They do not get sick or slack off (unless something needs fixing), their job performance is always consistent, and they can almost always work faster than humans. That is why robotics are at the leading edge of the automation revolution that is increasing productivity across all sectors of American manufacturing. Read more
Food safety is not just a manufacturing concern. At every step of the packaging process, there is an opportunity to support or unwittingly undermine product freshness and safety for consumers. An error or miscalculation can ripple throughout the company and ultimately echo across the industry, putting manufacturers, suppliers, transportation providers, and consumers at risk.
While it is impossible to predict every potential food safety hazard, your diligent efforts can make a difference for everyone in the chain, including the end user. For every packaged food, there is a safe solution with the lowest level of risk. Through close examination of your processes and collaboration with your supply chain partners, you can identify it.
Food Packaging as a Potential Ingredient
Packaging and the food that it contains are not really separate entities. Contact with food makes packaging a potential food additive, which is why the FDA regulates all materials that contact food.
According to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a food additive is “any substance” that may become a component of food or alter the characteristics of food. As it applies to packaging, the scope of the Act includes coatings, plastics, adhesives, colorants, and any other packaging component.
Food ingredients, preparation methods, packing and storage temperatures, and a host of other factors can affect the integrity of food packaging in numerous ways. For example, fatty foods can cause delamination of certain packaging materials, says Food Safety magazine. If compromised packaging then contacts a moldy surface, you could have a new and unpleasant food ingredient.
Flexible Film Packaging Offers Various Options for a Range of Food Products
No single packaging material can be all things to all types of food. Take the oily food example. With the right material to help prevent fat migration, packaging retains its integrity and food keeps a predictable level of freshness.
Foods that require pasteurization need packaging that resists high heat. Acidic foods, dry goods such as grains, and even water introduce risks when the wrong packaging material is selected. With flexible materials, you can customize the package to the food and other factors in the process. Food transportation is another consideration, and so are the conditions where packaged food is stored.
Flexible materials provide a range of choices plus a level of data collection and tracking that is unique in the food packaging industry. Every film, seal, seam, pouch, bag, and liner is testable for regulatory compliance. If a problem emerges, there is a chain of data to track it and identify the source so you can correct it.
Ongoing Testing Helps Control the Risk of Food Safety Hazards
Working collaboratively with a flexible food packaging manufacturer helps you choose the right materials, but that is just the beginning. Strict and continual monitoring help you stay on top of packaging performance because nothing is really static in food manufacturing.
Manufacturing conditions may change. A new food ingredient may be introduced, such as a different oil. A new transportation provider might land your contract. The government could introduce new standards for residential microwave ovens. When any part of the process changes, including at the end-user level, monitoring and testing help you understand the scope of its effect.
Process audits, chemical migration testing, end-user considerations, and letters of compliance are just a few measures that Trace Grains recommends for controlling food safety issues before they emerge. Flexible food packaging enables a high level of data and testing for compliance in an industry that is increasingly complicated.
Every step of the packaging process can affect food safety in a positive or negative way. Although myriad factors can develop along the chain before the product reaches the end user, food manufacturers are ultimately responsible. Fortunately, flexible materials help you work proactively, not reactively, making course corrections in time to prevent a widespread food safety hazard.
If you are searching for a better food packaging solution, we have answers that can help. Contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure today.
Who would have imagined 30 years ago that thin, lightweight packaging could give so many other materials a run for their money? Flexible packaging is the fastest growing segment in the market, and for good reason.
Flexible materials are not one thing, but many different things that can safely contain a wide range of products. More than just a pouch or a bag, they offer numerous container possibilities. From beverages and fresh foods to sauces and dry goods, there is probably a flexible film that can handle your job better than its closest competitor.
Here is how to fine-tune the right selection for your application.
From How Many Different Types of Film Can You Choose?
Flexible film packaging is plastic broadly, but with lots of variations. For example, polyethylene (PE) is one of the most versatile, popular, and widely-used flexible films. Polypropylene (PP) is another, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is another common material. Some packaging uses foil laminates and others combine semi-rigid plastics with flexible films for a custom container.
