Packaging companies, machinery manufacturers and material firms are looking to give their customers an edge in the race for more sustainable and green products.
``Sustainability is about using a preferred material and eliminating as much material as possible at the beginning of the product life cycle,'' said Linda Bracha, president and founder of CPT Coextruded Plastic Technologies Inc. in Edgerton, Wis., in an interview at Pack Expo, held Nov. 9-13 in Chicago.
``It is all about source reduction and end-of-life scenario,'' Bracha said. The company emphasizes source reduction because it helps to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible.
The company, which has trademarked the name Go-Green, has developed a number of packaging innovations, including a thermoformed polypropylene food tray that eliminates sleeves, labels and overwraps, as the nutritional and product information is printed on the package.
The company uses a proprietary thermoforming technology to register print on PP, negating the need for over-packaging or over-wrapping. The process reduces manufacturing scrap by 30 percent and, according to CPT, has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 18 million pounds for every 100 million trays that are manufactured, as measured by the Environmental Protection Agency's Waste Reduction model, known as WARM.
``After we branded Go-Green, our market acceptance was explosive,'' Bracha said.
The sustainability push also is triggering more interest in different types of adhesives, said Nancy Smith, commercial development manager for packaging and industrial adhesives in the Midwest Technical Center in Elgin, Ill., of Rohm and Haas Co.
``You are starting to see more solvent-less, water-based adhesives for pouches and fresh produce packaging,'' she said.
``I really believe that if people start looking at efficiency, energy use and material in adhesive applications, the use of adhesives will grow,'' she said. ``Because there is so much interest in using less resources, that will help adhesives take off because they offer more efficient drying techniques and line speed'' compared to extrusion and hot-filled sealing applications.
A number of companies showcased machinery that can help businesses reduce the amount of material in its packaging, reduce costs and reduce its carbon footprint, including the Sidel Group in Le Havre Cedex, France, and Polypack Inc. in Pinellas Park., Fla.
Polypack, for example, unveiled several pieces of shrink-wrap equipment and product designs that accomplish material reductions, reduce costs and can provide users a distinct marketing edge.
``It is innovative packages that save people money and reduce use of materials'' that are driving the market, said Kevin Harris, a distributor for Polypack. ``If you can't save people money, you are not going to sell them anything.''
At Pack Expo, Polypack showcased its patent-pending NestedPacks that use staggered rows to create a dense pack, eliminating the need for corrugated trays or pads. The configuration enables companies to ship water or soft drink bottles in packs of 25, instead of 24, meaning an extra 72 bottles, or 4 percent more product, is shipped on each pallet.
In addition, eliminating the trays that cost an average of 20 cents each can save a firm nearly $4 million annually, based on shipping 10 pallets per hour in an eight-hour day over 350 days per year.
``The key to saving money and being sustainable is reducing material. We can demonstrate real results in reducing the amount of corrugated fiber and film.'' added Emmanuel Cerf, Polypack vice president of sales and marketing. He is one of two second-generation sons who are part of the company's management team.
Buoyed by the sustainability movement, the company's sales jumped 45 percent in 2007, and were up 36 percent in the first 10 months of 2008.
``The interest has been very high the last few years,'' Cerf said. ``Before that, it wasn't an issue because companies were rich in the United States.''
The company which designs and builds its own shrink-wrap machinery also showcased a concept that Cerf called ``a billboard for marketing'' in shrink-wrap packaging. The wrap, which can be machine-folded into a variety of shapes, would allow companies to have preprinted team logos on the shrink wrap that goes over packs of water, soft drink and beer bottles or cans.
``It is a marketable, promotional package that lowers cost because there is no paper involved and it is a way for the little company to compete with the big guys,'' Harris said. A company in San Antonio, Texas, will shortly be wrapping some of its products that way, and Cerf expects the concept to appeal to beer companies, looking to sell products at major college or professional football games.
Beverage packaging equipment manufacturer Sidel, which, among other things, makes machinery that helps soft drink and water companies reduce the weight of their bottles, featured its FlexLine equipment that can mold, fill, cap, label, pack and palletize 43,200 bottles (weighing less than 10 grams) per hour. The equipment already is in use at Nestle Waters North America in Greenwich, Conn.
Sidel also unveiled a new generation of its Rollquatrro labeler that integrates the roll stand into the labeling station on one chassis and uses an easier-to-maintain belt system instead of gears.