Stay-Clean Packaging Machines Pay Off

Photo of the Flex 1 cartoner from Triangle Package Machinery taken by Lisa McTigue Pierce at Pack Expo 2018. 2018 Pack Expo Triangle 3-featured.JPG
Clear doors and interior lighting make it easy to see if the inside of a packaging machine needs cleaning.

The best cleaning is no cleaning. That doesn’t mean you should run dirty packaging lines. It does mean that you should prevent them from getting dirty. How? Look for packaging machines designed for maximum cleanliness.

“Dirt” on a packaging line can include spilled or stray product. It also includes oil, grease, and belt shreds, as well as dust, trimmings, and chads from the packaging components (easy-open notches on pouches, for example).

Cabinet-style packaging machines are popular but can be a snakepit inside. A common problem is that cabinet door seals get worn or damaged and don’t get replaced. Damaged seals allow product dust to collect inside a machine. Closed doors mean nobody sees it, though, so it never gets cleaned. Out of sight, out of mind.

Liquid fillers will spill product no matter how hard you try to minimize it. If the top of the machine is not well sealed, spilt liquid will drip into the machine. Good seals, an inclined machine top, and a gutter will catch any spills before they hit the floor.

Whether the machine is an open or closed design, avoid flat surfaces wherever possible. Frames should be made from tubular or square material set on an angle. This will prevent dirt from collecting.

Drawing by John R. HenryClean Liquid Filler-web.jpg

A sloped table with gutters to catch any spills; and angled square tubing or round tubing so spills slide off rather than accumulate.

 

Invisibility can be fixed by replacing stainless-steel door panels with clear Lexan. This encourages cleaning, as well as repairing leaky transmissions, because the mess is now visible. One company took it a step further and put LED rope lights inside all its machines. Between being well lit inside and the Lexan doors, no dirt can hide.

Ever look inside a conveyor? It can be pretty nasty. Portholes in the conveyor frame can make inspection easier. Even better are sanitary conveyors. These are standard in pharmaceutical plants. The raised chain and closed frame help prevent spills and make cleanup easy. These are rarely used elsewhere but can eliminate a lot of contamination.

Open frames are another solution for keeping conveyors clean.

Photo supplied by AutopakAutopak Sanitary Conveyor-web2.jpg

Open frames make it easier to clean a conveyor.

 

Square interior corners are great dirt catchers (so they’re bad designs). Tanks and bins should also have radiused (often called “coved”) rather than square interior corners for ease of cleaning.

Drawing by John R. HenryCoved vs square corners-web.jpg

Eliminate right angles wherever and whenever possible.

 

What about cost? Some of the structural enhancements may add cost to the machine. It’s a one-time cost but is highly visible because it appears on the purchase order. The temptation to save money is great.

Resist it.

The benefits of not having to clean as much are harder to see since they happen in small amounts day by day. That doesn’t mean they aren’t significant.

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Saving 10 minutes from daily cleaning means the line can run an additional 41 hours a year (known as the 10W-40 rule). Put another way, that 10 minutes, on a 200-products-per-minute line, equates to almost half a million additional products in the marketplace, and even more in a multi-shift operation.

That extra half million products, year after year, will pay for a lot of packaging machinery extras in designing for cleanliness and ease of cleaning.

The most efficient cleaning is the cleaning you never have to do. Never do more than you have to.

Bold Move from Clamshells to Film-Sealed Thermoforms Cuts Plastic 33%

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Naturipe Farms' film-sealed rPET thermoforms have also proven popular in the market.

It’s fitting that a company like Naturipe Farms, Salinas, CA, that packages products that are grown is on-trend with other sustainably minded brands. A farmer-owned producer and marketer of premium berries and avocados, Naturipe has been an industry leader for more than 100 years marketing fresh, frozen and value-added products.This year the company is adding the How2Recycle label to packaging to instruct consumers on proper recycling practices and where to find information specific to their municipality.