These are some of the numerous flexible packaging options available:
- Low-density polyethylene
- Linear low-density polyethylene
- High-barrier foil
- Oriented nylon
- Co-extruded nylon/EVOH
Each film has inherent properties and performs better in some applications than in others. Your choice of film or film combinations lets you fine-tune the material to the product and supply chain. Whether you need top-lidding films, pail liners or bag-in-box solutions, there’s probably a flexible film that can work for you.
What Does Each Link in Your Supply Chain Need?
Does your product require sterilization? Does it need support for enhanced shelf life? Is there significant transportation time involved? What are the storage limitations at each level? Can you, or should you, invest in new filling equipment? The flexible film liner you choose must answer these questions and many others, as packaging is a much broader topic than just containing a product.
Switching to flexible packaging affects storage and transportation. While transportation costs are typically lower, stacking and storage must be considered if the materials vary greatly from your existing packaging.
These are just a few issues to think about when selecting your next flexible film packaging:
- Cost effectiveness, including hidden costs such as new filling equipment, at all levels of the supply chain
- Green initiatives at every level
- Enhancing product shelf life through barrier films and tamper resistance
- Reducing product waste with better filling, dispensing, opening, and resealing options
How Quickly Can Your Choice Go from Concept to Production?
Perhaps one of the most flexible aspects of flexible film packaging is its ability to quickly adapt to your needs. Switching from one glass or aluminum container to another requires significant planning and ample lead time. The effects of the change ripple out to every link in the supply chain, all the way to the end user. Switching to a new flexible film liner is much quicker and often results in lower costs.
Some flexible materials are produced quickly and lend themselves to customization virtually on the line. For example, one film may cut to numerous different dimensions, depending on what you need, and ship without any significant production delay. With rigid materials, you would encounter a whole new design and fabrication process that requires weeks or months to fulfill.
Flexible films are changing the way that the world approaches packaging. Comparatively thin, lightweight, strong, and versatile plastics can create protective bin liners, bag-in-box systems, and a host of solutions for your food manufacturing business.
At CDF Corporation, we offer numerous choices in films and protective barriers that help keep costs low, improve product freshness, and support the efforts of production, transportation, storage, and, ultimately, the end user. Contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure today.
Flexible packaging is no longer the curious cousin of rigid containers. Over the past few decades, flexible materials have proven their mettle in an industry filled with legacy giants such as aluminum, glass, and rigid plastics. As a result, more brands are making the switch for foods, beverages, and many other products. Are you ready to make the change?
If you wonder what is in it for you, here is the short answer:
- Lower costs
- Higher sales
- Better overall performance
- Greater sustainability and more eco-friendly options
- Happy users throughout the supply chain
Here is how flexible packaging can help your brand meet the demands of a changing world while getting a stronger foothold in your market.
#1: Store More Product in Less Space
Storage is prime real estate in nearly every business. Whether it is in your processing plant, your warehouse, or with your supply chain partners, the more you can store in a small space, the better. Flexible packaging takes up considerably less space than more traditional rigid and some semi-rigid containers without compromising product quality. The space-saving nature of flexible materials also translates to fewer trips in a transport truck and lower carbon emissions.
That said, maximizing storage is a trade-off if you cannot access the product conveniently. That is another area where flexible materials excel. With a tap, the user can dispense only what is needed without moving the container or putting the freshness of the remaining product at risk.
#2: Reduce Hard and Soft Costs While Meeting Environmental Goals
One of the most challenging accomplishments in any business is balancing environmental goals with meaningful cost reductions. Flexible packaging merges the two in a product that is better than rigid containers. It is a win/win scenario.
Pack World VP Editor, Pat Reynolds, lists some interesting facts about how other businesses are meeting their goals with flexible packaging. Here are just a few of those stats:
- Production costs drop by nearly 50 percent.
- Transportation and shipping efficiencies improve by 45 percent.
- 55 percent of brands that switched to flexible packaging saw better sales figures.
#3: Flexible Packaging Works for a Wide Range of Foods and Beverages
“Flexible” does not just describe the physical nature of film packaging. It is also flexible in regard to the types of products it can safely and conveniently contain. Wines in bulk, dry goods such as grains, chemicals, paint, cosmetics, and many other products can all fit conveniently in flexible packaging without worrying about migration, breakage, or contamination.
