Plastic Economy Report Highlights Continuing Push toward Sustainable Packaging Materials

By 2050, the world’s oceans could have more plastic, by weight, than fish—if something is not done about it.

A coalition of industry players intends to do something about it.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in conjunction with the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Co., has developed the concept of the New Plastics Economy. It is part of a wider, multi-industry, global initiative called MainStream,  which aims to accelerate business-driven innovations and help further the circular economy. Partners in the New Plastics Economy concept include major producers and users of plastic packaging such as Coca-Cola, Danone, Mars Inc., Amcor and Veolia.

Sustainable packaging materials

The MacArthur Foundation debuted the New Plastics Economy in a 2016 report. An updated version, released this year, includes a concrete, comprehensive plan of action that encompasses the complete plastics supply and use chain, in all parts of the world.

“We urgently need to transform global plastic packaging material flows if we are to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material,” says Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. “This report marks a major milestone, calling out specific actions to capture opportunities for redesign and innovation, reuse, and recycling. It’s now up to us all to get it done.”

The Challenges of a Circular Plastics Economy

The report begins by acknowledging the challenges of establishing a true circular economy in plastics. Only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally, and the cost of collecting, sorting, and recycling packaging usually outweighs the revenues it generates directly.

Sustainable packaging materials

The three ambitions of the New Plastics Economy are Recycling, Reuse and Redesign. SOURCE: The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics

The report identifies several strategies to meet these challenges. Broadly speaking, they are:

Redesign: By redesigning the materials, formats, and delivery models of problematic packaging like small-format packages, one of the greatest obstacles to the New Plastics Economy could be eliminated. Without this, the report estimates, some 30 percent of plastic packaging will be never be reused or recycled.

Reuse: Replacing one-use packaging with reusable packaging could affect up to 20 percent of the total plastics market, the report estimates. Business-to-business packaging has the potential to increase reusable items such as pallets and crates.

Recycling:  Improving the global recycling rate, currently at 14 percent, has the potential to affect fully 50 percent of the plastics market. Doing so will require a number of comprehensive actions, including the initiation of a Global Plastics Protocol among developed nations to “reinforce recycling as an attractive, cost-competitive alternative.” Means to that end include choosing materials, pigments, and additives for maximum recyclability; improving collection and sorting of recyclable materials; and improving the technical capability of recycling facilities.

Food companies are in a unique position to initiate these strategies with regard to ingredients that they buy in bulk.

When they use flexible bulk containers, like bag-in-box or intermediate bulk containers, they can insist that the flexible carriers be designed, or redesigned, as monolayer. This gives them the advantage of using more easily recyclable materials while leaving the challenge of specifying those materials up to their suppliers.

As a business-to-business market, the food industry is especially well-positioned to execute reusability. Rigid reusable packaging for bulk shipments fits well into the closed-loop concept. The problem is that, with many liquid bulk ingredients, reusable bulk containers present issues of contamination. Even when this can be avoided, the energy used to clean and sanitize liquid bulk containers between shipments vitiates the ecological benefits of reuse. Using flexible containers inside rigid, reusable shells confers the best of both worlds: the closed-loop benefits of reuse with the sanitation of single-use food-contact materials.

As for recycling, the food industry can again reap the advantage of the business-to-business market. The biggest challenge in consumer recycling is segregating and sorting loads to ensure that each kind of polymer is processed separately. Because food companies have total control over the loads of used flexible bulk packaging they deliver to be recycled, load contamination is not an issue, and recyclers can process the loads  more efficiently.

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These three distinct transition strategies have the potential to accelerate the shift towards the new plastics economy.  (The percentages are share of plastic packaging market by weight.) SOURCE: The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics

“A new circular plastic paradigm will create great value for business and society,” says Andrew Aulisi, senior director, global environmental policy at Pepsico. “Many actions can be taken individually, but we need collaborative effort to make a meaningful shift.”

In summary, flexible bulk business-to-business packaging, such as CDF’s bag-in-box, Air-Assist products, and flexible intermediate bulk containers, has the potential to incorporate several of the strategies of the New Plastics Economy. They combine the safety and sanitation of one-time use together with the ecological soundness of reusability, and the recycling custody chain is tightly controlled. Contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure.

