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Articles from 2016 In July

10 ways to design sustainable packaging with intent

10 ways to design sustainable packaging with intent
Tell consumers what to do with your packaging at the end of its life, such as through the How2Recycle label.

As a packaging designer and nature lover, I dream of the day when material science and manufacturing can deliver on the promise of zero environmental impact, high performance, premium finish and low costs. Many breakthroughs have begun to deliver on the promise—PaperFoam, recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) and polylactic acid (PLA) to name a few. But many of these materials still cannot compete on performance, and especially not on price.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the commodity materials markets have been flooded with new eastern manufacturers, increasing the global supply and significantly lowering the commodity materials costs. Add to that the light-weighting movement in the plastics bottling industry and single-stream recycling. Both test the long-term financial viability of the recycled materials industry, which collects on volume and is paid by weight.

The viability of true sustainability is a complex economic challenge, and the ugly truth is that few consumers, brand owners or municipalities are willing to pay the premium price for cutting-edge sustainable packaging solutions. True solutions will come through “systems thinking” that requires the material supplier, manufacture, retailer, consumer and the municipality to share in the premium costs and labor required to design, collect and recycle packaged materials. Over time, sustainable materials will become more available and thus less costly—but what to do now?

The answer is threefold:

• Stop looking for space-aged materials that will save the day.

• Do more with what you’ve got.

• Design with intent.

On this last point, here are 10 principles of how to design sustainable packaging with intent.

1. Start with commodity materials that are commonly recycled at major municipalities: #1 PET, #2 HDPE, aluminum, glass, paper, paperboard.

2. Design the package from a single material. Single-material packages are easier to identify and separate during recycling.

3. Focus on the product-to-package ratio. The package should be as small as possible while still protecting the product and providing adequate branding real estate.

4. Design for assembly at the point of manufacture. Think through the assembly steps, as well as the use of hand labor versus automation. The more efficient the better.

5. Avoid gluing and laminations. Laminations and glue make it impossible to separate materials for recycling, and can negatively impact what would be an environmentally friendly package.

6. Design for distribution. Design primary, secondary and tertiary package from the beginning, looking to optimize all package dimensions for pallet efficiency.

7. Eliminate secondary and tertiary packaging when possible. Look for opportunities to make the primary package more robust, as well as combining functions of shipper and point-of-purchase (POP) displays.

8. Design for disassembly. The end user will ultimately be responsible for cleaning and separating the packaging components for end of life. Use of the How2Recycle label is helping to communicate what to do.

9. Clearly mark the materials on the packaging components. Design in-mold recycle codes or labeling to let consumer know what the material is.

10. Use Lifecycle Assessment. Only in understanding the entire supply chain do you fully understand the sustainable savings. Improvements in distribution could greatly offset a more premium material selection or increase in manufacturing complexity.

I hope for a brighter future when designing for sustainability can become a much more simple and straightforward methodology. Until the materials of the future significantly come down in costs, let’s keep designing with intent.

Bryan Shova is the industrial design director at Kaleidoscope. As creative director of the industrial design team, Shoya is responsible for all brand-led product development and structural packaging initiatives. He emphasizes the use of consumer insight and iterative prototyping as part of a strategic approach to innovation and design. Empathetic and a natural problem solver, Shoya is passionate about bettering the consumer’s experience and uncovering opportunities for production and manufacturing efficiency.

'We have many innovative opportunities as packaging professionals'

'We have many innovative opportunities as packaging professionals'
Source: iStock

We were pleased when Ron Yakubison, Director of Packaging Technical Operations at Merck, joined PMP News’s Editorial Advisory Board earlier this year. Yakubison has been in packaging at Merck for 24 years and currently leads the global Packaging Technical Operations group that supports all in-line human products. He has supported packaging development, equipment, and process for bulk, crop protection, animal health, and human health products. He also has been involved with serialization since 2004 and has supported Merck’s pilots and strategy development.

To kick things off, we asked Yakubison a few questions about trends and challenges in pharmaceutical packaging.

PMP: You've been involved in pharmaceutical packaging for more than two decades. Can you tell us how pharma packaging has evolved over the years? 

Yakubison: Although we have seen changes in what packaging platforms we use through the years based on various business drivers, we still have the core platforms of bottle and blister packaging.  I think the biggest area of evolution is how we package. The frequency in which we package each SKU has significantly increased.

PMP: What have been some of the major challenges the pharmaceutical industry has faced, and how has packaging helped address them? 

Yakubison: Patient compliance. Through labeling and packaging design, the industry has been able to offer common packaging compliance solutions.

PMP: What challenges remain?

Yakubison: To continue to meet growing business and regulatory expectations with robust packaging solutions.

PMP: How has the pharmaceutical packaging line changed over the years? 

Yakubison: I believe the OEMs have done a good job at gaining customer feedback and leveraging newer technologies to improve their designs to meet current customer needs. For example, more machines leverage a balcony style to reduce hot spots for line clearance. Also many OEMs have significantly improved design to have much more consistency between machines of the same model number; this has greatly increased opportunity for more consistent set-ups. Finally, the safety of the packaging equipment has significantly improved.

PMP: What will the packaging line of the future look like?

Yakubison: I believe most lines will be in a smaller footprint. I am also hopeful for self-diagnosing lines to aide operators in troubleshooting of issues.