Flexible packaging is “innovative,” says David Marinac, host of Ditch the Box, at LinkedIn. In consumer-faciing applications, it gives food manufacturers the freedom to design packages that suit the product. However, even when used solely for internal food manufacturing and processing, the variety of ways in which food manufacturers can put flexible packaging to use are astounding.
Nearly every set of statistics reveals the same pattern. Manufacturing and processing brands are switching to flexible packaging because it does a better job on virtually every front. It is customizable, which gives your product better protection against breakage and migration.
It is lightweight and stores more in less space, which maximizes your storage space and transportation budget. It is tough, smart, safe and ecologically sound as well. If your brand wants to step away from the ordinary and into the future with flexible packaging, contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure.
From food growers to packaging companies and transportation providers, everyone in the American food industry is subject to the Food Safety Modernization Act or FSMA. Signed into law in 2011, there is no aspect of getting food to the end user’s table that is not affected in some way. With tighter, more comprehensive regulations designed to protect food from contamination being the new norm, flexible packaging helps you stay compliant proactively.
Test Packaging on the Front End to Help Control Contamination Risks
One of the most prominent features of the FSMA is prevention. It removes food safety risks before they have a chance to materialize. With flexible materials, you have access to rigorous testing before putting any material into your production line. Testing reveals how a flexible packaging film will perform for a specific food product under numerous conditions, from filling to refrigeration (and including heating in the case of cook/chill films).
Understanding the distinct strengths and weaknesses of the material lets you proactively address risks that could result in migration and contamination. It also helps clarify which films react best under certain transportation conditions. Testing helps you select the most appropriate food packaging material or combination of materials and guides other decisions such as refrigeration requirements.
Testing aligns with the partnership and shared responsibility approach of the FSMA. Not only does the act tighten bonds between national and international food safety agencies at every level, it encourages collaboration between food production, packaging, transportation, and retail stores. For example, your choice of packaging helps transportation companies meet their own FSMA Sanitary Transportation of Food (STF) goals.
Customize Packaging for Unique Foods
Recalling contaminated foods is within the government’s reach, but you know the old saying about an ounce of prevention. At the packaging level, a customized container is better at preventing food contamination than something that is more of a one-size-fits-most solution. According to Packaging Strategies, flexible packaging design can directly affect contamination risks in a positive way.
Customization is difficult to achieve with some materials. For example, it is costly to produce a unique glass container for several different food products. Flexible packaging offers a choice between numerous films in a nearly limitless range of dimensions and packaging configurations. Packaging production has a faster turn-around time, and it is also more cost-effective.
Flexible materials can easily be designed from the ground up to prevent contamination. There is nothing more proactive than that. Package dimensions, barrier coatings, dispensing taps, and many other choices are possible in large or smaller production runs. The same choices are possible for an enormous range of foods and beverages.
Store in Bulk, Dispense Without Introducing Contaminants
Bulk packaging, such as for oils used in restaurants, trims packaging waste, but it introduces a food safety concern. Once it is opened, air, bacteria, and other contaminants can filter in. Smaller packaging could help, but you would lose the convenience and cost efficiency of storing in bulk. With flexible packaging, you can remain FSMA compliant and still enjoy the cost-saving and efficient nature of bulk packaging.
A dispensing tap transforms a bulk package into a storage plus daily use container without compromising freshness or introducing air, bacteria, or other contaminants. Sauces, beverages, and more viscous foods such as jams can arrive in bulk, dispense on demand, and guard against contamination with a consistent barrier.
One of the smartest iterations of flexible bulk packaging uses an air chamber that expands as the product is dispensed. It helps eliminate product waste. Thick or syrupy foods dispense as easily as liquids because the air chamber forces product through the tap.
The Food Safety Modernization Act takes the onus off one party and distributes evenly across everyone who handles food products in your supply chain. At each level, preventative measures cut contamination risks for fewer incidents of food-borne illnesses and product recalls.
