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Innovations and Technologies Spearheading Circularity

Packaging industry is gearing up with advanced technologies and new innovations in order to make a smooth shift to a circular economy.

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Sustainable Packaging
July 4 2022
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The focus is not only on sustainable materials, but also on modern machinery and custommade applications. Industry experts at the Sustainable Packaging Conference, shared the nitty-gritty of devising sustainable packaging solutions.

Demand for sustainable products growing

The demand for sustainable packaging is growing and the packaging industry is facing tremendous pressure to cater to this market, said Chakravarthi AVPS, CEO & MD, Ecobliss India & Global Ambassador for World Packaging Organisation, who was also the moderator of the session. Citing a recent survey, he said that more than 50% of the world’s consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for sustainable products. “This encourages the industry to take our innovations to the commercial market,” he said.

Abdelghany Eladib, President & General Manager at Middle East & Africa SIG, spoke about the shift in consumer behaviour. “In 2021, 25% of store sales consisted of sustainable products. Consumers are more conscious than ever. They are prioritising brands that drive sustainability and offer transparent information such as how materials are sourced.” With consumers becoming more conscious of their choices, brands are under pressure to come up with advanced innovations.

Working around plastic

 With sustainability at the forefront, plastic has gained a bad reputation over recent years, but as far as packaging is concerned, plastic is still the go-to material. Companies are engineering solutions that work around plastic, while also ensuring they are environmentally-friendly and economically viable.

Chakravarthi emphasised, “Just avoiding plastic is not sustainability – there are several other initiatives.”

Talking about the advantages of plastic in packaging, Oratile Mangope, Technical Service and Development Engineer(TS&D), at Dow Chemicals, Southern Africa, “Plastic packaging is very efficient. It has the lowest carbon footprint when compared to alternative packaging structure. Plastic also has the lowest cost per packaging weight. And so, for very little energy, you can get very efficient packaging.” However, she recommended its usage only when the environmental impact is lesser. “Consider using as little plastic as possible. This is where downgauging comes into play.”

Packaging also has three important roles to play, explained Oratile Mangope. They are promotion, protection and processability. “For brand owner visibility and shelf appeal are important. Hence packaging should have good promotion and optical properties when displayed in the store. Further, packaging should ensure very little food goes into waste.”

PET and POP offer highest stiffness and thermal resistance making them ideal for conversion and packaging. They also have great dimension integrity, toughness and allowing for a variety of different formats on the packaging shelf.

“In the past, flexible packaging has been extremely efficient in improving processability, promotion as well as protection. Just by combining multiple types of materials like polyester or polyamide with polyethylene, we were able to achieve all these,” she said, adding, “However these types of multilayer structure are not recyclable. So, now the focus of the packaging industry is to move from multilayer structures to monolayer structures to become more sustainable.”

Innovations and technologies

Positioning Bourouge as a pioneer in the direction of circular economy, Raghvendra Singh, Head of Regional Marketing, Packaging, MEA, Borouge, said “Bourouge has introduced resin, which supports mono ply laminates and mono material solutions for polythene as well as polypropylene.” Bourouge works with converters, brand owners and introduces new products which are supporting overall circularity for polythene as well as polypropylene, he said.

A majority of Bourouge’s work focuses on MDO-PE, full PE, full PP and then BOPP. Highlighting that it is not easy to make the change from PET to PE or PP, Singh said, “Bourouge is working on particular performance properties of resin and the processing technology. Converters and brand owners are looking for solutions that combine the right resin and the right technology in the industry to replace the complex laminate PET and PE.” “We are trying to introduce over-engineered resin in the market so that when our converters start adding the recyclate into it, they all perform in the market,” Singh added. He spoke about how Bourouge’s blue moulding application and secondary packaging application can take the PCR content and perform as per the brand’s requirement.

Singh said that Borouge had recently launched a few random copolymer products for premium household applications.

Abdelghany Eladib showcased some of the sustainable packaging solutions that SIG has worked on. “The SIG has set out to become a net positive company. We are taking all our materials completely from certified response sources. All our packaging solutions are currently and always will be the most sustainable in the market,” he said. He added that SIG beverage cartons have a high share of renewable content, lowest carbon footprint and are fully recyclable. Compared to other HDPE and PET bottles, SIG has the lowest CO2 impact. “Our SIGnature Portfolio is manufactured at 58% less carbon footprint than the standard SIG cartons.” SIG’s SIG NEO machine, introduced in November 2021, offers 50% higher output and uses 20% less energy, Eladib said.

