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Articles from 2017 In August


How to change plastic’s ‘waste’ reputation

How to change plastic’s ‘waste’ reputation
How can we resolve the different perspectives about plastic packaging? We need to try.

An environmentalist and a plastics representative walk into a bar. The environmentalist says, “Plastic is killing the planet.” The plastics representative responds, “But plastics save resources by being so efficient!” They roll their eyes at one another and sit at opposite ends of the bar. And so continues the Great Plastics Divide.

Can the differences ever be reconciled? Let’s look at each perspective and, yes, some possible solutions.

Plastic has long been targeted as demonstrative of our throwaway society, our culture of excess, of waste. This image of plastics is so prevalent that you see it in contemporary art. Brooklyn-based artist Dana Bell recently thermoformed bio-plastic art as critique of our contemporary modes of production and consumption. Her project abstract reads:

“My newest body of work is based on the problems of production found in fast fashion, limited-use furnishings/decor, and commercial packaging. Using the very tools, materials and techniques behind the modalities of mass production, I am creating sculptures, paintings, and photographs. In doing so, I seek to develop a body of work which speaks in critical dialogue with over-production, over-consumption, and the disposable desire that holds accumulative manufacture together, and propels the system of proliferating waste…By re-contextualizing the materiality of waste and industrial byproducts and transforming the detritus into intentional art objects, I aim to focus attention upon, and to denormalize escalating waste culture.”

Dana Bell’s algae-plastic thermoformed art looks to challenge our “waste culture” by using the very technologies of mass production to create decomposing art. Material provided by Dordan via ALGIX LLC.

But #plasticsmakeitpossible proponents tweet alongside stories of how plastic packaging protects food the longest, reducing spoilage. Natural capital accounting firm TruCost supports these arguments, finding that plastics are in fact the preferable environmental material when compared with alternatives intended to perform the same function.

But when has science ever trumped public perspective? Take the plastic shopping bag—a waterproof, durable, lightweight packet capable of holding more than a thousand pounds its weight, soon to become a relic of modern convenience, thanks to bag bans aimed at its eradication.

Thus, plastics making it possible doesn’t replace the powerful images of albatrosses with plastic debris in their decaying stomachs, or children in India sifting through mounds of plastic garbage; it doesn’t change the economics of recycling, where much post-consumer plastic is of too little value to recover; and it doesn’t help position the industry toward a sustainable future where plastics is regarded as the true engineering marvel it is, not the environmental burden it is perceived to be.

Some argue that plastic isn’t the problem: people, policy and/or waste management schemes are. If we facilitate more recycling at the municipal level, and encourage the responsible disposal of plastic at the behavioral level, through education, incentives and investment in the recovery infrastructure, then we won’t see plastics in our waterways or landfills.

These remedies to the problem of plastic waste, though helping to move the needle, are too granular. Even if all of the best practices were sophistically implemented, it would not fundamentally change the public’s perception of plastic, because it would not solve the global problem of plastic waste.

What is the solution then?

The solution to the war of plastic ideologies becomes clear. The sociological construction of plastics as symbolic of waste culture—communicated through Bell’s art—will only be replaced with proper representation, when the global problem of plastic waste is tackled. Perception is power, and the perception of plastic can’t oscillate between good and evil, but fall on the truth.

The economy of waste is not divorced from capitalism. In the majority of America, waste management is funded by taxes and managed by municipalities. In countries with Extended Producer Responsibility programs, however, industry funds waste management and private companies compete for the management of the waste. America’s plastic recycling rates have stagnated while countries with EPR boast high plastic recovery and recycling rates. Economics and policy therefore dictate the success of waste management.

But it’s not as simple as who pays or how it’s managed when we are talking about eradicating global plastic waste.

Years ago I wanted the thermoformed packaging that Dordan makes to be recycled. I didn’t understand why, if it was made from recycled water bottles, it couldn’t be recycled with plastic water bottles. I wasn’t alone.

The price for virgin plastics was high, there was more capacity and demand for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) than supply, and Walmart released its infamous “Packaging Scorecard.” Industry alliances, recyclers, brand owners, producers and non-profits all championed for the recovery of thermoformed plastic packaging. The argument was PET thermoformed packaging could and would be recycled post-consumer if: (1) there was enough quality and quantity in the post-consumer waste stream to economically justify the collection and reprocessing of it; (2) it could be efficiently and affordably sorted at the recycling facility from look-alike containers, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) clamshells; (3) it wouldn’t contaminate the existing PET water bottle recycling stream; and (4) there was a sustainable and consistent demand for the recyclate.

Thanks to the hard work of a lot of people, all the moving pieces came together, and it was reported in 2012 by Moore Recycling Associates that PET thermoformed containers are now “recyclable” insofar as the majority of American communities have access to facilities that can reprocess the material.

What’s the recycling rate of PET thermoformed containers today? Not terribly impressive. That’s because the cost of virgin plastics dropped, the reprocessing was found to be challenging, and the economics and initiatives that catalyzed the collection and recovery mostly disintegrated.

This story provides a snap shot into the complexities of the economics of recycling plastic packaging in North America.

The recycling market is in a constant state of flux depending on an array of factors that continuously ebb and flow. Countries with EPR, hands down, are the most proficient at recovering waste, but that is because of fundamental differences in consumer attitudes and governmental structure and funding. If the majority of ocean debris comes from the same four countries in the southern pacific that lack basic waste management infrastructure, then it is extremely doubtful that said countries can fundamentally change their culture and politics to implement EPR to stop the leakage of plastics into the oceans.  

