It’s not easy to be green in a cleanroom, but packaging choices are one way to lessen environmental impact.
Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability for the next generation to meet theirs. Today, many manufacturers have begun practicing green initiatives such as environmental management systems (EMS) and complying with ISO 14000 standards.
According to a survey by the American Production and
Inventory Control Society (APICS),1 67% of respondents report-
ed that they practice policies that are conducive to sustainability,
and 60% of respondents said they practice policies that reassess
natural capital, raw materials, and ecological processes. The study
also states, “Sustainability is increasingly a domain of innovation
that is reducing cost by reducing demands on resources while
increasing reuse of existing assets.”
As a whole, manufacturers need to focus on reducing the
consumption of non-renewable resources, while still remain-
ing aware of reducing environmental impact by reviewing
packaging and container usage. For example, one study2 indi-
cated switching to reusable packaging required 39% less ener-
gy; produced 95% less total solid waste; and generated 29%
less total greenhouse gas emissions than single use containers.
There are unique specifications required for packaging to
be cleanroom-suitable. Corrugated paper packaging is problematic since it emits fibers and paper dust contaminants.
Also, the porous surface of corrugated paper is unable to be
cleaned adequately for cleanrooms. It also supports mold
growth and contains sulfur, which is corrosive.
Rigid plastic packaging and containers are more expen-
sive than corrugated paper; however, they can be
cleaned to meet cleanroom requirements. They are
generally non-porous and non-shedding, which
helps control particle contamination. Rigid plastic
containers include those made by a
molding process such
as vacuum form-
ing and injection
made by an
extrusion and die
which will reduce
static discharges. The additives are generally grouped into three
categories: conductive, static dissipative, and antistatic. Which
type to use in various situations has been a subject of much
debate over the last 30 years. Conductive and antistatic are the
most common additives. Below are general definitions.
Conductive (surface resistivity 104 to 105 ohms): Conductive
additives are created by compounding special carbon black
material into plastic resin that permanently changes surface
resistivity to prevent static build up. These additives are more
expensive that antistatic additives, but they provide a “Faraday
cage” and electromagnetic shielding protection. Containers
with Faraday cage protection shield contents by conducting
static charges away from the contents.
Static dissipative (surface resistibility 106 to 108 ohms): These
additives are achieved using proprietary resin additives, though they
may not be as readily available as conductive or antistatic material.
Antistatic (surface resistivity 109 to 1012 ohms): Antistatic additives cost less than conductive or static dissipative; however, they
may not be permanent depending on the humidity of the room.
When analyzing resource use, it can often be tricky to define
which alternative is the most environmentally sound. To measure or compare environmental impacts, a quantitative tool
called life cycle assessment (LCA) is used. The primary objective
of an LCA is to judge the environmental impacts of a product.
LCAs are conducted under ISO 14000 standards. The assessment follows the acquisition of the raw materials to produce the
product, to the disposal at the end of its use. A commissioned
LCA3 measured the environmental impact outcomes in six categories. The results revealed that the corrugated plastic containers yielded the least amount of environmental impact out of the
There are simple principles that help review packaging
selection and lessen environmental impact—reduce, reuse, and
Reduce weight and thickness
The most important idea of this concept is to reduce the use
of a resource if it is not needed. Reduction of weight and wall
thickness of packages to what is structurally adequate is an
example of this principle. General reduction of weight can
reduce environmental impact by 20%, according to Packaging
for Sustainability4 by Karli Verghese. It is important to optimize package design for its specific use rather than to simply