Naturipe also joined major North American fresh berry producers in setting a goal to use 100% recycle-ready packaging by 2025. It joins others in the industry making this commitment, including the California Strawberry Commission, the North American Blueberry Council (NABC), Asociacion national de Exportadores de Berries (Aneberries, Mexico), and members of the National Berry Crops Initiative, among others.

These are part of an ongoing series of developments that the company traces back to 2014 as an early adopter of breakthrough packaging that replaced clamshell packaging with heat-film-sealed thermoforms.

It was a “berry good” category-changing innovation: Not only was losing the hard plastic lid a huge win for plastic reduction, with per-pack plastic cut by 33%, the thermoforms are made of rPET.

Naturipe FarmsNaturipe BlissBento

Naturipe uses the heat-seal technology for both fresh and value-added product lines. The latest example of the latter is the June rebranding of Naturipe’s original snacks product line to Boost Bentos, which includes a new line of sweet treats, Bliss Bentos. The modern look and shelf impact of a printed film label is apparent for the line of indulgent, yet healthy snacks.

The biggest win for film-sealed containers is for sustainability. For example, on a single foodservice pack change from clamshells, the packaging removes nearly 550 pounds of plastic weekly from the waste stream.

Last year, Naturipe increased the Heat Seal Program by 400%, resulting in 24 metric tons of plastic removed from the packaging. It now looks to remove 48 metric tons of plastic in 2020, doubling last year’s goal.

“These initiatives are progressing steps toward our goal of increasing sustainability from our farms to your tables,” says CarrieAnn Arias, VP of marketing at Naturipe Farms. “We are also committed to educating and encouraging consumers to do their part by recycling clamshells.”

Credited for bringing the heat-seal packaging to the berry category is Janis McIntosh, director of marketing innovation and sustainability. “Naturipe Farms and our family of farmers have made it a priority to reduce the environmental footprint in all areas of the business particularly in packaging reduction and recyclability. Since I joined Naturipe, I’ve made it my priority to focus my efforts on reducing our environmental footprint not just as a company but as an industry.”

“We’ve seen a large increase in heat seal packaging in the berry industry over the last two years,” McIntosh tells Packaging Digest. She responds to the rest of our questions in this Q&A.

What set the project into motion?

McIntosh: In April 2013, Costco Canada approached us about doing a heat seal with our fresh blueberries. While Heat Seal was expanding rapidly in the UK, it was a new concept to the berry industry in the USA.

When was this implemented and what’s the current status?

McIntosh: After a year of development, we packed our first heat-sealed berries in the spring of 2014 at four key growing locations in California, Georgia, Michigan, and British Columbia. One of our biggest challenges initially was sourcing punnets that would work throughout the supply chain.

[Ed Note: Punnets are thermoformed plastic containers with air/drain openings used for berry fruits that we will call thermoforms for simplicity.]

Since this type of package did not exist in the US, we turned to Europe for options. We quickly realized that since Europe uses a slightly smaller pallet footprint for shipping, and all their thermoforms were also smaller. After redesigning boxes and pallet configurations we were able to work through the challenges to launch two sizes that first year. With the learnings from the first year we spent the next 12 months working with our vendors to develop two new thermoforms that would not only fit our US master carton and pallet, it would have the necessary venting needed to perform as well as the clamshell.

We kept the thermoform container the same dimensions as the clamshell so we did not need to reconfigure our shipping masters or our customer’s operations. That also allows us to go back and forth between the two packs as needed.

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Any additional challenges?

McIntosh: The largest ongoing challenge was the increased capital needs to purchase machinery.

On top of that, there is the challenge of moving from a traditional blueberry packing line to a much more sophisticated heat-seal line that required proper training. The heat-seal machines require full-time monitoring, regular cleaning, and a technician who understands how to mitigate a problem and make quick adjustments. Machinery wise, heat-seal equipment adds to the required floor space but fits easily into an existing line. Changeovers are easy and fast, depending on the machine manufacturer. The machines are expensive but very reliable when properly maintained. Successful Heat Seal packing requires that the packaging materials be of good quality and consistency.