What is changing now?

The New Plastics Economy is a global initiative looking to eliminate plastic waste through innovation and collaboration. Spearheaded by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and joined by an impressive alliance of companies, philanthropists, governments and non-government organizations (NGOs), the NPE is a concept rooted in a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from McKinsey & Co. Titled The New Plastics Economy—Rethinking the future of plastics, the report provides the vision of a global economy in which plastic never becomes waste.

The report illustrates a disconnect between the value of the plastic packaging we produce and use and its associated value after use. Because there is little post-consumer value associated with much plastic packaging, there is little economic impetus to collect and recycle it. Thus, the majority of plastic packaging remains outside the circular economy model, making its way into the natural environment and persisting in our waterways and oceans.

Susan Freinkel’s 2011 “Plastics: A Toxic Love Story” was ahead of its time. In it she notes this inherent economic disconnect of plastic. She writes,

“We are burying the same kinds of energy-dense molecules we spend a fortune to pump from the ground, scrap from mines, and blast mountaintops to reach. When we put these previous molecules into products we designed for the briefest of uses, we inevitably lose sight of their worth. We forget that an item like a used soda bottle is an item worth saving, not trash to be thrown away.”

Art is a barometer of society, its manifestations are glimpses into the cultural imaginations of a time and place. The sociological construction of plastics as representative of waste culture can be replaced, but it requires changing the economics of plastics such that plastics never become waste.

Instead of those in the industry inadvertently taking to the defense of plastics by focusing only on its success stories, all should acknowledge the global problem of plastics pollution, and learn intimately of the initiatives underway. Knowledge is more powerful than perspective when spread eagerly, so lets use our media platforms to share the new plastics economy initiative. On the vehicle of an informed populous, the opposing ideologies of plastics can finally come together, and toast to the sustainment of both the industry and the planet.

Let’s rally together behind the new plastics economy, because no one wants to drink alone.  

Chandler Slavin is the sustainability coordinator and marketing manager at custom thermoforming company Dordan Manufacturing. Privately held and family owned and operated since 1962, Dordan is an engineering-based designer and manufacturer of plastic clamshells, blisters, trays and thermoformed components. Follow Slavin on Twitter @DordanMfg.

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Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

Oscar Mayer hot dog labeling says ‘No No No;’ consumers say ‘Yes Yes Yes’

Oscar Mayer hot dog labeling says ‘No No No;’ consumers say ‘Yes Yes Yes’
Product reformulation for Oscar Mayer hot dogs inspired a packaging graphics refresh.

The Kraft Heinz Co. has overhauled the recipes for its Oscar Mayer hot dogs to clean up the products’ formulation, and it has also redesigned the dogs’ packaging to let shoppers know about the change.

The new packaging design includes three repetitions of the word “No,” capitalized and in a large font. Text in a smaller font explains that the hot dogs now contain no added nitrates and nitrites, except those naturally occurring in celery juice; no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors; and no fillers or by-products. The brand owner worked with Bulletproof to create the new package graphics.

Jeremy Truxal, Kraft Heinz brand manager, Oscar Mayer Brand Build, answers some questions about the project.

Why is it a good thing to show “No No No” on the front label? How does that connect with today’s consumers?

Truxal: We know that shoppers are looking at product attributes and ingredient lines now more than ever. It’s important to us that our product packaging gives shoppers a very clear reassurance of the integrity of the new Oscar Mayer Hot Dog line.

Were there any other packaging changes, other than the graphics? Is the band the same size, shape and material as before?

Truxal: Graphics were the only changes made to the packaging. The packaging used is the same structure and material used in previous Oscar MayerHot Dogs packaging.

Can you comment on the timing? Tyson Foods did something similar with its Ball Park brand right before Kraft Heinz rolled out the new Oscar Mayer hot dogs and packaging. What is happening in the market for two major hot dog brands to make a similar change almost simultaneously?

Truxal: Oscar Mayer was the first national hot dog brand to make these recipe changes across the entire line of hot dogs, not just a select variety. Consumer preferences continue to evolve. We saw there was a need for a better quality hot dog for shoppers everywhere, and we set out to provide that superior option, across our whole line, and without changing the price.

How many stock-keeping units (SKUs) are in the new packaging?

Truxal: About 13 SKUs are in the new packaging.

How is the renovated product/package doing in the market so far? Was there an increase in sales?

Truxal: While we cannot share exact sales numbers, we are seeing a positive reaction from consumers and a lift in sales as a result of the hot dog recipe changes and subsequent packaging redesign. 

The flavor color coding is consistent with the previous package design—orange for Cheese Dogs, red for Wieners, black for Beef—but the colors are richer now, conveying quality. What did you do to enhance the colors?

Truxal: Yes, in designing the new product packaging, we wanted to ensure that we kept the same color coding to continue that consistency with shoppers. We applied richer, warmer Pantone colors to help communicate the quality improvements made to every single hot dog.

What background colors are you are using on the new packs?

Truxal: A tone of the classic Oscar Mayer yellow is used on all of the new hot dog packages.

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Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

Ulee’s craft cider packaging design odyssey

Ulee’s craft cider packaging design odyssey
With a name derived from legendary Greek Ulysses, Ulee’s simplistically distinct packaging characterizes a quest for quick identification.

Ulee’s Light Cider chooses packaging that’s vibrant and appealing to consumers interested in healthier adult beverages.

