Logistics company Unitax uses Schaumaplast cold-chain packaging made from BASF's biomass-balanced Styropor® BMB in COVID-19 vaccine logistics. 

Under the name Thermocon, Schaumaplast develops and produces passive—i.e. non-electric—cooling systems for the pharmaceutical industry. The lightweight thermal boxes can be fitted with special cooling elements for almost any temperature range and for different volumes, the company says. This flexibility in terms of size and cooling range is becoming ever more important in coronavirus vaccine logistics, as vaccines in temperature ranges of minus 70°C, minus 15°C to minus 25°C, and plus 2°C to plus 8°C increasingly have to be delivered at the same time.

“Together with our customer Unitax, we can leverage the strengths of active and passive refrigerated transport. With its electrically powered refrigeration units in the vehicle and our passive cooling systems, Unitax is able to combine multiple temperature ranges for different types of vaccine on each vehicle. This ensures constant and reliable conditions for the vaccines at every stage of transport,” explains Toni Küttner, Managing Director of Schaumaplast Sachsen GmbH in Nossen in the German state of Saxony. The town is home to one of several Schaumaplast plants that produce specified and specialist cooling packaging for each customer, including the “flagship” product—the Pallet Transporter. This container can hold a completely packaged and preconditioned Euro pallet and reliably cool the temperature-sensitive goods for more than five days in some cases.

Sustainability aspects play a major role for Unitax Managing Director André Reich, who has also been using electric vans in the company fleet since 2017: “We can optimise and therefore also reduce our trips thanks to the various cooling systems. This makes financial sense and is good for the environment. Schaumaplast also offers another convincing advantage in this regard: The company provides packaging made from alternative raw materials but with the same high-quality properties of conventional plastic solutions. This ‘green’ box fits our corporate philosophy and has double the benefits, so to speak—with its reliably refrigerated content and its housing.”

The boxes are made of biomass-balanced Styropor® from BASF and reportedly have an improved environmental profile. “We are the first processor of this sustainable material in the packaging sector to be certified by the German technical inspection authority, TÜV,” states Markus Hoffmann, Managing Director of the Schaumaplast Group. BASF replaces fossil raw materials with renewable resources, such as bio-naphtha or biogas. These products, which are derived from organic waste or waste vegetable oils, are used in the BASF Production Verbund at the start of the manufacturing process. The biomass-balanced share is arithmetically allocated to the end products such as Styropor® Biomass Balance (BMB) via a certified process. “Styropor® BMB is one of our company’s two new, mass-balanced, resource-efficient Styropor developments. We are therefore not only ensuring the optimal insulating properties of the cooler boxes, but also helping to reduce the carbon footprint of our products. Moreover, fossil raw materials such as naphtha and natural gas can now be replaced with mixed plastic waste that has been chemically treated. This also benefits the environment,” says Klaus Ries, head of BASF’s Styrenics business in Europe.