There were and continue to be several challenges, the largest being the cost of the equipment and the fact that blueberries are seasonal, lasting 8-10 weeks in any given location. For example, we harvest in Florida and California in early spring and by September we are in British Columbia. Heat-seal equipment is not easy to relocate and if you are not using it 24/7 your payback period on the equipment could last years rather than months.

How many lines have been converted?

McIntosh: Initially we had three lines in the US with two machines being moved seasonally. Today we have quadrupled our line capacity with several stationary machines running 7 days a week.

What are the product volumes and growth opportunities for the heat-seal packaging?

McIntosh: The growth of this product over the course of the last two years has been tremendous. We have gone from 2 SKUs in 2014 to 12 fresh commodity SKUs and close to 20 in our Value-Added Fresh line. When you move from a clamshell to a heat-sealed thermoform you reduce the plastic by 50%. The addition of the film layer adds some plastic back giving us a net reduction of 33%.

Regarding payback, we are currently not seeing any. In fact, there are significantly higher costs associated with this process, and as such the cost of packing a Heat Seal thermoform is higher than conventional clamshells.

This is primarily due to the fact that the fresh berry industry is highly seasonal and involves different scattered locations, making it nearly impossible to have one year-round central packing location.

Can you credit the companies involved?

McIntosh: Without the support from tray-sealing machinery supplier ProSeal America, Accolade, MasterPack Spa, Infia, and Penninsula Pack (acquired by Sonoco in 2017), we would never have gotten off the ground in 2014.

Also, we cannot thank the Costco staff enough for their support and patience through the development. Today there are many more packaging choices for companies wanting to get into heat sealing, better film structures, and improved access to thermoforms are helping move the technology forward. It’s tough being the first to develop a product, but heat seal has been a great direction for us and the industry in terms of sustainability.

What’s the specific nature of the film?

McIntosh: We are constantly testing film. Our blueberries ship two high in a case so the film really needs to be strong. On top of that, we require peel and reseal technologies on our larger packs so consumers can open and close their berry pack up to 25 times.

Naturipe FarmsNatureRipe BOPP Labels

What do you call out on the package label?

McIntosh: Each of our Heat Seal packages carry the How2Recycle label, which clearly conveys to the consumer how to recycle the package. In addition, we also call out the 33% reduction in plastic.

Is this the beginning of the end for the clamshell in these markets?

McIntosh: Clamshells (shown below) are still the standard pack in the industry and are likely to remain so in the near future since attempting to do Heat Seal on a field-packed item such as strawberries is even more complex and would be at a significantly higher cost.

Because of this we are moving to “wash away” labels that can be removed from the container to improve the recyclability of clamshells, making them similar to the film labels on water bottles.

Naturipe FarmsBlueberry 18oz clamshell

Tells us more about the wash-away label for clamshells.

McIntosh: I went on a mission a couple of years ago to find out why our clamshells were not getting recycled. During my sleuthing, I found a recycling company called rplanetearth that was in the process of finishing a new recycling plant in Vernon, CA.

My boss and I flew to LA and spent the day learning the recycling process and we left with an understanding of why paper labels had to go. We followed up with a tour of our local Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to confirm where are clamshells were really going and decided we had to fix it.

One thing led to another and earlier this year the berry industry came together to announce by 2025 the whole industry would move completely to biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) wash-away labels.

Were there any unintended consequences?

McIntosh: The expansion of Heat Seal into our Value-Added Fresh as well as foodservice offerings was a positive consequence for Naturipe. On the negative side, the packaging component lead times, particularly with films, can take several weeks rather than days so adjustments to our ordering process were required to avoid added cost of air-freighting materials.

What’s been the feedback?

McIntosh: Our Heat Seal packaging has a great sustainable story. The rPET thermoform has less plastic than the standard clamshell and is recycle friendly. Most retailers have sustainable initiatives around plastic and this fits very well into their plans.

What might “recycle-ready packaging by 2025" look like?

McIntosh: We understand that consumers buy berries with their eyes, so it’s very important that our packaging remain clear. In addition, plastic has not only improved the quality of our berries but has dramatically reduced food waste. In the near future, our recycle-ready packaging will be PET. It’s the number one recycled plastic in the world and with recycling facilities like rplanetearth, who can manage all shapes and sizes, we feel confident our packaging can successfully be part of a closed-loop system.

