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Can European-style packaging taxes save U.S. recycling?

I’ve been doing some thinking on how the recycling system could be improved here in the U.S., increasing the amount and scope, and I’d like your thoughts. There are some great models out there. But which way is best, for all involved, on both the producer and consumer ends?

At TerraCycle we’ve begun expanding operations into other countries, so I’ve been learning about what’s happening, and it’s intriguing. But I wonder, will it work here, or more like, will it be allowed to work here?

Germany’s Green Dot, which in France is called Eco Emballages, ( dual recycling system is among the biggest and most comprehensive out there. Started in 1991, it’s been amended a number of times to reflect the changing packaging landscape, consumer preferences and various adjustments to better fit current day reality. Basically, if you manufacture products that use packaging in Germany, you have to pay a fee that varies depending on the type of material, how much it weighs and the volume of it produced annually. If your packaging is “eco-advantagious,” you don’t have to pay.

Do you see where this is going? The greener and lighter the packaging, the less you have to pay. And the rest is much more likely to end up somewhere else than the landfill.

The yin yang looking Green Dot logo is becoming as common as the “chasing arrows” symbol, but doesn’t mean that a product is necessarily recyclable. It just means companies have paid their licensing fees to be a part of the system, and that DSD and other organizations will collect and if possible, recycle this packaging.

Does it make a tangible impact? Absolutely. In 2008, 48 percent of municipal solid waste got recycled. 35 percent got burnt for energy (the jury’s out on how cleanly that can be done), 17 percent of it was composted and only 1 percent actually went to landfill.

It starts out in a familiar way: People pay from 8 to 15 Eurocents for various types of reusable bottles, getting their money back via “reverse vending machines,” the packaging reused between 15-50 times before being recycled.

Local municipal recyclers collect the majority of the rest of the typically recyclable things. It’s gone the opposite of the single bin approach that’s so popular here in the U.S.: There are separate bins for plastic, paper, non deposit glass by color (like jam jars), biodegradable and compostable, and for the odd bits that don’t fit (like cigarette butts and tampons), the morbid “incineration bin,” which means things destined to be burnt for energy.

But then there’s a number of packaging items that aren’t part of the deposit return scheme or aren’t recycled by the local municipal system. This is where DSD steps in and takes care of what member companies are paying a Green Dot licensing fee to have taken care of. It too typically is recycled in some way.

All of this has meant that 99 percent of all waste that people generate does not go to the landfill.

But would this translate in America?

The U.S. recycling system has been all about single stream “blue bin” recycling, making it easier to do. Thus, the logic goes, more of it gets recycled. True, but without consumers sorting, and Chinese recyclers being happy to take mingled waste streams, it’s become an expensive endeavor, the burden almost entirely carried by local municipalities, meaning typically that less recycling gets done, and a shrinking range of products are processed.It seems simple to me: Reward consumers more for returning packaging to be reused (and thus reducing the new packaging costs on the company end), ask them to do a little more pre-sorting of the other materials, and both make sure the other bits get collected while at the same time incentivizing lighter, more eco-friendly packaging by companies, to reduce their packaging fees.

But would this pose an unbearable financial burden on companies, causing lost jobs and hurting consumers because of passed on costs? Please. This is the same sort of arguments that car companies used when talk of requiring seat belts began. They’re still here.

The advantages are many: A recycling system not so dependent on the economy, the capacity of local recyclers and less of your packaging, your brand, your identity ending up in the trash, on the streets or the ocean.

What are your thoughts on this? How can companies, municipalities and the consumer all play a part in more responsible, thorough management of the packaging we all create, consume and contend with?

Should we charge a virgin tax?

Brazil, beyond Carnaval and its taste for open source software, is doing something we should all pay attention to: Its National Policy on Solid Waste was passed last year, and has laid out an extensive range of measures to better address the disposal, recycling and reuse of waste material.