Claimed as America’s first and only craft light cider, Ulee’s Light Cider (Portland, OR) launched in July with two products, Ulee’s Light Cider Dry and Ulee’s Light Cider Citra. Boasting only 99 calories per 12oz slim can, the products are sold at retail in 6-count packs at a suggested price of $10.99.

“Craft light cider is a new category that appeals to consumers looking for all-natural alcohol beverages made with local ingredients that are also lower in calories and alcohol,” says Scott Gallagher, president, who responds to Packaging Digest’s questions.

What’s the story behind the look and design?

Gallagher: We wanted to create a package that would be easy to spot from a distance and find in a crowded cooler. That led us to a simple, mostly white can with bright colors that would make it "pop" on a shelf. We also created a logo that would be easily recognizable with multiple applications.

In addition to being easy to find, we wanted to create a package that was bright, vibrant, energizing and appealing to consumers interested in healthier products. The colors also make it easy to describe the product to others even if they can't remember the exact flavor. We often have people tell us "I love the blue one" or "When will the green be available near me?"

 Ulee's Light Cider cofounders/owners (left to right): Matt Thompson, Scott Gallagher and Don Forsythe.

Who’s the bearded character?

Gallagher: Our bearded guy's name is Ulee. It's short for Ulysses, a hero in ancient Greek literature who went on a long odyssey. After many years, he eventually made it back home. Cider, and those in America who make it, have also been on an odyssey of sorts. Once it was America's alcoholic beverage: our forefathers made and drank it. Then it pretty much disappeared in the 1900's. 100 years later cider is on the rise in America—cider, like Ulysses, has come home.

Ulee's to us represents the Northwest—natural and a little wild.

Who’s your target consumer?

Gallagher: Our products are ciders, but they transcend the category and appeal to consumers who are looking for healthier options. Many cider drinkers don't like overly sweet products and ours are all on the dry side. And those who are looking for a craft product but without all the calories—really for anyone who loves cider or wants a refreshing alcoholic beverage that is all natural and low in calories.

Also, the products are vegan.

What does the slim can say about the product?

Gallagher: The slim can indirectly highlights the lower calories, but we also chose it because it helps set our products apart from others, is more appealing to C-stores who sell single cans and, frankly, fits more comfortably in your hand. The can is from Crown.

What was the toughest decision to make? What was the easiest?

Gallagher: Toughest: How much to emphasize the 99 calories. Yes, our products are very low in calories, but they're also locally produced in small batches from fresh-pressed apples with nothing added but water, yeast, and hops for our Citra flavor. We're a craft cider that happens to be light rather than the other way around.

The easiest was having the six-pack holder match the color of the cans. We love the symmetry.

It was important to us to highlight the can color using the PakTech and we chose to not put the six-pack in a box. We think our cans look great and we don't want to hide them. 

[Note: The multipack handles are made of 96% post-consumer recycled content, specifically from high-density polyethylene milk jugs.]

Can you credit the graphics design firm?

Gallagher: A Novel Design. The owner is a friend of mine and great to work with. 

Anything notable about your secondary packaging?

Gallagher: We're working on new 24-count corrugated case trays that hold four six-packs. In retrospect we wish we would have done it from the beginning. 

What’s been the response?

Gallagher: Usually the first thing we hear from distributors and retailers is how much they love our packaging and the Ulee's Logo. We also hear how folks are always surprised by how flavorful our cider is despite it being so low in calories and all natural. At tastings and festivals people ask where they can buy our shirts and hats. Never fear, we'll have them for sale online in a couple of weeks!

What’s next?

Gallagher: We're currently experimenting on our third product that will be out early next year. It will also be on the dry side and only 99 calories, but above all it has to taste great.

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Got a thirst for fresh ideas in beverage packaging and more? Join other attendees at MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9 that’s part of a comprehensive all-in-one 6-event plastics and advanced manufacturing exhibition. For more information, visit MinnPack.

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Anobex shows equivalence with Barex, reports MSM Poly

Anobex shows equivalence with Barex, reports MSM Poly
Image source: Shutterstock/garagestock

End-users are confirming that Anobex is “an equivalent, 'drop-in' replacement for Barex,” reports Dan Mullock, COO at MSM Poly. Samples of converted Anobex (acrylonitrile methyl acrylate copolymer latex) have already been sent to a number of pharmaceutical companies after MSM Poly provided Anobex to film processors and converters, the company reports in a news release.

Initial testing results to date from end-users show no issues with equivalence, Peter Schmitt, managing member and CSO for MSM Poly, tells PMP News.

“These first commercial scale orders demonstrate the stability of MSM Poly’s production processes and quality program to meet and exceed requirements of pharmaceutical end users,” adds Pat Mickle, CEO of MSM Poly.

Anobex film processor Plastiques Venthenat, which has processed Barex, has found that “the resin processed well and both in terms of initial testing of properties and performance shows equivalence with Barex,” states Michel Rauturier, managing director, in the news release.

An equivalency portfolio is available to help end-users in the regulatory approval process, reports Steve Warakomski, MSM Poly’s CTO.

MSM Poly is currently ramping up capacity so the firm can provide sufficient quantities for the market by the 2nd Quarter of 2018. Anobex resin is currently available as pellets for film and sheet extrusion and injection molding as well as powder for calendering, coating, and compounding. 

For more details on MSM Poly, see our article here

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MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis) celebrates its 15th year to bring you the latest developments in all things packaging as part of a comprehensive advanced manufacturing event. Sign up today to attend!

