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Articles from 2018 In February

A new twist on designing plastic packaging
The New Plastics Economy takes a circular view of packaging design for recycling.

A new twist on designing plastic packaging

The next phase of the plastics economy will mean going around in circles—but in a good way.

The “new plastics economy” will require rethinking all aspects of the plastics supply chain, both pre- and post-consumer, so that more kinds of material can be brought into a truly circular economy. That’s one of the points Rick Zultner, director of process and product development at TerraCycle, and Leonore Adams, safety, environment and sustainability manager at Amcor Rigid Plastics, will be making at “Understanding and Succeeding in The New Plastics Economy,” a keynote panel discussion at PackEx Toronto, to be held May 16-18 at the Toronto (Ontario) Congress Centre. The session will be moderated by Norbert Sparrow, editor in chief of PlasticsToday.

Zultner and Adams talked with Packaging Digest about the new plastics economy and what it means for recyclers like TerraCycle and others in the packaging industry.

What do you understand “the new plastics economy” to be? In what ways does it differ from the “old” plastics economy?

Zultner: I understand the “new” plastics economy to be the pursuit and development of a circular economy for all plastic materials, and better material efficiency. It is an evolution of the “old” plastic economy, with longer term environmental considerations and lifecycle thinking applied.

I would characterize the “old” plastics economy as the development and expansion of plastic products. Where the old plastics economy expanded consumers’ access to products that might have been too expensive or impossible with previous materials, the new plastics economy seeks to minimize the environmental impacts associated with the production, consumption and disposal of those products.

Adams: The same properties that make plastic such a popular material—strength and durability, for example—become a problem when they are mismanaged. The same plastic bottle that keeps your milk safe to drink or doesn’t break when you drop your shampoo in the shower can take thousands of years to degrade in the natural environment.

Based on research performed in the latest New Plastics Economy report “Catalyzing Action,” only 14% of plastics packaging is being recovered for recycling, and 95% of its value is lost after a single use by consumers. This is the “old” plastics economy—one in which the vast majority of plastics are used once and then discarded.

Amcor joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative as a Core Partner to contribute to the shift to the “new” plastics economy—one in which plastic molecules are available for use over and over again.

What are the sorts of decisions/changes with regard to plastic packaging that can make a difference in the new plastics economy?

Zultner: Use more systems and lifecycle thinking in packaging design, and optimize packaging as part of a much bigger material and consumer system. We already have design guides to support rigid plastic packaging, but we are in the beginning stages of developing that system for more complex and harder-to-recycle materials.

For the near term, we can still use some general rules: packaging should be designed for recyclability, use recycled material and clearly communicate how to be properly recycled. Implementing those three ideas simplifies recycling for consumers, and supports the recycled material markets at the same time.

Longer-term, I would expect that packaging design will have a more integrated approach. We will probably see more specific design standards and material standards to reduce the variety of new packaging formats and materials. Labeling will likely be standardized to make the consumer’s experience with the packaging and product end-of-life easier.

Adams: Transitioning to a circular economy for plastic packaging won’t be easy, but the benefits to the environment and society are immeasurable.

The 2017 “Catalyzing Action” report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative details three areas in need of innovation to transform the plastics economy to a circular model:

• The first lever is focused on packaging innovation and systems to innovate on difficult-to-recover plastics—the ones that are not currently reused or recycled. Small-format packaging, like sachets or single-use rigid plastics, are examples of formats that provide great value to consumers across the world, but are lost in the recovery stage…or worse, find their way into waterways and marine environments. 

• The second lever is focused on the ability to scale up re-use of materials and uncovering opportunities to shift to service models from single use applications today. A great example there is in the use of refillable soda bottles in certain parts of Europe and Latin America, where a single bottle is used between 20 and 30 times before being recovered. 

• The third lever is focused on optimizing recycling system design, which includes increasing demand for high-quality recycled material, designing single-use packaging for better recyclability, and ultimately optimizing existing recycling processes and infrastructure.

TerraCycle specializes in handling hard-to-recycle materials. Which, in your opinion, will be more fruitful in the new plastics economy: improved technologies for recycling such materials, or packaging design that minimizes or eliminates the use of such materials?

