept 78 moving vans full of Styrofoam peanuts out of landfills since March 1. That's the day he switched to inflatable plastic bags to pack the electronic computer components he ships.

"Our customers are happy and so are we," says Bauer, materials manager for Cabletron Systems in Rochester, N.H.

The company had been using vast amounts of Styrofoam bits ("We stored them in huge silos," Bauer says) as filler in cartons shipped to hospitals, universities and other institutions.

But customers complained that the loose-fill packing was messy and couldn't be recycled, so Bauer started scouting. "After talking to people who were more environmentally savvy," he discovered Rapid-Fill.

New from Laminated Films & Packaging in Portsmouth, N.H., the Rapid-Fill bag lies on top of the items in a carton and, inflated via a simple air-lock valve, cushions the contents. The bags, which come in three sizes, can be deflated and reused.

"We're a family business that specializes in innovative packaging," says Jim Landers, president of Rapid-Fill, USA. "We'd been playing around with something environmental. Customers don't want peanuts--they're a mess. They get all over the living room, they stick to things and they go to the dump in a plastic bag."

The patented valve allows the bag to be inflated rapidly with a pump or even just by blowing into it. Although most customers are commercial, Rapid-Fill also produces a home pack with a hand pump.

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