Of most interest to the Packaging Digest community is this paragraph:

“The National Solid Waste Policy provides for Reverse Logistics, a set of actions, procedures, and means aimed at facilitating the collection and return of solid wastes to their original producers, so that they can be treated and reused in new products–in the form of new inputs–either in their cycle or in new production cycles, so as to prevent the generation of rejects, i.e., the return of wastes (pesticides, batteries, tires, lubricating oils, and plastic bags, among others) in the post-sale and post-consumption phases.”

From what I gather, this program looks to meet or exceed other similar private/public waste reduction efforts like in Europe, encompassing everything from individuals to the largest companies.

These country’s examples got me thinking: What if we began taxing all use of virgin material in products as a way to increase the pace of upping the percentage of recycled and reused materials faster? It could be on the producer, the retailer or the consumer.

Aside from the sky falling, as I’m sure many businesses would cry, this would encourage a broader based use of existing recycled, upcycled and directly reused components happening, and fast.

Or would it?

It’s possible that companies, rather than move the needle on increasing the inclusion of non-virgin materials in their products, could just find a way to pass on the cost to consumers. To do so would be an unwise move, as competitors who do jump in with both legs will be offering consumers a better product at a similar or lower price in comparison. So while businesses with a near term, narrow focus on their costs may attempt this short sighted route, it will hurt them in the end.

What if retailers were the ones taxed?

This would be a whole different story. There would be an instant incentive to find comparable, consumer attractive products that cost less for them to stock. It could prove tricky, as consumers can be deeply attached to certain brands, certain products.

If consumers were the ones taxed, I hate to say it, but I don’t think any substantial difference would be made in their buying habits, other than perhaps buying less. Look at the recent ruckus being made over gas prices. Many green pundits predict this will be what, um, drives people to get more fuel-efficient cars, investigate other modes of transit, etc.

Rewind back a few years ago when prices did the same. How much difference did it make, beyond the already green inclined? Not much that lasted beyond the eventual decline of prices. Unless prices go much higher, and people get that they’re not going lower, mainstream America won’t budge from their comfortable, familiar options.

Some may argue, is subsidizing the use of eco-preferable materials a sustainable way to go? The often cited example is the rapid decline in solar sales when it’s no longer backed with rebates and tax incentives. To that I say, look at oil, corn and all the other subsidy-addicted industries that spend tons of money ensuring their cash injections keep on coming. Most industries of a certain scale need some sort of external push/boost to become/stay viable.

But this is not a subsidy I am talking about here. This is an incentive program, for companies to stop defaulting to virgin material, and start investigating what other ways they can make their products, both reducing the company’s impact and ensuring that available resources last that much longer for us all.

Call me crazy (I’ve been called worse!) but some creative, assertive actions need to be taken to accelerate the use of non-virgin materials in as many products as possible.

What are some ideas you have for achieving such a goal?

Recyclebank + Greenopolis = bright future for package recycling

As recycling has gained ground and moved to the forefront of concern in the past few years with the overflowing landscapes across the country and world, the innovative space of end-of-life processes has been growing. TerraCycle is no longer alone in this space, and we’re glad for the growth and attention that recycling solutions are receiving.

We’re often asked what our greatest challenges are, and we often respond that keeping recycling at the forefront of concern and seeing that “green” doesn’t become a short-lived trend that peters out in the next few years. From the recent trends I’ve seen in the packaging industry, I think recycling is growing stronger, especially with the recent merger of Recyclebank and Waste Management’s Greenopolis.

Both of these are recycling programs with different backgrounds: Recyclebank has start-up roots, while Greenopolis is an offshoot of one of the largest players in the industry, Waste Management. The merger is an example of how recycling is a main concern for groups of all kinds: While Waste Management has been traditionally focused on non-recyclable waste and common recyclables, a partnership with Recyclebank stretches the reach of both companies. The expanded recycling access and options this gives consumers is important.

For green habits and recycling to stay as trends, and gain ground, they need to be made as easy as possible, which is, in large part, the responsibility of the recycling industry. Partnerships and mergers between manufacturers, recyclers and trash companies are vital to keeping the industry moving.

