One by one, speakers at Pack Expo 2008 in Chicago underscored the same theme: the need to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment for their corporations, customers and society.
``If we work together, we can find solutions to reduce packaging weight and to reduce environmental impact,'' said Richard Bull, managing director of Enercon Industries Ltd. in Aylesbury, England. The company develops induction heating equipment for foil sealing and is developing a super seal for capless sealing.
The dairy industry in the United Kingdom has saved roughly 6.6 million pounds of plastic yearly and has reduced annual milk spillage in production and transportation by nearly 15 million gallons since it switched to induction contact foil sealing from hot plate sealing five years ago, Bull said at Pack Expo, held Nov. 9-13.
Foil sealing allows a reduction in neck and cap weight of the milk container. Bull also suggested that contact foil sealing can double production line speeds and reduce foil usage by 25 percent.
``If we all open our minds to new concepts and challenge the ways of the past, we can reduce our carbon footprint,'' Bull said.
``The reduction in sealing time is where you make substantial savings because that reduces your energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions. You can save massive amounts of energy, foil and plastics.''
Betsy Cohen, sustainability vice president for St.-Louis-based Nestle Purina PetCare Co., a unit of Nestle SA, agreed that everyone needs to look at things differently.
``As a society, we are not going to be able to sustain the way we do things now,'' Cohen said. ``We have to change our carbon footprint and how we use packaging.
``To make the best decisions, we need to starting thinking systematically from the beginning of the product to end-of-life and think across the whole supply chain,'' she said.
For example, Nestle Purina switched from a multiwalled paper and plastic sack to a polypropylene sack for its Purina Dog Chow bags, even though the change did not improve the recyclability of the package, Cohen said. However, she said the change to PP reduced the total amount of packaging material and in-transit damage for retailers.
The firm also switched from PVC to high density polyethylene for Tidy Cats litter containers because of environmental concerns. At the corporate level, Nestle changed its Coffee-mate containers to HDPE, in order to replace paper labels and glue with heat-transfer inks printed on the HDPE containers eliminating the label altogether. The annual savings: 6.5 million labels and 450,000 pounds of glue. ``Sometimes, it is just taking small steps,'' Cohen said.
``Everyone is looking at enviro-friendly, sustainable materials and reducing weight,'' said Bryan Wesselmann, vice president of strategic sales, development and marketing for Rexam plc in London. He noted that Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo soft drink bottles now have shorter closures that use less material.
Rexam continues to take weight out of its closures for pharmaceuticals, food and health and beauty products, he said. The firm also does life-cycle analysis on all materials it uses before making a material choice.