Shoppability, easy-pour key to olive oil packaging design

Shoppability, easy-pour key to olive oil packaging design
Which Extra Virgin Olive Oil brand wears its packaging better? Our poll reveals that, as well as why you thought so.

Our first “Who wore it better?” packaging challenge was pretty much a blowout. Packaging professionals picked the package they thought had a better grip, an easier-to-read label and a more authentic-looking container. Was it the one you voted for?

In mid-August 2017, and in the style of Hollywood fashion critiques, we asked packaging designers and other packaging professionals to pick which of two packages for Extra Virgin Olive Oil was better and why: Botticelli or Filippo Berio.

Both products are sold in square green polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles with gold plastic continuous-thread closures and gold-foil pressure-sensitive labels. Both containers hold the same amount of product: 1.5 liters.

More than 150 people voted, mostly within the first couple days. A clear winner emerged almost right away—and kept its lead: Filippo Berio at 81%.

Why did they prefer this package? Here’s what they liked about the Filippo Berio bottle:

“The front and back label fit the area better, less negative space. The name is in black which stands out and more legible. Has a more ‘crafted’ look with Fillipo’s picture and signature.”

“Label pops more on shelf. Nutrition easier to read. Name on cap is good. Brand stands out.”

“Better branding. Really pops. Front label coverage. Leaf detail on bottle. Branded cap. Back label could be better but it still wins overall.”

 “It is very close to the original glass bottle.”

“The shape of the bottle and the gold portion of the label pops more. It comes across as a higher end product due to those two points.”

“Label contrast with the bottle made label stand out more.”

“The shape of the bottle. The Botticelli bottle reminds me more of mouth rinse than olive oil.”

“The design is more bold—its elements stand out more, whereas Botticelli seems to all blend together. Filippo better conveys that vintage feel.”

“Less cluttered. Brand name/product names are more visible.”

“The larger label gave more impact.”

“More attractive bottle design and label.”

“Easier to read, spot on the shelf.”

“Label covers the bottle better, the complete bottle looks more ‘old country’ authentic. BTW, is that supposed to be a picture of a ‘virgin’ on the Botticelli label? Why?”

“The brand name and product are more clearly visible on the label and I like the bottle shape better.”

Some of the people who voted for Filippo Berio might really have been voting against Botticelli because they pointed out the negative impressions of that package when asked why they chose the package they did:

“More natural. Botticelli looks too many sharp cuts into the bottle.”

“Botticelli’s bottle reminds me a little of cleaning agents. The label looks like it could be a little bit bigger. Fillippo Berrio’s bottle seems like it belongs in a kitchen. The label seems very ‘confident’ if that’s possible.”

“Smooth curves better communicate olive oil. Other is more industrial and typically used for drug products like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.”

“IMO—the Botticelli bottle ‘looks’ cheap. Why? Label is smaller. The narrower mid portion of the bottle gives an impression of ‘less’ content. The ‘fatter’ Filippo Berio bottle has the appearance of fullness. The larger label has more gold and gives me a more positive and appealing appearance.”

“Berio takes up more space on the bottle, easier to read. Also, the Botticelli bottle looks like there is less volume than the Berio—so less product inside?”

“Smoother lines and more ‘glass like’ shape are soothing and comforting. The sharp bold edges of the Botticelli bottle suggest a strong, masculine ‘tough’ product that would work better for an energy drink or sport bottle.”

Oddly enough, a better grip, stronger label and “chiseled” container were the same reasons some people chose the Botticelli bottle:

“Looks like it would be easier to hold the bottle if your hands were wet or slippery.”

“The bottle design looks more deliberate and its chiseled effect fits with the label, The Filippo bottle looks like a PET CSD [carbonated soft drink] container that [has] deformed over time through internal pressure.”

“The grip appears to be better.”

“I prefer the grip on this one. More defined square look is more pleasing to me.”

“More streamline, looks easier to use.”

“Clean look, great grip.”

“Looks bolder, stronger and more impressive.”

“Filippo Berio looks wimpy.”

Stay tuned for our next “Who wore it better” challenge: Jerky pouches. We'll open the next poll in our Packaging Design & Concepts and News & Insights newsletters. Sign up for our newsletters here.

If you have a suggestion for a “Who wore it better” poll—do you want to know what your peers think about your package versus your competitor?—send an email to executive editor Lisa Pierce at [email protected].

Thanks for playing!

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Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

3 new machines improve beverage packaging operations

3 new machines improve beverage packaging operations
Beverage packaging is a primary focus of nearly a quarter of the exhibitors at Drinktec 2017.

What do a cobotic case loader, a low-volume capper and a compact labeler have in common? They all offer beverage packaging engineers new production options. And you can see all three of these new systems at Drinktec 2017.

If you’re in the beverage or liquid food markets, chances are good that you’ll be going to Munich, Germany, this September to see the newest technologies shown at Drinktec 2017 (Sept. 11-15), an event that happens just once every four years. Nearly a quarter of event visitors work in the manufacturing end of the business, which includes packaging. So more than 400 of the 1,700 exhibitors expected—also nearly 25%—will bring packaging innovations in equipment, as well as containers and materials.

Page 1. Cobotic case loader from Gebo Cermex.

Page 2. New capper from Silgan.

Page 3. Compact labeler, and compact can filler for craft breweries, from KHS.

Cobotic case loader safely takes on tedious tasks

The bending, lifting and twisting motions of packaging line workers filling a case erector magazine are not only tedious, but they can cause painful and costly musculoskeletal injuries. Adding a robotic loader to replenish case blanks into the feeding magazine can prevent these issues, but it requires extra floorspace for physical barriers for safety.

