WILMINGTON, DEL. — In remote villages in sub-Saharan Africa, medicine can be hard to find, while Coca-Cola is virtually everywhere.
So ColaLife, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Rugby, England, collaborated with several plastics industry players to use Coke's omnipresence to bring people lifesaving anti-diarrheal medicine.
ColaLife worked with pi 3 — the structural design and engineering branch of London-based Pi Global — Amcor Flexibles Europe & Americas, and Huntingdon, England-based thermoformed packaging designer Charpak Ltd. to create the AidPod.
The AidPod won top honors, the Diamond Award, at DuPont Co.'s annual Awards for Packaging Innovation, held May 16 in Wilmington, Del.
The AidPod is a wedge-shaped, structural, self-contained package for an anti-diarrheal kit, designed to nestle into unused space between bottle necks in a crate of Coke.
It contains several doses of anti-diarrheal medicine packaged in single-dose sachets, zinc supplements and a pamphlet with educational material. It also contains a soap packet in the reusable lid of the container to promote hand washing. The container itself is also a functional 200-milliliter measuring jug that can be used to mix the medicine with water and act as a clean, reusable drinking cup.
The recycled PET package is heat-sealed with a waterproof film that can withstand severe impacts, is tamper-evident and prevents contamination.
According to ColaLife, one in nine children in developing countries die before age 5 from preventable causes like dehydration from diarrhea.
"One-third of the world's population has no access to modern medicine or vaccines … but you can find bottles of Coke anywhere, in the same places kids are dying," said Rohit Ramchandani, public health adviser with ColaLife, at an information session at the awards.
The organization is running trials with the AidPod in Zambia.
ColaLife piggybacks off the Coke supply chain — when Coke is delivered to a store, the AidPod rides along with it. The medicine is sold for $1, a price mothers in Zambia say is affordable, according to ColaLife.
A voucher system is being explored to help those who cannot afford the price.
In some regions, mothers might journey three to four hours to obtain medicine from a health clinic that might be out of stock, Ramchandani said. Now they can travel 10 minutes.
Pi 3 and ColaLife are exploring ways to use the AidPod as a water purifier. They're also looking for ways to make the package cheaper, said Chris Griffin, managing director at Pi Global.
DuPont also awarded the AidPod a Food Security Award.
25 years of winners
The awards program celebrated its 25th year by highlighting past winners and honoring new ones. In addition to the Diamond Award, the panel of independent judges gave out four gold and 10 silver awards. Winners were recognized for innovation, sustainability or cost/waste reduction.
Recycler Close the Loop Ltd. of Hebron, Ky., collaborated with BCM Inks USA Inc. of Blue Ash, Ohio, to create a closed-loop recycling system for inkjet printer cartridges.
When ink cartridges are returned for recycling, 13 percent of the ink still remains in the cartridge, said Robert Califf, vice president of BCM, a manufacturer of inks for the flexographic corrugated industry.
Close the Loop recovers the plastic and remaining ink from the cartridge. BCM takes the ink and, using a process that Califf said involves lots of R&D, turns it into a water-based flexographic ink called PCR (post-consumer recycled) Black to print on corrugated shipping containers.
One drum of PCR Black prevents 200,000 ink cartridges from going to a landfill, and the recycling process recovers about 30 million ink cartridges annually.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette entrusted Placon Corp. of Madison, Wis., with creating a "frustration-free" blister package for the brand's Venus and Olay razors.
The new package consists of a thermoformed inner tray made with more than 50 percent post-consumer recycled PET that holds all razor components on multiple planes in multiple-sized compartments. The package combines perforation and finger-tab components for easy opening.
Its lid is heat-sealed on a curve and features a proprietary film and ink chemistry, developed by Control Group USA, that withstands the direct heat needed to seal the lid to the blister. The package also uses 29 percent less plastic than its predecessor and swaps PVC for recyclable PET.
"It's a marketing story, an engineering story … it's six or seven things conjoining together to put this on the shelf," said Mark Marchinkowski, principal engineer at Gillette.
The package solves consumer complaints about hard-to-open packages, while retaining a strong brand visibility, he said.
Basel, Switzerland-based retailer Coop redesigned a salad bowl that was popular with customers but had large amounts of packaging and waste, and was bulky and not very convenient.
The retailer worked with packaging designers and technologists at Awtec AG in Zurich to change the package. They replaced the round container with a square one made of recycled PET, reducing material by 30 percent, and added features like a lid — with removable, multicompartment trays — that securely snaps on the container, and a shake function that allows customers to mix the salad and dressing.
Clorox Co. redesigned its cleaning-product bottles to use what it calls Smart Tube Technology.
