Rachel Wakefield

A new standard for recycled trays and flower buckets on the horizon

At the beginning of 2021, a well-known discussion was taken up again in Europe about the necessity for more sustainable solutions in plant and flower distribution. The present use of too many one-way packaging materials is a huge problem, writes Soren Bøgede Andersen, CEO of UNI-TROLL EUROPE (UTE).

In Germany, the discussion has begun. Hopefully, the beginning of a future standard size tray for plants and flower buckets.

Speaking of standard, what do we actually mean by this word? According to widely accepted definitions, a ‘standard’ is a ‘document for common and repeated use specifying rules, guidance or characteristics of activities or their results. The document is drawn up by a consensus and adopted by a recognised body. The intention is to achieve optimal order in a given context.’
The big question is – which ‘body’ has on behalf of the entire ornamental industry the authority and power to set such a ‘standard’? The dilemma is that when the industry is unable to reach a consensus on the topic and take timely action, several influential retailers/organisations and national authorities may make individual decisions on what they define as ‘the industrial standard’.

In such a situation, growers, exporters, retailers, and other stakeholders within the horticultural supply chain will eventually pay the bill, forced to follow developed initiatives according to national laws or directives. This non-standard ‘standard’ can only lead to chaos. The world of plant trays is already pretty chaotic with so many one-way packaging solutions available. Is this subject really so tricky, one can ask? What is the EU, AIPH, or Union Fleurs’ position on this?

The problem is which of these organisations have the most powerful voice and authority so that industry members across Europe are willing to listen. What capital interests are already bound up in present applications, and how much will they financially suffer due to a new standard?

In this context, it is incredibly positive, that the German Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg (SIM) is inviting all interested parties to join their foundation to reach a quick conclusion. I believe all stakeholders within our sector should strongly support their work.

Based in Berlin, SIM was established in 1996 under German civil law as a legally responsible foundation. It aims to provide sustainable support for the conservation of natural resources and the protection of the environment. The foundation is committed to creating the conditions to sustainably stabilise and increase the amount of reusable packaging in all economic sectors.
As Uni-Troll Europe (UTE), a Danish-based company known for its universal trolley solution for production sites, greenhouses and on the retail floor, we share SIM’s philosophy. More recently, we inked a deal with TPS Rental Systems to work together. TPS is a well-established international supplier of logistics solutions based on IBC containers which are rented primarily to the food industry. TPS will handle all rental and sale of the three models of shelving trolleys at UTE.

TPS and UTE envision establishing a new trolley standard for universal use. These trolleys will handle automation for the ornamental industry and other industries; thus UTE will stick to the ISO modular system on all internal loading plans of their trolleys. The planned dimension of the preferred ISO modular unit load shall accordingly be 1,200 x 1,000 mm. This unit load is derived from the basic 600 x 400 mm module and is an element of the modular distribution system.

In explanation, an industrial ‘standard’ trolley has to fit a truck’s width, which in Europe is the maximum of 2,495 and down to 2,440 mm internally. For example, a 600 mm internal trolley size in width would need 610-616 mm external spacing. To explain further, the measurements for our UT-M2, 600 x 800 mm; this also fits a half pallet and quarter pallet in size, and the measurements for our UT-M3 is 600 x 1,200 mm. One can load four trolleys of UT-M2 or UT-M3 trolleys in the width of a truck.

If one wishes for bigger sizes, for example, four 400 x 600 mm crates at a shelf, this is possible with the model UT-M4, measuring 800 x 1,200 mm, which is also the same size as the EUR-pallet. The UT-M4 loads three trolleys side by side in a truck.
In our view, the recycled plant tray size for the future is 400 x 280 mm outside, which is also the Normpack 200 size. This dimension is a perfect size for both trays and square buckets, fitting to existing load carriers like the CC/DC trolley and the RFH auction trolley.

The futuristic ISO SUBMODULAR ideal size of a collo (carton box, tray or square box, crate etc.) fitting precisely to the ISO 600 x 400 module, will also fit 100 per cent of the trolley models UT-M2, UT-M3 and UT-M4.

In the ornamental horticulture industry, the CC/DC classic trolley, outside 565 x 1,350 mm and inside 12 x 22 inches has over 45 years become the ‘industry de facto standard’. There is no doubt about this, but as 12 x 22 inches are used only for the ornamental industry, a shift to recycled trays will be an excellent chance to consider a conversion. There is, in our opinion, no alternative to the ISO, as this module is used in all other respects.

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