Posts tagged with "\"

3M invents an ‘outside the box’ shipping idea

July 30, 2019

Nearly 2 billion Americans (1.92 billion, according to Hosting Facts) will buy something online in 2019—and that means that roughly 2 billion cardboard boxes will arrive at U.S. homes this year; carrying a variety of smallish items that will be stuffed safely into place in biggish shipping containers with wasteful plastic fillers.

And since the most popular items to buy online are pieces of clothing and fashion accessories, chances are that many of these boxes will be used again, for returns.

But now, all of that’s about to change. Just as the Palm Pilots of the 1990s disappeared in favor of smartphones at the turn of the century, our conventional packing materials are about to see a transformation.

The Minnesota-based materials company. 3M—which to date has, perhaps been best-known for its lines of Scotch tape and other tapes, as well as Post-It notes— is releasing a new type of packaging that requires no tape on the outside and no filler materials. What’s more, the new packaging can be customized to fit any object under three pounds (which, 3M says, accounts for about 60% of all items that are bought online and shipped).

Indeed, 3M claims that the material, called the Scotch Flex & Review Seal Shipping Roll, can:

  • Reduce the time needed to pack items for shipping
  • Cut back on the amount of packaging materials required for each shipment (with no need for tape or fillers), and
  • Slash the amount of physical storage space needed in ground and air vehicles just to accommodate the packages.

According to a report by Fast Company, the new roll is made out of three layers of different plastics developed by 3M—among them::

  • A gray, internal adhesive layer that sticks to itself (you’ll see why in a moment);
  • A middle cushioning layer that seems similar to bubble wrap in the way that it protects items during shipping; and
  • A tougher outside layer that is tear- and water-resistant.

The rolls are available in assorted sizes, almost like wrapping paper: 10-foot, 20-foot, and 40-foot rolls are available now; with prices ranging from $12.99 to $48.99, and a 200-foot bulk role will be available in August.

To use the Flex & Seal, you just place your item on the sticky gray side of the material, fold over enough material to encapsulate your item, and press the adhesive sides together to seal it up. The gray side of the packaging will stick to itself, and not the object you want to ship, and 3M says the seal is robust enough to stay in place during shipping—no tape required.

After about 30 seconds, during which you can reposition the item if you didn’t seal it to your liking the first time, the adhesive gets so strong that you have to tear the plastic a bit if you want to pull it apart. That protects your package from tampering, while making sure it’s easy enough to tear open or cut with scissors on the other side.

The Flex & Seal is one way that 3M is trying to get in on the gold rush of the on-demand economy. The U.S. Postal Service handled more than 6 billion packages in 2018, and UPS recently reported net income of $1.69 billion in the second quarter of 2019, up from $1.49 billion during the second quarter in 2018.

When 3M started doing ethnographic research to understand the problems these merchants had, the team found that people were so accustomed to thinking shipping had to be done using boxes, filler, and tape that they didn’t even see it as a problem—just a necessary evil. “It was the bane of their existence,” Remi Kent, who oversees business globally for 3M’s Post-it Notes and Scotch Brands, told Fast Company. “But they didn’t know of any other alternative. They’d have up to 10 steps for preparing, packing, and shipping.”

On top of the manual labor of shipping lots of products, the rise of fast delivery has also raised consumers’ expectations for small brands, which are now up against the likes of Amazon. “[The online economy] . . . has changed the expectations on both ends, whether you’re an online marketplace owner and small business and you’re responsible for sending, but also the consumer expectations around how and when you expect to receive [packages],” Kent says.

The Flex & Seal is recyclable—it’s made of the same material as disposable plastic bags. But similar to plastic bags, the only way to recycle it is to take it to certain retail stores and recyclers, which might be able to include it in their plastic bag recycling program. That means you can’t toss it in your recycling bin with old milk cartons and empty soda cans. Compared to cardboard boxes, which can be easily recycled, that’s a hassle most consumers likely won’t bother with. Kent recognizes this is a problem, and says the team is working on making it easier to recycle. “We’re looking at how could we change the construction of the material choices so it becomes easier to recycle at your home,” she says. 