Partnerships are important in expanding consumer reach. The businesses involved also need consumers to be able to sustain the partnerships they create and the services that they offer. The partnerships and offerings to consumers show that business and industry are serious about recycling. The question is, will consumers stay serious about it? The trend is growing stronger in the industry–how about in the consumer world? What do these mergers mean for the big picture of the end-of-life process industry?


The trials and triumphs of corporate transparency

Corporate transparency in packaging sustainabilityConsumers are demanding more transparency in sustainability efforts; stakeholders and investors are doing the same. As corporate citizens we need to give it to them.

Giving customers what they want is key to any business, and to keep investors and stakeholders on board, transparency is crucial to keeping them informed and happy. Packaging is at the front line of the sustainability battle, since it is one of the most tangible aspects eco-responsibility and is literally in consumers’ hands all the time. Nearly any purchase requires some thought towards packaging, whether it involves food, medicine or even new shoes.

Investors are becoming wary of overblown claims, and consumers are getting more educated about what “sustainable” really means. Suspect claims are being called out: Kmart was charged by the FTC for claiming its disposable plates were biodegradable, ENSO Plastics got in trouble for falsely stating their plastic water bottles were fully biodegradable–the list goes on. Increasingly, sustainability is hinging on honesty and transparency, and corporate transparency is vital to being successful.

Corporate transparency has positive potential impact; it helps grow trust in a brand because both consumers and investors know and understand exactly what they’re looking for. One of the most important benefits is that overall, transparency will have positive environmental effects because companies will have no choice but to actually be sustainable in order to win over consumers and investors.

Sustainable packaging even creates a business and marketing opportunity: putting “30 percent post-consumer plastic” on a package is not enough anymore. Companies need to be doing much more to truly make sustainability claims that will woo customers. In that vein, the business opportunity is lost if there’s no communication or transparency, because both consumers and stakeholders will remain in the dark about the sustainability and responsible business practices. The communication lines running between the company and investors, and between the company and consumers, must be clear and precise.

Another caveat: brands must be careful about potential partnerships. If a company partner or collaborator is not holding up the same standards of sustainability, or is making false claims about their sustainability, that can bring your company’s claims into question and lessen the impact of your efforts.

When dozens or hundreds of companies are striving for these measures, marketing wins will not necessarily be a given. A brand will also need to be detailed but simple in its marketing efforts. It won’t be substantial enough to say “compostable.” Telling consumers what the carbon impact is, how to recycle the packaging, or how to compost the leftovers, will be helpful.

While corporate transparency requires extra communication and marketing efforts and extra care taken when choosing business partners and suppliers, these efforts are not in vain and are, in fact, becoming crucial to keeping up with business standards. The efforts also pay off greatly in marketing and business improvement and–most importantly–for the environment.

Breaking down biodegradability and incineration

Biodegradable cup

Part of the problem with landfill waste is that it takes up so much space. Waste solutions such as biodegradable plastic and incineration that are seemingly safe for the environment and make our “trash” disappear appear to be a great option. An item made of biodegradable plastic, or PLA (polylactic acid) is appealing because you can throw it away and it will (supposedly) disintegrate and disappear back to where it came from. Incineration whisks away our trash with a puff of smoke.

The problem is that biodegradable plastics often don’t go anywhere, and incineration causes just as much harm, if not more, than the plastic would in a landfill. If you throw your biodegradable iced tea cup into the trash, it will be carried to landfill. However, it needs oxygen in order to decompose, and high enough temperatures, which it won’t get in the landfill because there is no circulation in a pile of trash that large. Your cup will live in the landfill just as long as an ordinary plastic cup would.

If you try to compost that cup at home, like the 5 percent of Americans who compost, it’s going to be tough. That same heat and intense oxygen flow needed to break it down won’t be readily available in a home compost pile either. Municipal compost is available in incredibly limited quantities; for example, San Francisco offers it, but New York and many other major cities and regions do not.

If your plastic iced-tea cup goes to the incinerator, the burning plastic will release gases, ashes and toxic waste into the air, which is incredibly harmful to our lungs and can contribute to smog. According to Zero Waste America, incinerators merely “convert waste into hazardous emissions”, and are one of the main contributors to the load of dioxins in our air.