Rather than a tube attached to a trigger that is able to move around, the bottle features a tube blow molded into the front of the bottle so it's always in the right place to spray liquid, said Carrie Kelley, senior scientist in R&D.
The bottle enables users to get every drop of liquid out without tilting, shaking or struggling. It solves 67 percent of consumer complaints, Kelley said. The bottle features a bayonet-style trigger made entirely of plastic, eliminating problems with bleach and metal interactions, she said.
Clorox said the new bottles will prevent about 81,000 gallons of cleaning formula from being wasted every year.
Clorox partnered with Alpla Inc. of McDonough, Ga., on developing the bottle. The company also worked with Guala Dispensing SpA of Spinetta Marengo, Italy, and Graham Packaging Co. of York, Pa.
The casing combines the high smoke and water-vapor permeability of cellulose casings with optimal mechanical properties in a thin structure. It reduces cooking and smoking times, allows for high-speed processing and is cleaner and requires fewer harsh chemicals to produce. The casing's oxygen and moisture barriers prolong shelf life, preserve flavor and increase product yield.
Amcor Ltd.'s German flexible packaging division redesigned its pharmaceutical blister pack to improve moisture protection. The new Formpack features smaller single cavities and removes perforation lines so moisture can only diffuse through the open edge of the blister. The new design improves the blister's moisture protection by more than 40 percent and reduces the amount of material needed by 33 percent.
Japan's Toyo Aluminum K.K. created a packaging material for yogurt-container lids inspired by lotus leaves. Lids made with Toyal Lotus material are used by Morinaga Milk Industry Co. Ltd. of Tokyo. The lids have an inside sealing surface that offers high water repellency, and the material prevents adhesion of yogurt to the inside surface of the lid, allowing it to stay clean.
Folmex SA de CV of Tlalnepantla, Mexico, developed a polyethylene-based, high-gloss package for powdered laundry detergent in the Mexican market. The structure was downgauged by 21 percent, eliminating 111 tons of material and saving 20 tons of CO2 each year, according to the company. It also helped brand owner Procter & Gamble increase its product-to-package ratio by 27 percent and decrease carbon emissions from transportation by 22 percent.
Clearly Clean Products LLC of South Windsor, Conn., and supermarket chain Weis Markets teamed up to launch a tray billed as the only recyclable modified-atmosphere package in the world. The recycled PET tray, used for meat, entrees and seafood, features a peel-away liner than can be removed to allow the tray to be recycled again. The patented system provides barrier protection to maintain shelf life and can be printed.
Combining MuCell technology from Trexel Inc. of Wilmington, Mass., with in-mold labeling technology produced a three-dimensional label. The label is processed with an injection molded tub made of expanded polypropylene to incorporate selective masking, creating areas without adhesion that allow nitrogen to accumulate between the polymer substrate and the label. The process creates bubble patterns for a Braille-like, multisensory effect. The package was a collaboration between Trexel, Paccor International GmbH of Zell, Germany; Britton Decorative of L'Isle d'Espagnac, France; and brand owner Unilever NV of Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Pepperidge Farm is packaging its Cracker Chips in a bag using Seal Tab technology developed in collaboration with Sonoco Products Co.'s flexible packaging operations.
The package features a large and visible reclosable tab with a pressure-sensitive adhesive system incorporated in the film lamination, offering greater surface area and better adhesion without obstructing brand messaging, the companies said.
Campbell's Soup Co. packages its Campbell's Go soups in a flexible, standup retort pouch that stands out on store shelves and offers greater convenience, according to the company.
The pouch, created by C&K Propack Co. Ltd. of Bucheon, South Korea, is designed to appeal to young, on-the-go consumers, and is microwavable with a short cooking time.
A clear gusset also allows it to stand up on shelves and gives consumers a peek at the product inside.
Heinz Co. said it redesigned its ketchup bottle to improve cost efficiency, brand equity, merchandising and consumer use.
The new design incorporates several key elements from the iconic 14-ounce, glass bottle, including label-panel geometry that replicates the facets.
The bottle offers stability under load, the company said, and a new squeezable area that quickly rebounds.
In addition, the bottle also reduces overall package material use by more than 20 percent by weight.
The Heartlight balloon catheter die-cut tray, created by Beacon Converters Inc. of Saddle Brook, N.J., is a 3-D, functionally rigid tray made from a single sheet of 100 percent high-density polyethylene and is designed to protect a fragile cardiac ablation system developed by CardioFocus Inc.
The tray, sold by Dahl Packaging Associates of Wilbraham, Mass., features five different die-cut holds designed to keep the different parts of the medical device secure during transport, while allowing for easy removal during use.
The tray is shipped flat and assembled when the product is loaded, allowing for greater transportation efficiency. Forty of the new trays can fit in the space of one of the original thermoformed trays.