Talking about Taghleef’s Dynamic Cycle initiative, Shovick Mitra said it is a set of initiatives aimed at addressing sustainability issues for its stakeholders. Shovick introduced Taghleef’s reDesign as a tailor-fit service solution for its customers leading the switch from a traditional packaging structure to more sustainable and innovative solutions. “We work closely with authorities, industry experts and certification bodies throughout the entire process to ensure our customers are offered the best sustainable solutions.”

With reDesign, what companies can expect is a switch from a traditional multi-material solution to a fully PP-based structure. Advantage of PP-based solution is that it exhibits significantly higher recyclability. It offers uncompromised performance while engaging in a complete reDesign, Mitra said.

Shovick introduced an array of Taghleef’s innovations that “exhibit excellent printing performance with high temperature resistance, ultra high temperature resistance, ultra high barrier as a sandwich layer, high seal strength and lightweight body with exceptional mechanical properties.”

Taghleef’s LMW2 38 label is a lightweight BoPP film with a density of just 0.55g/cc. It presents high yield and exhibits ultra glossy whiteness suitable enabling excellent print shade. “Being a PPbased label and being lightweight, its capability of floating on water makes it easy for separation for future steps of recycling,” Mitra pointed out.

D473 30 and D474 30 adhesive tapes fall under Taghleef’s re-Life film category and are made of recycled PP waste. D473 30 and D474 30 are BOPP films available in 30 micron thickness and they are made with 50% post-industrial recyclable waste granules. “They are engineered with exceptional surface and mechanical characteristics to serve the application of the adhesive tapes. It is a suitable packing material for acrylic and water-based coatings. This makes the adhesive a viable option to switch from traditional BoPP tapes to tapes that are made with high recyclable content,” he said.

Oratile Mangope said Dow approaches designing for the circular economy through five pillars namely design for recyclability, mechanical recycling, advanced recycling, carbon utility and bio-based feedstocks as an alternative to fossil fuel. Mangope spoke in detail about Dow’s various technology platforms for food and speciality packaging. She listed Polyethylene Orientation technologies, Polyamide Substitution, Barrier Incorporation and Barrier polymer Compatabilisation as some of the prominent ones.

Designing food and consumer packaging for recyclability

 “When we consider efficient packaging structures in the market today, they are largely made of multiple layer laminate consisting of Oriented Polypropylene or polyethylene. We want to move away from these non-recyclable structures to mono material types of structures,” she said. Talking about Machine Direction Orientation Technology, Mangope said, “ It helps us move from multilayer laminates to MDO PE laminates, where we are able to replace the BOPP or Oriented PET polyamide with polyethylene structure which are more recyclable.”

Mangope highlighted the benefits of Tender-frame Biaxially Oriented Polyethylene. “BOPE is a similar technology, where instead of orienting only in the machine direction, we consider orienting in the transverse direction in order to bring about stiffness, thermal resistance and machinability. This helps to improve the packaging performance and gives it better optics, dimensional integrity and toughness.” She said Dow has partnered with Bruckner to develop linear low and high density biaxially oriented polyethylene as well as barrier solutions for BOPE. Dow has also collaborated with Bobst and has succeeded in metalising Oriented Polyethylene at very high temperatures. These are used in high barrier packaging such as coffee packaging.

Mangope spoke about PE-rich thermoforming technology as a solution to replace polyamide in structures. “We have designed polymers like our innate range that can replace polyamide in the structure and introduce the stiffness and toughness balance to enable PA-free structure even for deep thermoforming. This will help brand owners in reducing their overall costs when it comes to EPR schemes.”

Pointing out that recycle-ready structures require the entire value chain to look at finding ways of introducing compatibilization in the recycle stream that has barrier components in it, Mangope said Dow’s Barrier Polymer Compatibilization ensures that we move away from recycled product that cannot be processed again in polyethylene packaging. Mangope introduced Dow’s RETAIN™ 3000, which is a functional polymer which promotes compatibilisation between polyolefins and polar polymers such as ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) and polyamide (Nylon) and blends of polar polymers. “This helps in recycling barrier films in polyolefins stream.”