If incinerators release this incredible amount of harmful waste into our air, it can’t be a better option than a landfill. If biodegradable plastic doesn’t break down easily in landfills or in home compost piles, and municipal compost isn’t widely available, the biodegradable plastics can’t be as “friendly” to the environment as we imagine them to be.

On top of the truth that biodegradable plastics and incineration methods that make our waste “disappear” don’t end up being environmentally-friendly at all, we also need to think about the entire life cycle of a piece of plastic, whether it be an iced tea cup, a butter tub, or a chip bag. We pull resources from our Earth, expose the Earth to the byproducts of this manufacturing, all for something that is used for minutes, or a few days at most.

When we simply put the item back into the Earth, or burn it, all of the energy and output that went into that product are essentially wasted and worthless. In order to make this energy use more worthwhile, the plastic needs to have as long of a life as possible, which means reusing or recycling the plastic as much as possible before throwing it aside.

The solution to the problem lies in two places. First, we must think about the way that we are creating plastics. They must be made so that they can be reused, and so they are not as harmful when put back into the Earth. Following that, companies - any kind of waste disposal company - must move towards being able to collect and process biodegradable materials properly, so that municipal compost and biodegradable disposal that truly work are available on a large scale and people can actually take advantage of the biodegradability feature. We could also consider if incineration of any plastic will ever not release dangerous gasses into the air.

TerraCycle itself has been working to team up with companies that offer biodegradable plastic so that it can be processed properly. Being an eco-friendly company means that we need to think and investigate every “eco” option before we support it and before we offer it ourselves as a waste solution. If we want to offer our customers and clients the ultimate green options, we have to offer consider whether these disposal methods and plastics truly are beneficial for the environment. And here’s my bottom line: we want to solve for every waste stream, and that means helping find a compost solution for biodegradable plastics - and also learning how it can be reused and recycled first. On top of that, incineration should never be an option as long as plastics release dioxins and hazardous fumes.

Does Earth Day do a world of good?

Earth DayAnother Earth Day has passed us by, marking 42 years of celebrating our planet on April 22. Every Earth Day–and April as a whole–is full of green marketing.

There are recycling initiatives, green pledge drives, awareness events and more. Some are awesome, like Honest Tea’s Great Recycle, but some are only half baked. As someone who has dedicated the last decade of his life to sustainable business, I couldn’t help but start wondering: might Earth Day actually be bad for the planet?

As both an environmentalist and a capitalist, I see both pros and cons in big business and companies celebrating Earth Day.

For one, Earth Day spreads awareness about taking care of the planet and conserving our resources. It’s become as ubiquitous as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, which means that everyone knows that it is happening. Everyone knows what it stands for and most people do something ‘green’ in observance. The increased exposure and awareness help to educate the masses about the principles around Earth Day and why those principles are so important.

However, it’s also an excuse for marketing gimmicks that are green on the outside but are actually just “greenwashing” or are really only for the sole benefit of a company. Reusable tote bags aren’t sustainable if you have ten in your closet that you never use. A prize of a “getaway” involving flying across country isn’t really green at all, and defeats the point of an “eco” contest.

My fear is this: there’s a false sense of security in going to extremes for our planet once a year. And some people only use this “celebration” to their or their company’s benefit. If we think one day of the year is enough for our Earth, we’re in trouble. When companies decide that one annual drive (that often isn’t truly “green” at all) is enough to satisfy consumers, our future growth in the success of taking care of our planet, and our success in the sustainable industry, will be stunted.

Continuing to celebrate Earth Day as it has been for the past few years–full of excuses for crazy, attention-seeking marketing initiatives that actually are actually worse for our planet than our everyday living - we are not helping our planet at all.

As part of the packaging industry–on which there’s a lot of pressure for sustainable measures–we’re partly responsible for this. We can shape our own marketing initiatives that indeed are eco-friendly. We can influence products and companies by providing and encouraging sustainable packaging and making it an affordable norm.

