Packaging Digest is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Muller's Octopus Stretch Wrapper Proves the Right Solution

Muller is a leading manufacturer of both innovative equipment and material load containment solutions that provides a single source to properly secure pallets. Muller’s highly regarded OctopusTM stretch wrapper line, along with other reliable equipment such as the CobraTM and RaptorTM, provide customers with a wide range of solutions. Watch the free video & gain insight on how Muller's OctopusTM stretch wrapper line can improve your business.

  • Greater efficiency, safety & up to 30% film savings
  • Minimal maintenance & built-in safety mechanisms
  • Superior training, service & support

Is 100% recyclable flexible packaging possible?

Is 100% recyclable flexible packaging possible?

As the second largest packaging segment in the United States, flexible packaging solutions account for 18% of the $145 billion American packaging market, according to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). Lighter weight flexible packaging includes films and laminates, which allow for the transport of higher volumes of product and less materials needed for production. This has been a revolutionary movement for brands to adopt to save on energy costs and reduce capital spent on materials.

On the manufacturing end of the production/consumption loop, flexible packaging makes sense because it has less of a negative impact on the environment than its rigid plastic bottle counterparts. It requires less material for production, generates less CO2 during transportation and taking up less space in the landfill.

According to the FPA, the flexible standup pouch product to package ratio is 35 times greater than that of glass bottles with metal caps and 21 times greater than the aluminum can. This allows for more product to be shipped using much less packaging. Included in the association's statistics is the fact that flexible packaging uses 50% less energy to produce and 60% less plastic than rigid bottles.

While sustainable packaging is a great talking point for the flexible packaging sector, there is still progress to be made to be entirely environmentally responsible. To any consumer, recycling plastics is the answer. CompleteRecycling.com states that recycling plastics uses 80% less energy than what it takes to create new plastic containers or bottles. But is recycling the only answer to environmental consciousness? Is it applicable to flexible packaging?

Flexible packaging recycling today

As it stands, there is no proper closed-loop system put in place to handle the recycling of flexible packaging, especially multi-layer high-barrier materials, specifically structures composed of aluminum foil within a polyethylene (PE) laminate. Mono-layered packaging is more easily recyclable because it doesn't contain the aluminum foil center. But the process to recycle multi-layered flexible PE packaging involves more steps than the traditional plastic recycling regimen by including separation of each layer. Each layer is then analyzed, identified and recycled individually to further process the plastic film into a recyclate resin.

Since a lot of flexible packaging is used for food products, another hurdle for recycling is food contamination. Due to food contamination in most flexible packaging going through the current recycling system, a very small percentage is actually reusable. The non-recycled polymers are sent into oxygen-free chambers for incineration, providing emissions-monitored energy to manufacturing plants.

There are great initiatives in the works from forward-thinking groups like the Flexible Packaging Association, who has a strong focus on sustainable packaging. The FPA is working with several producers for packaging that is safe for the environment. The Sustainable Plastic Coalition, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APPR); and The Flexible Film Recycling Group(FFRG), are also promoting and increasing public education and outreach on plastic film recycling.

Cradle-to-cradle design is another initiative that organizations such as Enval are working toward. The philosophy of cradle-to-cradle design is to keep packaging products within the reusable system without downgrading or becoming 100% waste. Enval has found a way to fully recycle the aluminum foil between the layers of polymer laminate and keep it clean. Along with that, they can produce oils and gases from the plastic components, which can be used for electricity and heat. This is possible by using microwave-induced pyrolysis, which is not able to be done by incineration because of the inclusion of oxygen in the process.

Manufacturers are also moving toward the cradle-to-cradle concept by implementing the use of either eco-friendly materials that biodegrade, bio-based plastics that may also be biodegradable or techno-friendly materials that can be recycled without being down-cycled into low-grade materials. Using plant-based materials in flexible packaging would mean economic growth for agricultural industries. It would also push further agricultural development due to demand for crop growth.

