I am always sceptical when a pressure group calls for massive public spending on environmental programmes. I don't mean that they are not genuine in their goals and I wouldn't want my scepticism to be construed as mistrust. The fact is, though, that pressure groups do not have the rigour of public accountability that politicians do. They do not have the financial restraints that, say, a company director would have, either self imposed or imposed by shareholders. Politicians must protect the public coffers and private companies must protect their own coffers. Pressure groups on the other hand have a tendency to tell others how to spend their money, whether it is companies’ money or ours, the public.
Conservation In a democracy, in particular, politicians are both followers and leaders. They (generally) listen to their voters and then lead them. So, when a politician calls for environmental protection measures it is surely time to take notice. To a lesser (but not much lesser) degree, when company directors are also calling for better environmental protection then this surely backs up the trend. The difference between the solutions offered by pressure groups and politicians and company directors is that the latter two groups must be far more considered about their solutions. NGOs have a habit of trying to build a whole industry around their particular passion. They want to spend unlimited amounts of money on a problem and build structures around it. But, what ever happened to that old fashioned term “conservation"? Yes, I can see the need to spend and build to improve things where there is no alternative. For example, in a windy country let us have wind turbines. In a sunny country then solar panels may be viable. Both of these are plausible solutions to our reliance on fossil fuels and they require spending money and building things. Before we go too far down that road though, do not forget that in recent years the cost of fuel has risen dramatically and this has had a tremendous dampening effect on fuel consumption. So, while accepting that building things is a part solution, let us also consider using fuel more efficiently.
Brainstorming Rather than always doing things the same we have always done them, when costs are rising, the really switched on companies go back to the drawing board. They know that with the volatile cost of fuel these days combined with pressure to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere it is time for a change. They question everything they have done before. Everything. This kind of brain storming around the idea of conserving fuel has yielded some early results with the evident yet wonderful outcome that reducing fuel consumption reduces costs. This is surely environmental protection of the most poetic kind. A question that emerged from this exercise was “Why do we need refrigerated vehicles". After some bemused looks and comments like “because we do", some serious thinking and research was commissioned.
The Great Cover Up Result: although I can't reveal the name of the company I happen to know that a major retailer has decided to carry out trials of a system that will do away with refrigerated vehicles for journeys of 5 hours or less. The project is aptly called GCU ("The Great Cover Up"). It turns out that the amount of extra diesel needed to power a freezer trailer compared to one that has no freezer on is scary. Even when the truck is stationary, the engine must keep working in order to maintain temperature. Transporting frozen and chilled goods costs a small fortune. The capital cost of refrigerated trailers combined with the running costs add a premium cost to all frozen food products that are in the shops and, of course, the cost to the environment is also very high. The payback to just one company is enormous as refrigerated trailers are no longer required and fuel costs are dramatically reduced. However, this is only one side of the equation. The environmental benefit cannot be overstated. The reduction in CO2 and pollution output by switching to ambient vehicles is quite staggering.
Once other retailers and distribution companies realize that they too can benefit from eliminating most of their chilled and frozen transport the benefits will spread far and wide and across the globe.
So what is this system? Simple. Loaded pallets and roll cages are covered with a thermal jacket that fully encompasses the products held on them. The material used is unique and revolutionary. This is why this is the first time that it will be possible to eliminate refrigerated vehicles. Taking roll cages as an example, these are fitted with a Cage Insulation Cover. This shrouds all sides of the cage. It has an up-and-over front door to allow access when loading and unloading. The goods are selected from refrigerated storage and placed in the roll cage. The door is then pulled down and secured with Velcro. The seal is complete. Even the underneath is protected using an insulated base mat. The unique material holds the internal temperature for up to 8 hours. There is some degradation of temperature, but the level of degradation is extremely low at about +1degC per hour. Thus, products loaded at -26degC will reach about -22degC after four hours. In theory, the journey could last another four hours with the temperature of the goods still being below the -18degC limit for transported frozen goods. The reason this system is limited to five hour journeys is to allow a buffer of three hours to cope with any en route holds ups.
Since most frozen trailers are set at -18degC you can see that they do not contribute at all to the temperature control of products protected by roll cage insulation covers and the fridge unit is redundant. Exactly the same system can be used on pallet loads. Thermal jackets surround the pallet load, including a base mat. The only difference is that the Pallet Insulation Cover can extend vertically in order to cope with variable pallet load heights. With hospitals, public morgues, local authorities and the military also using refrigerated transport, the benefit will be felt by public bodies as well as countless commercial organisations.
This is an example of a solution that does not involve a grand expensive scheme or onerous laws. It is an example of conservation where both the environment and economy will benefit, potentially on a truly global and massive scale.
Vernon Stent is the content writer for http://www.5es.co.uk which sells and rents transit packaging . This page refers to cage covers