Now, a collaborative robot version of the automatic FlexiLoad magazine loader performs the same loading operation without the need for cumbersome guarding. The FlexiLoad cobot senses the presence of a person and either slows or stops depending on the proximity.

The new cobot loader can handle regular slotted containers (RSC), wraparound blanks and trays.

Gebo Cermex, Drinktec Booth #A6.330

NEXT: Slow and steady capper considers cleanliness needs

Slow and steady capper considers cleanliness needs

Not every beverage operation needs to run at full tilt. The new SWC 150 capper from Silgan was designed for lower speeds—around 100 to 150 containers per minute. The hygienic stainless steel machine is also CE compliant. It handles a variety of continuous-thread closure diameters, from 38 to 82mm.

Silgan, Drinktec Booth #A4.531

NEXT: Compact labeler targets craft brewers and bottlers

Compact labeler targets craft brewers and bottlers

Designed for simple operation that is still flexible enough to handle a range of containers and labels, the new Innoket Roland 40 labeler addresses the needs of craft breweries and spirits bottlers. The compact system can start small and expand as needed—with a capacity of 40 to 400+ bottles per minute.

The Innoket Roland 40 uses many of the same high-quality, proven components from its big brother, the high-capacity Innoket Neo labeler. It comes standard with two label stations: cold-glue, hot melt or pressure-sensitive, or a combination of technologies.

KHS, Drinktec Booth #B4.328

Matte finish now available on aluminum cans

Matte finish now available on aluminum cans
A new decorating option for aluminum cans combines matte and glossy finishes on Standard (left) and Slim-style cans.

The high contrast of matte and gloss printed on packaging has added a sensory element that compels consumers to touch; and once a package is in hand, it’s often added to the cart. A new decorating option now gives aluminum cans this visual and tactile sensation.

The Matte & Mirror Impact is a direct print solution that will be commercially available in 2018 from Ardagh. Visitors to Drinktec 2017 (Sept. 11-15; Munich, Germany) can see samples of Matte & Mirror Impact in the Ardagh Group booth, #A1.539.

Nikola Kerkhoff, product manager for Ardagh Metal Beverage, tells us more.

What printing technology are you using to create this?

Kerkhoff: A special ink creates the matte effect in certain areas on the can. More information to follow in our press release within the next couple of weeks.

On this Standard can, the background is matte and the zebra is glossy.

On the Slim style can, the matte finish is on the zebra, with the background glossy.

Did it require any capital investment? If so, what?

Kerkhoff: We work closely with our customers to understand what they are seeking to do with their brand and their business so that we can innovate and create together a package and process, from conversion to filling to distribution to retail display, that delivers on their objectives and we invest appropriate resources into each project.  

How does this compete with the trend towards shrink labels on cans?

Kerkhoff: Here are several aspects to consider:

Complexity: Printing the can directly in our production process enables our customers to get a can, including the nice finishing, without the necessary step to apply shrink wraps or labels later on.

Design: The can offers a 360-degree surface for brand communication. Additionally, you have the possibility to create a united design, such as by choosing the corresponding shell color.

Sustainability: From a sustainability perspective, it is wise to choose a permanent material like glass or metal. Metal is 100% and infinitely recyclable and a can can be back in the shelf within 60 days.

Is any brand owner using this yet? If so, who, how and where?

Kerkhoff: We are currently in the process of working through options with customers to launch in the coming months. More to come later this year.

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Compact checkweigher sheds electrical cabinet

Compact checkweigher sheds electrical cabinet

This new checkweigher saves footprint space by putting its electrical components and cables inside the frame. Minus a bulky electrical cabinet, the checkweigher can fit inside existing filling systems, as well as other packaging equipment. Helping out is the system’s three-leg base, which also makes it easier to level than a four-leg unit.

According to the manufacturer, the unit ensures accurate weight measurements by using MFR (magnetic force restoration) technology within the load cell, rather than the typical strain gauge load cell. Improved performance includes no reading drift.

Other benefits of the checkweigher are a tool-less belt removal for easier cleaning or changeover and open PLC controls for easier operation and calibration by the user.

See this new checkweigher at the Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery booth #C-4209 at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2017 (Sept. 25-27; Las Vegas).

Target, McDonald’s and others nix EPS packaging

Target, McDonald’s and others nix EPS packaging
Companies are looking for alternatives to foam packaging for various reasons, including environmental.

With a recycling rate of 38% in 2016 for expanded polystyrene (EPS), why are companies eliminating the affordable, reliable protective packaging material from their options?

The type of plastic you use for your packaging matters more and more, for various reasons—including consumer preference and environmental stewardship. Over the decades, companies have shied away from certain plastic packaging seen as unpopular or even harmful. Recently, as part of their sustainable materials management programs, Target and McDonald’s say they will be replacing expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging with something else.

Eliminating EPS from Target-owned product packaging by 2022 is one of five new sustainable packaging goals for the retailer. Kim Carswell, a packaging director at Target, explains why:

1. “We noticed the guest frustration when they tried to recycle it, because it’s not easily recyclable.”

2. “It’s also a big issue in our distribution centers because a lot of product that gets sent to stores is taken out of the box and hung, like a mirror or a frame. But then the polystyrene has got to go back to the distribution centers and there’s a lot more than you would imagine. It’s just enough to be a problem but not enough to invest in densifiers.”