PMP: You've been involved in serialization since 2004. We've seen U.S. requirements change over the last decade or so, and the industry is preparing for November 2017. What are some of the lessons learned? What challenges is industry still grappling with?

Yakubison: Companies need to have strong sponsorship and governance for large initiatives like serialization.  Although the industry has been working on technology to support serialization for many years, no technology is fully mature.  It is still important for the industry to align on technology roadmaps to ensure we will have robust supply.

PMP: What do you think the next decade will hold for healthcare, and how will it influence pharma packaging? 

Yakubison: I believe we have many innovative opportunities as packaging professionals especially due to product types and diversity of patient needs from globalization.

New study helps answer the question 'Is this package recyclable?'

New study helps answer the question 'Is this package recyclable?'
The new 28-page study identifies the recycling acceptance of 49 types of packaging.

Everyone wants recyclable packaging, but the designation of “recyclable” can be complicated, subjective and often confusing. A new study released by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) helps take the confusion out.

The 2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling study, which was the collective effort of 13 packaging trade associations and recycling-focused non-profit groups, examined more than 2,000 American recycling programs and determined the acceptance of 49 types of packaging. For a package to deserve the “recyclable” designation, the SPC agrees with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s philosophy: To avoid greenwashing, there must be a strong likelihood the package will be recycled. This information on acceptance in the recycling bin is the important first step in understanding that likelihood.

The FTC’s Guide for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims helps industry assess what level of acceptance in recycling programs is sufficient. The guide recommends a threshold of 60%, which means that if less than 60% of the population has an available program that accepts the item, then that lack of acceptance in collection programs should be considered a barrier to the practical recyclability of the item. However, if more than 60% of the population’s recycling programs accept the item, we can feel confident that collection is not a barrier.

The study found good news for a large number of major packaging types. With the exception of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polystyrene (PS), all plastic bottles, cups and rigid containers were found to be accepted in recycling programs available to more than 60% of the population. Aluminum beverage cans and glass bottles were found to be well over the 60% threshold. Aerosol containers (both steel and aluminum) also came in over 60%. Unsurprisingly, steel food cans also topped this list.

A number of packaging types were found to be accepted in the range of 20% to 60% range in our recycling programs. The acceptance of rigid polystyrene containers, polypropylene and polyethylene lids, aluminum foil food containers, bulky plastics and others must be improved before claims of recyclability can be made without an accompanying qualification regarding the lack of widespread acceptance in recycling programs. Aseptic and gable top cartons are a good example, with the study findings reinforcing the Carton Council’s imperative to push carton acceptance above 60% in the near future.

Other types of packaging need to see much more work done before the barrier of infrequent acceptance in recycling programs can be eliminated. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging was found to be accepted in less than 20% of our population’s recycling programs, as were other harder-to-recycle items like paper ice cream tubs, plastic cutlery, paper cups, squeezable polyethylene tubes and paper containers for foodservice applications.

The standings of some types of packaging types with less than 60% acceptance might be improved with pursuits of community education. Some items may be perfectly acceptable in a recycling stream but not included in the list of acceptable items given to consumers. This must be addressed, so items that are otherwise compatible with the recycling process aren’t held up by their exclusion from collection programs.

For other items though, their underwhelming acceptance in recycling programs is reflective of real challenges in recycling processes. For their standings to improve, a combination of improvements to package design, recycling infrastructure and reprocessing technologies must be pursued, accompanied by an open and constructive dialogue with the recycling community. Once real change is brought about to improve the practical likelihood that the item will get recycled, acceptance in collection programs will follow.

For those packaging types that do enjoy an acceptance rate above 60%, it is important to remember that collection is only the first phase in the sequential process that is recycling. Put simply, acceptance in collection programs is the first step on the path towards a new life, but it is not the destination. The destination lies at the reprocessor, be that a steel mill, plastics reclaimer, glass plant, paper mill or aluminum mill.

What’s in between collection and the reprocessor? The material recovery facility (MRF), where an economically strained system does its best to sort out the most valuable materials. To assess the practical recyclability of an item and avoid greenwashing, there must also be confidence that the package will be correctly sorted, sold to a reprocessor, and ultimately deconstructed and reconstructed to become a new raw material with a new life.

Our study findings on acceptance in recycling programs are an important part of assessing recyclability. We would love to see equally rigorous and comprehensive studies conducted to understand success rates in MRFs and compatibility with reprocessing operations.

It is important to stress that the Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling research was not undertaken solely by the SPC, but instead represented a collective action taken by 13 of the leading organizations in packaging and recycling. This collaboration gives a loud statement that recyclability should be assessed on science and research, that the packaging industry ought to assess recyclability by the same metrics and that we should work together to improve our understanding of recycling.

We hope our study will find wide use in the packaging industry, and we hope it will spur several more collaborative efforts to research and improve the recyclability of packaging. Download the report for free here.

Author Adam Gendell is associate director of GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition and is responsible for orchestrating its fall conference, SPC Advance. For more information about the SPC, visit


Looking for inspiration for your next sustainable packaging design project? Visit MinnPack 2016 (Sept 21-22; Minneapolis) for the latest in packaging materials, equipment, automation and more.

How food processing methods affect your packaging options

Before deciding which processing method to use for your food products, consider the packaging limitations, challenges, opportunities and costs.