Bulk Container Liner Industry Positioned for Growth through 2024

The bulk container packaging industry helps facilitate the safe, efficient packaging and transport of food, chemicals, oils, beverages, and other products. Flexible packaging, such as IBC (intermediate bulk container) liners, holds the majority market share, and that is expected to grow until at least 2024.

What is so important about bulk container liners and why are so many different industries embracing them over other bulk container options? Cost efficiency, high performance, suitability for certain products, and a rise in global exports make bulk container liners highly attractive.

What Is Behind Recent and Projected Bulk Container Liner Growth?

Several factors are responsible for driving growth in flexible bulk container liners. One of the most significant is the rise in global exports, according to a Newswire press release for the new Global Market Insights report on bulk container packaging.

Flexible bulk container liners are lightweight and they do not require cleaning the way that rigid drums do. They reduce the risk of product contamination, and they transport more product than other containers of comparable size and cost. Whether transporting food or chemicals across the country or around the world, flexible bulk containers liners save money and offer superior product safety.

Which Factors Could Affect Future Growth?

Demand for affordable, efficient packaging is one of the largest driving factors behind such rapid growth, and that is expected to continue, according to the report. In Europe, for example, wine exports are up and gaining. “Asia Pacific will expand at the highest growth rate due to escalating exports of oils and bulk chemicals to North America and Europe,” according to Transparency Market Research.  Flexible containers and container liners make high-volume transport via sea or rail more efficient and cost-effective. In the United States and Canada, bulk container liners are in especially high demand for oilseeds, feeds, corn, and grains.

Certain factors could affect all flexible packaging options negatively. Because many flexible liners use petroleum in their manufacture, the volatility of the crude oil market could also affect the cost of flexible bulk container liners. The same is true for any packaging, as raw material cost always influences the affordability of the end product.

How Can Flexible Bulk Container Liners Improve Efficiency?

Flexible bulk container liners offer tremendous benefits on several fronts. They require fewer raw materials to manufacture and hold more product with less packaging. Flexible liners offer at least twofold protection against contamination. Liners are disposed of and require no cleaning, and many liner materials can provide a protective barrier.

Another significant benefit is the innovative ways that flexible liners can be used. For example, Air-Assist intermediate bulk container liners have an attached air bladder that expands as the product is dispensed. Using gravity and pressure, more product is dispensed. For high-viscosity products, such as oils and jams, it can significantly reduce product waste.

Bulk container liners have few drawbacks and numerous benefits. They are ecologically friendly, help support recent and future growth in exports, protect against damage and contamination, and help control costs. Now, they can even help cut waste down to almost nil.

To learn more about flexible, bulk container liners and how they can improve your business, contact us for a free sample and download our Air-Assist brochure today.

Reducing Your Environmental Footprint with Sustainable Packaging Materials

Flexible food packaging is no mere trend, and it is more than just convenient for you and the end users you serve. It is an ecologically sound choice that helps you meet environmental initiatives for a lower carbon footprint. What’s more, companies that monitor their carbon footprint and implement improvements tend to make money, not lose it, on the switch, according to Scientific American.

If you are committed to a greener environment, flexible food packaging is a leap in the right direction. Here is why flexible packaging is such an important part of an eco-friendly policy for the food processing industry.

Reduce Raw Packaging Materials

Flexible packaging requires fewer materials to contain, protect, and transport food than its rigid counterparts. According to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), it takes about three pounds of aluminum or six pounds of rigid PET plastic to contain 60 pounds of beverage. If you opt for glass, expect to use 50 pounds to contain the same amount of liquids. On the opposite end of the scale, 1.5 pounds of flexible packaging does the same job.

Consume Less Energy 

Choose flexible packaging and use less energy along the whole lifecycle, from manufacture to disposal. A recent FPA publication, “Flexible Packaging: Less Resources; Less Footprint; More Value”, states that flexible materials consume half the energy as their nearest competitor.

Flexible materials use less energy to manufacture. Because they are small and collapsible, they require less energy to transport when empty. When filled, their comparably small size and lightweight nature require less energy to transport, whether the vehicle is a delivery truck or a warehouse forklift. At the end of the lifecycle, fewer fossil fuels are needed to transport the empty containers. Check out our full product line of flexible materials and see the wide range of choices available.