3. “And we know from an ocean plastics sense, EPS is one of the prime contributors. Per the New Plastics Economy work, there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than actual fish by 2050.”

But Carswell also says, “We know this material has got a lot of value. Today, polystyrene has a great cost, it’s very available and does a great job protecting the product. We want to be super careful in moving away from it.”

PlasticsToday reports that McDonald’s will phase out “harmful [EPS] foam packaging globally” after 31% of shareholders voted at its annual meeting on May 24, 2017, in favor of the action [see update below]. According to press reports, the nearly one-third vote “far exceeds the average voting result of 20% for social and environmental issue proposals.”

The vote was in response to urging from As You Sow, the environmental and social corporate responsibility advocacy group. In February 2017, it publicly asked four leading U.S. companies—Amazon, McDonald’s, Target and Walmart—to make plans to phase out polystyrene foam packaging. As You Sow cited the January 2017 report The New Plastics Economy—Catalyzing Action from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which recommends replacement of polystyrene (PS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as packaging materials.

Yet in July 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported that McDonald’s was bringing back foam cups in the area without giving a clear reason why. Conrad MacKerron, svp of As You Sow, was quoted in the article, saying, “It seems strange to bring something like this back. It’s kind of curious that they’re doing this now.”

[UPDATE 8-18-17: On Wed., Aug. 16, Conrad MacKerron from As You Sow sent an email saying that McDonald's had not agreed to phase out EPS. Upon further checking with McDonald's, asking specifically if the company had or had not agreed to this, a public relations representative declined to answer the question but instead sent this statement: "We continue to work with our suppliers on sustainable packaging options that reduce our sourcing footprint and positively impact the communities we serve."]

EPS recycling stats and industry response

According to the EPS Industry Alliance, which represents expanded polystyrene manufacturers, EPS recycling has averaged about 18% over a 25-year period. Betsy Bowers, executive director of EPS-IA, says, “Despite minor fluctuation in quantities collected from year to year for post‐consumer versus post-industrial, overall EPS recycling has, and continues, to demonstrate consistent, long term growth.”

In 2016, the EPS recycling rate spiked to 38% and packaging is the majority of the material being recycled. A total of 118.7 million pounds of material were recycled, with 63 million pounds coming from post-consumer and post-commercial streams, and the rest, 55.7 million pounds, from post-industrial operations.

Source: EPS Industry Alliance

Despite the high recycling percentage cited by the industry group, companies are still shying away from EPS, decisions that EPS-IA says might not be based solely on science.

“Polystyrene bans are perceived as an environmental quick‐fix that, in reality, don’t deliver any benefits to minimize waste, increase recycling or diminish environmental impacts,” Bowers explains. “In California, 65 communities have banned polystyrene, while 57 have implemented polystyrene curbside recycling. While Target and McDonalds have succumbed to shareholder activism advocating polystyrene phase outs, WalMart, Williams Sonoma, NutriSystems and others have embraced widespread EPS recycling initiatives. Subaru implemented an international EPS reuse program, achieving ≥20 (re)uses per unit while saving $1 million in packaging costs. Which of these are environmentally progressive?”

She continues, “This begs the question, will recycling meet all our environmental goals? If recyclability is the sole benchmark of environmental worthiness, then all products that can’t be recycled would be banned. EPS‐IA challenges As You Sow, Target and others that may be entertaining EPS bans to seek better environmental solutions. Check the facts and rely on credible sources. Don’t cherry pick information to suit a pre‐determined outcome. Find out about alternative materials real‐world availability, and conduct due diligence on performance and environmental tradeoffs.”

(See page 2 for the text of Bowers full statement.)

Other plastic packaging phase outs

In an online poll conducted in Spring 2017, Packaging Digest and its sister publications PlasticsToday and Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News asked our global packaging communities if they were, indeed, phasing out certain plastics and, if so, was The New Plastics Economy initiative playing a role in their decision.

Download the free 8-page exclusive report below to see the results, shown by all respondents, by market (food; beverage; medical devices/supplies; electronics; household products; Rx or OTC pharmaceutical; personal care/cosmetics; media; and other) and by plastic type (expanded polystyrene/EPS; polyvinyl chlorine/PVC; polystyrene/PS; or other).

Full statement from Betsy Bowers, executive director, EPS Industry Alliance
 

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam Recycling Statistics 2016

Post‐Consumer & Post‐Commercial:  63.0 million pounds

Post‐Industrial: 55.7 million pounds

Total Recycled: 118.7 million pounds

These data points represent a finite number of survey respondents and may not include all EPS recycling. There were 45 survey respondents consisting of companies that reprocess EPS waste. To determine a recycling ‘rate’ or percentage, EPS‐IA relies on data for custom molded EPS production; 165.5 million pounds was reported in 2016. This determines a recycling rate of 38% for 2016. By comparison, in 2013 EPS‐IA published a 34% recycling rate even though there was significantly more material collected (almost 10 million pounds higher).

Historically, EPS recycling averages ~18% over a 25 year trendline. There have been two significant growth spurts, one in 2005 and most recently in 2013. Despite minor fluctuation in quantities collected from year to year for post‐consumer versus post‐ industrial, overall EPS recycling has, and continues, to demonstrate consistent, long term growth.