Consumers increasingly demand a safe food supply without sacrificing nutritional content, quality or shelf life of foods they buy. Luckily, many food processing methods are adjusting their operations accordingly. But how do these processing improvements change the product’s packaging requirements?

Firstly, the selection of the processing technology depends on the food. Critical properties are pH, moisture content, phase (solid, semi-solid, liquid with particulates, liquid) and heat stability. Next, the targeted agent to eliminate (such as microorganism, spore or undesirable enzyme) is specified. Their acceptable risk levels in foods depend on safety regulations. The intended shelf-life is important, as well as the environment in which food will be stored (such as room temperature for two years, or refrigeration with an expected shelf life of one month). Then, the preservation of nutrients and quality, and economic viability are considered.

Selection of packaging is an integral part of this process.

We present packaging implications for the following thermal and non-thermal processing methods:

• Retort processing;

• Aseptic processing;

• Microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS);

• High- and ultra-high-pressure processing (HPP / UHP); and

• High-intensity light pulse (HILP).


In thermal processing, the objective is to increase the temperature of the food to reduce the target agent (typically microorganisms or their spores) to an acceptable level. However, nutrients and quality factors are also reduced by heat, at different rates. Blanching, pasteurization and sterilization can be selected depending on the intended severity of heating. The faster the cold point of food reaches the desired process temperature and the faster it is cooled to ambient temperature, the shorter the overall process, with better nutrient and quality retention.


Retorting can be applied for pasteurization (elimination of vegetative pathogenic microorganisms) requiring refrigeration and limited shelf life (such as two months) or sterilization (reduction of heat-resistant spores to acceptable levels, resulting in long shelf-life, such as two years at room temperature).

This method can be applied to solids, semi-solids, liquids with particulates or liquids.

The cost of thermal processing is generally lower than non-thermal methods.

Packaging implications: The packaging material must resist temperature and mild pressure without changing barrier properties and without interacting with the food. Metal or plastic cans, glass containers, plastic or metallized pouches, and trays are recommended.

Since the food is packaged prior to processing, the chance of re-contamination is much reduced. Thermal processing has been used for more than a century, therefore the technology, know-how and experience exist. Precise methods to calculate safety and reduction in nutrients and quality attributes are known. Optimization of the process for time and temperature, for the heating medium and mechanical agitation are available.

Depending on the food, though, nutrients and quality attributes can be significantly reduced.

Although a mature technology, retort processing continues to see improvements, such as these Allpax Orbital systems that help save floorspace with doors that swing up rather than out.

Aseptic processing/packaging

Aseptic processing is limited to foods that can be pumped through heat exchangers, and can be used for pasteurization or sterilization (see descriptions above in the Retorting section). This is also a mature technology, similar to retorting.

Since heating and cooling of the product can be accomplished faster, better quality products are obtained.

Packaging implications: After processing, the product needs to be placed in appropriate containers and sealed, in a sterile environment. The packaging material must be formed, and sterilized, within this environment (using chemicals and/or light sources) before filling. Rectangular cartons, commonly used in aseptic packaging, allow significant improvements in space savings in warehouses and in shipping, compared to rigid containers such as bottles, because they are formed from rollstock, which requires a fraction of storage space versus formed packs.

With today's short runs, aseptic packaging systems need to be flexible in the package styles they can handle. This Tetra Pak A3/Flex machine, for example, uses servo motors on the jaws to speed changeover between different packages.

Microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS)

Microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) allows in-container processing of foods with rapid heating, and therefore better nutrient and quality preservation compared with traditional retorting. Water is used as the heating medium, in combination with the direct exposure of the packaged food to microwaves. The presence of water eliminates the non-uniform heating and edge overheating effects of the traditional microwave heating. The frequency used is 915 MHz instead of the 2450 MHz used in home microwave ovens. This allows better penetration and more uniform heating.

Solids, semi-solids, particulates in liquids and liquid foods can be processed. Typically, high-barrier plastic pouches, trays and lidding are used as packaging materials (such as ethylene vinyl alcohol or EVOH).

Packaging implications: Since microwaves are used, the packaging material should be transparent to the frequency used. The requirements of minimal or no food-package interactions also apply in this method.

MATS can reduce processing times from one-quarter to one-tenth of the time required for conventional sterilization. However, for non-homogeneous foods, the prediction of the cold point and the development of the thermal process schedule are challenging.

Microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) heats the outside of packaged food with hot water while also zapping the food internally with microwaves at a frequency of 915 megahertz. In this process, the food is sterilized quickly and yet rapidly cools down to reduce heat damage. Illustration is courtesy of 915 Labs.


Since heating may reduce the nutrient content and the quality of the food, several new methods have been developed to non-thermally process foods. This means that microorganisms and undesired enzymes can be inactivated without heating the food. Ultra-high pressure (UHP), pulsed electric fields (PEF), pulsed magnetic fields, dense phase carbon dioxide (DPCD), high intensity light pulses (HILP) and other technologies have been developed.

We’ll take a closer look at two of these: UHP and HILP.

High- and ultra-high-pressure processing (HPP / UHP)

In ultra-high pressure (UHP), typically, foods are packaged, then placed in a high-pressure vessel (imagine the barrel of a cannon). The container is filled with a working fluid (typically water), and pressurized to the process pressure (usually 200 to 1,000 MegaPascal/MPa or about 28,993 to 145,023 pounds per square inch/psi). As a comparison, the pressure at the deepest point in the ocean is 109 MPa. After about five minutes, the pressure is reduced, and the packages are removed from the high-pressure vessel.