Possible optimization of flex pack recycling

While Enval's process to completely recycle aluminum components and use pyrolysis for plastic components is currently the best solution for handling of multi-layered packaging waste, there is no solution to adequately recycle the plastic components into other plastic materials.

With pyrolysis, char residue formed from plastics contains inorganic materials, 80% liquid carbon and 20% carbon gas (CO2 gases are not created because of lack of oxygen in the chamber). The carbon can be transported to different locations for liquid fuel/energy needs. The ash can be used as ingredients in products such as concrete ready mixes. While the carbon can be used as fuel, companies tend to enter mixed waste materials into the pyrolysis chamber, producing fuel that may not have optimal usability.

What needs to continually be researched is an effective way to turn this carbon liquid fuel into a more serviceable, high-integrity energy source.

Developing more effective end-of-life processes (especially within pyrolysis) for flexible packaging; to have an even lesser impact on the environment is a challenging quest, but it is possible. With the innovations the flexible packaging sector has already made, like using bio-based material,or the waste-to-energy process of pyrolysis, the building blocks of further development have been set in place.

Author Ashley Swinehart is a professional blogger who writes about various aspects of plastic manufacturing, including trends and hot topics related to packaging. One of her clients is Elite Machinery Systems, a global provider of injection molding and thermoforming machines.

Advanced monitoring and control improves product quality and security

Advanced monitoring and control improves product quality and security

Call it the X factor: ProdX advanced connectivity data management software system offers centralized production line monitoring and control for product and packaging inspection equipment.

ProdX is an advanced connectivity software program that allows centralized monitoring, control and data documentation for Mettler Toledo checkweighers, metal detectors and x-ray systems, whether operating in one location or in multiple facilities.

Key features:

Product Quality – The ProdX dashboard enables management to receive in one central location critical early warning alerts about key situations affecting Product Quality such as serial automatic product rejections and machinery maintenance requests­­.

Security – Changes to product set-ups on multiple product inspection devices at one or more plant sites can be carried out simultaneously, reducing the likelihood of unforeseen human error and ensures management keep product data secure.

Productivity – Multiple product inspection devices can be integrated into a central monitoring system that can be monitored from multiple locations.

Sophisticated simplicity - The user interface features color-coded machine icons that provides at-a-glance device status and health.

Standardized reporting meets the requirements of HACCP-based food safety programs. If any issues arise, the ProdX program will immediately alert you to them.

Production uptime is further enhanced with the rejects and event monitoring screens and their associated reports. By receiving detailed information in real time, users of ProdX can avert potential downtime events and product waste, manage production processes proactively and better utilize valuable maintenance and production personnel.

The Mettler Toledo Product Inspection Group, a division of Mettler-Toledo Inc., consists of CI-Vision, Hi-Speed and Safeline.

 mt.com/pi

Can packaging be the star of reality TV show?

Can packaging be the star of reality TV show?

Some may see packaging as just a wrapper to cover a product, a bottle to hold liquid or the box around our cereal, but it has truly consumed our lives—so much so that we live and breathe it like fish in water.  Though it’s such an ingrained part of our consumer driven society, many consumers still don’t realize how pervasive it really is. A new tube of toothpaste comes inside of a cardboard box; a four-pack of soup is wrapped in plastic; and what a pain it is digging through all those packing peanuts after finally receiving an online order! The most common destination for all of that waste: a landfill. Here at TerraCycle, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to transform the way consumers think about their self-generated packaging waste. For us packaging can be the hero, the star, not just an after thought. Thus, we pose a question: can oft forgotten packaging become the star of a reality TV series?