Zultner: Preventing the material recycling challenge in the first place is to design packaging without hard-to-recycle materials. But that answer ignores many of the underlying design considerations that have created the complex materials in the first place. Packaging designers want to improve the customer’s experience with the packaging and product, reduce the material used in the packaging, and optimize the packaging system for transportation and display. Those objectives have driven the growth of hard-to-recycle materials as packaging gets more complex.

I think the improving recycling technology and optimization of the recycling system as a whole will be the bigger development for the new plastics economy. The design of packaging itself is a vital portion of the closing the loop, but outside of a complete design reversal to materials that are already recycled, the recycling system and recycling technology will still need to develop.

Freelancer Pan Demetrakakes began his trade publishing career in 1992 by covering packaging, which he has done for several publications over the years. Other areas of coverage in his career include the food supply chain from production through retailing, as well as specialty coffee retailing, gift and housewares retailing, and industrial coatings.


Learn more about the "new" plastics economy and other developments in sustainable packaging at PackEx Toronto 2017 (May 16-18; Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Register today!

Could single-use devices help reduce healthcare costs?
Xenco Medical's cervical implant. Image courtesy of Xenco Medical

Could single-use devices help reduce healthcare costs?

Reusing metal instruments could be draining hospitals of both time and resources, argues Jason Haider. To address what he calls an “antiquated medical device supply chain,” he founded Xenco Medical to offer surgical instruments and implants packaged together in sterile, single-use systems. Packaging is key to the company’s strategy.

“As the inefficiencies of reused metal devices have necessitated repeated sterilization and the cumbersome transport of heavy metal trays after each surgery, both hospitals and outpatient surgery centers have had to compromise on the cost effectiveness of their care,” he tells PMP News.

Haider estimates that sterilizing and transporting such reusables after each operation requires a minimum of 3.5 hours to complete. “With the sterilization costs alone approaching $1000 for each surgery, the lost surgical time due to the unavailability of instrument and implant sets is particularly costly to small facilities with limited resources and patient volumes such as outpatient surgery centers,” he says.

With Xenco Medical’s solution, he calculates that disposing the single-use surgical instruments could range “from 9 cents to 71 cents, and the savings from sterilization alone averages from $850 to $950 dollars per case.”

He describes Xenco Medical’s single-use systems as “the first composite-polymer systems of their kind. Because of the unique nature of both the interfacial bond and the orientation of the components inside the composite polymer of Xenco's instruments, they are capable of withstanding very high loads without any deformations forming in the fiber-matrix interface. Because of these material properties, the instruments have the same appearance, handling, and performance as metal instruments without the associated inefficiencies, deterioration, and risk of patient-to-patient pathogen transfer.”

Above: Xenco Medical's pedicle screw system

When asked how the total cost of ownership compares with that of implants and reusable metal instruments, Haider says that “because Xenco Medical’s products exist within a new manufacturing paradigm, the cost of ownership of Xenco Medical’s products is dramatically lower than that of reusable metal instruments and their corresponding implants. Using a specific injection molding process, Xenco Medical’s instruments allow for inexpensive scaling, eliminating the need to invest exorbitant sums of money to manufacture and inevitably repair metal sets of instruments.”

To help surgeons select the appropriate supplies, Haider says that single-use size trial kits enable surgeons to assess the size of implant needed. “The instrument footprints in these packages of trials and rasps correspond to the implant footprints. Each height trial or rasp tip is inserted sequentially into the intervertebral space until the desired fit is achieved.”

Once the right size is determined, the surgical team identifies the corresponding Xenco Medical interbody device size for implantation and opens a single package containing the right supplies, Haider says.

“The implants are pre-loaded to their insertion devices, so there is no need to load them to any instrumentation. The insertion device is discarded after implantation,” he says.

Instruments and implants are grouped in packages according to size and the instruments typically needed for standard spinal, cervical, lumbar, and other surgical procedures. “The contents of every package are assembled to make the procedure as intuitive as possible and based on standard spinal procedures,” he says. “Each interbody implant package has an implant pre-attached to a corresponding inserter, so that a surgeon simply needs to insert the spinal implant into the intervertebral space and then turn the handle to release the interbody. For complex systems such as our pedicle screw system, we have packaged a streamlined, single-use system of every essential tool required. Our pedicle screws are sterile packaged separately to allow for variability.” 

If additional instruments are needed during a procedure, “the surgeon’s support staff simply opens the additional instruments required from their package, regardless if it was planned going into the operation,” he adds.