Research contact: @FastCompany

Fat shaming hits the pet set

February 7, 2019

When a dog or cat gains weight, it’s easy for a pet parent to assume that there is simply more of him (or her) to love. In fact, only 17% of owners acknowledge that their pet is obese, according to findings of a recent study by Nationwide, the country’s largest provider of pet health insurance.

“Others know their pet is overweight but don’t think it’s a problem,” said Deborah Linder, who heads the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals Clinical Nutrition Service. “Wrong!”

However, just as 70% of adult Americans (age 20+) are classified as overweight by the National Center for Health Statistics, so, too, are their pets.

Veterinarians report that nearly 50% of the dogs they see are overweight or obese, a February 4 report by Jane Brody of The New York Times reveals.

And the average weight of pets has risen over the past decade, Nationwide notes. In 2017, obesity-related insurance claims for veterinary expenses exceeded $69 million, a 24% increase over the last eight years,  the insurer reported in January. With only 2% of pets covered by insurance, the costs to owners of overweight pets is likely to be in the billions.

Indeed, obesity in pets has been associated with diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperlipidemia (high fat levels in the blood), joint disease, skin disease, and even a shorter lifespan, the Tufts Obesity Clinic says. A study of Labrador retrievers, a breed especially prone to becoming overweight, revealed that excess weight can take nearly two years off a pet’s life.

So for our pets, as well as ourselves, it’s best to adopt the concept that “less is more.”

study of 50 obese dogs enrolled in a weight-loss program conducted by the University of Liverpool in England during 2011 demonstrated the value of losing excess body fat, The New York Times reports. The 30 animals in the study that reached their target weight had greater vitality, less pain and fewer emotional issues than the animals that remained too fat.

But as with people, prevention is the better route—and, Linder emphasized during an interview with Brody, treats should make up no more than 10% of a dog’s daily calories.

“We love our pets and want to give them treats, but we often don’t think about treats from a caloric standpoint,” said John P. Loftus, an assistant professor, Section of Small Animal Medicine, at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. “It adds up over time. Better to show our love in ways other than food.”

Everything counts as a treat, including marrow bones and rawhide,” Dr. Linder told Brody, as well as scraps of human food offered by owners or scarfed off their plates. Treats used for training or retrieval should contain only a few calories each, like Fruitables Skinny Minis or Zuke’s Mini Naturals.

Rather than overdoing treats, give your dog love and attention by playing ball, fetch or tug-of-war, which provides some exercise that burns calories. Cats, too, love to play with things they can wrestle with, like a toy mouse on a string or a ball of yarn. For pets that are too old or unwilling to play, you can show your love calorie-free with a caress, a belly rub, or a scratch behind the ears.

Equally important is to learn to resist pets that beg for more food than they need. Linder advises, “If you’re already meeting your pets’ nutritional needs, they’re not hungry. What they’re really asking for is your attention. Better to distract them with an activity.”

Cats can be even more challenging than dogs. They tend to graze, prompting owners to leave food out for them all the time. This becomes a problem for overweight cats. Dr.

Linder says, “I’ve never met an animal that could free-feed and still lose weight.” For cats that come begging for food at 4:30 a.m., she suggests using an automatic timed feeder. Cats quickly learn when the food will drop down and will wait at the feeder instead of nudging their owners, she said.

Of course, regular physical activity —15 to 30 minutes day—is important for a dog’s overall well-being, but it’s rarely enough to help an overweight dog lose weight “unless they’re running a 5K every day,” Linder noted. “They’re not going to burn off the calories in a marrow bone with a walk around the block.”

