Sustainability is an unavoidable discussion point with pressure from policymakers and consumers driving changes across all industries. Manufacturers are looking for alternative solutions to traditional plastics and non recyclable materials.
There are also financial benefits to consider with sustainable solutions. With consumers now considering the effect on the environment as a purchasing decision, the use of sustainable materials can be utilised to attract customers and drive sales. There is also the added benefit of less material waste and usage, decreasing overall packaging costs within a business.
With these commercial factors as well as the social and legal pressures, sustainable options should be something all manufacturers are investigating.
Below we look at some of the available and developing materials that offer sustainable packaging options for manufacturers through a range of industries.
Paper packaging has come in leaps and bounds, with current options offering greater stability, strength and protection to house a much wider range of options than ever before.
When looking at the most sustainable of the paper packaging options, Mono-material paper takes the forefront. With no barrier layers, these are easily recyclable and suitable to free flowing dry goods such as sugar, flour, pasta, grains and powders.
The limitations of these mono-material paper options arise when dealing with oily, wet or liquid products. This is where innovation has once again taken a leap, with new barrier paper packaging offering a much wider application range. The evolution in this barrier support means products from frozen food to confectionery can be now be packaged with paper options.
With the development of the packaging materials, comes innovation in packaging machinery, as different handling is necessary to support these materials. Syntegon, leading machinery manufacturers, offer VFFS machines that are capable of producing high quality paper bag styles from pillow to doy. They can also support paper packaging with retro fit solutions on existing machines.
Sustainable and economic options using plastic
Even when using plastic for packaging, there is the option to do so in a sustainable and cost effective way. The options include reducing the complexity of the material (mono-polyolefine) and reducing the usage of materials (down gauging – stretching these plastics).
Polyoefine Mono Materials
Mono-materials (plastic) are made up of single materials and can therefore be recycled. This makes them a more sustainable option than multi-material plastics such as polyethylene (PET), which alternatively can not be broken down and recycled easily. These mono materials will generally be thinner than multilateral options, however, this does not necessarily mean they are weaker.
When looking into such packaging solutions, the product and machinery will always dictate what is possible, with considerations to heat stability, film thickness, processing variations, barrier requirements and shelf life to be accounted for.
Through Down Gauging, material is stretched, allowing companies to decrease their material usage, sealing and cooling time, while increasing their machine performance and run times. This in turn decreases costs while also decreasing overall plastic usage, in turn increasing the sustainability of the operation.
While this does thin the packaging material, it still maintains good puncture resistance , with higher stiffness and better mechanical performance. With the thinner film, there is also longer film lengths and in turn longer run times, increasing OEE.
Syntegon has seen Down Gauging of 50% resulting in cost savings of over 30%, highlighting it’s effectiveness.
Bio plastics are made from biodegradable material from renewable sources such as vegetable fats, and oils. As a result they offer benefits to the environment through reduced pollution and waste, as well as decreased energy usage in the production process.
As bioplastic materials are not widely used there is limited development and supply and development, and resultantly limited options. This may be a space where we see development in the future, however it is only a small aspect of the current sustainable packaging world.
Consultation and testing
With a magnitude of options to improve sustainability and decrease costs, it is always worth talking to experts to get an idea about solutions specific to custom applications. With varying product requirements and regulations, these packaging materials may also vary.
Nupac and their partner Syntegon offer knowledge and advice regarding sustainable solutions for specific needs, even offering testing of certain options to determine the right solution for specific needs.
If you are looking at how to apply sustainable packaging to your products reach out to us today to begin the conversation!