Post‐consumer includes curbside recycling, community drop‐off and other collection methods that are accessible by the general public. Post‐commercial includes EPS packaging or insulation that was recycled after it was used for its intended purpose by business entities within their internal operations. Examples include WalMart, Williams Sonoma, Whirlpool and Harley Davidson that may generate EPS waste from manufacturing automation lines or from within the product supply chain. While the majority of EPS being recycled is packaging, companies like Nationwide Foam Recycling are dedicated to recycling foam building insulation – including EPS – for reroofing projects throughout the U.S.

Shareholder Activism Against Polystyrene Foam

As You Sow’s polystyrene deselection campaign is an outdated and ineffective approach to solid waste management. Most frontline waste management solutions in this decade are dedicated to the hard work required to take recycling to the next level – not eliminating materials to make headlines, which is essentially what motivated the City of San Francisco when they made national news for banning polystyrene, for the second time, a quite interesting oxymoron.

Material bans – whether for polystyrene foam, plastic bags, bubble wrap, paper coffee cups or any other material that is more difficult to recycle – are not an effective solid waste solution for a variety of reasons. Product bans are not a proven solid waste management strategy. Political motivations often override scientific facts. Substitute materials are not adequately vetted, from a performance or environmental perspective.

Product Bans Are Not A Proven Solid Waste Solution

Gary Toebben, President & Chief Executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, comments on “Why Polystyrene Bans Do More Harm Than Good”, in the Los Angeles Times on January 6, 2017.

The City of Austin conducted a formal research study, Environmental Effects of the Single Use Bag Ordinance, published in June 2015 concluding that while some of the original goals were achieved, there were notable unintended consequences.

Patrick Gleason, when contributing his opinion to Forbes in “State And Local Bag Taxes And Bans Face Pushback”, claims bag bans and taxes have been a failed policy experiment.

Recently Chicago repealed its plastic bag ban, preceded by Erik Telford’s article, “Chicago’s Misguided Plastic Bag Ban”, in the Chicago Tribune early last year.

On July 1, 2017 San Diego citizens will have access to polystyrene foam recycling in their blue bin collection as reported by the San Diego Union‐Tribune on June 20, 2017, “Instead of Ban, San Diego Will Allow Recycling of Foam Food Containers”. This decision followed a detailed review by the City Council including relevant impact studies by local agencies.

Science Matters When It Comes to Sound Environmental Decision Making

In the preamble to its second polystyrene ban proposal, the City of San Francisco cited the U.S. EPA as reporting polystyrene as a serious human health threat, however they refused to substantiate the reference with a citation and conversely, EPA’s website states, “the evidence is inconclusive due to confounding factors” in reference to styrene monomer, an organic chemical compound used to produce EPS. They further referenced “Quantity & Type of Plastic Debris Flowing From Two Urban Rivers to Coastal Waters & Beaches of Southern California”, stating 71% of microplastics found in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers were polystyrene foam pieces. The study was about litter and cited all foam as 71% of which 11% by weight was expanded (foamed) polystyrene. San Francisco is just one example for EPS ban proponents to distort or misrepresent environmental facts.

Environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastic particles influence larval fish ecology,” initially named polystyrene as an indiscriminate culprit when released in June 2016. This May, the Central Ethical Review Board announced its recommendation the research results be retracted due to missing data and problematic methodology.

San Francisco Estuary Institute refused to divulge supporting information to its claim that ‘foamed plastic particles’ constitutes 8% surface water samples in Rebecca Sutton’s study, Microplastic Contamination in San Francisco Bay. After this figure was used to support the City of San Francisco’s second polystyrene ban proposal, it was picked up on several local news stations and published in numerous print media outlets. SFEI’s definition of foamed plastic includes cigarette filters, a significant detail considering cigarettes are the largest source of litter worldwide.


Substitute Materials

When banning polystyrene, Ecovative’s mycelium product is often mentioned as a viable alternative. Dell Computer, Sealed Air and other trusted household names are associated with this fledgling company which still identifies itself in the transfer technology stage. Their website also asserts “Ecovative has not yet published a peer reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)” but continues to claim its environmental superiority over traditional foam plastics without substantiation. Merck Forest & Farmland is using Ecovative for 1,000 units/year. And, while Dell has ultimately been successful in relaunching Ecovative ‘for select shipments’, this came after a pilot prototype launch in 2013 that according to Dell, “needed additional testing before introducing it as a widespread alternative to existing expanded polyethylene cushioning….hurdles in terms of continuity and supply and material cost”. Material innovation is laudable but should not be overstated prematurely in the misguided efforts to ban EPS.

Formal EPS‐IA Statement

Polystyrene bans are perceived as an environmental quick‐fix that in reality don’t deliver any benefits to minimize waste, increase recycling or diminish environmental impacts. In California 65 communities have banned polystyrene, while 57 have implemented polystyrene curbside recycling. While Target and McDonalds have succumbed to shareholder activism advocating polystyrene phase outs, WalMart, Williams Sonoma, NutriSystems and others have embraced widespread EPS recycling initiatives. Subaru implemented an international EPS reuse program, achieving ≥20 (re)uses per unit while saving $1 million in packaging costs. Which of these are environmentally progressive?

This begs the question, will recycling meet all our environmental goals? If recyclability is the sole benchmark of environmental worthiness, then all products that can’t be recycled would be banned. EPS‐IA challenges As You Sow, Target and others that may be entertaining EPS bans to seek better environmental solutions. Check the facts and rely on credible sources. Don’t cherry pick information to suit a pre‐determined outcome. Find out about alternative materials real‐world availability, and conduct due diligence on performance and environmental tradeoffs.