Solids without porosity, semi-solids, liquids with particles and liquids can be processed with UHP. If there are air pockets or pores in the food, pressure will eliminate these pores, and the food will shrink/deform.

High pressure inactivates mostly the vegetative cell of microorganisms. To inactivate microbial spores, temperatures around a minimum of 185-deg F. are required. Although this is heating, when compared to the nearly 220-deg F. temperature required in traditional thermal processing, the loss of nutrients and quality attributes is much less.

Some of the undesirable enzymes are not reduced by UHP; indeed, some enzymes increase in activity. Residual enzymes are harmful to the quality and shelf-life of foods treated by UHP.

During compression the temperature increases by about 5.4-deg F. for every 100 MPa. Therefore, excessive heating must be avoided by controlling pressurization rate. For example, if the product starts at room temperature (68-deg F.), increasing the pressure to 700 MPa will also increase the temperature by about 70-deg F., resulting a product temperature of 106-deg F. Upon depressurization, the temperature is reduced by 70-deg F. This instantaneous increase/decrease of temperature by pressure can be used in a combination of heating and UHP method called pressure-assisted thermal sterilization (PATS). The time-to-sterilization of the process, as well as cooling time, can be much reduced by PATS, resulting in less loss of nutrients and quality attributes.

Packaging implications: Since high-moisture foods compress significantly (10% to 20%) under pressure, the packaging material and design must accommodate this temporary shrinkage during processing. Therefore, hard-sided packages (such as metal cans or glass bottles) are not appropriate. Flexible packages, such as plastic pouches or bottles that flex up to 15% on any one surface, can be used.

However, UHP may disrupt flexible laminations: Blistering of foil laminations has been observed. Barrier properties of packaging materials may be altered. The capacity for absorbing flavor compounds from food (scalping) may decrease. Significant increases in the permeability of oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapor were observed in metallized polyester (PET) films after a high-pressure treatment.

UHP is a commercial technology, with an increasing accumulation of data and know-how about its applications. Since the effects of isostatic pressure instantaneously apply at all point of the food without regard to size or shape, this allows for much flexibility in the choice of containers. Multi-faceted containers (hexagons) increase packing into cylindrical pressure vessels, and improve the economics of the operation.

Two points need to be considered for the application of UHP. First, the initial equipment costs of UHP are high due to pressure. For example, to pressurize 450 liters of high-pressure vessel to 600 MPa requires a significant wall thickness. Also, muscle proteins tend to denature by UHP, resulting in increased toughness and change in the color of muscle tissue.

Production time is also a consideration. If the food is pre-packaged (which it usually is), then the UHP will be applied batch-wise. For liquids, semi-batch operations are possible: While one high-pressure vessel is being filled, another is being pressurized—and yet another is being emptied.

High-pressure processing (HPP) systems, such as this HPP 55 system from Multivac, protect food quality by using pressure rather than heat to kill microorganisms.

High-intensity light pulse (HILP)

High-intensity light pulse (HILP) is an emerging non-thermal technology for microbial inactivation on the surfaces of foods and packaging materials. Intense, very short duration pulses of white light (200 to 1,100 nanometer/nm) can inactivate both vegetative cells and spores. The intensity of the light (measured as joules/cm2), as well as the ultraviolet (UV) component (UV-C, 200 to 280 nm) of the light spectrum, contribute to the lethal effect.

The susceptibility of microorganisms to HILP in decreasing order is: Gram-negative bacteria, Gram-positive bacteria and fungal spores. UV absorption by DNA and its disruption is the primary cause of inactivation.

There are reports of enzyme inactivation by HILP in clear liquids, but the restriction to surface treatment in solids renders this method ineffective for enzyme inactivation in most foods.

Packaging implications: If surfaces of the in-package food are to be treated, the packaging material must be transparent to UV light.

HILP is superior to chemical sterilization of package surfaces, such as by hydrogen peroxide or peracetic acid, because it does not leave any undesirable chemical residue. Pulsing of the light (instead of continuous light) reduces heating of the sample. Wavelengths that produce undesirable attributes can be eliminated by filtering. There are specific advantages in certain foods. For example, UV treatment of grapes increases resveratrol, a desirable component, by 10-folds.

HILP is effective only at surfaces, and in clear liquids. Data on kinetics of inactivation of different microorganisms at different conditions is being accumulated. The effect on nutritional components or the formation of undesirable chemicals has not been studied (UV is known to promote the oxidation of unsaturated lipids). “Shadowing” is the lack of uniform treatment due to surface irregularities of the food. Methods need to be applied to treat all surfaces of the food. Short UV light can generate ozone, which has regulations and limits regarding worker exposure.

A dry sterilization method, high-intensity pulsed light (HILP) sanitizes packages without water or chemicals and is billed by provider Claranor as a "sustainable" process. 

Having a better understanding of what happens to your packaging during processing enables you to make better material choices to make sure you deliver the best tasting, healthiest and safest food to today’s discerning consumers.

Murat Balaban is professor and retired chair of Food Process Engineering at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His research and teaching experience in the food processing area covers more than 40 years.


Barbosa-Canovas G V, Medina-Meza I, Candogan K, Bermudez-Aguire D. 2014. Advanced retorting, microwave assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) and pressure assisted thermal sterilization (PATS) to process meat products. Meat Science. (98): 420-434.

