The project’s objective was to demonstrate and validate environmentally friendly Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) coated corrugated fiberboard ration containers to replace the current solid weather grade fiberboard used by the Army. The intent was to provide alternative high performing materials to reduce the amount of waste in the field.
The new regular slotted containers were fabricated at a corrugator using a polymeric coated paper for water resistance and wet strength. The rations were then assembled at AmeriQual Packaging, one of the ration assemblers, producing pallet loads of MRE rations to test. Control containers of solid fiberboard were also fabricated and assembled at the same time, so they could be used as a comparison to the new container for demonstration/validation testing. These pallets and containers were then used for the quantitative and qualitative performance. Quantitative performance objectives included: weight, compression strength, repulpability, recyclability, emissions, waste-to-energy conversion, biodegradability, insect infestation, aerial delivery, and distribution/transportation. The qualitative performance objectives included: solider acceptance, ease of manufacturability, and ease of assembly, which were evaluated using surveys and observations by soldiers and assembly workers handling the new container.
There was a 17% percent weight loss for the new containers in comparison to the current containers. The compression strength was comparable for both types of container. The new corrugated container was repulpable and recyclable, unlike the current container. The emissions showed no toxic levels or significant differences. The waste-to-energy conversion trial proved that the solid and corrugated fiberboard could easily be placed and processed into the waste-to-energy machine to create high quality pellets. The biodegradablility was slower than anticipated and did not meet the American Society for Testing and Materials specification for both containers. The insect infestation passed all tests and had comparable results with the current solid fiberboard. Aerial delivery of the corrugated fiberboard cases at high and low altitude as well as the transportation study from Alaska to Georgia showed no damage to the MRE’s, maintaining the ability to meet current requirements. All defects on the containers were observed and noted; however, there was still no damage to the internal MRE pouches. The focus group and field test showed that the warfighters did not express preference of one container over the other since the major concern is that the food is safe. Surveys and questionnaires were given to all three assemblers to obtain their opinions on implementation of the new containers. All assemblers would have to adjust their assembly line for a new glue and printing ink. Each assembler also wanted to assure the rate of assembly was the same or faster than the assembly with the current solid fiberboard container.
The benefits to using this alternative container are, a lighter and recyclable case that and creates less solid waste for the military. Since each box is 17% lighter in weight than the current container, then one extra pallet of MRES (48 cases) can be shipped on a truck load, as the current pallet limit for trucking is set due to weight and not available space.