To ease inventory concerns for hospitals, Xenco Medical stocks several weeks’ worth of inventory for surgeries and replenishes items immediately after each case. “This allows for surgery-ready systems, which has been important for trauma, he says. “In the case that a hospital does not have room for any inventory, we have a mobile application called TraumaGPS that allows surgeons to request any Xenco Medical inventory they need delivered by their dedicated sales representative with real-time ETA and GPS tracking,” he says.

Double sterile barriers are employed. “The instruments and implants are housed in PETG trays that are heat-sealed with Tyvek lids,” he says. “PETG/Tyvek have been used for sterile-packaging medical devices for many years, and this combination provides for a robust sterile barrier that is capable of withstanding a multitude of package weights and configurations. Both Tyvek and PETG are also resistant to gamma irradiation used in the sterilization process and have excellent biocompatibility properties.”

Xenco Medical’s PETG trays are designed to be ergonomic, Haider says. “The outer lid can be easily removed from the outer tray by OR personnel. The inner tray can then be dumped onto the sterile field. A scrubbed person will then open the inner package,” he says. The packages are also designed “to have a product presentation consistent with other products normally handled in the operating room, so personnel are easily instructed by our brochures or salesforce.”

All Xenco Medical packages containing either or both instruments and implants are marked with UDI. “Our implantable devices inside the sterile packages are marked with both part numbers and lot numbers,” he says. 

PMP News asked how the solution would satisfy hospital systems looking to improve their sustainability programs, environmental footprint, and/or reduce waste. “Xenco Medical has leveraged materials science to manufacture lightweight yet remarkably durable instruments that have a smaller carbon footprint than heavy metal instruments, which are not only ecologically costly to manufacture but environmentally demanding to maintain,” Haider says. 

For example, “through its Water Sense Initiative, the EPA has specifically noted that water waste at hospitals accounts for 7 percent of the total commercial water consumption of the nation,” he continued. “In addition to that, the agency has listed medical process rinses among the most water-demanding. Taking note of this, the EPA has made efforts to help hospitals curb their water consumption. Each steam sterilization cycle requires an average of 300 to 400 gallons of water, and every complex surgery with reusable instruments requires several of these cycles. Water waste is only one component of a cycle that involves the release of detergents and electricity-intensive operations. The ecological impact of maintaining reusable systems aside, their energy-demanding manufacturing process and their deterioration have a significant environmental impact.” He also points to a study published in January of this year in the Journal of Endourology found that single-use urological instruments had a carbon footprint of 4.43kg of CO2 per surgery while reusable urological instruments had a carbon footprint of 4.47kg of CO2 per surgery.

Above: Jason Haider, founder and CEO of Xenco Medical. Photo by Grace Miller.

Haider says that after being “extremely encouraged by the overwhelming response our implant systems have received from surgeons and healthcare facilities across the country,” the company is planning future launches. “Though I can’t reveal too much, we will be announcing a launch early this summer,” he says. “This will be a breakthrough interbody implant, which could easily have an entire following on its own. In addition to that, we have been developing logistics-based technologies that will further amplify the impact our systems have in streamlining inventory management at hospitals and outpatient surgery centers.”

New packages introduced in 2017

166 new packages to inspire you

Regardless of what responsibilities they have or titles they hold, packaging professionals can all rally around the final product: The Package. It’s the hub of activity for most packaging teams. That’s why it’s helpful to look at packages from other markets to inspire innovation and incite competitive juices.

Well, stand back as we present…(drum roll)…166 new packages that were published on throughout 2017. See designs from leading brand owners—Kellogg, Bona, Quaker Oats, Dior, Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay North America, Unilever, McCormick & Co., Valvoline Inc., GlaxoSmithKline and more—as well as from entrepreneurial startups.

This searchable database gives you links to full articles. But it also includes photos, captions and summaries so you can quickly scan through the items. Then you can experience them all; or just those in your market: Automotive, Beverage, Cannabis, Cosmetics, Floral, Food, Household Products, Industrial, Medical, Personal Care, Pet Food and Pharmaceutical.

Items are initially presented in chronological order of published date, most recent at top.

Download the document for free below.

This is the second year we've pulled this type of database together. You can do a free download of our 2016 list of new packages here: "2016 parade of new packages showcases great design"


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Atkins’ new packaging highlights lifestyle instead of weight loss
Delicious food stars on new packaging for Atkins.