Bhunia K, Sablani S S, Tang J, Rasco B. 2013. Migration of chemical compounds from packaging polymers during microwave, conventional heat treatment, and storage. Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety. (12): 523-545. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12028

Bull M K, Steele R J, Kelly M, Olivier S A, Chapman B. 2010. Packaging under pressure: effects of high pressure, high temperature processing on the barrier properties of commonly available packaging materials. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies. (11):533-537. doi:10.1016/j.ifset.2010.05.002

Han J H. 2007. Packaging for non-thermal processing of food. Blackwell Publishing. Ames, Iowa, USA. ISBN-13: 978-0-8138-1944-0/2007.

Morris C, Brody A L, Wicker L. 2007. Non-thermal food processing/preservation technologies: a review with packaging implications. Packaging technology and science. (20): 275-286. DOI: 10.1002/pts.789

Additional resources, by processing method:


'Continuous retort' system could revolutionize chilled-food packaging” from Packaging Digest

First U.S. Shaka production retort shipped” from Packaging Digest

Test lab helps optimize products' retort processing” from Packaging Digest


Pixie Dust to ‘magically’ sterilize stand-up pouches and bag-in-box” from

Aseptic packaging stirs up the beverage business” from Packaging Digest

High- and ultra-high pressure (HPP/UHP)

Performance under pressure” from Packaging Digest

Additional HPP resources” from Packaging Digest

Surprising developments in HPP packaged food” from Packaging Digest

Unique chilled soups are bottled and high-pressure processed” from Packaging Digest

4 Euro-style functional food packaging innovations” from Packaging Digest

Microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS)

“Latest packaging technologies help improve combat rations” from Packaging Digest

“Food packaging identified for new MATS processing” from Packaging Digest

High-intensity pulsed light (HILP)

“Shedding Light on Food Safety: Applications of Pulsed Light Processing” from Food Safety magazine

“High intensity pulsed light technology in food processing” from Intl. Journal of Science, Environment and Technology

“High-intensity pulsed light cuts Campylobacter on poultry and packaging” from

“Cup sterilization with Pulsed Light 2015” video from Claranor


Explore cutting-edge packaging, manufacturing and automation solutions from hundreds of exhibitors at MinnPack 2016 (Sept. 21-22; Minneapolis).

Healthcare packaging waste issues discussed at MD&M East thanks to Bella the Bride

Healthcare packaging waste issues discussed at MD&M East thanks to Bella the Bride
Bella the Bride's wedding dress made from recovered Tyvek was on display at MD&M East

Brides are always the center of attention, and Bella the Bride at MD&M East 2016 was no exception. The special display by DuPont and Beacon Converters featured a wedding gown made of discarded Tyvek and succeeded in stimulating attendee discussions on the topic of managing healthcare packaging waste. 

Made by environmental educator and artist Nancy Judd (known for the Recycle Runway Collection), Bella the Bride visited MD&M East June 14-15, having visited AORN’s Surgical Conference & Expo and CleanMed 2016 events earlier in the year. “Bella’s presence throughout her tour and at her unveiling has been an incredible conversation starter!” Terri Shank, Beacon’s sustainability officer/director of IT & marketing projects, tells PMP News. “Her entity helps acknowledge that healthcare packaging waste is an issue and Tyvek is a commonly used recyclable material -- HDPE #2. Bella is the personification of a message that promotes the reduction of healthcare packaging waste to landfill.”

To learn more about Bella the Bride’s story, please read “Say I do to material recovery” and “MD&M East welcomes Bella the Bride to showcase sustainability.”

DuPont’s Marc A. Bandman, PhD., who serves as Americas Market Manager, was on hand at DuPont’s booth and spoke with many of the attendees who had just seen Bella. “Many folks I spoke with were first impressed by the beauty and quality of the dress sculpture. When they learned more about what it was made from, they further commented on the creativity of bringing the reuse/recycling message to life and that they had no idea Tyvek could be made into the shapes and configurations displayed in the body of the dress and the flowers on the train.”

Adds Shank: “It was great to have people seek [Bella] out at the show and have a chance to see the dress on display and touch the material on DuPont’s touch stands [displayed along with the dress.] In general, people were really surprised that she was made out of Tyvek (and not paper!)”

Bandman was particularly struck by the excitement of a nurse in attendance, Joan Nevius, BSN, RN, CNOR, who had first heard about Bella at AORN and decided to come to MD&M East to see her progression. “She was so inspired by the Bella project and spoke about how she then engaged her hospital, including doctors, to think about the plastic waste they generate and how they can begin recycling,” says Bandman. “I shared information on HPRC and hospitals near her that are already far down the path and happy to help others. There’s never any hesitancy when a hospital is asked to share their recycling success story." (For more details on HPRC, read our article, "Examining the value of healthcare plastics recycling."

“One thing I’ve learned through my HPRC experiences is that there are many healthcare workers who are passionate about protecting the environment and associate it with their mission of improving their communities’ health," continues Bandman. "They only need help in finding solutions, whether it’s providing recycling friendly packaging on the front end or ways of collecting it on the backend. Medical device designers and their suppliers can definitely help out the front end and sometimes even the backend.”

