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Sacks - an answer to dwindling forestry.

Sacks -- an answer to dwindling forestry

St Regis Bates of Australia has been at the forefront of a new overseas development for multi-wall paper sacks as a replacement for plywood chests.

The international tea industry has been well served by the familiar foil-lined plywood chests for a very long time, but has been under pressure to find a suitable alternative.

For some time it has been realized that in today's world of scarce and declining timber resources, there would be a point in the future when the tea chest would simply become unavailable. In a period of accelerating change, the world could no longer accept the continuing devastation of scarce forests when suitable alternatives are available. It has been estimated that one hectare of natural forest yields on average 15 cubic meters of plywood, so if all tea was packed in chests, this would necessitate the felling of almost 20,000 hectares of forest each year.

By comparison, wood pupl required in the manufacture of the multi-wall sack reduces this figure to approximately 5,000 hectares for a comparable quantity.

In many importing countries, although there are certainly exceptions, the tea chest is destroyed after emptying, a wastage of precious raw materials. Hence the stimulus for the many experiments which have been undertaken over the last 10 years. St. Regis Bates has been involved in this research and development since the early 80's throughout South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

The outcome of this research has seen the multi-wall paper sack become established as a suitable substitute. Introduction of the tea sack, which itself is derived from timber processed as pulp and subsequntly used in the manufacture of kraft paper, as already pointed out, offered a significant saving in this valuable resource.

To tea producers, the argument for making the change from chests is most persuasive when one considers the cost of a chest today averages around $US5 compared with under $US2 for the sack replacement. In world usage terms, this represents a potential saving in excess of $US75 million p.a.

Being part of a modern system the sack is providing economies in other important areas along the distribution line, including handling, transportation and storage. Whereas the plywood chest was appropriate in withstanding the rigorous handling in the more traditional forms of transport, the paper sack has many advantages to offer in the modern world.

Being suited to automatic systems, filling of the sack has received attention from St. Regis Bates, who now supply specifically designed twin head auger packers capable of improved production rates and weight accuracy. Additional equipment has been designed consisting of conveyor systems incorporating sack flattening vibrators supplying to an automatic palletizer offering further reductions in packaging costs.

To assist the change to sack packaging on the estate, the company provides a working guide manual which is valuable to inexperienced operators. Similarly, the company has cooperated with the tea blenders in design of equipment and lay-outs to maximize efficiency in automatic handling and disposal of the empty sack. This has achieved a saving in handling costs and reductions in labor required in their warehouses.

The crucial component to the system has, of course, been the standardizing on a design and construction of sack which would be acceptable to all parties, but particularly the tea buyers (blenders).

From its earliest days, said to be around 2737 B.C., the aim for tea quality has been paramount in the gardens in whatever form or country in which it is produced. It is probably fair to say that this aim is equally relevant today as it was for those producers so many centuries ago. As the tea buyer is the final judge, it is critical for both buyer and producer to be confident that the package will protect the tea from moisture or taint. Preservation of these elusive characteristics is essential to the buyer whose purchases and blending are based on experienced judgements relative to taste and quality.

Coordination of the tea sack development is being handled by the U.K. & U.S. Tea Associations. They have exercised great care in establishing standards and setting down approved specifications in respect to raw materials, package design and dimensions. The U.K./U.S. Tea Associations are cooperating with the ISO in the setting up of world standards which will shortly include a "Performance" specification.

With the development of new raw materials, this will provide tea producers with an important assurance on quality.

This sack consists of 4 plies of high performance kraft incorporating an aluminum foil kraft laminate as the inner ply, with a "Wet Strength" treated outer to withstand surface moisture. The approved dimensions of the standard sack, now common to all tea growing countries, provide identical capacity to the plywood chest it replaces.

In addition, St. Regis Bates has been successful in developing a more expensive heavy duty sack with a reinforced outer ply for break bulk transport and rough handling. This sack is principally aimed at break bulk shipments and has been proved u nder the most hazardous trials from remote areas of China and central States of East Africa to major blenders in the U.S.

The heavy duty sack has the same aluminum foil laminate as the standard, but uses as its outer ply an extremely strong woven polypropylene kraft laminate.

The company h as expanded its activities with markets now established in the main tea-growing countries of the world.

These markets are showing strong growth in line with the increasing demand from end-users in most developed countries with many now requesting sack packaging when negotiating their requirements.

Although an encouraging start, the company recognizes the challenge which remains in achieving this change in those countries where, for various local reasons, chests still predominate. Future planning has greater emphasis on development with end users in selected markets currently confined to chests. This will be attempted in cooperation with overseas tea producers set-up to handle sacks and keen to expand usage. Also, support will be sought on a government level in the countries involved.

St. Regis Bates operates manufacturing plants in all States of Australia and, being part of the Amcor - Containers Packaging group, enjoys the benefits of the vast resources of a completely integrated operation.
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Title Annotation:the tea industry looks at alternative shipping containers
Author:Coward, W.G.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:Darjeeling poised for specialty tea market.
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