Atkins’ new packaging highlights lifestyle instead of weight loss

Atkins Nutritionals Inc., a leading player in the low-carb nutrition market, has launched a rebranding campaign in which packaging design plays an integral role. The company’s redesigned food packaging started rolling out in late December 2017, followed by an ad campaign featuring a new brand spokesperson: actor Rob Lowe.

The rebranding makes living a healthy lifestyle, rather than dieting, Atkins’ central message. Thus the new packaging design is food-centric, featuring mouthwatering photos of the products while retaining nutritional information.

“We redesigned all packages to focus on the delicious products and provide the information that consumers use to make decisions in an easy, readable graphic treatment,” says Linda Zink, svp of innovation at Atkins.

The company worked with the DuPuis Group to redesign the packaging, and its packaging suppliers have remained the same: All Packaging Co. for cartons; Printpack for film wrappers; Tetra Pak and WestRock for shake containers and the shakes’ paperboard outer wrap, respectively; and PaperWorks Industries for corrugated board.

Zink answers some additional questions about Atkins’ rebranding effort and package redesign.

What was the strategy behind Atkins’ rebranding, and how does the new packaging fit in?

Zink: Atkins is a consumer lifestyle brand, and we wanted our packaging to reflect a more contemporized look and feel. Since our research shows that most people are watching their carbs and sugar intake, the Atkins bars and shakes are great snack options for this larger, more lifestyle-focused population—and not limited to those who are solely trying to lose weight.

The new design focuses on the food. People buy food, not messages. We wanted the package to appeal to consumers’ love of food and to help them make choices that easily fit into a low-carb lifestyle.

What packaging design changes did you make?

Zink: We wanted to create a modern, cohesive look at shelf and to make it easy for consumers to shop the Atkins line of products and distinguish between our Meal, Snack and Treat segments. The front panel was designed to highlight the food and make the nutrition callouts easy to find and read. The horizontal color band at the top of each package identifies the product segment while creating a strong brand block at shelf and making it easy for consumers to find our products. The back panel now highlights flavors and ingredients and features the hidden sugar story—important nutritional education for our consumers.

Please explain the new packaging’s visual hierarchy. Why move the callouts from the left side of the package to the upper right?

Zink: The new architecture is food-focused. We wanted to devote more space to the food, while making sure the brand and the nutrition callouts remained strong. This horizontal design creates a strong, color-blocked banner at shelf. And since people naturally read left to right, it makes it even easier to find and read the information that is important to them.

Why did you choose to maintain the existing package color schemes?

Zink: We wanted to signal that Atkins has changed while remaining true to our loyal consumers. We didn’t want to create a new color system that could cause confusion at shelf. Our consumers love our products, and we wanted to make it easy for them to find their favorite products within the new graphic treatment.

Did the packaging redesign include structural changes?

Zink: We kept the same structure for the vast majority of our product line. We did decide to transition some of our Endulge line that was in a gabletop box to the traditional box used for our other products. This change was primarily done to help with shipping and retail stocking.


Optimize your packaging operations: Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Expo in Cleveland returns Mar. 7-8, showcasing the latest in robotics, automation, plastics, packaging and design engineering. Find a solution for your packaging project here. Register today!

 Could a tablet's coating become the 'package'?
Image of tablets (without DNA markings) courtesy of Applied DNA Sciences Inc.

Could a tablet's coating become the 'package'?

Applied DNA Sciences Inc. is partnering with Colorcon Inc. to develop an on-dose authentication solution. Applied DNA’s SigNature DNA molecular taggants, which have already been incorporated into inks and varnishes for use in package printing, are now being incorporated into Colorcon’s specialty excipients for film coating, inks, and color dispersions for use in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical solid oral dosage forms. Combined with Applied DNA's encrypted fluorescence technology, the molecular taggants when applied to packaging can be scanned optically under ultraviolet light, the company reports.  

“In the world we are in, we have to think about packaging in a more molecular way,” says Bob Miglani, chief of business development at Applied DNA. “We have to think differently.”

In this solution, “the coating becomes the package and gives you the information,” he tells PMP News. “The ‘molecular bar code’ can tell you whether the tablet is authentic, where it came from, and where it should be going.”

Traditionally, it has been a challenge to secure a tablet without a physical or chemical component, Miglani says. “Not a lot of tablets have inks,” he says.

