Flexible Packaging recently caught up with Mark Kay, performance group leader of NOVA Chemicals’ polyethylene business. Here’s a look at what he had to say about the development of such materials and how they factor into a sustainable packaging future.
What’s new with resins/raw materials as it pertains to sustainability?
Kay: We are seeing an increase in compounds/additives that better enable mechanical recycling of plastic products and, in particular, flexible packaging recycling. For example, we are working with a key additives manufacturer to develop new additives for film-to-film recycling in the most demanding types of packaging applications, including food contact.
Tracer technologies, which are chemicals added to a resin prior to conversion that act as an identifier of the package material, can greatly help reclaimers sort or separate recyclate for further processing. We’re also seeing a lot of additives for PCR (postconsumer recycled) content that can improve physical or aesthetic properties of PCR products.
There’s an equal amount of innovation in the application space, where we’re collaborating with film producers, converters and brand owners to develop high-performance, cost-effective recyclable multilayer packages.
How important is sustainability when it comes to the development of resins/raw materials?
Kay: It’s essential. For us, being responsible is a core value. It means we need to build in sustainability up front as we develop new products and think about the applications for those products. There is so much opportunity for innovation in this space, and it’s energizing for our employees.
What do you foresee as the future of this aspect of the packaging field?
Kay: Just a few years ago, the focus for packaging designers was performance and quality. As we move forward, designers will think of sustainability, performance, quality and economics all as essential.
Major chemical and plastics industry associations are leading the way with significant sustainability goals. Their commitments are indicative of the mandate we all feel to respond to the growing concerns about plastics in our oceans, waterways and natural lands. Sustainability and circular thinking are going to be core to business.
How does your company adapt to the always changing needs of your customers when it comes to resins/raw materials?
Kay: With a passionate dedication to actionable research and intelligence gathering, we keep a close eye on all aspects of the supply chain – trends, threats and opportunities – from both a micro and macro perspective. We share those insights with our customers and look for opportunities in which we have a common interest to pursue.