Pluscrates – a British phenomenon? By John Mitchell
The concept of plastic crates for commercial moves has been well established in the UK for many years. But, remarkably, this apparently British phenomenon does not seem to make the journey across La Manche.
The fibre board crate, produced by Denton Containers, was the first nesting and stacking crate to be used by a British commercial mover in the early 70s priming the market for the first plastic injection moulded crates, from GPG Containers, which really kick started the crate rental business. It’s never really looked back and today, around 1,000,000 crates are out on rental to moving companies and direct to businesses every day throughout the UK. It’s become a big business.
Perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that the Brits latched onto this logistical revolution with great enthusiasm. Before the first crate came off the production line there was only one real contender for the commercial mover: the dreaded tea chest. The tea chest undoubtedly had its charms, but after a day of lugging them around from office to van and back, those redeeming features were hard to appreciate. They were heavy, impossible to clean, inflexible, could not be sealed and ripped your hands to shreds. They were sometimes still half full of tea of course, so it wasn’t all bad news.
Faced with the choice between the tea chest and a clean, reusable, stackable, sealable container that left hands unscathed and could be made in a variety of sizes, the reusable plastic crate was firmly set on a winning track. But why did our friends across the channel say, Non!
Perhaps it was because they didn’t drink tea. Well, not to the same degree the Brits did anyway. The regular supply of tea chests was just not available on the continent so M. Déménageur had to find an alternative. From a much earlier time the Continentals preferred cardboard cartons. They were not so robust and could not be cleaned, but they were reasonably cheap, flexible and available. They did, however, require the destruction of forests full of CO2-eating trees which is no longer acceptable.
Of course the environmental impact of carton production has dissipated with the development of sustainable forests which owe their very existence to the demand for paper. One could argue, in this respect, that the use of cartons actually helps the environment rather than harms it. But the practical difficulties of working with cartons still remain and now it might be time for our Continental cousins to make a switch. In fact some have already begun to do so and my company is already renting more crates for commercial moves across The Channel than ever before.
The arguments are the same as were recognised right from the start. Crate rental is convenient, cost-effective, environmentally sustainable and hygienic. What’s more, operators and customers like them because they are easy to handle, easy to stack, and can be nested as soon as they are empty to save space as the new working environment returns to normal.
Maybe it is now time for our Continental cousins to take up the winning ways of the Brits … at least in this respect if nothing else.