A new cardboard plant in Lebanon focuses on sustainability

Corrugated cardboard maker DS Smith's plant in Lebanon uses 30%-40% less fiber than traditional cardboard, according to the company. (photo provided)

LEBANON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An $80 million box manufacturing plant in Lebanon, capable of producing 17 million square feet of corrugated cardboard a day, is now open with a goal to eventually hire 170 Hoosiers.

London-based DS Smith will Friday hold a ceremonial grand opening of its first plant built in Indiana and the Midwest.

The company says the 550,000-square-foot facility in Boone County is the first of its kind in the U.S. by using technology to reduce waste and increase sustainability.

“With our innovative packaging design and focus on sustainable materials, we can support our customers’ needs in a changing world, no matter how sophisticated their requirements,” said Miles Roberts, group chief executive officer of DS Smith.

The plant produces lightweight, recyclable packaging with 30% to 40% less fiber but without losing packaging strength, according to the company. Roberts says the lighter-weight material will reduce shipping costs for companies.

Roberts says what makes the company and the Lebanon plant different is its “fit-to-product” packaging and its ability to reduce “void space.”

“We estimated that the average void space in the U.S. for e-commerce, which is booming, is over 50%. I mean the cost of shipping that for space is more than packaging,” said Roberts. “Now come on, you guys put a man on the moon in the 60s we’ve got to be able to solve this problem.”

Roberts says DS Smith has machines able to produce custom packaging for any shape or size.

“It is infinitely variable…it’s very high speed and it’s wrapping a box around the contents. So, the void space is only about 10% or 15% because there’s always some sort of air in there with an uneven shape,” said Roberts.

Roberts says e-commerce companies can significantly reduce void space, and shipping costs, by having a greater selection of boxes that are supplied continuously.

“That’s what we’ve worked on consistently in Europe and we think there’s a great opportunity in the U.S. to continue to develop that,” Roberts said.

The CEO says consumer demand is driving some of the innovation.

“These next-generation boxes will enable brands to meet growing consumer calls for more sustainable packaging and a reduction of shipping costs across the U.S.”

DS Smith says the Lebanon facility can produce more than 30,000 boxes an hour and 2 billion square feet of recyclable packaging a year.

The company has 15 other U.S. locations, mostly along the Atlantic seaboard.