Are consumers to be held responsible for consumer waste, or are product companies to be held responsible for creating it in the first place?  TerraCycle believes nobody has to be blamed if we can take disposable commercial packaging and recycle, upcycle, or reuse it in some way. If post-consumer trash can actually be used in helpful, sustainable ways, doesn’t that make it a champion of sustainability in its own right? This sentiment is exactly why we’ve made packaging the star of a new reality television show called Human Resources, a docu-comedy that shows the ins and outs of TerraCycle and our obsession with trash. The show will premiere on Friday, August 8th at 10 p.m. ET/PT on PivotTV.  The entire series is comprised of 10 half-hour episodes that we hope will not only highlight the importance of packaging in the present, but also its importance in our future.  You can watch the first one for free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf5rTz4AzyA

Human Resources is our attempt to prove that consumer packaging can in fact be the hero we need to reduce waste and champion sustainable design. In the second episode of the show, for instance, TerraCycle receives one million pounds of waste from one of our largest clients but find that supplies are still far lower that they need to be to secure an important sale of recycled plastic. A team of employees calls some of TerraCycle’s corporate partners like GoGo SqeeZ and Capri Sun to try and get more material, and finally procures more of the aluminized pouches that were needed from both pre and post-consumer sources.  Almost nobody thinks of unusable roll-stock packaging in a positive light, but in this situation it became the hero of the situation.

In episode four, TerraCycle and Garnier partner to refurbish a community garden made out of recycled cosmetic packaging that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The entire garden ended up being renovated with garden beds, benches and picnic tables made entirely out of non-recyclable, post-consumer beauty waste. The estimated yield of 1,500 pounds of vegetables per year goes to the Harlem Social Service Agency, which supports over 10,000 preschoolers through senior citizens alike.  If we support the idea that materials like shampoo bottles, empty lipstick tubes, and other beauty supplies can be transformed into something this positive and socially responsible, we can make an enormous impact not only in Harlem, but throughout the world.

We hope that Human Resources will allow us to share with viewers our belief that packaging waste, along with all of its hidden material potential, can be more of a hero than it might seem. By inspiring viewers— who are all consumers in some form or another—we can change the way we look at waste. By seeing beyond the landfill that it is typically headed for, we can even use it to make positive changes in our communities and the Earth. Together, we can outsmart waste.

So what do you think, can packaging really be the star of a TV show?

Author Tom Szaky, founder/CEO of TerraCycle, has won more than 50 awards for entrepreneurship, also writes blogs for Treehugger and The New York Times, recently published a book called "Revolution in a Bottle" and is the star of a National Geographic Channel special, "Garbage Moguls."

Smarter packaging options in healthcare

Smarter packaging options in healthcare
Vials shown above rely on RFID (left) or NFC technology (right).

July 3 was a banner day for smarter pharmaceutical and medical packaging when two patents were published that leverage technology to improve patient compliance and consumer safety. One was for a Smart Label container and the other for an RFID-enabled prescription bottle or vial.

The first one (on the left in the above image) for a metal-crimped vial equipped with radio-frequency identification is assigned to MEPS Real-Time, Inc., Carlsbad, CA. That comes as no surprise: the company offers a suite of “Intelliguard” RFID systems for medications and pharmaceuticals. In May, it introduced a RFID Smart Tag that’s 65% smaller than any other RFID tags available to healthcare and can be used for anesthesia kits, trays and drawers.

According to the patent, the use of RFID enables the vial to be identified and tracked throughout the supply chain. But wireless RFID is just the beginning before things get even more interesting: The RFID inlay’s antenna is coupled with the metallic crimp to increase the effective area of the RFID antenna and therefore the effectiveness of the signal. Using packaging or a standard packaging component seamlessly like this to increase the robustness of RFID is ingenious.

Additionally, a second antenna element is mounted to the side of the vial in a way that does not obscure any of the information on the label to further increase the tag’s readability.

The invention is claimed as an improvement over “flag tag” RFID applications.

Of course, extracting RFID data requires portals/readers/interrogators and other associated infrastructure, but this highly enabled, robust RFID vial design supports making a business case in justifying the technology for these small, yet critical packaged products.

You can read the filing at Fresh Patents.