Food packaging has a serious job. It has to contain food without breakage in the warehouse, on a pallet, in transport, and in service with the end user. Each step of the way, there is some potential for contamination that packaging must address. Flexible packaging manages every point of that journey. It is durable, compatible with new sanitizable filling machines, and offers numerous choices in protective films that keep food fresher longer.
To learn more about how flexible food packaging can help you meet FSMA compliance goals, contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure.
Think you know all about flexible plastics? A lot of myths revolve around plastics, their uses, the effects on the environment and how they stack up against other packaging materials. What you do not know might surprise you.
In the interest of putting a few misconceptions about flexible plastics to rest, read on.
Myth #1: Plastics Leach Dangerous Chemicals into Foods and Beverages
Maybe you have seen one of the chain email hoaxes that have circulated for years. The details vary, but all of them claim that plastic containers, flexible and otherwise, contain DEHA and leach dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals into foods and beverages.
There are several myths rolled into the hoax, says the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA). DEHA is di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate, which is an FDA-approved plasticizer sometimes used in plastic wraps and other food-safe, flexible and semi-rigid plastic products. DEHA is not diethylhydroxylamine, says CPIA, which can be harmful in contact with food. Further, there is no evidence of a human health risk of using approved plastic food packaging that contains DEHA.
To add another layer of confusion, DHEA (not DEHA) is used in some flexible films such as food wraps. While fatty foods can absorb some DHEA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer says there is virtually no evidence that it is a health risk.
Myth #2: All Substrate Films Perform as a Migration Barrier
There are lots of variables in flexible food packaging and its ability to act as a migration barrier. According to Food Manufacturing, not every polymeric film performs as a barrier, and not every barrier works the same under every condition.
LLPDE or linear low-density polyethylene, for example, is a common barrier film, they explain. While it performs well as a barrier in some conditions, it performs poorly in others. Metallized films might give the illusion of barrier performance, but the reality might be more aesthetic than practical in some applications.
The truth is, the only way to know if any flexible food packaging film will perform as needed is through migration testing that accounts for the food product contained, environmental issues, and other variables.
Myth #3: Performance and Migration Testing is One-Size-Fits-All
A barrier film must be put through its paces under every known condition that it could endure. Only then can you know the strengths and weaknesses of any film used to contain a specific food product.
As an example, Food Manufacturing says the FDA has several factors for testing temperature conditions, some of which include:
- High-temp at 121 degrees Celsius/250 Fahrenheit
- Boiling water temperature
- Hot filled at 66 degrees Celsius/150 degrees Fahrenheit
- Room-temperature fill and storage
- Frozen or refrigerated storage for reheating in the same package
- Cooking at 121 degrees Celsius/250 degrees Fahrenheit
Other migration tests may include the character of the food, such as whether it is fatty, alcoholic, acidic, liquid, or dry. Only after testing a film for its intended use can you know its limitations.
Flexible packaging materials can protect food against spoilage, damage, and migration. They are not perfect and there is no single, broad-spectrum solution, but FDA-approved plastics do not put human health at risk, either.
LLPDE might be exactly what is needed for one food packaging film. For another, HDPE or high-density polyethylene might do the trick. The key is learning the facts about what flexible plastic food packaging contains, how it resists migration, and whether it performs as needed under its intended use conditions. That is why testing is a critical part of choosing the right film for the job.
If your business needs flexible packaging that you can count on for safety and effectiveness, contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure today.
Just like people, packaging needs a passport if it is to travel internationally. In the case of packaging, that passport is a UN number.
The United Nations has standards for packaging that is intended to transport hazardous material, especially across international boundaries. These are carefully calibrated to encompass the standards of major countries and international organizations, like the United States and the European Union. They rate the potential danger of the material being packaged, from extreme (level I) to medium (level II) to less (III). They also take into account factors such as the means of transportation, the distances involved, and loading methods.
UN numbers for packages carrying hazardous material are assigned by certification agencies duly authorized by the United Nations, which apply tests described in Chapter 6.1 of the UN Model Regulations. Individual nations have differing standards for how long they will accept a UN number. In England and France, the duration is five years; in Belgium and Holland, it is unlimited.