Shank says that Bella the Bride gave attendees the chance to speak about these very challenges. “It is difficult to recycle healthcare plastics and there are barriers that need to be overcome. After Bella’s debut, on June 22nd HPRC published an article, “HPRC and the Circular Economy,” which discusses these issues in more detail. These are the same challenges we heard while on tour with Bella earlier this year,” she explains. “For the most part, Bella followers understand that there are not definitive solutions on how to deal with the challenges of recycling healthcare plastics, but commonly there is hope for the unfolding of an infrastructure that supports recovery and secondary life of single use plastics reclaimed from healthcare.”  

Adds Bandman: “Bella inspired many at your show, at CleanMed, and at the AORN conference. We all need to continue finding ways to keep the message fresh and alive to maintain focus on addressing the environmental waste issue. While it’s not the immediate, ‘in-your-face’ driver like some other pressures (i.e., regulatory, cost) faced by medical device companies, it does need sustained attention and innovation throughout the value chain.”

Bella’s next scheduled appearance will be at the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) annual meeting in September. 


Looking for inspiration for your next medical packaging project? Visit MD&M Minneapolis September 21-22 for the latest in packaging materials, equipment, automation, and more!

Relationships, social media and limitless opportunities motivate this packaging Rising Star

Relationships, social media and limitless opportunities motivate this packaging Rising Star
Rising Star Anna Lorette tells others considering a career in packaging to "go for it!"

Three internships and participation in the Mission: Packaging program is giving Anna Lorette the experience to successfully launch her career as a packaging professional when she graduates in the spring of 2017.

Lorette is a packaging science major at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and was one of three students selected for the Mission: Packaging program, sponsored by Shurtape Technologies LLC, a leading producer of pressure-sensitive tapes.

Packaging Digest recognizes her as a Rising Star in packaging and gives you the chance to get to know her a bit in this exclusive interview.

Tell us about yourself.

Lorette: I grew up in Maine with my three brothers and my parents. I am a fourth year student at RIT, majoring in packaging science with a concentration in advertising and public relations.

I completed my first co-op with Corning Life Sciences in Tewksbury, MA. My second co-op was with PepsiCo in Chicago and I will be going to ACCO Brands in Lake Zurich, IL, for my third internship. I will be graduating in the spring of 2017. 

What does participating in Shurtape’s Mission: Packaging program mean to you?

Lorette: Participating in Shurtape's mission is an incredible experience because it allows us to network with packaging professionals, share experiences and challenges us to think about different situations. Working with Shurtape also allows us to raise awareness of packaging and packaging-related topics and how packaging plays an important role in our everyday lives, whether we know it or not.

[Editor’s note: You can read Lorette’s Mission: Packaging blogs at]

What segment of packaging interests you the most and why?

Lorette: The most valuable thing I have learned in packaging is relationships. Relationships with your peers, co-workers, suppliers, management and customers are absolutely critical in a successful company. Packaging is a small field in comparison to other engineering fields and, because it is, we have to work hard to maintain mutually respectful relationships with everyone. It’s also a great advantage to packaging because you can move to a different company and, years down the road, you can run across someone you worked with before.

What real-world packaging experiences have you had and what did you learn from them?

Lorette: My friends and family were surprised when I switched from biology to packaging because they had never heard of it and they had no idea what the major entailed. They believed I would be making boxes for the rest of my life. While some aspects of that are true, a seemingly simple box is quite more complex once we dive into the technical aspects of the design and structure.

My family and friends are all very supportive of what I am doing because this career has a lot of opportunities. In fact, most of my friends today are fellow packaging engineers—it's just one big family!

How can/should social media be used to advance packaging?

Lorette: Social media is becoming more and more popular and several companies are starting to join the bandwagon. With so many companies out in the market place, there is a lot of overlap and competition for them to sell their products. Because of this, packaging has to be able to sell itself on the shelf and stand out from the crowd. Using social media can help with the selling of a unique package because it raises awareness and can be a fun initiative. Take the "Share a Coke" program or the #puppymonkeybaby for example. Social media played a huge role in getting these products into customers’ hands.

What piece of advice would you give other packaging students or students who are considering packaging as a career choice?

Lorette: I would suggest students looking into packaging to go for it. You will not regret taking the chance on a major that nobody thinks about until they are trying to open that frustrating clamshell package!

Packaging provides so many opportunities both on a national and global scale because every company needs packaging engineers to help ensure safe delivery of their products to the store shelf and into the customers’ hands. Since every company needs packaging engineers, the job placement and opportunities are limitless.


Advance your continuing education by attending the conferences and expo at MinnPack 2016 (Sept. 21-22; Minneapolis).

Smaller blister, bigger impact?

Smaller blister, bigger impact?
Smaller cold-formed blisters could benefit patients, sustainability programs, and cost-control efforts. Image courtesy Amcor Flexibles

Called a “significant advancement in packaging for the healthcare industry” when recognized in the 28th DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation, Formpack Ultra builds upon decades of cold-forming technology with new achievements in material efficiency and sustainability. The new cold-forming solution was recognized for excellence in Technological Advancement and Responsible Packaging with a Gold Award in the DuPont program; earlier this year it won a 2016 Alufoil Trophy in the Resource Efficiency category from the European Aluminum Foil Association.