But a large portion do utilize film coatings, he says. “We did our feasibility studies with Colorcon’s Opadry film coating, which is a thin layer in a range of styles. It is easily dissolvable or can disintegrate, and different properties are available per pharma needs,” he says. “Now we can go to a company and say look, you’re buying it already, and now you can have the molecular tag integrated with it.”

The addition is seamless, he says. “Change is very difficult, and it’s a complex supply chain. We are trying to make it a seamless solution. Essentially, we are blending our taggant into their normal process, so there is greater than 99.999% coating, and less than 0.0001% taggant.”

When asked whether the same molecular tags could be used in all levels, such as in a blister material, on a package varnish, and on the tablet, Miglani says that it depends upon the business need. “We haven’t limited ourselves to thinking of just one code. Some users may want the tag to include the batch number and expiry date. And others may want such codes as backups.”

However, “there is a lot of repackaging done in the United States, so that would be an instance in which the same code on a tablet and package could be useful,” he added.

Applied DNA is continuing its development work, but it has already done several shelf-life studies, and “it’s years,” Miglani says. “In military and other apps in extreme temperatures, it can survive in conditions ranging from -40 degrees to 150 degrees Celsius, and it is still stable. We’re expecting it to perform the same in coatings.” 

The company is currently preparing its Drug Master File now, and SigNature DNA molecular taggants are expected to be classified as a Type IV excipient. The technology has a “self-affirmed GRAS status, backed by a 3rd party GRAS review,” he adds.

To see how pharmaceutical products could be authenticated in the field by pharmacists, please see this video.

Coding unit monitors print quality, even for variable print

Coding unit monitors print quality, even for variable print

The new Videojet DataFlex 6330 thermal transfer coder marks a variety of substrates at speeds up to 500 packs per minute for a typical two-line code using a standard transfer ribbon. The all-electric system provides more control of the printhead than units requiring compressed air, according to the company.

With iAssure software built in, and a sensor and light bar to inspect all codes through the impression left on the ribbon, the Videojet DataFlex 6330 is able to monitor code quality on-demand during printing for every code—including variable print. This ensures code accuracy, as well as quality. Click here to see a video clip of the unit in action at WestPack 2018.

On-board videos walk users through basic operations, like how to change or clean the printhead. And when outfitted with the cloud-based VideojetConnect Remote Service for remote diagnostics and repair, the coder can significantly reduce unplanned downtime to keep packaging lines running.

Thousands of Videojet printers are currently connected to this remote service, which tracks packaging line systems in real time using secure encryption technology designed for U.S. banks. Data can be displayed on display dashboards on the plant floor or accessed on mobile devices, giving production and maintenance managers a clear idea of system status.

This VideojetConnect Remote Service dashboard uses stoplight green-yellow-red colors to indicate the real-time status of all units on display at the company's WestPack 2018 booth.


Optimize your packaging operations. Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Expo in Cleveland returns Mar. 7-8, showcasing the latest in robotics, automation, plastics, packaging and design engineering. Find a solution for your packaging project here. Register today!

Packaging design opportunities abound in the 4th Dimension
Where can your packaging design benefit in the 4th Dimension?

Packaging design opportunities abound in the 4th Dimension

Digital technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality are transforming companies and their relationships with consumers. Applying these and other technologies to the business of packaging offers myriad opportunities for process efficiencies, as well as for consumer engagement.

In his keynote at the upcoming TransPack Forum 2018 (Mar. 20-23, San Diego, CA) organized by the Intl. Safe Transit Assn., Brian Wagner, director of Ameripen (American Institute for Packaging & the Environment) and co-founder and principal of global management and packaging consultancy PTIS LLC, introduces us to the fourth dimension in packaging design.

With more than three decades of experience in packaging, Wagner helps you bring foresight-driven insights to the table. He gives us a preview of what he’ll talk about and why packaging developers and designers need to embrace the opportunities this new era is bringing.

What is the 4th Dimension and how is it changing package design?

Wagner: The 2nd Dimension of package design refers to graphics and the 3rd Dimension to structural design. Designers tend to be good at one or the other, not both. All too seldom are package designs created holistically, syncing both with the entire consumer or user brand experience.

Now, to complicate the process further, the 4th Dimension of package design brings the element of digital transformation, and Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Packaging (IoP) where the physical and digital worlds collide. Where:

• Package and consumer relationships are mapped together.