“Let’s stop fooling ourselves about the efficacy of bans and actually roll up our sleeves and do the hard work” is great advice from Gary Toebben, President & Chief Executive for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. EPS‐IA encourages corporate America as well as local communities to embrace environmental decision making with context.

Note: Of interest, the Ellen McArthur Foundation New Plastics Economy reports reference indirect and/or nebulous sources in reference to polystyrene foam and neglect to make any references – at all – to the environmental benefits of EPS. It therefore appears to be bias against polystyrene.

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Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

 

Kellogg’s kits packed for on-the-go snacking

Kellogg’s kits packed for on-the-go snacking
Keebler brand better-for-you portable snacks bring mess-free convenience to consumers in single serve and 3-count multipacks.

The company’s lead packaging engineer discusses the better-for-you portable snacks that bring mess-free convenience to consumers.

When it comes to packaging, convenience has long been the leader of the pack. On the food side, health and wellness are center-of-plate considerations driving growth in better-for-you eating options.

Kellogg’s merged those trends with the March introduction of Keebler brand Town House Pita and Flatbread Cracker and Hummus Snack Boxes that also address a more recent option in packaging-driven convenience: on-the-go snacking. So it’s not surprising that the packaging was developed internally by the Kellogg North American Snacks OTG (on-the-go) team.

The products provide consumers a convenient way to grab a better-for-you bite when time is limited, which describes a growing segment where increasingly busy American consumers are searching for snacks that bridge the gap between meals versus sitting down for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It's the first time that Kellogg Snacks North America has offered an assemble-your-own food kit that includes crackers and shelf-stable hummus, according to Tom Hanel, Kellogg’s lead packaging engineer.

“The snack boxes were designed for both individual sale and as a 3-count multipack,” he says. “Both formats were designed to deliver through traditional Kellogg storage and distribution systems, though the packaging materials selected also protect the integrity of the crackers and hummus when placed in deli cases and refrigerators.”

It wasn’t the only twist the team took on conventional packaging.

Adapts materials used for beverage packaging

The boxes are manufactured using 18-point Solid Unbleached Sulfate (SUS) paperboard with a moisture coating. Hanel reports that Kellogg’s extensive testing determined that this caliper provided the print quality and appearance desired by the brand, protected the product through distribution and allowed the opening feature to function cleanly and consistently.

“The board is most commonly used in beverage packaging,” Hanel explains, “but was selected for this product due to potential exposure to moisture in lunchboxes and coolers to address how hummus traditionally is distributed even though the inner packaging is designed for shelf-stable distribution and sale.”

The boxes boast a large window on the face panel to deliver visual appetite appeal regarding the ingredients, contents and quality desired by today’s health-conscious consumers. “Having a view window to show the crackers and hummus was crucial,” he adds.

The inner components were also given a careful packaging review. The Keebler Town House branded Snack Boxes contain a 1oz sachet of Pita or Flatbread crackers packed in an “enhanced, clear moisture-barrier film,” as well as a single-serve cup of hummus from Truitt Farms that’s been hot filled for shelf stability.

A specially design open-and-reclose tuck tab gives consumers easy access to the contents to enjoy the snack directly from the snack box.

“Snackers will appreciate the design that eliminates the need for a plate or other utensils and allows them to keep their space clean and tidy,” Hanel says. “A reclosure also retains the food packs in the carton when interruptions prevent them from finishing the snacks, which also helps minimize food waste.”

Next: Snacks' dual-path packaging development assesses sustainability.

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Hungry for fresh ideas in food packaging and more? Join the packaging experience during MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9 that’s part of a comprehensive all-in-one 6-event plastics and advanced manufacturing exhibition. For more information, visit MinnPack.

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Sustainability assessed in dual-path development

As with all packaging projects, Kellogg’s took sustainability into consideration to keep both costs and the environmental impact low.

“Food kits and single-serve formats by their nature present unique sustainability challenges,” says Hanel. “The development team dual-pathed two pack formats for execution: an all-clear, polymer-based deli-style thermoform format and the carton with window that we decided to bring to market.  The launch team reviewed the pros and cons of each format. One of the major pros of the selected format was that it was a more readily recyclable solution for consumers whether in the office, or at school and other locations where they will be snacking.  Although the window is not recyclable, most recycling facilities are able to separate it from the rest of the carton, which is recyclable.” 

Another value-added aspect, a peg-hole tab, was considered for the products’ placement at certain retail outlets.

“That feature supports expanded channel distribution where applicable,” Hanel explains. “It was delivered without financial impact to project. We’re as of yet uncertain of the activity for this feature, which is useful at airports, C-store or point-of-sale placement. One minor challenge to make that happen is that it required glue pattern changes to retain the ability to break perforations on the tab for use at store.”

The project, which relied on Kellogg’s usual vendors, was satisfying for Hanel and his team.

“It felt great to deliver the snack boxes within the on-the-go aisle for cookies and crackers through relevant food pairings and packaging,” he says. “At a personal level, I was most pleased with the ability to bring this forward with transparent packaging. The importance of showing consumers great-looking food and offering convenience through the pack design certainly strengthened the concept.”

Launched in March of 2017 at $2.29 for the single snack box and $5.99 for the 3-count multipack, both formats can be found in traditional retail stores, as well as Kellogg’s drug and dollar discount store partners across North America.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Hungry for fresh ideas in food packaging and more? Join the packaging experience during MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9 that’s part of a comprehensive all-in-one 6-event plastics and advanced manufacturing exhibition. For more information, visit MinnPack.

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