Updated Packaging Design Reduces Waste Supports Beldens ESG Goal


Editor’s Note:

This blog is one in a series called Belden: A Conscientious Company. It’s dedicated to detailing Belden’s journey to defining and achieving environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. This series highlights the stories, activities, and people along Belden’s ESG journey, and its history and culture as a conscientious company.

Belden has had a keen awareness of waste reduction for many decades. It creates efficiencies, is cost effective and helps the planet. As we developed our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, we knew that waste reduction would be an important piece of how we’d approach our environmental targets. Through this process, we documented our commitments and announced them to the world in April 2022. Our efforts to reduce waste and increase the use of recyclable and reusable materials in packaging play a prominent role in our ESG goals. This work also supports our customers’ ESG goals.

When it comes to packaging, a team of Belden engineers is creating solutions to replace non-recyclable materials, such as plastics, with materials like cardboard which are easily recyclable and more efficient to implement on the production line (and in the field). One solution that’s currently underway is an update to Belden’s Unreel packaging, which is used for wire and cable products. In this article, we’ll introduce you to this packaging solution and demonstrate the expected impact of its implementation.

Reimagining Unreel Packaging for Enhanced Sustainability

Unreel packaging has been in use by Belden for more than 40 years and has served us well in terms of its portability and ease of use. Unreel consists of a coil of wire or cable that is wound using patented Reelex technology. The cable is then placed into a cardboard box and smoothly dispensed from the center of the coil via a tube for easy access. Until now, that tube (called a “payout tube”) was made of plastic. Today, through the work of Belden packaging engineers, a new tube design, made with recycled paper pulp, is being implemented to replace the plastic component. This allows the entire package to be placed in the paper recycling stream.

The shift towards a fully paper-based, recyclable generation of Unreel packaging is important, as there is a great deal of evidence pointing to plastic’s harm on the environment. Everything from single-use plastic water bottles and grocery bags to food containers and packaging is finding its way to our oceans and piling up in landfills. Excessive use of plastic simply isn’t sustainable for the planet. Therefore, it’s important that we all do our part to reduce our use of plastic. Eliminating the plastic components in our Unreel packaging is just one way that we at Belden can be part of the solution.

We’ll begin implementing Unreel packaging in the Nogales, Mexico, manufacturing facility on one of our high-volume Category 6 data cables. Our goal is to switch over all cable packaging in the coming years.

The Impact of the New Unreel Packaging Design

First, let’s consider the volume of packaging that we plan to switch over to the new Unreel design, and when we expect that to happen. This year alone, we’ll transition 40,000 packaging units to the new design using the paper payout tube. That means 40,000 spools of plastic will be diverted from landfills. Looking ahead to next year, we anticipate as many as 600,000 units will be packaged in the new Unreel

design. And those numbers will only continue to increase as time goes on. This is a significant step that we are taking to help us reach our goals of increasing our use of renewable and recyclable materials in packaging by 20%.

The development of the paper payout tube for use in Unreel packaging was made possible by Wayne Roussel, Belden Senior Packaging Engineer. Wayne and his team worked closely with equipment maker Reelex, who holds the patents on the coiling technology, to implement the solution. While it’s not appropriate for all sizes or weights of cabling, the new design will make a great impact on our ability to significantly reduce waste and leverage recyclable materials.

There are additional benefits in the field. Due to the nature of how the cables are packaged, installers do not need a reel stand to dispense the wire – all they need is the box and the dispensing tube. The cable comes out of the box free of tangles and kinks, and the Unreel packaging is very portable, making it an ideal choice for installers who are using cable at multiple sites. This helps to make the job simpler and more efficient.

“I’m incredibly proud of Wayne and his team for the innovation they demonstrated in developing this sustainable packaging solution,” said Scott Dendler, Senior Director of Corporate Environmental Health and Safety. “We expect that the implementation of this single material, fully recyclable packaging will make a great impact on our progress toward our environmental goals and help our customers with their waste recycling opportunities. We continue to look forward to creating even more ways – big and small – that we can be good stewards of the environment.”