Research contact: @tuftsvet

Ten Trump administration officials are accused of violating Hatch Act

August 7, 2018

A Washington-based ethics group has filed complaints arguing that ten Trump administration officials violated the federal Hatch Act, The Hill reported on August 2.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a complaint by letter on July 16 to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC)—saying that Communications Director for the Office of the First Lady Stephanie Grisham “likely violated the Hatch Act when she used her official White House Twitter account (which cites her official position and affiliation with the White House) to tweet a message that included President Trump’s campaign slogan “#MAGA” (Make America Great Again) and a picture from a 2015 Trump campaign rally. Before serving in the First Lady’s office, Grisham worked on the Trump campaign.”

Under the Hatch Act, executive branch employees are prohibited from engaging in politics. Specifically, the act, “prohibits any executive branch employee from “us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election. Activities covered by this prohibition include the official “[u]sing his or her official title while participating in political activity.”

On August 2, the group filed additional complaints against White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney; and Deputy Press Secretaries Raj Shah and Hogan Gidley; along with six others.

CREW’s complaint details how all ten Trump officials posted tweets that support President Trump as a candidate for the Republican Party in 2020—a direct violation of the Hatch Act, according to the watchdog’s Executive Director, Noah Bookbinder.

Those found to have violated the act can be fined as much as $1,000 and face disciplinary actions such as suspension or termination.

Six of the officials tweeted Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” or “MAGA” for short, CREW said in an August 2 statement. The OSC clarified this March that any reference to the slogan was a clear violation, the watchdog noted.

The complaint against Sanders is directed at a March 6 tweet from her official @PressSec Twitter account that includes part of the Trump slogan.

“We continue to see Trump Administration officials at all levels engaged in unprecedented partisan political activity using their official Twitter accounts in direct violation of the Hatch Act,” Bookbinder said in a statement.

“Despite multiple investigations and violations found, the Trump Administration clearly has no intention to stop the misuse of government offices and resources for political purposes,” Bookbinder continued. “We are now calling on the OSC to consider additional measures to prevent the rampant abuses coming from this administration.”

According to the findings of a CNN poll released on March 29 and covered by The Hill, a majority of Americans don’t expect Trump to win another term in the White House. The poll, conducted by SSRS, found that 54% of respondents believe that the president—despite his weekly rallies—will lose his campaign for reelection. Just 40% expect him to win.

Research contact: info@ssrs.com

Many of us have cocaine on our hands

April 18, 2018

These days, germaphobes have resorted to fist-bumping, rather than the traditional handshake—and they may have the right idea. In fact, fully 80% of all infectious diseases are passed by human contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

But little did we know that we had even more to fear. When you shake somebody’s hand, chances are you may take away not only good feelings, but traces of feces, fecal flora, skin flora, respiratory secretions—and maybe even cocaine.

That’s because one in every eight people is walking around with traces of cocaine on his or her hands — and there’s a good chance that he or she has no idea where it came from, based on recent research at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom.

In a study published in the September 2018  edition of the journal, Clinical Chemistry, researchers from the university tested the fingerprints of 50 drug-free volunteers; as well as of 15 drug users, who testified to taking either cocaine or heroin in the previous 24 hours.

Interestingly enough 13% of the drug-free participants who self-reported having clean hands had traces of cocaine on their fingertips, while another 1%  had minute levels — about one metabolite — of heroin, the researchers found.

During a subsequent part of the experiment, the group’s drug-free volunteers shook hands with the drug users. The analysis showed that those with over one metabolite of drugs on their hands were the actual drug users, but that it was not unusual to find traces of drugs on the non-users fingers and palms.

Dr Melanie Bailey,a lecturer in Forensic Analysis at the university, commented, “Believe it or not, cocaine is a very common environmental contaminant. It is well-known that it is present on many bank notes. Even so, we were surprised that it was detected in so many of our fingerprint samples.”

Mahado Ismail, lead-author of the paper from the University of Surrey, said: “It’s clear that fingerprint testing is the future of drug-testing. There are many factors that set fingerprint testing apart: It’s non-invasive, easy to collect and you have the ability to identify the donor by using the sample. Our study will help to add another robust layer to fingerprint drug testing.”

Research contact:d.njolinjo@surrey.ac.uk