If we don’t push for these changes from an industry that has a lot of control over sustainability, there won’t be any change. People will be satisfied with participating in Earth Day ploys once a year that aren’t even eco-friendly at the core. There won’t be any real change because that one day will be “enough” when we truly do need more. Earth Day needs to be less of a marketing ploy and more genuine if we want it to serve its true purpose: encouraging change and inspiring moves toward more sustainable lifestyles.

EPR: Game-changing, or just taxing?

TerraCycle’s Chip in for Change program

As consumer demands for CSR increase and the cost of resources skyrockets, manufacturers need to consider the lifecycle and recyclability of their products more and more. Manufacturers that aren’t looking at the end-life of products may soon have their hands forced as extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws are quickly becoming a reality.

Here at TerraCycle, we work with major brands to recycle many types of non-recyclable products, containers, films and other types of packaging. Lately we’ve been focusing much of our attention on one specific (and very common)- waste stream: chip bags.

This summer TerraCycle is piloting its “Chip in for Change” program in Hamilton, NJ. Our goal is to collect a minimum of 10 percent of all chip bags consumed in Hamilton, but our hopes are to get closer to 30 percent of all chip bags consumed in the township. If successful, the program will spread state and nationwide.

Why 30 percent? Estimates show that 25 percent to 30 percent of PET and HDPE bottles, the most commonly recycled plastic, are recycled in the US. That is after 40 years of municipal recycling. Our goal is to see if TerraCycle’s incentivized return system can match municipal recycling rates.

We chose chip bags as our target waste stream because of the immense amount of chip consumption in the U.S. TerraCycle currently collects .5 percent of the 17 billion chip bags produced per year nationwide. Raising that only to 10 percent would massively reduce the amount of chip waste clogging landfills; reaching 30 percent would certainly be “game changing.”

TerraCycle choose Hamilton Township, NJ, winner of ICLEI’s Sustainability Leadership Community Outreach Award, because of its proven dedication to the environment.

As Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo said, the township is a community that “knows the importance of sustainability efforts and how they contribute to the Hamilton Township our future residents will inherit from us.”

With Hamilton setting a prime example, consumers are increasingly demanding the recyclability and eco-friendliness of product waste.

The amount of waste produced per person per day has stayed roughly the same since 1990 (about 4.5 lbs). However, the amount of waste recycled or composted per person per day has increased from 0.73 lbs to 1.51 lbs, showing an increased interest in keeping waste out of landfills. (Source: EPA, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2010 Data Tables and Figures.

In addition, corporations are more willing than ever to finance the recycling of previously non-recyclable waste. TerraCycle’s business plan is proof.

Take Mars for example: For all brands of candy wrappers sent to TerraCycle, Mars pays the shipping and makes a 0.2-cent donation per wrapper to charity. In return, Mars gains a sense of social capital and consumer admiration. Manufacturers, too, should feel responsible for their product waste.

With more EPR laws imminent, the choice may soon no longer be yours. In 2006, only 15 states had passed any type of EPR legislation. Today, 32 states have between one and six EPR laws, and that number is only increasing. (Source: Product Stewardship Institute, Inc. 2012.

Current EPR laws require manufacturers to finance the recycling of products such as electronics, paint, and carpet, and the safe disposal of products such as batteries, thermostats, and automobile switches.

No EPR laws in the U.S. yet govern the recyclability of containers and packaging. Europe, Brasil and parts of Canada have adopted these types of laws, however, and the U.S. should follow suit. With this being the largest category of municipal solid waste in the U.S., it makes sense that laws of this nature should be on the horizon.

Containers and packaging (steel, aluminum, glass, paper and paperboard, plastics, and wood products) comprise a massive 30.3 percent or 75.64 million tons of landfill waste in the U.S. (Source: EPA, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2010 Data Tables and Figures.

Just imagine the impact if even a small portion of manufacturers took responsibility for the full lifespan of their products waste. Millions of tons of waste could be diverted from landfills each year!

It is time for manufacturers to consider the future of the environment and relate it back to their own products. Take a cue from consumers eager to recycle, like those in Hamilton, corporations willing to finance recycling, like TerraCycle’s brand partners, and international EPR programs already established.