NFC prescription Smart Label

The second published patent filing (shown in the right half of the image at the top) from July 3 centers on a different wireless communication protocol as an alternate tactic to achieve the same goal of increasing compliance and safety. Assigned to several individuals, this invention relies on Near-Field Communication (NFC), which is commonly used to make the “tap-tap” access for smartphones and is a fast-growing market that’s expected to reach $16.25 billion by 2022 at an CAGR of 8.8%, according to a new study. In fact, that’s an example of how the information on the smart label can be read.

In summary, the prescription smart label cap system can remind patients of prescription use times and dosages, monitors the contents and can gather, record, store and transmit patient use data. It can be powered by a battery or, in another example, powered by light using a flexible solar cell. The filing also proposes mobile applications enabled by the NFC and Wi-Fi Direct.  A mobile-device-readable Quick Response Code is also mentioned.

The system reminds patients to take their medication and allows doctors to remotely monitor the proper use of the medicines that were prescribed.

The Overall Cost of Ownership for such an arrangement can be minimized in that the system can be reusable—a Recyclable Prescription Smart Label—wherein the data is erased and a new prescription is then created.

For more information, see the patent filing here.

How important are these kinds of developments? Daphne Allen, editor of Pharmaceutical and Medical Packaging News, says "Patient noncompliance with prescribed drug regimens as well as medication errors is an ongoing problem in healthcare. I have long believed that packaging and identification technologies offer potential solutions to reduce the impact of these problems." 

Confused consumers toss out plastic packaging instead of recycling: poll

Confused consumers toss out plastic packaging instead of recycling: poll

When it comes to plastic packaging, the majority of consumers have no idea what to recycle.

In a recent online poll by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and Earth911, 65% of respondents say they don’t understand what plastics are acceptable in curbside collection, leading ISRI president Robin Wiener to conclude, “As long as confusion reigns, consumers are apt to throw plastics away that should be recycled. This Earth911/ISRI Opinion Poll demonstrates a strong need for additional education, particularly by municipalities, on what can be recycled and how to do it.”

Conducted from May 19 to July 23, 2014, the poll asked a simple question: “What do you find most confusing about recycling plastic?” A total of 1,177 people answered, with the top reply at 37% being “Knowing how much food contamination is acceptable.” Can you blame them? Who has time to rinse dirty packages, especially if a hot meal is waiting for you on the table?

Next, 28% say “Understanding what types of plastic my municipality accepts in their curbside recycling program.” Clearly, Wiener’s conclusion has merit.

Then 18% of respondents say they are confused about “Finding where I can recycle plastics.” But, let’s face it, few consumers are willing to expend the time, energy or cost to recycle if it means doing more than putting something in their bin for curbside recycling.

Lastly, 17% admit to not being a “numbers” person, choosing the option of “The meaning of the recycling numbers.” The resin identification codes were never meant to be the amateur’s guide to recycling. But, through its membership in global standards organization ASTM, ISRI is partnering with other stakeholders on the issue of redefining the resin identification codes.

In 2011, 280 million tons of plastics were produced globally (total plastics, not just packaging)—or 560 billion pounds. Yet only 4.5 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic—bottles, bags, film and non-rigid plastics—were recycled in the United States in the same year. Even looking at just a sliver of the packaging market—PET, the the most commonly recycled packaging plastic—the potential to improve is vast. About 802 thousand tons of PET plastic bottles were recycled nationwide in 2011, according to the Container Recycling Institute, but more than two times as much PET was wasted: 1.9 million tons.

“With more and more plastic being produced, it is essential that plastic products that have reached end of life enter the recycling stream,” says Wiener.

What can brand owners do to help clear up consumers’ confusion?

“Brand owners should continue to work with recyclers and municipalities to make clearer what is and what is not recyclable within community recycling programs,” says Jonathan Cohen, ISRI Plastics Div. chair and president of Generated Materials Recovery (Phoenix, AZ).

Perhaps the How2Recycle label from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition is an option. It tells people what to do with the product’s packaging when it’s empty and is gaining ground with brand owners and consumers alike.