• Connected packages become brand-owned digital media.

• We are designing for the end-to-end lifecycle in real time.

What is the biggest challenge for packaging designers as we move further into this newer dimension?

Wagner: The biggest challenge I see is that individual functional leads do not see the connected value IoP brings—when value equals real and perceived benefits / investment. Rather they look only at a single element.

IoT is not new—the whole digital transformation began in the 90s—but many still struggle to understand where to get started. We will realize the power when we appreciate that a sensor or chip on or in a package can be much more than a novel AR/VR game. It can enhance the brand relationship with the consumer and retailer, and data and analytics can deliver supply chain efficiencies and effectiveness.  Once we realize all this then will we embrace the 4th Dimension of package design.

Further, it is a challenge to bring together right-brain and left-brain individuals to co-create, leveraging their strengths in creativity and logic. When we do that, it’s an amazing thing. According to a 2017 Forbes article:

78% of IoT providers predict their greatest source of monetization will be from value-added services and maintenance. IoT platforms and technologies [are] ideally positioned to revolutionize business models today, with the study finding sales of value-added services and maintenance having the greatest potential for revenue gains.”

When it comes to accomplishing higher levels of IoT adoption across enterprises, 34% say quantifying business benefits is essential. Being able to evangelize and improve the understanding of IoT benefits (24%), improving security (17%) and attaining greater integration with everyday items (11%) are also foundational to accomplishing higher levels of adoption. Data use and insight will increase as IoT providers recruit more developers, engineers and software architects with big data and analytics expertise.”

Who should packaging designers collaborate with the most to find success in the 4th Dimension and why them?

Wagner: Collaboration and resourcing are crucial to success and progress. Traditional designers must collaborate with programmers, analysts and logical thinkers. Some of the leaders in the space are small, entrepreneurial companies, skilled in programming—and often hard for larger companies to even find. Nearly all companies in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) have at least one, and often more, digital agencies they are working with. Most of them are focused on social media, and reaching consumers in the digital world—less so at delivering solutions on the physical product and package side.

Check out all the statistics in that Forbes article.

What is the most promising opportunity that the 4th Dimension offers and why?

Wagner: I believe the most promising opportunity will come as “someone” quantifies the value of the 4th Dimension of design as integral to their particular brand—when the sensor on/in pack is more than a novelty, or more than just a supply chain data-tool.

Today, many leading brands are implementing one-off package designs and in-store displays, leveraging the technology. When we look back at the toothpaste category for instance, and Colgate Total incorporating an expensive foil emblem to take over the #1 spot in the category—they could not cost-reduce the pack and remove the foil enhancement. It became a crucial part of its brand—now we walk down that aisle and foil holograms are used across the entire category. They communicate freshness, shine and cleaning. The same can and will happen in the Internet of Packaging, the 4th Dimension of design.


Optimize your packaging operations: Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADM) Expo in Cleveland returns Mar. 7-8, showcasing the latest in robotics, automation, plastics, packaging and design engineering. Find a solution for your packaging project here. Register today!

Most food cans no longer use BPA in their linings
Most of the food cans on store shelves today, like those shown in the photo, have replaced their previous BPA-based can linings with new materials.

Most food cans no longer use BPA in their linings

At least 90% of today’s food cans have replaced linings that previously contained the controversial chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), according to the Can Manufacturers Institute. This is in reaction to market demands for more options in food safety.

Robert Budway, president of the Can Manufacturers Institute, says, “Can makers and can lining companies take very seriously our responsibility to provide safe, quality packaging that consumers trust. Safety is our number one priority and we’re proud to contribute to a healthy, affordable food supply in a way that reduces food waste and respects the environment.”

Food can linings now are typically made from acrylic and polyester. And all new materials are extensively tested and are cleared by regulatory agencies before being sold in the market. Linings are necessary to prevent the can from corroding, provide a barrier to bacteria and maintain food quality.

As with any packaging material, though, trace levels can migrate into the food contained within, which is why there were health concerns about BPA. Despite reassurances about the safety of BPA from the Food and Drug Administration, some research shows that even trace amounts of BPA might cause problems with reproductive, neurological and immune systems in humans and animals. [Click here to see the History of BPA.]

The CMI stresses the remarkable safety record of canned foods: “More than 3,000 people die and more than 40,000 are hospitalized from foodborne illnesses every year, yet there has not been a single reported incidence of foodborne illness from the failure of metal packaging in more than 40 years and the consumption of trillions of cans of food.”

