ROSEMONT, ILL. — The days of finding simple ways to remove additional weight — and costs — from plastic bottles are over, according to one expert.
As director of technical marketing and business development for Bericap GmbH & Co., Lothar Brauer believes the industry has gotten to the point where simply stripping weight out of the components is no longer feasible to achieve lightweighting goals.
Instead, he sees a combination of approaches — including consideration of resins, bottling technology and package design — to help lead further decreases in container weights.
Consumer convenience and safety, meanwhile, must be considered when making any further weight-reduction moves, he said.
The plastic beverage bottle industry has been on a years-long push to take weight out of its containers, focusing on both the bottle and the cap to achieve some pretty significant reductions.
Brauer, during a presentation at the recent Plastics Caps & Closures 2014 conference in Rosemont, indicated that bottled water, for instance, has seen a drastic reduction in packaging weight.
“In the past years, we've gained about 40 percent weight savings on the closure,” he said, and this does not include changes to the bottles' threaded top — called the finish in industry lingo. When changes to the finish are added in, the weight savings are much more dramatic.
“I think it's amazing if you look at this accomplishment,” he said.
But those amazing changes also bring the market to this point, where he sees the development of new resins — which will have more strength and rigidity, for example — as one way bottle makers will be able to reduce weight in the future.
“Further weight savings will not happen just by stripping more weight off of the package,” he said at the conference organized by Plastics News. “I think there will be still weight savings upcoming” thanks to “significant design modifications, design changes to exploit further weight savings potentials.”
While the goal is to use less packaging material, Brauer made it clear that convenience of any package still must be maintained through any changes. Safety as well.
“One thing is for sure, we must not make any compromise for consumer safety,” he said. And convenience, Brauer said, could “mark the border line” when it comes to reducing weight.
New bottling technology and design will pay a part, and the new cap technology will be included in that part of the equation.
“The cap is not only a seal anymore, it's also part of the entire system,” he said, that will help support and brace the finish. Advanced closure technology also will allow for a change from polypropylene to high density polyethylene.
Bericap, based in Budenheim, Germany, produces some 70 billion caps and closures annually.