Packaging Design

Packaging Pros Devour a Diverse Diet of News During July 2020

From Skippy peanut butter to Corona beer, food- and beverage-related packaging news satiated the packaging community last month, with side dishes of a pharmaceutical packaging challenge and digital printing trends, and a dessert cart full of career help.

Here are the Top 10 articles people were reading on PackagingDigest.com during July 2020, based on page views, even as the country remained in the ghastly grip of the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus.

Packaging Design

Paper Bottle Coming Soon to a Liquor Store Near You

Image: Diageo Johnnie Walker paper bottle

Ever since paper yielded market share to plastic it’s been trying to regain some of that loss. For some products it might work. Some people like paper straws or paper drinking cups, and many people who are not familiar with paper manufacturing techniques might even believe that paper is a more eco-friendly alternative to plastic.

Diageo, a global beverage company that includes such brands as Johnnie Walker and Crown Royal whiskies, Smirnoff and Ketel One vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, and Guinness, has announced the launch of a new “paper” bottle for its Johnnie Walker line in early 2021. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re remembering the days when you used to see people drinking their booze out of a bottle “hidden” inside a paper bag.

This is a true paper bottle, however, that promises to be “100% plastic free” and made “entirely from sustainably sourced wood.” (It takes trees to make paper, you know.) The new paper bottles for Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky will be produced in partnership with Pilot Lite, a venture management company, for the launch of Pulpex Limited.

A few questions to Diageo resulted in some further explanations. The pulp used to make the paper bottle is a “side stream from the paper pulping process and is sourced from renewable stocks overseen by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),” said a Diageo spokesperson.

What will line the paper bottles?

Obviously you cannot put liquid into a paper bottle unless it is thoroughly lined to prevent the liquid from disintegrating the bottle. What will line these paper bottles? Diageo responded that there are “options on the lining of the bottles, but no plastic barrier is used. Unlike competitor bottles, these bottles will be 100% PET free.” However, the company did not say what it would be using as a liner to prevent leakage.

Therefore there will be no obstacles to recycling the 100% plastic-free paper bottles, which “are designed to be recycled in the paper waste stream.” Diageo added that “options also exist to meet biodegradability and compostability requirements.”

DiageoJohnnie Walker paper bottle

Consumers won't see the appealing amber color of the whisky in Johnnie Walker's new paper bottle. Image courtesy Diageo.

How do consumers feel about buying their Johnnie Walker in a black paper bottle? Diageo replied that consumers “want to purchase products that are made sustainably or from sustainably-sourced resources.” The company is certain that there will be “a demand for a bottle that is sustainably sourced and will degrade in the natural environment.”

Of course, studies have shown that manufacturing paper entails a larger carbon footprint than plastic and glass manufacturing. A search of studies comparing plastic and paper bottles didn’t turn up anything, probably because paper bottles are relatively new to the market. I found one article in Fast Company from Nov. 13, 2019, “Boxed water isn’t the environmental solution they want you to think it is,” that explored paper bottles, including one company, Just Water, that sells water in containers made mostly of paper rather than plastic.

Tetra Pak produces the packaging for Just Water, wrote Fast Company. The container includes “multiple layers of paper (54% harvested from FSC-certified forests), 28% plant-based plastic, 15% protective plastic film, and 3% aluminum.”

The article by Adele Peters also noted that “while [the Just Water carton] is recyclable if it’s sent to a facility with specialty equipment, many cities still don’t accept the packaging, in part because they may not have enough volume to make it worthwhile to sort out the container from the rest of the waste stream.”

Peters noted that “shifting materials, despite the best of intentions, doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of waste – and might not even shrink the carbon footprint of the packaging compared to some plastic bottles.” Additionally, she stated that plastic is “more readily recyclable than paper cartons.”