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Shrink your reliance on fossil fuels for manufacture as well as transportation.

Generate Fewer Carbon Emissions

Less energy translates to fewer carbon emissions. In the same FPA publication, the Association says flexible materials produce 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than the next closest packaging option.

Choose glass, and get in return about a 1:1 product to packaging ratio and .29 in carbon emissions (Kg CO2 e / 8 ounces). Aluminum is better, but it offers a 21:1 product to packaging ratio and .08 in carbon emissions for the same volume. Flexible packaging provides the highest product to packaging ratio—35:1—and only .02 in carbon emissions.

Send Less Packaging to Landfills

No one wants to layer more unnecessary waste onto already overburdened landfills. Most businesses and consumers want to reduce their impact, and flexible packaging helps you support that initiative.

Fewer materials and less packaging put you in a more advantageous position for waste reduction from the start. Flexible packaging can also help improve food product shelf life, says the FPA, so less packaging is thrown away unnecessarily. With ongoing research into recycling potential, flexible materials stand to produce even less waste in the future.

The benefits of flexible packaging for food products begin at the manufacturing level, span the food processing stage, extend to the end user, and continue through disposal or recycling. It uses fewer raw materials, produces fewer carbon emissions, and is effective for containing and protecting food as well.

At CDF Corporation, sustainability and environmental awareness have been part of our policy since 1971. If you are ready to move into the future and reduce your carbon footprint, contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure.

Sustainability Checklist Highlights Ways to Reduce Packaging Waste In Processing

The packaging industry, product processing companies, and retailers have a shared duty to protect goods, consumers, and the environment with safe, convenient, and affordable solutions. It is a balancing act because improvement in one aspect of packaging can reduce or improve the effectiveness of another.

Examining the whole life cycle of sustainable packaging materials gives a clearer picture of the choices made and how they interact with each other.

The 2017 Food and Drink Federation Packaging Checklist for Food and Drink Business addresses three high-level categories of packaging and sustainability: functionality, the Three Rs, and transportation. With flexible packaging, everyone in the chain—even the end user—has the opportunity to effect positive change.

Category 1: Packaging Functionality

Functionality applies across the lifecycle of product packaging. At its most basic level, it should be strong; protective against leaks and external contaminants; free from or protective against contaminants within the packaging material that could harm the product or the environment; and easy for every link of the chain to handle, use, and recycle or discard with minimal environmental impact.

Flexible packaging encompasses those fundamental requirements of proactive and ecologically sound packaging as well as broader ones, such as brand appeal and cost effectiveness.

Some of the many benefits include:

  • Testing for ongoing lower materials waste and performance improvement
  • Reduced product waste from breakage and filling errors
  • Scalability
  • Ease of package filling and dispensing
  • Fewer materials
  • Packaging design flexibility
  • Lower transportation costs
  • Lower carbon emissions
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Every link in the chain can be a sustainability hero.

Category 2: Reuse, Recovery, and Recycling

Reduce, reuse, recycle: those are the basic tenets or Three Rs of waste reduction. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food waste and food packaging account for nearly half of materials that end in American landfills.

The FDF checklist addresses the Three Rs in two main points:

  1. If the packaging is intended for reuse, is it strong enough and is there a system in place to facilitate it?
  2. After use, can the package be recycled, recovered, or composted?

Not all flexible packaging is recyclable. In some cases, the product it contains prohibits recycling. With multi-layered flexible packaging, recycling may not be possible. However, Packaging Digest says there are several ways to improve.

  • Innovative design
  • Ongoing technology improvements
  • Improved recyclables collection
  • Better materials sorting
  • Expanding the use of flexible packaging to improve recycling value
  • Flexible food packaging might not contain food again, due to FDA purity requirements. But it may be recycled into packaging for another product.

Category 3: Transportation

Transportation by freight truck adds between 60 and 150g of CO2 for every metric ton of goods shipped. That’s according to Time for a Change. Air freight accounts for 500g and trains produce 30 to 100g per metric ton. Smaller, lighter packaging materials reduce transportation needs and costs, which benefits both the environment and the manufacturer.

The FDF checklist asks three important questions:

  1. Does current transportation use efficient routes?
  2. Can vehicles be loaded more efficiently?
  3. Is there a load-share opportunity to make the most use of cargo space?