Your future is in recycling - unless you’d prefer a ‘per unit’ tax on your products.

From Naked to Clad in Leather

The Scandinavian travel-retail company Nuance Group Sweden was selected as the launch partner for The Absolut Company’s new release in travel-retail. “Absolut No Label” is a limited edition of the 40% abv Absolut vodka and will be available exclusively at Nuance’s Swedish duty-free stores until the end of August.

This Swedish Absolut Vodka is the number one selling vodka in the world. Introduced in 1879 as an absolutely pure vodka, made from locally grown wheat and well-water from the town of Ahus in southern Sweden and using a new distilling process called rectification, Absolut is smooth and light-bodied with some liquorice flavours.
The clear bottle is styled after an old Swedish medicine bottle.

In contrast to the standard production bottles, the “Absolut No Label” campaign features ’naked’ bottles, which are numbered and contain no label or logo. The bottles hold only a removable campaign sticker with the website address, where consumers can find more information and give feedback.

The Absolut company justifies this curious packaging design by stating, that it is part of a campaign contra the prejudice of minority groups such as gays, transsexuals etc. “In an Absolut world there are no labels. No one is judged on the basis of prejudice, and everybody is encouraged to be who they really are. Seeing beyond stereotypical labels makes the world more vibrant, diverse and respectful.”

And then Absolut switched to the opposite.

The 15th of Aug forty years ago, Woodstock. the seminal rock event, began … and the music industry hasn’t been the same since.

To commemorate this event, Pernod Ricard, the parent company of Absolut, is giving a new dimension to the phrase ‘on the rocks’ when it launched a special edition of the Absolut vodka bottle clad in leather and studs.

The Absolut Rock Edition is due to go on sale next month and will initially be on sale in the department store Selfridges of London before becoming more widely available in October.

“In an Absolut World you’re with the Band” - is a tagline of the new Absolut edition, wrapped in a leather jacket like rockers wear.
The drinks giant is to put the pack at the heart of a new marketing campaign linking the vodka to rock music and which, it claims, aims to make its consumers feel like rock stars. In other words: “The Absolute way of celebrating rock.”

Details of who created the leather-clad bottle for Pernod Ricard have not been made public.
As colour in an exhaustive rainbow is screaming from the selves, shape might be in the better position to attract the consumer. Vodka traditionally is packaged in glass bottles. Glass is one of those materials with almost unlimited possibilities in shaping and a wide range of decoration techniques. As a consequence spirits brands are masters at crafting shapely bottles. A world full of shapes and colours. … read the full article

Electroluminescent Technology and its Eye-Catching Potential

In principal packaging serves product protection (conservation) and promotion. Organic and printed electronics could help manufacturers upgrade packaging plastics to active early warning systems or cardboard boxes to multi-media information carriers. Current trends and the latest developments in this area were on display last June at the LOPE-C, the Organic & Printed Electronics Convention, in Frankfurt, Germany.

In my post on my blog “Best In Packaging” I describe a protection innovation showcased during the Lope-C convention mentioned above using organic and printed electronics. In this post I like to highlight the promotion and marketing aspects using high-sophisticated printing technologies.

Electroluminescent technology is based upon the use of conducting, insulating and luminescent inks, which are suitable for manufacturing printed electroluminescent films. In a further advancement of this technology, all of the electronic components have been further miniaturized, encompassing the integration of the driver into the printed electroluminescent film.

This facilitates its incorporation in product packaging. One of the first applications of this technology was demonstrated by DuPont during the Luxe Pack 2006, where they showed a prototype compact case, made of Surlyn by the UK company Toly Products Ltd, in cooperation with Seribase in France. In the compact case, which was meant as a perfume packaging, a thin electroluminescent strip had been integrated to illuminate the brand name.

