New Stretch Films at Mercer Torgau, Better for the Environment

To ensure that environmentally-friendly briquettes and pellets reach their recipients in the same quality they were shipped, packages are fixed and secured on pallets with stretch film. Now, Mercer Torgau has found a way to drastically reduce the amount of film needed for this purpose.

At Mercer Torgau, sustainability is upheld on a daily basis: all procurement and production aspects are aligned to specific sustainable criteria. 100% of the wood that comes to site is used in order to conserve the natural resource. Green energy is produced from the residual wood that cannot be recycled.  

At the same time, Mercer Torgau attaches great importance to the quality of our products and their safe transport. That is why the containers in which briquettes and pellets are sold are fixed to pallets with stretch film. To achieve greater sustainability at the plant, Mercer Torgau’s Technical Purchasing department has identified an important area here when it comes to transporting our products.

Pellets: saving approximately 46,000 kg of foil annually

“Our pellets are packed in 15 kg or 10 kg plastic bags — with Mercer layout or the layout according to customer requirements —  then stacked on Euro pallets without overhang,” Lena Seemann, Head of Technical Purchasing at Mercer Torgau, explains the process. “The pellets are then fixed to the pallet with stretch film.”

This is currently done at Mercer Torgau on two different, fully automatic stretch lines, both of which are about 12 years old. “When selecting stretch films, we have to be very careful about what we can use, simply because of the age of the machines,” explains Seemann. “So, in order to make the packaging more environmentally friendly, we looked hard at the market options, put the films out to bid and did extensive testing.” 

In the pellets sector, the focus was on the Matco machine, which is used to foil over 100,000 pallets per year for shipping. A 23µm film was previously used for this purpose. For more environmentally-friendly shipping, alternative films with 17 and 15µm were tested. The results were impressive, according to Seemann. “We carried out the tests for about three months. During this time, neither the 17 nor the 15µm film tore once.”

These thinner films were also successfully tested on the second line, known as the TechnoWrap. Optimizations to the line also resulted in better distribution of the wraps, further increasing the stability of the pallets. 

The difference in raw material consumption due to this changeover was documented during the tests: 45,995 kg of plastic is saved annually in the pellet area alone, just by switching from the 23µm film to the 15µm film.

Briquettes: using 87,444 kg less foil per year

However, the real area for saving resources is in briquettes, according to Seemann: “Every year, more than 336,320 pallets of the certified biofuel leave our plant. To secure the product on the pallets, we use 150,000 kg of stretch film for this purpose annually — with a corresponding ecological footprint of 344,999 kg of CO2 for the films themselves and another 21,429 kg of CO2 for transporting the films.”

Each pallet of briquettes is wrapped about 19 times before shipping, with additional strapping added for protection. This consumes just under 450 g of film per pallet. Clearly too much, and is why the 17 µm and 15 µm film was also tested here –- with success. Using the thinner film, the material required was reduced by almost 60% using the 15 µm and 53% using the 17µm. “By opting for the 15µm film, we save 87,444 kg of film annually in the briquette area alone. Together with the reductions in pellets packaging, this equates to a reduction of 133,439 kg per year,” says Seemann. “The CO2 impact is also much lower than with the previously used film, at 143,879 kg for the film and 8,937 kg for transport.”

Less CO2 pollution due to the conversion

At first glance, the cost of the thinner stretch film spoke against the switch. Due to the product properties, the price was significantly higher than the 23 µm thicker film. However, since the consumption of film is decreasing so immensely, Mercer Torgau is actually saving costs by making the switch. 

The biggest winner, however, is the environment: less film means less plastic consumption, less residual material, less transport — and above all, fewer CO2 emissions. And these are considerable: “By switching to the new, thinner films, each year we save a total of CO2 emissions (excluding transport) equivalent to around 1,526,900 air miles. That’s about 38 circumnavigations of the earth by plane.”

Lena Seemann, Head of Technical Purchasing at Mercer Torgau, June 2023

Lena Seemann, Head of Technical Purchasing at Mercer Torgau


Following this success, the plastic packaging for the pellets themselves is now under scrutiny. “In the area of product packaging, we are currently looking into whether we can use recyclates for our films in the future,” says Lena Seemann. “Here, however, we still have plenty of talks and tests ahead of us.”