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Corrugated Performance In Sub-Zero Temps

March 16, 2020

Jeff asks,

I have a client who is asking for specific information about corrugated performance at low temperatures (-20 degrees Celsius) for extended periods of time (up to 6 months).  I have not been given specific information about the contents of the boxes, but I suspect it to be clinical trial materials or something similar.  I expect them to be looking for some sort of performance guarantee.  Current board grade is 32 ECT C Flute.  Outside liner would be virgin paper.  The remainder of the box (medium and inside liner) is recycled paper.

Anything you can provide to help me with this?  Or can you direct me to the right place?  Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

There just is not much out there, but here are a few things that we do know. Cold temperatures can cause strength degradation in corrugated packaging and other corrugated paperboard products. Moisture introduced from the repeated opening and closing of refrigerated units can also affect the strength of the corrugated container. Aqueous and UV coatings will certainly provide extended resistance to moisture on the boxes’ surface. However, what generally happens is the glue line is attacked by changes in atmospheric conditions. This is where we often see failure to the board itself.

Manufacture’s joints and/or flaps that are glued can also be subject to strength degradation at low temperatures. The same problem may be seen in boxes sealed with tape as the adhesives can become less tacky. There are tapes and glues that are marketed to offer better performances in both extreme low and high temperatures. While they may not help with the overall strength of the box, they contribute to the overall survivability and protection of the enclosed content.

Here is a link to the last industry wide study on freezer storage that we are aware of. It’s a bit over 70 years old, but still relevant. Note the added box strengths in the chart.

I’ll also include this link to the most recent report from the PMMI on the storage of Corrugated Packaging.

Does any of our other followers have any knowledge they care to share on their experience with long term or short term low temperature storage of products protected by corrugated containers?

— Ralph


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