A growing number of brand owners and packaging suppliers are improving products and processes to minimize their environmental impact. Actions include setting and updating sustainability goals, improving the sustainability profile of their packaging, reducing solid waste generation, greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of water and power, supporting environmental organizations and adopting corporate social responsibility initiatives to improve the plight of the neediest among us.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc., Oviedo, FL, for example, estimates it will reduce solid waste by about 5.2 million pounds per year by switching from whitewood pallets to pallets from CHEP, Orlando, FL, a provider of pallet and container pooling services. According to figures in a lifecycle inventory analysis by Franklin Associates, Prairie Village, KS, participation in the pallet pool will decrease greenhouse gas emissions 58% and save enough energy to power 430 homes with electricity every year.
MillerCoors, Chicago, IL, saves the equivalent of 622 tons of aluminum each year due to a small reduction in the diameter of some aluminum cans. In addition, the company has developed numerous environmentally focused community partnerships, such as a recent collaboration with RecycleBank, New York, NY, a green rewards and loyalty program that has diverted more than 140,000 tons of recyclables from landfills. Finally, the company’s brewery in Golden, CO, is committed to zero waste operations. Nearly all of the glass, paper, board, plastics and metals used during the brewing and production process are recycled or reused, diverting thousands of tons of waste from landfills.
The Alcoa Foundation, Pittsburgh, PA, recently awarded fellowships to 15 Alcoa employees to enable them to spend two weeks working with Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, on research projects related to climate change, global water supply and sustainability. Corporately, Alcoa has set goals to reduce water and power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It also has a global goal to manufacture 50% of its products from recycled aluminum by 2020 and to raise the North American used beverage can recycling rate to 75% by 2015. In 2008 Alcoa recycled around 14 billion aluminum cans.
At Burt’s Bees, Durham, NC, employees sort material in its dumpsters to show what is being thrown away, encourage recycling and move the company toward its goal of zero waste by 2020. The sustainability exercise boosted participation in the company’s existing recycling program for white paper, plastic, glass and aluminum and spurred the addition of corrugated, paperboard, wood and shrink wrap.
Poland Spring Water Co., Augusta, ME, has surpassed two environmental benchmarks and been named an Environmental Leader of Maine by Governor John Baldacci and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Poland Spring committed to recycling 92% of its waste stream, a goal reached by the end of 2008 and now exceeded with a 95% diversion rate. The ISO 14001:2004-certified bottled water maker also achieved a 46% fuel reduction, surpassing the 37% goal set at the beginning of 2008. In addition, Poland Spring’s half-liter bottle is 30% lighter than competitors’ containers. The result is one-third less fuel needed to produce the bottle, one-third less carbon from the production process, and a significant material source reduction.
Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, OH, which ranks 14th on the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List published by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine, recently increased its sustainability goals for 2012. The updates reflect the company’s continued commitment and progress in improving the environmental profile of its products and operations and bettering the lives of children in need. The revised goals double the target for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, energy consumption, water usage and disposed waste to 20%, changes the cumulative sales goal for products with significantly reduced environmental footprints from $20 billion to $50 billion, increases the number of children reached through the Live, Learn and Thrive™ program from 250 million to 300 million and ups the delivery of clean water in its Children’s Safe Drinking Water program from 2 billion to 3 billion liters. In Europe, the company is reducing truck shipments by increasing its use of rail transport.
Cyanotech Corp., Kailua-Kona, HI, a producer of nutrition and health products from microalgae, is adopting a limestone-based FiberStone label from Natural Source Printing, Inc., Orange, CA, for its Nutrex Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica, a superfood that contains more antioxidants in one serving than five servings of fruits and vegetables. “Our unique FiberStone Tree-Free Papers have a carbon footprint that is at least one-third that of virgin paper, and half that of recycled paper,” reports Mary Loyer, president of Natural Source Printing, adding, “The production of FiberStone Papers uses no water…, no trees, no chemicals and very little energy….Right now calcium carbonate is used as a whitening agent for…paper, but people have discovered that it can replace virgin or recycled paper altogether. To the touch, it feels like a regular coated paper. And because it doesn’t require water to manufacture, it saves more than just trees.”
Certification helps identify sustainable products
A certification program, created by The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, Rochester, MI, helps consumers make more informed decisions about products and packages. Certified packages may carry the ULS logo if the brand owner can prove that the product or package reduces waste or energy consumption by at least 20% when compared to previous versions or similar products and marketing claims meet Federal Trade Commission guidelines for environmental statements. “Consumers want to make good decisions, but it’s extremely hard for them to understand the various environmental claims being made by manufacturers and retailers,” says Bob Lilienfeld, editor of the web-based, quarterly ULS Report, adding, “By setting strict standards, and using sound scientific data to evaluate claims, we can help consumers…purchase more sustainable products. To ensure that we remain objective, we are charging participants only for the certification work we do, and do not earn royalties from their sales. Also, we will be donating 10% of these proceeds to environmental groups that share our belief in using sound science to make decisions regarding environmental issues.”
The first products to meet the ULS waste reduction standards are Doctor Drain Natural Septic Treatment, Perfect Glacier Ice Water, and Safonique Laundry Detergent. All require significantly less packaging than competitive products, thereby sending between 47% and 78% less waste to landfills. In addition, the concentrated formulas of Doctor Drain and Safonique further reduce material consumption. For more information, see www.use-less-stuff.com under the heading Sustainable Products.
Forecast predicts $44 billion market for green packaging
U.S. demand for green packaging -- comprised of recycled content, biodegradable and reusable packaging -- is projected to increase 3.4% annually to $43.9 billion in 2013, using 59 billion pounds of material. According to “Green Packaging,” a study by Freedonia Group, Inc., Cleveland, OH, growth will outpace overall packaging but will remain modest due to the maturity of many products and the fact that recycled-content packaging is well-established in paperboard and metal packaging.
