A boxing champ for the eco-minded

Originally published in Crain’s Chicago Business
December 5, 2013



Dennis Salazar had his aha moment late in his career. Mr. Salazar had worked 30 years for big packaging companies in marketing when customers began asking for greener materials. His bosses didn’t care. So in 2007, Mr. Salazar and his wife, Lorena, who also worked in the industry, launched Salazar Packaging Inc. to supply eco-minded companies.

Mr. Salazar, 60, differentiated his products by using more recycled content than mainstream manufacturers. He also employs water-based ink for printing and avoids boxes with wax or plastic coatings that can’t be recycled. The fluting inside most corrugated boxes on the market is made of recycled content, but he extended recyclables to the outer layers. Many of his products are reusable, some are biodegradable and nothing is made of Styrofoam.

At the outset, Mr. Salazar projected his green product lines would represent about 30 percent of sales — he stocks conventional packaging items, too — but within three years the segment skyrocketed to 90 percent. Though they’re made from 100 percent recycled materials, most of the company’s eco-friendly Globe Guard boxes cost about what a standard container costs, he says. And even if they cost more, clients can customize their boxes to reduce their overall bill.

“Most companies weren’t creating products that were answering environmental concerns,” he says, “and we wanted to be part of the solution rather than contributing to that problem.”

The East Plainfield-based company, which has four employees, expects to post close to $4 million in revenue this year.

Salazar Packaging’s clients include earth-friendly corporations such as Stonyfield Farm Inc. of Londonderry, N.H., and San Francisco-based Method Products Inc. Mainstream players buy Globe Guard products, too. Hanesbrands Inc. of Winston-Salem, N.C., came up with a T-shirt made partially from polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles. To extend Hanes’ green message, Salazar Packaging designed recyclable, nonpadded envelopes made of 50 percent recycled content.

Another recent customer is Nimblstand, a startup that makes a plastic stand for Apple wireless keyboards and adapts to hold an iPad or iPhone. Co-founder Matt Esecson thought a bright white box would look as sleek as Apple’s own packaging. Mr. Salazar talked him out of it.

“He reminded us that the box would have to be bleached (to get it white) and that wouldn’t be true to our sustainable mission,” recalls Mr. Esecson, who is based in Hawaii. “He gave us the pushback we needed to keep us on a sustainable path.” They settled for plain brown boxes made of recycled cardboard.

Mr. Salazar’s next design challenge is coming up with temperature-controlled packaging that doesn’t waste a lot of internal packing material so “meals by mail” providers can show they care about the environment, too. He’s working with manufacturers to create a corrugated container that can be lined with biodegradable foam inserts to keep foods cool during transport.

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