Canadian Packaging

LCBO to change shipping rules

Edge crush test now considered an effective option to burst strength regarding shipping boxes for wine and liquor - a coup for greener packaging.


corrugated cardboard boxes

The paper packaging industry’s environmental council, PPEC, has scored a major breakthrough by persuading the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to change its shipping rules for wine and liquor boxes.

Effective immediately, the LCBO will allow its suppliers the option of using the edge crush test (ECT) as an alternative to the burst strength (or Mullen) test that it has used for over 20 years to assess the delivery performance of corrugated packaging.

After much testing, PPEC determined that:

  • the Mullen test had no direct impact on how a box performs;
  • performance of the box was more important than whether it was made from kraft or recycled fibers;
  • and that any new testing procedures must include all of the package.

“This move (by the LCBO) is long overdue,” says PPEC executive director, John Mullinder, “and opens the door to producers of recycled board, which is the major Canadian—and global—grade, and becoming more so. The Mullen test unfairly discourages the use of recycled board.”

PPEC is the national trade association representing the Canadian paper packaging industry on environmental issues, with membership including the mills that produce containerboard, boxboard and kraft paper packaging, and the converters who turn this into boxes, bags and cartons.

The Canadian paper packaging industry had become increasingly concerned over the LCBO’s reliance on the Mullen test in recent years, Mullinder notes, especially when the provincial wine and liquor monopoly had started fining its suppliers for not meeting its Mullen specifications.

“To our knowledge, the LCBO was the only major wine and liquor retailer in the world still using the Mullen test as a barometer for box failure and/or container breakage. Everyone else had moved to ECT,” notes Mullinder.

PPEC set up a technical committee two years ago and began outreach to the LCBO, visiting its retail distribution center in Durham to understand the conditions the boxes had to perform under, and inviting LCBO staff to tour various paper facilities (a recycling mill, a corrugated converting plant, and an industry testing laboratory).

The council initiated some pilot laboratory trials using the widely accepted measuring standards of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA).

Various types of boxes and glass bottles were shaken, dropped, and slammed into hard surfaces to see how they performed.

“We developed a good working relationship with the LCBO,” offers  Mullinder. “In fact, our video and test results encouraged them to undertake second and third tests to corroborate our findings.”

The end results shows that the Mullen test was simply not as good a predictor of actual box performance, regardless of whether the box was made from kraft or recycled material; and that any new performance-based testing procedure should include all the elements of the package (the outer box, partitions, and the container inside).

According to PPEC, in one series of tests, the box with the highest Mullen score—and thus considered by the LCBO the most likely to be the best performer—was actually the worst performing box.

Armed with this information, PPEC began to lobby the LCBO to drop the Mullen test and/or allow ECT or another test method to be used to judge package performance. The council offered a revised set of specifications for the LCBO to consider.

“Our relationship with the LCBO has been very good,” says Mullinder. “(It is) not confrontational at all. We worked through the issues and I think we can both be satisfied with the results to date. We recognize, however, that this door to ECT would not have been opened without PPEC’s efforts, and without the solid technical support we received from member companies.”

A four-minute video—Shake, Rattle and Drop— describing PPEC testing and conclusions can be viewed HERE.

For more information on PPEC, visit  www.ppec-paper.com.