R&D teams at Amcor Flexibles spent nine months studying the performance of its long-standing brand Formpack, understanding the specific characteristics of the raw materials, and partnering with suppliers to identify and optimize the overall performance of the final laminate, reports John Forsyth, Amcor Pharma Product Manager, to PMP News. The project led to the development of a cold-form blister that offers greater elongation than standard materials, allowing for steeper cavity sides and a deeper draw, he says. Formpack Ultra utilizes the same qualified sources of raw materials as Formpack, he adds, allowing “our customers to avoid going through long and costly change processes.”

Greater material elongation gives packaging engineers new design possibilities. “Depending on the tablet shape and size as well as the layout of the cavities, a reduction in the blister size of at least 10%, and often much more, can be achieved,” says Forsyth.“The benefits include discretion (with smaller blisters), portability and convenience (with smaller blisters or more tablets per blister), and more stock space available at pharmacies, which means more choice for consumers. All of the above have a positive effect on increasing patient adherence.” In addition, secondary packaging could hold more blister cards or be reduced in size itself. 

Innovation in cavity design also plays a role minimizing package size. “Amcor's Forsis cavity design services ensure that the cavity is designed in a way that optimizes material usage while offering at the same time the optimum barrier protection and production reliability,” he says.

Forsyth also credits advanced manufacturing processes and quality control. “Amcor continuously invests in upgrades and improvements to its production capabilities,” he says. “The performance and quality of Formpack Ultra is the result of a deep knowledge of the detailed process steps and the interaction between the materials and equipment. This enabled us to introduce some significant innovations, as well as process and quality control improvements.”

For instance, “in order to predict precisely the performance of Formpack Ultra in real life environments, it is critical that the quality control process mimics as accurately as possible all the variations that are encountered during the forming and packing process—different machines, tools, etc.,” he adds.

Smaller packaging could also lead to material savings in terms of cost and resource utilization. Such possibilities could serve sustainability-minded companies. “Consumers are increasingly putting pressure on our customers to deliver drugs in a more sustainable way. For this reason, many of our customers now have sustainability policies and commitments in place to reduce the environmental impact of the development, production, and distribution of their drugs,” says Forsyth. “Sustainability is a global concern and our customers tend to have a global approach. Larger companies usually include sustainability as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, and Formpack Ultra supports these goals. Local projects may have objectives linked to specific local regulations; however, they all contribute to the global sustainability improvement. We are very pleased to be working with all our customers to help them achieve their sustainability goals, along with meeting our own obligations to the market.”

“Amcor is honored to have received a Gold DuPont Packaging Innovation award in the Technological Advancement and Responsible Packaging categories,” Forsyth continues. “It recognizes the outstanding innovation drive and ongoing commitment that our co-workers are constantly bringing to the Pharma market. This award also encourages us to further connect and build strong relationships with our suppliers and customers to ensure we keep developing products that adapt to the ever changing needs of consumers.”

For more details, visit

Acquisition increases tooling options for thermoformed products

Acquisition increases tooling options for thermoformed products
Image courtesy Barger, a division of Placon

Two thermoformers with significant experience in the medical device packaging industry and beyond are uniting to expand their offerings. Placon, which is celebrating its 50th year designing and manufacturing plastic packaging, has acquired Brookdale Plastics, which itself has 40 years of experience in thermoforming.

"The acquisition strengthens our position in the medical market,” Theresa Pope, Director of Marketing for Placon, tells PMP News. “Both companies will be able to leverage each other’s strengths. For example, Brookdale will now have access to all Barger products including BargerGard and Tyvek lidding.” (Placon had acquired medical thermoformer Barger in 2011.)

Brookdale will retain its name and location in Pymouth, MN, continuing operations as normal, Pope says.  

“With Brookdale, Placon has three cleanroom facilities--Elkhart, IN; Madison, WI; and Plymouth, MN,” she adds. 

Customers can expect to see wider tooling capabilities. “By combining Brookdale’s cost-effective tooling solutions with Placon’s world-class matched metal, high precision tooling, we will become the first supplier of choice for custom packaging solutions in the industry,” explains Dan Mohs, Chairman and CEO for Placon, in a statement. “Our companies have many synergies to leverage allowing us faster response with a comprehensive array of tooling options. These capabilities will deliver more value to our customers and position us well into the future.”

Adds Pope: “The synergies create much broader solutions to offer our customers looking for custom packaging. More complex designs now become an option.” 

Turnaround times could be shortened for some customers. “By providing high-quality prototypes from our rapid prototyping machinery, customers can evaluate sizes and shapes quickly…getting their product to production sooner,” she adds. “Additionally, the library tooling our thermoforming platforms use allow us to provide cost effective tooling solutions and shortened lead times on the new production parts our customers need to get out into the market.” 

The more complex designs and trimming options now available will “provide more flexibility when it comes to designing packaging,” she says. 

Adds Mohs, “Like Placon, Brookdale’s employees take great pride in the quality of products they produce and exceptional levels of service they provide. We’re delighted to welcome Brookdale’s 78 employees into the Placon family.” 

In addition to serving the medical device and pharmaceutical markets, Placon and Brookdale also serve retail and other industrial markets. Placon also offers EcoStar branded post-consumer recycled rollstock from PET bottles and thermoforms and produces thermoformed and injection molded food packaging.

For more information, visit Barger and Brookdale at Booths #1119 and #1938, respectively, at MD&M Minneapolis September 21-22 or visit

Packaging delivers high level of distinction for cannabis beverage powder

Packaging delivers high level of distinction for cannabis beverage powder
Tent-style carton holds single-serve stickpacks of flavorless powder containing 10mg of the cannabis ingredient THC.