Packaging is both a challenge and opportunity when it comes to sustainability

Packaging is both a challenge and opportunity when it comes to sustainability
Adam Gendell

Holding a balanced discussion with both sides of a story can be tricky. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.” If that discussion is about an abstract philosophy like sustainability, then “tricky” might be a bit of an understatement.

Yet, the pursuit of sustainability involves both opportunities that packaging must leverage and challenges that packaging needs to overcome. So while it could be easier to solely balk at the challenges or cheerlead the opportunities, the discussion ought to embrace both so that we can work to discover the balance that makes packaging part of a sustainable future.

Conversations in the early days of the sustainability movement were certainly not kind to packaging. In fact, it’s hard to find any industry that was treated particularly well in those conversations. Doom and gloom prevailed, and industry of any type was circled with a skull and crossbones. Packaging was viewed first and foremost as a waste problem that needed to be solved.

But the more the conversation progressed, the worse things got for packaging. In addition to being wasteful, packaging was in the crosshairs for air pollution, resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions and most other types of environmental impacts. The solution? Reduce packaging. Eliminate it wherever possible. Suffice it to say the negative Nancies were focused only on the challenges of sustainable packaging.

After spending a few years on the defensive front, the packaging community came to the conclusion that it’s okay to talk about the sustainability benefits that packaging can offer. After all, packaging isn’t all doom and gloom. Feeding nine billion people is often touted as one of the most pressing sustainability challenges—so what about all the work that packaging does to preserve freshness, provide shelf stability, show nutritional information, and simplify product transportation?

Expanding the conversation from packaging to packaged products begins to illuminate the sustainability benefits that packaging offers. And it’s not just in food systems that packaging can have a positive impact. Almost every product likely incurs more impacts over its life cycle than its packaging, so if the package protects the product and delivers it in usable condition, then it’s likely to be worth whatever relatively small impacts it incurs.

Yet, even the largest lens through which sustainability can be assessed would still show us that the unwanted impacts of packaging cannot be ignored just because packaging presents a net positive in a world needing packaged products. The fact remains that there are still natural limits to the overall amounts of environmental impacts we incur, and if gains can be made in any facet of human activity, then they need to be made. Packaging should be recognized for its benefits, yes—but it has not earned an exemption.

The point is that the best assessments of packaging sustainability must include the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not okay to frown on the unwanted impacts of packaging in isolation any more than it is to neglect addressing them in the name of improving product sustainability. The balanced conversation is the only meaningful conversation.

While we have a long way to go before the conversation is as robust as it can be, organizations like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and events like SPC Advance, are helping to move us in that direction. By creating a space where people with diverse material and supply chain perspectives can come together in an open, collaborative environment, we can start to have the balanced conversations that matter most.

Author Adam Gendell is a project manager at GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, where he leads the development of the organization’s fall conference, SPC Advance. For more information about SPC Advance, visit http://spcadvance.com/ and for more information about the SPC, visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.

Real-time bar code reader monitoring ensures packaging line performance

Real-time bar code reader monitoring ensures packaging line performance
Cognex Explorer Real Time Monitoring (RTM) system

Control devices on a packaging line fail all the time. Getting to the root cause of the problem, though, can be daunting. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to monitor all the devices in real-time and categorize the faults?

That’s the question the folks at Cognex asked, and have now answered with the new Explorer Real Time Monitoring (RTM) system, which ensures the performance of the company’s DataMan bar code readers. Getting the right data about these readers into the hands of plant managers empowers them to identify and correct packaging line defects with the overall goal of improving efficiency and optimizing processes.

Here’s how it works: When a package has a bar code read error, the DataMan reader sends the image to the Explorer RTM. It evaluates the image and classifies it by type, such as "packages with no label present" or "poorly printed labels." These classified images are stored in the Explorer RTM database—which is housed on a server—and plant managers can check the data at any time using a web browser.

The system also tracks read rates of the DataMan devices and shows trend reports, making is easy to see performance patterns.

Carl Gerst, vp and business unit manager for ID Products at Cognex, says, "Our customers have been looking for a data-driven approach to pinpoint deficiencies in their applications. By providing powerful and flexible vision tools to analyze packages that were not read due to process errors, as well as the time-based trending of read rates, we add a whole new level of value to our scan points."

