Automatic disposal of used cardboard boxes

Hinwil / Switzerland


The deniway plate chain conveyor system is ideally suited to the disposal of used cardboard boxes in the order fulfilment process as well as for incoming goods. The Swiss company Ferag AG has adapted its classic specifically for this purpose. Modifications include improved side guides to ensure no pile-ups while packaging materials are sent on their way. This easily scalable system has already passed its first real-world test with flying colours with users such as Zalando in Brieselang/Berlin, Erfurt and Mönchengladbach, as well as with DHL in Hamburg.

Pursuant to the implementation of the European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste at national level, Germany put into force a new Packaging Act on 1 January 2019. This puts still greater obligations on online retailers given their role as manufacturers and distributors of packaging. The new law, which supersedes the earlier Packaging Ordinance, does more than just change the rules of the game. It also underlines how disposal of packaging materials is a high priority in the e-commerce sector. As part of a compulsory system under the law, every mail order company is obliged to meticulously document how it disposes of cardboard, paperboard, plastic foils and other packaging materials in an environmentally friendly manner. Which is to say: waste materials generated in goods receipt, picking and returns management must be made ready for subsequent recycling. Used cardboard boxes, for example, are prepared in a compacting press.

Ergonomic overhead solution

Zalando Brieselang/Berlin: for the past five years, this mail order company has been using deniway conveyors to great effect for disposing of used cardboard in returns management.

Ferag has developed a highly efficient and ergonomic solution for in-house handling of these used cardboard boxes, based on the proven deniway system. This is where deniway technology scores with its easy-to-implement 3D capability, since staff at mail-order companies and fulfilment service providers can now literally throw the empty boxes accumulating at their workstations onto the deniway plate conveyor rolling by continuously overhead. Trials with various test subjects yielded an optimum height of two metres for the overhead conveyor. Where nothing is being thrown onto the conveyor, it can go higher still depending on the customer’s requirements. At Zalando in Erfurt, where there are no workstations the deniway line climbs to a height of four metres so as to provide sufficient clearance for forklift trucks and other vehicles operating at floor level. With the aid of spirals, the deniway system can quickly ascend a very high hall and then wend its way back down again. The modular plate chain conveyor handles smaller inclines by elevating the transport path vertically. deniway conveyors with their modest weight and flexible layout can be implemented in many environments. Even ceilings of existing buildings usually have the structural capacity to support a deniway line.


Ferag waste conveyor at DHL in Hamburg: here, Deutsche Post’s contract logistics division delivers goods on behalf of the Tom Tailor fashion group.

deniway as an optimal basis for disposing of used cardboard boxes

Conveyor technology developers implementing a material flow system for disposing of used cardboard boxes face a series of pitfalls, such as boxes snagging with one another on their way to the compaction press, thus piling up and bringing the system to a halt. Furthermore, fine cellulose particles and dust can clog the conveyor mechanism such that regular preventive cleaning and maintenance are necessary to avoid failures. The Ferag engineers circumvented specific problems like these in their waste conveyor solution. They had good reason to choose a concept based on the deniway technology originally developed for conveying newspapers and magazines. Its invaluable advantage: proven total immunity to paper abrasion. It is also practically free from operational wear, so the Ferag system has barely any maintenance needs. This is one contributor to a deniway conveyor's comparatively low running costs. The Ferag technology is moreover very energy-efficient due to being supported on rollers, so it gets by with only a small number of drives. For example, one or two 1.6-kilowatt electric motors are sufficient to power the conveyor lines installed at Zalando in Brieselang/Berlin (410 metres long) and at DHL in Hamburg (351 metres).

Whisper-quiet technology is easy on workers’ hearing

One further plus of a deniway conveyor becomes especially apparent where people work in direct proximity to the conveyor. Anyone coming close to the Ferag system is surprised by the quiet rolling of the plate chain conveyor. Hence the deniway technology also scores with regard to noise emissions, which tend to be a key factor in rapid employee acceptance of a workplace innovation. With the first conveyors for disposal of used cardboard boxes now running at Zalando and DHL, workers are glad that they can still perform their tasks without hearing protection – even though the deniway line runs only a short distance above their heads.

Continuous system without troublesome transfers

It was most important to the Swiss that they could offer a continuous, absolutely reliable system without troublesome transfers. Hence they made numerous detail modifications to the deniway system that would overcome every challenge of conveying empty cardboard boxes. Those changes include, for example, additional guiding plates and funnel flaps in curved zones that prevent boxes from falling off even through the tightest radii. Measures like these furthermore help to push waste packaging through bends without snagging together and causing a jam. The highlight comes at the end of the conveyor line, and shows that the Swiss engineers have really thought of everything. Their thorough system solution even incorporates an option for automatically switching the feed of material between compaction presses as soon as one fills up. Thus the Ferag system makes the disposal of used cardboard boxes not only smooth-running, but also operable around the clock.


High acceptance by employees: the Ferag solution for disposing of used cardboard offers an ergonomic and low-noise working environment.