Generally speaking, the manufacturer/shipper of hazardous materials is responsible for transporting them safely. However, in most cases, manufacturers will assign their bulk packaging suppliers the responsibility of conducting the tests required to get a UN license and shipping number. These tests include stacking strength, drop impact, vibration resistance, and water absorption.
Most food products are not considered hazardous materials, but there are exceptions. For instance, bulk powdered products can present a risk of explosion, especially when the material is of high electrical resistance (which allows static electricity to build up). Certain types of edible oils can catch fire if exposed to high temperatures. Even without the question of hazards, meeting UN specs can help assure end users of bulk products, such as food manufacturers, of a package’s strength and integrity.
CDF and UN Packaging
CDF Corp. has UN certification for its intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) with flexible interiors and its bag-in-box containers, as well as its drum and pail liners. CDF engaged Ten-E Packaging Services, an agency authorized to grant UN numbers as well as certification from the U.S. Department of Transportation, for the testing.
CDF’s bag-in-box and IBCs passed tests for the highest levels of protection for packaging that combines a fiberboard box with a plastic bag. The tests included dropping packages from 47.2 inches on their tops, bottoms, sides, and a corner; stacking them for 24 hours while filled with 669 pounds worth of product; and vibration at 4.1 Hz for one hour. The tests certified that the packages are allowed to carry Levels II and III hazardous material under UN regulations.
Having passed rigorous testing, CDF’s UN-certified bag-in-box allows you to transport a wide array of goods domestically and internationally. Download this data sheet to learn more about CDF’s UN-certified bag-in-box packaging and how it will help you keep your business moving.
There appears to be no stopping the steady growth of the bag-in-box flexible packaging market, both in the United States and around the world. Although some companies still turn a curious eye to flexible containers for certain products such as beer, bag-in-box containers keep advancing and taking more and more of the packaging market share. These containers might look different, but they make good business sense.
Rigid materials, such as metal and glass, seem more traditional, at least for some products. But flexible packaging keeps winning over more manufacturers and end-users for one important reason: performance. Tradition is good, but high performance in cost reduction, product safety, freshness, and convenience seem to win out in the end for savvy manufacturers.
How is Flexible Packaging Expected to Grow?
The compound annual growth rate or CAGR of flexible packaging should reach approximately 6.5 percent globally through 2024, says Transparency Market Research (TMR). For now, the largest share by far is the food and beverage industries, which includes alcoholic beverages. They account for nearly 60 percent of the market.
Looking to the future, bag-in-box packaging for household and industrial products should grow over the next several years. TMR suggests that gains are expected in these and other areas:
- Cleaning products
- Washing products
Products that have long since adapted well to bag-in-box packaging, such as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and liquid food, are also expected to grow. And one beverage manufacturer in Germany has defied the odds with flexible packaging for beer. Beer is decarbonated for storage, then recarbonated when it’s tapped for drinking. There appears to be very little that bag-in-box flexible packaging cannot do.
Which Factors Will Affect the Bag-in-Box Market Through 2024?
The domestic and global bag-in-box container market is expected to enjoy continued growth through 2024 and beyond. According to TMR, this flexible packaging option is on the rise because it is cost-effective and offers benefits that rigid packaging cannot.
The increasing popularity with product manufacturers, as well as end-users, is rooted in these and other important points.
- Bag-in-box packaging is appropriate for a wide range of products, including paint, chemicals, cosmetics, wine, and food.
- Flexible packaging supports purity and protects products against contamination in both directions. The product is less likely to become contaminated from external factors, and the product is less likely to seep or leak.
- Because little or no air is introduced into flexible packaging while filling and dispensing, products enjoy a longer shelf-life.
- Both the flexible packaging and the box containers are eco-friendly. Production requires fewer raw materials. Bags are much smaller than their rigid counterparts, and cardboard is recyclable.
What Can CDF Corporation Offer You?
If your business manufacturers or uses liquids, chances are high that there is a bag-in-box option that is suitable for it. From wines to cooking oils and chemical products, this flexible packaging keeps products fresh, controls the risk of contamination, extends shelf life, reduces storage space requirements, and helps keep costs low. It also helps you do lower your carbon footprint.