According to a commentary by Christopher Joyce on NPR’s All Things Considered, Beverly Sauer of Eastern Research Group (ERG) compared a mix of plastic packaging (not necessarily bottles) with substitutes such as paper. Quoting Sauer, Joyce said: “The impacts associated with plastic are generally much lower than the impacts for the mix of substitute materials that would replace packaging.” The ERG analysis, done for the American Chemistry Council, calculated “the quantity of raw materials as well as the electricity, fuel, water, and other materials needed to make and use paper and plastic packaging. Plastic uses less. And at the end of its life, paper in a landfill may emit greenhouse gases as it breaks down.”

Given that many materials recovery facilities do not have the equipment to recycle these heavy-weight paper bottles and cartons, many will likely end up in landfills. Even if, as Diageo claims, the paper bottle will degrade, the time it takes even lightweight paper to degrade might be longer than people are willing to tolerate in the environment.

Introducing the Frugal Bottle

Frugalpac Frugal Bottle

The paper-based Frugal Bottle is up to five times lighter than a normal glass bottle. Image courtesy Frugalpac.

On June 30, 2020, the firm Frugalpac in Ipswich, UK, announced the Frugal Bottle for wine and spirits. The 750-mL bottle is made from 94% recycled paperboard with a food-grade polymer liner to hold the wine or spirit. The company says the Frugal Bottle’s cost is comparable to a labeled glass bottle. Frugalpac creates and supplies recycled paper-based products “with the lowest carbon footprint (84% lower) and are easily recycled again so they don’t need to go to a landfill.”

Frugalpac says that its paper bottle weighs just 83 grams, so it is up to five times lighter than a normal glass bottle, making it easier to carry and lighter to transport. While the company claims that its Frugal Bottle is easy to recycle it does require the consumer to “separate the plastic food-grade liner from the paper bottle” and put them in the appropriate recycling bins. “Or you can put the whole bottle in your paper recycling bin and the liner will be easily separated in the paper re-pulping process,” said the company.

Paper bottles and cartons designed to hold liquids have a number of challenges that may make them less eco-friendly and less recyclable than companies claim. Water in a carton or even in aluminum cans, which is trending, might be okay, but wine and spirits — especially spirits such as Johnnie Walker with its appealing golden color — are a different story. Consumers may want transparency in their wine and spirits containers — if an alternative to glass is required, plastic offers the ideal solution.

Packaging Digest’s Favorite Facebook Post of July

Ico Maker/Adobe Stock Social Media drawing icons AdobeStock Ico Maker
What was Packaging Digest's most socialized post on Facebook for July?

If you follow us on social media, you know that Packaging Digest editors are a social bunch.

As a result, we thought readers might want to check the most popular monthly post for a particular media platform, which in this case is Facebook.

The top-performing post at the popular social media outlet last month by far was a tale of a store visit and an editor’s unexpected infatuation with a bottled water that resonated on several levels. It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but apparently many others beheld it similarly as it reached many hundreds and engaged dozens.

In case you missed it before, check it out now…and we welcome you to join our other thousands of Facebook followers.

Flexible Packaging

Kroger’s New From-Home Recycling Program Targets Flexible Packaging

Image: Kroger Kroger Recycling graphic

The Kroger Co. announced August 4 the launch of its Simple Truth Recycling Program, offering customers a free and simple way to recycle the flexible packaging of more than 300 products from the company's private-label Simple Truth product line. It's America's largest natural and organic brand, with annual sales exceeding $2.5 billion in 2019.

Developed in partnership with TerraCycle, Kroger's new platform enables customers to recycle a wide range of flexible packaging not currently accepted in curbside recycling programs, including produce bags, bread bags and plastic overwrap from household items like tissues and bottled water. The Simple Truth Recycling Program marks another significant milestone for Kroger's Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan. Kroger as the first Fortune 25 retailer to offer a free recycling program for its own private-label brand.

KrogerKroger Recycling logo

Convenience is fundamental to any recycling program and Kroger’s program increases the simplicity: Consumers can recycle without leaving home.