Dual dispenser 'highlights' Redken Blonde conditioners

Dual dispenser 'highlights' Redken Blonde conditioners

Redken, a L’Oreal company, has opted to use VariBlend’s custom-blending, dual-dispensing technology for its two new hair color products—the Blonde Idol Custom-Tone Violet daily conditioner for cool or platinum blondes, and Gold for warm blondes.

Packaging Digest got the exclusive on the packaging from Robert Brands, president & CEO, VariBlend, and Tim Yerby, vp operations, VariBlend.

What design trends does your packaging set in the hair care market? 

Brands: Today, consumers are tech savvy and ready for advanced consumer packaging that delivers optimal results and fills needs (in this case, the time transition from conditioner to hair color maintenance). Elements of pack premiumization are now found in masstige and even mass products, as well as in the luxury market. 

Dispensers like VariBlend Dual Dispensing allow formulators and R&D to offer combinations not possible before, whether they are concentration regimens, or combined-use with enhanced chemical reaction by mixing at the time of application. Additionally, the enhanced chemistry combinations made possible by VariBlend opens the door to development of more concentrated formulas, which delivers the ability to reduce overall package size.

Besides the package itself, our approach to overall marketing and communication with the consumer has broadened—another trend. Note the use of social media, consumers sharing with consumers and tools like Podcast and Youtube….how to use the dispenser and application See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_bqnJxFXEg

Describe packaging components of bottle, closure, label.

Brands: Both versions are custom as they are for Cool and Warm Blondes.

Although the concept of dual dispensing has been around for a while, few have mastered it, as it is a complex combination of mechanical and fluid technologies and features. VariBlend is the clear leader and focused on the unique features and attributes. Designed in Europe and made in the U.S., VariBlend continues to open doors for new applications and segments. Redken used the larger dispenser or 49mm, with VariBlend soon announcing a new small cosmetic and personal care unit later this year.

VariBlend's dispensing product line facilitates an extremely high degree of customization, with the dual dispenser offering able to be customized in terms of: dispensing output, single or dual outlet, fixed ratio or adjustable ratio, number of adjustment positions (5 or 7), mixed or unmixed dispensing, and dispenser labeling. In terms of container customization, container size, material, color, transparency, airless or non-airless, labeling, and refill/non-refill capabilities: these are all available variables to marketers, enabling customize packages to meet the needs of specific consumer applications.

What were the key goals and requirements from a marketing view? From a packaging view? 

Yerby: The key goals, in terms of marketing include: (a) Branding, Redken and Idol Blonde, (b) clear communications of the dual function and dual offering with dual color labeling and (c) clear simple step-by-step user instructions to operate the Dual lotion dispenser optimally. 

In terms of packaging, one of the most unique goals of the Redken package was to communicate to the consumer the concept of a regimen application system to be used between trips to the salon, with increasing intensity each week (as described on the pump label) to provide maximum value and efficacy of the product.

Craft beer brews up label innovation

Craft beer brews up label innovation
According to Mintel's new research, more than one in five (23%) respondents drink craft beer.

Craft beer continues to rise in popularity as sales are up 110%, according to a recent report by Mintel. Millennia’s are to account for the largest piece of the consumer pie with a resounding 70% saying that the brand of beer says a lot about them and 66% says the style does the same. This robust sense of self has crossed over into record-breaking sales for the craft beer industry, as Mintel estimates sales of craft beer (including craft-style offerings) will reach $20 billion in 2014, more than doubling sales of five years ago.

The study also reflected that some 13% of craft beer drinkers say they select a product that looks cool when the kind of beer they typically drink is not available and 8% of craft drinkers say label or packaging design is important in their purchasing decision.

To celebrate this craft phenomenon, I’ve captured several exciting label designs that standout on the shelves as the increase of craft sales have led to an influx of imaginative and original beer label designs.