CDF Corporation provides form-fit and pillow-style bags that work with manual, semi-automatic, and automatic fill lines. There is less product waste, and less packaging sent to a landfill after dispensing. If you need UN-certified packaging, we offer third-party certified bag-in-box flexible packaging that meets Class II and Class III protection.
Bag-in-box flexible packaging makes solid business sense. Manufacturers and food processors love it because it shrinks storage space needs, lowers transportation costs, extends shelf life, reduces waste, and helps meet ecological goals. Consumers love it because it’s smaller, convenient, lightweight, and keeps products fresh.
If you are in the market for a smart and cost-effective way to improve on your current product packaging, download our Bag-In-Box brochure today.
Sustainable packaging is starting to mature, both in the industry and in the minds of end users. According to Smithers Pira, the packaging market is expected to grow 3.5 percent annually through 2020.
Environmental concerns, corporate responsibility, and end-user expectations are beginning to align. That is good news for the planet and good news for the packaging industry well into the future.
Sustainable Packaging is the New Normal
Sustainable packaging once was a useful, umbrella phrase that differentiated ecologically sound packaging from all of the other choices. Packaging that was not considered sustainable had some immunity from the same level of scrutiny.
The packaging industry has outgrown it as a catchall term in much the same way as most of the world has outgrown specifying between leaded and unleaded gasoline. If you say gas, chances are you mean unleaded. If you say packaging, you probably mean sustainable packaging or you will in the very near future.
According to a report by PWC, sustainability is simply too broad a term to effectively describe the direction that the packaging industry is going. So-called bad packaging is heading the way of the dinosaur, but even that might not mean what you think. The goal is not necessarily to erase but to improve packaging on all fronts.
Sustainability now is about drilling down, learning more, and improving efficiencies, regardless of the packaging in question. Plastics, for example, have taken an ecological beating over the years, but consider how plastics have driven flexible packaging to the front of the sustainability herd.
Authentic Sustainability Considers the Whole Packaging Life-Cycle
Twenty years ago, you might have laughed at the idea that plastic could become a leader in ecological or sustainable packaging. It does not decompose, many said. It clogs landfills for centuries or longer, many said. But a funny thing happened along the way. Packaging manufacturers, environmentalists, retailers, and end-users started to think about the whole life-cycle of packaging as well as the goal of packaging in general.
Flexible packaging uses plastics for liners. However, those plastics contain fewer raw materials than many of their rigid or semi-rigid counterparts. Flexible packaging also weighs less and takes less space, whether it is filled or empty and waiting to be filled. That translates to lower transportation costs, fewer carbon emissions for transport, and even less storage space from end to end.
Plastics in flexible sustainable packaging also offer cutting-edge protection. They can contain chemicals safely with fewer materials. They also improve product safety, protecting spoilables from external contaminants for a longer shelf life.
Cost is another benefit. Flexible packaging helps reduce costs across every link in the chain. Who would have thought that plastic, not glass, metal, or paper, would be the golden child of the new era in sustainable packaging?
Manufacturers Can Help the Whole Industry Forge Ahead
One of the most important steps manufacturers can take toward sustainability is performing life-cycle analysis, says Pack World. Depending on how deep an analysis you perform, you will find some influential factors that deal directly with the global impact of packaging materials, but that is only part of the whole. Here are just a few considerations for your analysis:
- Brand image and alignment with customer/consumer packaging expectations
- Availability, cost, and environmental impact of raw materials
- Recyclability (New research is improving the recyclable outlook of flexible packaging.)
- Equipment and machinery required for production and filling
- Product waste through filling, breakage potential, dispensing, and shelf life
- Carbon emissions during packaging manufacture, product filling, transportation, recycling, etc.
- Energy consumption at all stages of manufacture, use, and disposal
The key now is not embracing any single trend, but finding packaging materials that meet your sustainability goals and refining them for better performance over the long term.
What makes packaging sustainable or environmentally friendly is much more than the volume or source of raw materials or whether or not those materials are recyclable. Now, sustainability considers every stage of the value chain.
How can packaging improve the planet, the lives of workers, the lifestyle of consumers, and the bottom line of corporations? Those are the questions drive sustainable packaging today. Contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure to learn more about what flexible packaging can do for your sustainability goals.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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