Budway answers Packaging Digest’s questions about the development of new food can linings:

What is the source of the data that more than 90% of food cans have next-generation linings?

Budway: The Can Manufacturers Institute surveyed the industry, including can makers and can lining companies, to determine this percentage. We believe the percentage is likely somewhat higher than 90, but we erred on the side of caution so as to avoid overstating the progress made.

Why does this percentage continue to increase?

Budway: This percentage is increasing because when consumers made clear their preference to move away from BPA, the industry was eager to respond and committed to the research and testing necessary to find high-performing alternatives. Continual research is helping the industry innovate and find new options.

Have all these next-gen linings eliminated BPA?

Budway: Yes, all of the new linings are non-BPA.

What do you estimate the cost has been to can manufacturers to develop these new linings? How are those costs being handled? Are they being passed on to customers, absorbed, integrated into R&D budgets, something else?

Budway: It would be difficult to calculate the cost to develop these new linings because each company has invested extensively for years in the research and testing necessary to develop new linings. The cost is absorbed as part of doing business in an industry committed to being responsive to consumers and laser-focused on ensuring safety.

How do next-generation linings help companies meet sustainability goals?

Budway: Canned foods help to significantly offset food waste, which is the largest component of the landfill stream. It’s estimated that Americans waste 15% to 20% of the fresh fruits and vegetables they purchase every year. Not only do canned foods last longer, the trimmings, such as cores and peels, are used to feed livestock and create compost for healthier soil.

Acknowledging the third leg on the sustainability stool
Local farmers harvesting peppers, rather than palm oil, on APP land in Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Bob Lilienfeld)

Acknowledging the third leg on the sustainability stool

Or “What I Learned from My Recent Trip to Sumatra.” Sustainable packaging expert Bob Lilienfeld explores the people part of the Triple Bottom Line of people, planet, profits.

We’re all concerned about the environmental and economic impact of the packaging value chain—from raw material extraction and production, through package conversion and creation, to after-use recovery and solid waste scenarios.

But what about the social dimension of sustainability? What’s our responsibility there?

Well, if you’re on the plastics side of the equation, most of your responsibility lies on the post-use side. How do we enhance recycling? Reduce litter? Prevent ocean waste? This is because the feedstock shows up in a pipe. And the odds are, you’re pretty far away from the start of that pipeline and the source of that natural gas.

But, if you’re on the paper side, your social obligations are much different. Your feedstock is all around you—in the forest or plantation. The people who manage your mills and forests live on-site and in nearby towns. There are also longstanding local communities and villagers living and working nearby. What you do in the forest, and at the mill, directly impacts everyone’s quality of life, standard of living and family well-being.

I saw an example of this during a recent media tour to Indonesia as an agent of Packaging Digest, paid for by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).  APP and its pulpwood suppliers manage roughly 2.6 million hectares (6.5 million acres) of concession areas in Indonesia. (For reference, 69 million hectares of forest has been set aside for production by the Indonesian government. This land, which is roughly the size of Texas, accounts for 36% of the total land in the country and 55% of all forest area there).

A fire tower view of an APP-managed acacia and eucalyptus plantation in Sumatra. (Photo courtesy of Bob Lilienfeld)

By law, the company must provide 20% of that land to local communities to use as those communities see fit to manage. Ironically, while APP must manage those forests sustainably, the hundreds of local communities that control this 20% of workable forests are under no obligation to meet the same standards that APP is committed to live and work by.

This means that APP and local communities must work together on sustainable practices, such as alternatives to slash-and-burn methods of harvesting, which can accidentally cause wildfires. These fires must be monitored and managed by APP. And, since this land is part of APP’s concession area, APP must take ultimate responsibility for any issues that may arise there.

Plus, 37% of those living in forested areas live below the poverty line. And local land disputes between villages is common, as is illegal logging and subsistence farming of oil palms.

To ensure that APP’s entire land concession (including the 20% managed by local villagers) is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, the company has enacted a program called the Integrated Forestry and Farming System (IFFS). Today, the system includes 184 villages and is designed to include 500 villages within five years.

As you can guess, the IFFS is a multi-million dollar program that provides villages with technology; up-to-date forest and agricultural stewardship practices; conflict prevention and resolution training; job training; and product marketing training. Thus, its unstated goal is to create an equivalent sustainability profile for all of its land, including the 20% set-aside area.