Flexible packaging cannot improve on routes, but it has the potential to improve load maximization as well as load sharing to reduce waste emissions when incorporated into an overall sustainability plan. With markedly smaller materials that are strong enough to withstand stacking and transport hazards, such as load shifting and bumpy roads, flexible packaging helps meet this part of the checklist. Because it is collapsible, it also reduces transport emissions and costs when it is collected after use.

Through continued innovation and a keen eye trained on the whole life cycle of packaging, sustainability can peacefully coexist with product safety, convenience, and affordability. The FDF says, “A whole chain effort is needed to truly succeed, and we must all make the best use of our resources.” Shared responsibility, from responsible packaging to improved recyclability and low-impact waste, help reduce environmental hazards without compromise.

To learn more about flexible packaging and how it serves as an important component of a total sustainability plan, contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure.


How Continuing FDA Scrutiny of Food Additives Affects Food Packaging Choices

Additives have always been a tricky part of commercial food formulating, processing, and packaging.

Additives preserve food, enhance its flavor, and improve its color. Without them, many processed foods would not exist in their current form, or at all. But many consumers are leery of artificial additives with hard-to-pronounce chemical names.

Consumer wariness about additives has extended to packaging.

Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, material from packaging that finds its way into food, even in minute amounts, can be considered an “indirect food additive.” As with direct food additives, the packaging manufacturer must show the FDA that “there is a reasonable certainty of no harm” from all food-contact packaging materials.

Addictive Regs a Constantly Moving Target

Unfortunately, this has proven to be something of a moving target, for several reasons. New studies come along showing (or purporting to show) that a packaging component is more harmful, or that it migrates into food in greater amounts, than previously thought. Non-governmental organizations mount media campaigns and petition the FDA to ban packaging components, even in cases where its migration into food is minimal—or even nonexistent.

“The view that the mere presence of, or exposure to, a chemical substance is considered harmful [is] being applied to packaging,” George Misko, a partner with the law firm Keller and Heckman, wrote in Food Safety magazine.

Recent examples of this include:

Bisphenol A (BPA). This monomer is a component in polycarbonates used for beverage containers and in the epoxy resins often used to coat the insides of food cans. In the late 2000s, it was the target of a lot of negative media coverage, sparked by studies from the National Toxicology Program, the Endocrine Society, and others. These identified BPA as an endocrine disruptor that could interfere with the body’s hormones. Some local authorities banned packaging with BPA, and many plastic packaging end users began advertising that their packages were BPA-free.

Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)These are used to make paper, paperboard, and corrugated resist grease and moisture. Fast-food boxes, trays, and beverage cups are among the most common end uses. Food packagingAfter studies found that the most commonly used PFC,  perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), was especially pervasive and toxic, the FDA banned its use from most food-contact packaging. A more recent study showed the widespread presence of fluorine, the base chemical of PFCs, in a sample of several hundred pieces of fast-food packaging. The study got major media exposure and led to pressure on major fast-food chains to phase out the use of all PFCs.

“We just don’t know enough about the safety of these new chemicals,” David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group, a co-author of the study, told the Chicago Tribune. “Since there are other options out there, this should be a wake-up call for these [fast-food] companies.”

Infant formula and breast milk packaging. Under a change made in 2013, packagers who want to use a new food contact substance in packaging for infant formula or containers for breast milk must prove its safety to the FDA—a standard stricter than the “reasonable certainty of no harm” for Food packagingcomponents of other packaging. The agency instituted the rule change on the theory that because formula or milk is an infant’s sole source of nutrition, and because of their low body weight, the risk of exposure is up to 70 times greater than for an adult.

Packaging suppliers and end users will have to pay careful attention to such issues. These concerns could constitute a significant advantage for single-use bulk packaging, especially for applications where polycarbonate containers have been the norm.

“As questions continue to arise about the safety of food packaging materials, the food packaging industry will need to have solid science to show that their products are safe, and they will need to effectively communicate this information with government regulators and consumers,” Misko wrote.

Safety in food manufacturing and processing is a priority for CDF. Download our Bag-In-Box brochure to learn more about our safe bag-in-box solutions for food and beverage manufacturers today!