A Seattle-based company specializing in packaged marijuana products distinguishes with a unique packaging design. Potshotz (produced by Prohibition Gold) are single-serve, 1-g stick packs of neutral-tasting, quick-dissolving powder, housed in a tent-style outer carton.

Company owners Greg Walters and Tom Williams detected significant opportunity in blazing new trails within the pot-infused product market, rather than following the herd. Existing product offerings, according to their view, centered heavily on super-sweet foods and beverages, none of which tasted very good.

“After about four months of research, we zeroed in on a segment of the marijuana industry that seemed untouched—virgin territory that we could create our own product category,” says Walters.

They created Potshotz, stick packs that contain 10 mg of the canabis ingredient THC per single dose of flavorless powder. After arriving on the product, Williams and Walters determined the packaging should stand out as much as the item itself.

“We chose to brand Potshotz to look more like something from a high-end distillery than the standard Bob Marley or Grateful Dead look associated most with marijuana,” says Walters. “We have gone mainstream where most manufacturers are still playing with the stoner culture.”

The tent-style outer carton measures 5.5 x 8 x 1.5 inches, offset printed on coated card stock with four-color printing, gold foil, clear foil and embossing effects. The container combines eye-catching design with production speed and simplicity.

“We wanted to follow a direction that we know the consumer was already used to on a retail level, and we needed a package that didn’t require a lot of prep time to package in case lots,” says Walters. “We wanted a good billboard when in the stores that still clearly stated ‘quality’ to the consumer. We also wanted it to be slightly unconventional so it wasn’t just a standard box. The box also had to work in a glass case or could have a plastic hang tag applied to display on store walls behind counters.”

The packaging also communicates a healthful product, says Walters.

“We are the only powdered product on the market that doesn’t contain sugar so that is a big plus,” he says. “We aren’t pushing the health aspect other than stating the consumer can decide how they want to use it since it is only a quarter teaspoon of powder with no harmful additives.”

The inner stick packs are standard polyester film, similar to those used by other single-serve beverage vendors. These, according to Walters, were chosen for ease of production and consumer convenience.

“We can produce 60 packs per minute, and they easily fit in the consumer’s purse, pocket or wallet,” he says. “They transport better than any other package we looked at and are extremely discreet because they are used for various different types of powdered mixes, so they can be used almost anywhere.”

While the unique look and feel of the packaging costs more than other containers in the pot-infused field, says Walters, the extra investment has proven successful.

“It has paid off with more sales quicker because of the interest from the consumer the packaging creates,” he says.

Potshotz are distributed in recreational marijuana retailers throughout Washington State.

Former Packaging Digest senior editor Jenni Spinner is a trade journalist with two decades of experience in the field. While she has covered numerous industries (including construction, engineering, building security, food production and public works), packaging remains her favorite.

Totino’s pizza and packaging: Square, hip and supply-chain optimized

Totino’s pizza and packaging: Square, hip and supply-chain optimized
This budget-minded food manufacturer owned by General Mills realized the significant supply-chain savings tied to square pizzas.

Square is hip when it comes to efficiency in packaging in this case study analysis of Totino’s bold move to a square pizza that piles on the supply-chain savings.

Deep at heart, I am a child of the 80’s. One of the top songs from that time—“Hip to be Square”—was generated by one of my favorite bands, Huey Lewis & the News. Now that I’m a packaging engineer, it looks like history is repeating itself: Totino’s is making sure it’s hip to be square as they just launched a new square pizza!

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “square pizzas” I immediately think of food service school lunch pizza. But apparently the budget food manufacturer (now owned by General Mills) did its due diligence on long-term packaging inefficiency and has realized the significant supply chain savings tied to square pizzas.

While traditional round pizzas poorly utilize cubic space, Totino’s wants its square party pizza to fit in

Years ago the Walmart Scorecard began to evaluate the “selling unit cube utilization” (SUCU, for short). This SUCU metric looked at the ratio of how well the product fit inside its respective packaging (product volume vs. package volume).  When you evaluate the amount of air space and the cubic utilization of a round pizza in a square box, this shape change seems like a no-brainer. And in the transportation and warehousing world (not to mention cold-chain transportation and storage), this space comes at a premium cost.

Simply stated, squares are more efficient than circles.

Packaging cost savings = the real driver for change

I love the marketing messaging behind Totino’s packaging change…. “fit more in your freezer,” “fits better in a toaster oven.”

While those may be true, there’s no denying that the change will also drive home some significant packaging and transportation cost savings.

When you start to consider the holistic supply chain impact this change has knowing that the brand sells more than 300 million pizzas annually, the savings really add up.

Although the square is not a very sexy shape, unless you happen to be into boxes, you can bet that logistics and supply chain executives (as well as Huey Lewis) will agree: It’s hip to be square!

Rob Kaszubowski is the Engineering Manager at Chainalytics, where he is focused on reducing product damage and implementing packaging cost reduction initiatives while leading a team of packaging consultants .Rob also contributes to the Packaging Matters blog.

Connect with Rob on LinkedIn and on Twitter @KazPack1



Looking for packaging ideas that can optimize links in your supply chain? Visit MinnPack, September 21-22 in Minneapolis.