Costco Rolls Out Green Packaging

ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- Membership-based wholesale club Costco. Wholesale Corp. here is going green with its packaging, replacing some plastic clamshells with a new environmentally-friendly paperboard-based product.

Costco will be using Natralock packaging from MeadWestvaco. The key component of Natralock is paperboard, a renewable resource.

Costco's New Jersey fulfillment center has begun a rollout of Natralock beginning with the repackaging of five high-value products.

"By its very nature, protective packaging is a throw-away item, so these materials can't be expensive," said Scott Carnie, g.m. of Costco East Coast Packaging, of the need Costco is filling with the new initiative. "After all, the whole idea is to sell the item at the best value possible. Natralock achieves the goal of being a cost-effective packaging solution to retail theft while allowing the product to sit on the shelf, and not in a locked cage."

Items are placed in an APET (amorphous polyester) "bubble," an environmental preferable material to plastics, then sandwiched between two pieces of paperboard and sealed. The paperboard is printed with clear, bold graphics and wording, creating an attractive "billboard" which draws consumers to the product.

Natralock's flat surface can be safely opened with a pair of ordinary kitchen scissors in the consumer's home, without the frustration of cutting through the welded ridges typically found in traditional clamshells, said MeadWestvaco.

Until recently, being ecologically sensitive was difficult in a retail culture that required over-packaging to deter ever-increasing theft problems. Plastic clamshells have been the standard for security packaging given their outstanding theft resistance and merchandising benefits, but are under increasing environmental pressure because of their limited recyclability - and also the difficulty many consumers have opening them.

Costco currently operates 473 warehouses, including 346 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 68 in Canada, 17 in the United Kingdom, 5 in Korea, 4 in Taiwan, 5 in Japan, and 28 in Mexico. The company also operates Costco Online, an electronic commerce web site in the United States and Canada.
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