There are many benefits of this program to the local villagers. As they move to more sustainable practices, their incomes increase. And since natural economic selection favors those farmers who are most efficient, they are able to increase their holdings and the sustainable practices that made them successful. That success also allows them to hire others who can help tend and harvest the crops; and gives people the opportunity to learn (and earn from) needed skills in equipment management, irrigation, product distribution, and even sales and marketing.

Why is this important to you? Because ultimately, a sustainable package must be produced from paper, plastic, metal or glass that delivers sustainable economic and environmental benefits to you, but also the right social benefits to the entire value chain, including those unseen folks who make up the first few links in that chain.

Something to think about the next time you pick up a package!

Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved with sustainable packaging for more than 20 years. He is currently editor and publisher of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a marketing and communications consultant and a professional photographer.


Medical Packaging
Putting cobots to work in medical packaging
Image courtesy of Nelipak Healthcare Packaging

Putting cobots to work in medical packaging

At MD&M West 2018, Nelipak Healthcare Packaging showed how a collaborative robot could help medical device packaging professionals automate certain steps in the heat sealing process. In Nelipak’s booth, Rethink Robotics’s Sawyer robot loaded trays and lidding into the NX-T1 cleanroom heat tray sealer. Rethink Robotics’s Mike Fair also spoke on stage at the co-located WestPack Hub about the potential of such “cobots” in “Side-by-Side: How Cobots Improve Manufacturing Jobs.”

Incorporating robots in the manufacturing process can help reduce human error and improve quality for increased patient safety, Nelipak stated in a press release. In addition, “we’re seeing more instances in which companies want to condense manufacturing space, and cobots can help,” Seán Egan, group marketing manager for Nelipak Healthcare Packaging, told PMP News at the show. The Sawyer robot was closely situated alongside Nelipak’s tray sealer in the booth and was able to navigate around the side of the unit without unintentionally touching it. (It was programmed to press the sealing cycle button after loading the trays and lid into the sealer, as shown in the above image.)

Egan envisions additional applications in which a cobot could be used to load and unload trays from a rotary heat sealing machine as well as pick up trays and present them to printing stations or package testing units. 

Nelipak’s demo used a fixed jig to stage the components for the cobot to pick up, but Egan says that an onboard camera could allow it to pick up items from a work station to present to the sealer.

Agile and flexible manufacturing is precisely what Rethink Robotics’s Fair believes is driving demand for cobots. He described what some are calling a “blended or augmented workforce” in which cobots and humans work together. “Companies are reconsidering how they design jobs, organize work, and plan for growth,” he explained at the WestPack Hub.

Cobots can also help address labor shortages in both skilled and unskilled positions, he said. One hurdle, however, is to overcome the stigma that robots replace jobs.

“In the press, there certainly is a lot of discussion about the negative effects of AI and robotics on the industry, but these devices are tools to help create new jobs, gain production efficiencies, and allow workers to focus on the more complex, human aspects of the task,” Fair told the audience.

For instance, “people can do what people do best: the complex tasks that require cognitive abilities and dexterity,” he continued. He showed examples of how cobots like Sawyer can grab several products at once while human operators handle the more complex, hard-to-automate tasks such as folding down box flaps and maneuvering boxes around products.

And cobots can handle tasks that are too difficult or dangerous for humans. “Employees don’t have to reach into machines, reducing the burden on them,” he said.

Another hurdle is to determine the “ROI that makes sense,” and for that companies may need to “look beyond the work cell.”

Considerations for evaluating cobots include safety (to mitigate any risks to employees), ease of use (so that employees find it easy to work with them), approachability (using cobots with smaller form factors and footprints), ease of integration (use of cameras and force sensors), and flexibility (how easy can the robot be repurposed), Fair said.

Fair told the WestPack Hub audience that the Sawyer robot, for instance, has a screen with “eyes,” making it approachable. Fair said that when the robot arrives at a plant, employees are often charmed by his appearance and line up for taking selfies with it.

For successful cobot deployment, companies should target non-value-add tasks, come up with a cobot strategy and roll-out plan, communicate the strategy and plan, involve employees, find cobot “champion,” and look beyond just ROI, he said.

For more details on Nelipak and Rethink Robotics, visit and