Earth-Friendly Packaging: Investments in Innovations
Companies invest in earth-friendly packaging innovations.
For Sustainability, Standardized Packaging Design Assessment Now Offered
Sustainability nonprofit GreenBlue announces the addition of a new service to its Advisory Services offerings – a standardized packaging design assessment. Companies interested in designing more sustainable packaging can now take advantage of this service to receive an environmental life cycle profile of new packaging formats or an overall assessment of their current packaging portfolios in order to identify opportunities for improvement. GreenBlue will leverage its Compass (Comparative Packaging Assessment) software tool to perform these assessments.
Using validated, generic industry life cycle data, the assessment will account for environmental impacts associated with the materials and processes used to bring packaging to market, while allowing decision makers to incorporate environmental parameters alongside economic factors. The confidential assessment will be based on a set of consumption, emissions, and packaging attribute metrics. The report generated, which will include a brief comparative sustainability assessment with dashboard graphics of up to four proposed designs, will provide an excellent tool to educate customers about a company’s sustainability efforts.
We must all agree that sustainability is not just a fad after all, and that it is here to stay. How can we make that assessment? Legislation is nudging the packaging industry to move in the direction of a greener packaging pasture. Consumers are looking for packages that have less material to throw away. And companies are investing in earth friendly packaging innovations.
There have been some interesting developments in earth friendly flexible packaging.
Cellulose has been in the flexible packaging arena for a long while now, though some new environmentally friendly advancements make this flexible packaging component fresh again.
Eastman Chemical Company has collaborated with Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI) to introduce a truly innovative bag package for liquid, the HydroPack, which is manufactured with sustainable cellulosic materials. This technology offers an emergency hydration solution for disaster relief, and uses a membrane made from Eastman cellulose acetate that is the heart of HTI's proprietary Forward Osmosis technology. With HydroPack, users can now transform virtually any water source – lakes, streams, swimming pools and even contaminated flood waters and mud puddles – into clean and nutrient-enriched emergency drinks.
According to Eastman Chemical Company’s product information, “HydroPacks are powered by a seemingly magical filtration technology called Forward Osmosis, achieved through HTI’s proprietary membrane that is manufactured from Eastman’s cellulose acetate. Forward Osmosis is a natural equilibrium process. Two liquids are separated by a membrane that allows only water molecules to pass, while excluding larger molecules and toxic contaminants. In independent laboratory tests, HTI filters meet or surpass U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water purifier specification for reductions in bacteria, viruses and cysts.
“Eastman’s line of cellulose esters, including the cellulose acetate used in HydroPacks, are remarkable polymers with a renewable backbone provided by nature itself. These versatile polymers are based on one of the most abundant naturally occurring biopolymers (polymers produced by living organisms) – cellulose obtained from sustainably managed forests and cotton linters.
“Eastman cellulose esters themselves are known as versatile problem solvers which are made from green, sustainable and renewable resources. These high Tg materials not only provide improvements in block resistance, but also in key properties such as rheology control, dry time, appearance, metal flake orientation, sag, flow and leveling and print resistance.”
Wood Pulp By-Product Used to Create Inks & Coatings
Sun Chemical has begun supplying coatings and inks that are produced from Arizona Chemical’s polyamide resins. Derived from tall oil fatty acid (TOFA), the polyamide resins are used in liquid inks utilized for flexible packaging films.
Tall oil fatty acid is a by-product of the conversion of wood into wood pulp when pulping mainly coniferous trees. Wood pulp, which is almost pure cellulose fibers, is the main raw material to make paper-based products.
Sun Chemical has included this partnership announcement in its Sustainability Report. “Arizona Chemical is dedicated to maximize bio-derived content in its products, with most of their products containing more than 75 percent, according to ASTM D6866 testing standards. Arizona Chemical has also conducted a life cycle assessment of TOFA in alkyd paint, showing that it would have a lower environmental impact than soya oil-based products on the four categories of human health, resources (i.e., non-renewable energy use), climate changed (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions), and ecosystem quality.”
According to the Arizona Chemical website, “As flexible packaging continues to make our lives easier novel packaging designs, inks used for printing on flexible films have increased their share in the printing industry. This trend is expected to continue with the introduction of improved high strength ink systems being developed. Arizona Chemical offers a wide range of tall oil dimer acid based polyamide ink resins.”
New 100 Percent Polyethylene Stand-Up Pouch
The Dow Chemical Company has been known for its commitment to sustainability, and here’s another industry-leading innovation. Jeff Wooster, global sustainability leader for The Dow Chemical Company, tells us about Dow’s newly developed 100 percent polyethylene (PE) stand-up pouch.
“The 100 percent polyethylene (PE) stand-up pouch is an exciting and innovative launch for the Company that continues to highlight its commitment to meeting consumer’s expectations and helping to create a better future for the environment,” Wooster tells FP. Its main characteristics include:
- Complete and hermetic sealing to avoid leaks
- Puncture and tear strength
- Recyclable with existing PE bag and film recovery streams.
“While some applications still require the use of multiple materials to meet all performance requirements, technology improvements now provides brand owners a 100 percent recyclable package. The SUP also offers the option to create a unique, glossy and aesthetically pleasing package that can showcase certain frozen products, liquids, dry foods and construction materials,” says Wooster.
Dow is also working toward reclaiming plastic packaging and using it toward other forms, be it other packages or even energy. “Here at Dow, we are actively working to expand all end-of-life options for plastic packaging. By capturing the value from used packages, we are working to shift end-of-life packages’ perception from waste to valuable resource. Dow developed the 100 Percent Recycling of Packaging philosophy to help the industry understand the full value of plastics packaging,” says Wooster.
“With this shift in thinking, we hope that all future packages can be deposited into recycle bins and can be either mechanically recycled, chemically transformed, converted into recovered energy or composted – assuring that their full value is captured. We are committed to collaborating with the entire value chain to expand the end-of-life options for plastics and all packaging materials.”
“Energy recovery, the practice of recovering the embedded energy in used materials, is a best-in-class approach that can offer additional end-of-life options for plastics, diverting them from disposal in landfills. The process can also provide a valuable alternative energy source, reducing the dependence of natural gas, oil and coal. Here at Dow, we are strongly advocating for energy recovery, undertaking initiatives that prove energy recovery’s value and engaging in thought leadership roles to build industry interest, advocacy and involvement.”
Dow offers factual findings to support its efforts: In 2010, at Dow’s Michigan operation, “Ninety-six percent of available energy was recovered after 578 pounds of used linear low density polyethylene was thermally recycled – that is equivalent to 1.1 million British Thermal Units (BTU) of natural gas. Six additional tests were conducted in 2011, using 100 tons of non-recycled plastics (NRPs) and two billion BTUs of energy were saved.” That’s significant recovery, according to Wooster.
Dow’s commitment to 100 percent recycling of packaging includes participation from others, too. “Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), waste haulers, local government authorities, plastics associations and brand owners will have to collaborate to increase the overall industry’s adoption of energy recovery and other emerging technologies. This viewpoint will require every member of the value chain to demonstrate and document the process’ many benefits, deliver easier methods for collection, recovery and mechanical recycling to consumers and industry, and develop an infrastructure to manage 100 Percent Recycling of Packaging initiatives. This is all while preserving the quality and value of the industry’s recovered material,” says Wooster.
In closing, large industry innovations like these prove that large companies are still investing in sustainable packaging and products for the flexible packaging industry. The innovations are endless, and so are the opportunities.