Karl Knauer KG, a Copaco company, based in Biberach, Germany and manufacturer of innovative packaging, presented during the recent Lope-C convention, its new “HiLight” folding carton with printed, illuminated areas on high-finish surfaces. Employing the latest process technologies, Karl Knauer succeeded in attaching an illuminated display across several sides of the packaging and even on curved surfaces on the basis of printed electronics.

This display functions with the optical phenomenon of electroluminescence to shine in different colours and to depict logos, images and texts, allowing for multi-coloured light effects and animations, such as flashing and fading. All parts of the packaging design can be “HiLighted” - the logos, images, parts of images and text. Moreover, this smart packaging can also be equipped with motion sensors activating the light effects at the P.O.S. when a consumer comes closer.

Bombarded with hundreds of commercial messages on a daily basis and faced with more choice than ever before, “HiLight”, thanks to its massive eye-catching potential, opens up a whole new range of opportunities, particularly for marketing.
Organic and printed electronics offer also new packaging functions as they could help manufacturers upgrade packaging plastics to active early warning systems.  At the Lope-C in Frankfurt researchers at the Centre for Printed Intelligence (CPI) of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland showed an electronic spoilage sensor concept for poultry. …. read the full article

Food Safety - Temperature Sensitive Labels Destroy Barcodes

Recently packaging professionals were asked to rate the importance of 10 factors when developing new packaging, with a score of one indicating little effect and five a high effect. As in previous years, food safety is the top consideration, with cost, product protection and preservation following suit.

That’s not an amazing result really, as recent outbreaks of illnesses due to food borne pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes, propelled the growing importance of food safety among consumers and retailer interest in reducing losses from un-saleable products caused by oxidation and temperature abuse in the supply chain.

Although time-temperature labels are a well-known phenomena in the packaging industry, they all have the problem that the colour changes are not visible for the consumer, and that they go back to there original status in case the product goes back within the pre-set temperature range.

Tempix of Sweden currently launched a new temperature indicator that destroys barcodes on labels if the foodstuff or other temperature sensitive products are exposed to too high a temperature.
What is unique about the Tempix solution is that it is coupled to the barcode on the price tag. If the product has been exposed to too much heat, liquid flows over the barcode destroying it, making it illegible for the scanner.

The piece of goods reaches the customer, who by the naked eye can read off the Tempix temperature indicator. Furthermore, the bar-code becomes blocked if the product has been mistreated temperature-wise, which prevents purchase at the cash-counter.
The Tempix time/temperature indicator is built up from an absorbent (paper label) and a container/label cover including an activator. The activator migrates in the paper when the set temperature is exceeded and erases the bar-code and the optical signal bar after the time period stipulated. Temperature ranges between -30 to +30 °C (-22 to +86 °F) with an accuracy of ±0,5 °C (±0,9 °F).

The Tempix system is implemented in the ‘real-world’ by ICA (Inköpscentralernas aktiebolag), one of the leading retail business companies in Scandinavia with about 2 300 dealer-owned and own retail shops in Sweden and Norway. Since, according to the company, quality is a prestige word to them, it was natural to participate in the project for a new temperature indicator.
ICA likes the simplicity of the concept. When the label is on a product, shops are not required to invest.

Once the price and/or barcode label together with the indicator is placed on the goods, no advanced technical equipment is needed to control that the right temperature has been kept. Tempix reveals any shortcomings. The temperature indicator works both as a receipt and a guarantee. If something is wrong, it can be seen by the naked eye. For the consumer, the temperature indicator becomes a guarantee to have confidence in the shelf-life of the goods. For the partners in the supply chain the advantage is that the indicator automatically moves the responsibility for the product to the next stage in the chain. If it is unaffected upon delivery, accordingly, any problem must have occurred later. Hence, it is not possible to plead that something has happened at an earlier stage.

When you decide to create a dictionary, you know in advance that it never will be complete. Day-to-day life, developments and innovations create new products, words and abbreviations. Therefore the packaging dictionary I posted on my blog will be under perpetual construction, adding new definitions daily. However the result, as it is, is worth a visit. Looking for a definition in the wide world of packaging? Visit Packaging Dictionary at Best In Packaging.
Advice, suggestions, additions and comments are always welcome.