Products

WALTHER designs reusable plant tray

WALTHER Faltsysteme GmbH will develop the market model for Euro Plant Tray eG – the final decision has now been made. The Euro Plant Trays are to become part of the new European industry standard for plant trays and gradually replace disposable trays.
Der neue Euro Plant Tray mit vielen Pflanzentöpfen aus Kunststoff in vielen verschiedenen Größen

150 million plant trays are disposed of in Germany every year – the Euro Plant Tray eG (EPT) wants to change this. The cooperative which is formed by various DIY stores, garden centres and wholesalers from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands has one goal: to establish a reusable system and pool management for reusable plant trays, the Euro Plant Tray, for the horticulture industry in Europe.

 

WALTHER Faltsysteme GmbH took part in the tender and successfully completed a practical test with 20,000 plant trays. EPT eG has now decided to launch two tray models in 2024: One of them is the WALTHER plant tray. This is comparable in format to the Normpack 400 for pots of twelve centimetres and is therefore particularly suitable for top-heavy plants from the houseplant sector. The WALTHER Faltbox group is not only responsible for the design but will also produce the plant trays.

Changing requirements

The construction of the final tray turned out to be more difficult than initially expected. “We started by developing a design on the computer based on the requirements and our own assumptions. But as soon as we started 3D printing the first prototypes, we realised that not all the different pots fitted as well as we had initially hoped,” explains Stephan Engelhardt, Product Development at WALTHER Faltsysteme. This is because, compared to the disposable trays, the reusable plant trays are more rigid. Just one of the reasons why the reusable products are not simply a high-quality polypropylene copy of the previous disposable trays. The catalogue of requirements also included special water reservoirs. “In addition, we have also added bars to improve and control the dimensional stability and stackability of the empties.”

Further advantages of the design: the trays can be nested inside each other and have a stacking height of 20 millimetres. This means that 666 units fit on one pallet, which offers great advantages when transporting empty trays. In contrast to the disposable trays, the Euro Plant Trays are guaranteed to last 100 cycles and be in use for more than ten years. A water reservoir supplies the plants with water. “Our trays are marked with a label so that they can be tracked at any time,” says Project Manager André Hecker. The cleanability of the trays was also taken into account. Large handles on all sides enable easy lifting.

Continually optimised

The catalogue of requirements kept changing as there were always new suggestions for optimisation. One major challenge was that there are many different pot sizes available on the market, all of which need to fit securely in the tray. The engineers at WALTHER therefore analysed around 100 plant pots from different manufacturers to determine the perfect fit. “We also tested how quickly the water runs off in the stack and how much load the trays can withstand when stacked. We also visited nurseries to gain an insight into the work and handling of the trays,” says Stephan Engelhardt.

After 3D printing, further prototypes followed and then a series of 20,000 units was produced using a mould from the company’s own toolmaking department. These were extensively tested in the spring. “During the test phase, we regularly received feedback and design change requests from the participants and adapted our product accordingly,” says Andre Hecker, responsible for the project at WALTHER.

Dedication pays off

“We are impressed by the professionalism of the suppliers and the speed with which our suggestions were implemented. In the end, however, a decision had to be made so that we can focus on the final details and achieve our goal of launching the product in spring 2024. We look forward to continue the work with WALTHER on the development of the first market model.“

Flora Späth
Board member of EPT eG and head of the working group

In 2024, the Euro Plant Trays will be supplied to nurseries and DIY stores and launched on the market. The aim is to have six million Euro Plant Trays in circulation by 2025 and then expand the product range accordingly.

“We are delighted that EPT eG has made this decision. Disposable trays generate an incredible amount of plastic waste every year – now we may contribute our part to avoid this. The fact that EPT eG decided in our favour in the end is mainly thanks to our great team. Our colleagues never stop working on the perfect product. A dedication that has now paid off.”

Oliver van Neerven
Head of Project Management