With the fastest gains projected for biodegradable plastic packaging and recycled-content plastic packaging, biodegradable plastic packaging is forecast to climb nearly 13% per year through 2013, driven by rapidly expanding capacity and increased cost competitiveness and lower pricing volatility versus conventional resins. Additional stimuli include enhanced performance properties spurred by more sophisticated polymerizaton and blending techniques; efforts by brand owners to improve the environmental footprint of their packaging; and legislative bans on polystyrene foam foodservice disposables in some parts of the country.
Growth for recycled-content plastic packaging will be driven by more concerted efforts to boost collection volume, an increased focus on the development of food-contact grades, and expanded sustainability initiatives by plastic processors and brand owners.
The 343-page “Green Packaging” study, published in March 2009, sells for $4,700. For more information, see www.freedoniagroup.com.Back to Top >
SGD Group, Paris, France, has begun producing 100% post-consumer-recycled content Infinite Glass containers for perfumes and cosmetics. The nature-inspired Gaïa line includes six designs for cosmetics and perfumes. In the perfume industry, glass generally consists of 30% in-house cullet (production scrap) and 70% raw material (sand, sodium and fining agents). Using a higher level of cullet (from in-house or consumer sources) eliminates the need to mine raw materials and reduces energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. TricorBraun, through the Caliber WinePak division, already offers SGD’s wine bottles with a higher than average 60% recycled content.
Water bottle recycling rate improves
The recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles jumped to 23.4% in 2007, a 16.4% increase from 2006’s rate of 20.1%. California registers the highest gain, presumably due to a state-funded consumer education campaign stressing the recyclability of PET water bottles. According to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), Alexandria, VA, PET water bottles now rank as the single most recycled item in curbside programs nationally. In addition, water bottles account for 50% of all the PET containers collected by curbside recycling. Figures are based on a bale study undertaken at 15 representative locations in 14 states by the National Association for PET Container Resources, Sonoma, CA. During the study, researchers sorted baled material according to product category and then by size and color.
It also should be noted that today’s PET water bottles are substantially lighter with average half-liter bottle weights declining 26.7% to 13.83 grams in 2007 from 18.90 grams in 2000. However, a more comprehensive approach to container recycling is needed, says Tom Lauria, vice president of Communications for IBWA. “Empty water bottles comprise only one-third of 1% of the waste stream. So even if bottled water containers were to hit a 100% recycle rate, there would still be far too many plastic containers of all kinds in the landfills,” he concludes.Back to Top >
Closure suppliers continue to expand lightweighted offerings. TricorBraun can offer closures from Innovative Molding Inc., Sepastopol, CA. IMI plans to expand its range of smooth TaperStack closures with three short-skirt designs, 89-400, 110-400 and 120-400. The new smooth sizes join 33-, 38-, 45-, 48-, 53- and 120-millimeter diameters and also will be available in the company’s “top stack” design. Both “stack” configurations make it possible to nest the closures in “logs” during shipping and warehousing. This improves case utilization and protects the structural integrity of the closure while enabling a reduction in weight.
TaperStack designs feature a stacking shelf inside the skirt and translate into a source reduction of approximately 20%. In addition TaperStack logs fit up to 60% more closures per case, cutting packaging materials 40% to 60% as well as lowering freight expenses, warehouse space requirements and man-hours related to packaging line replenishment. Widely used for cosmetics and hair care products, smooth closures also are suitable for foods, beverages, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and chemicals in glass or plastic containers. Innovative Molding offers various liner and innerseal options as well as custom embossing, debossing or printing.
An optimized high-density polyethylene closure from Corvaglia Group, Eschlikon, Switzerland, for half-liter polyethylene terephthalate mineral water bottles reduces cap weight to 1 gram from 1.6 grams and bottle neck finish to 1.75 grams from 3.2 grams (see photo showing standard Alaska neck finish versus new finish). For a beverage maker filling 7 million bottles per day, the combined weight savings reduces resin costs by approximately US$18,539 (€14,000) per day. A related design, Still Water BTL Short Neck, features similar weight savings as well as a tamper band that tears off completely without leakage from the bottle.Back to Top >
A new applications lab expedites the development of packaging made of Ingeo™ polylactic acid (PLA). The lab, which represents a $1 million investment by NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN, can compound, extrude, thermoform or injection mold the bioresin. Located in Savage, MN, at the site of its former pilot plant, the new facility represents an 18-month project.
“Some of the tasks of the new NatureWorks application lab include developing and testing compounds on commercial machines, moving Ingeo™ natural plastic into new product areas, demonstrating Ingeo™ processing characteristics to converters and working side by side with brand owners to test their product concepts,” says Marc Verbruggen, president and chief executive officer at NatureWorks. “The lab is designed to enable NatureWorks converters and brand owners to bring quality products made from renewable resources to market quickly and effectively,” he adds.
In addition to a sheet extrusion line, commercial size thermoformer, and injection molder, the lab has the capability to melt-compound Ingeo™ formulations and blends at rates up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) per hour for use in the lab or to ship to customers for evaluation. The NatureWorks lab also performs physical testing, chemical composition and molecular weight determination, and rheology and thermo analysis.
About the author
Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 20 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Food & Beverage Packaging) and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist. “My interest in the environment dates back to a high school government class,” she notes. “I was collecting glass, newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling long before my community had a curbside recycling program.”
In addition, to preparing the TricorBraun Sustainability Times, she contributes articles to numerous trade publications including Packaging Machinery Technology (PMT), Pharmaceutical Technology, Plastics in Packaging and Managing Automation. She also writes PMT Express, a monthly e-newsletter.Back to Top >