"A key part of achieving our ambitious vision is offering our customers innovative solutions to recycle and reuse product packaging," said Keith Dailey, group vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer. "We're thrilled to partner with TerraCycle to launch our new Simple Truth Recycling Program, supporting our sustainable packaging goals and enabling Kroger customers to recycle their favorite Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic products without ever leaving home."

Program steps:

  • Sign up at TerraCycle.com/SimpleTruth
  • Collect Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic flexible plastic packaging  including bags, pouches, liners, and wraps;
  • Ship the packaging to TerraCycle using a free, prepaid shipping label;
  • Earn points for every pound of eligible packaging sent;
  • Redeem points as donations to charitable organizations.

"Thanks to companies like The Kroger Co. and their popular Simple Truth product line, consumers can enjoy their favorite foods while being rewarded for doing the right thing," said Tom Szaky, TerraCycle founder and CEO. "As the first major retailer to create a free recycling program for their own private-label brand, Kroger is offering consumers the opportunity to divert packaging from landfills and make a positive impact on the environment for future generations."

The Simple Truth Recycling Program is currently open to individuals, schools, offices and community organizations across the U.S. The Simple Truth portfolio includes more than 2,000 natural and organic products, with hundreds of new items launching each year.

"Sustainable packaging is a core tenet of our Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social impact plan," said Dailey. “As we continue to drive progress toward our current 2020 sustainability commitments, we're laser-focused on reducing unnecessary packaging from our enterprise, reusing where we can and striving for more sustainable packaging across our private-label portfolio."

By the end of 2019, Kroger reduced the amount of plastic resin in Our Brands packaging by 10.1 million pounds.

Explosion at Packaging Plant Causes Injuries

Image courtesy of Pixabay alarm-3410065_1920.jpg

Several area fire departments responded to an explosion at the Granite Packaging LLC manufacturing plant in Social Circle, GA, on the morning of July 23, 2020, local news organizations report.

 

The town’s mayor, David Keener, told Your Local News that the blast at the Leggett Road plant caused some injuries, but he could not provide specific details. Social Circle Police Department Deputy Chief Jimmy Robinson said in coverage by the Walton Tribune that one person was transported to a hospital in Atlanta by helicopter and several others with injuries received treatment on scene.

A fire official with Walton County Fire Rescue described the incident as a chemical explosion in Your Local News’ account.

No information was available on the cause of the explosion.

Granite Packaging, a PLZ Aeroscience company, is a provider of contract packaging services for automotive appearance products, waxes, household cleaners and degreasers, fragrances, and polishes in the southeast US, according to information on its website. The 112,000-sq-ft facility in Social Circle includes manufacturing and warehousing space.

Food Safety

Tyson Foods to Boost COVID-19 Testing Under New Plan

Image courtesy of Tyson Foods tyson_transportation_truck.jpg

American food products manufacturer Tyson Foods announced the debut of a new COVID-19 monitoring program on Thursday and revealed plans to hire additional occupational health staff as part of its ongoing effort to protect its workers during the pandemic.

 

“We believe that launching a new, strategic approach to monitoring and adding the health staff to support it will help further our efforts to go on the offensive against the virus,” Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer, said in a company release. “Adding more resources and technologies reinforces our commitment to protecting our team members, their families, and plant communities.”

Clinical services firm Matrix Medical Network is working with Tyson to design and implement the new program. Under the scheme, the company will test thousands of its employees each week at all of its facilities.

Tyson has tested about a third of its workforce for COVID-19 during the pandemic. Less than 1% of its 120,000 employees have active coronavirus cases, according to the company.

“What we’re adopting is a strategic, ongoing approach to combatting COVID-19,” King said. “It involves weekly testing of team members at our facilities to monitor for the presence of the virus. By using data science to test a statistically sound sample of team members, we have a better chance of staying ahead of any potential virus spread and protecting our teams and communities.”

While American protein companies have come under fire during the coronavirus crisis for the high numbers of infections among workers in meat processing operations, a union official voice support for the move in the company’s release.

“As the largest union for America’s meatpacking workers, we welcome this important step by Tyson Foods, which demonstrates the leadership needed to strengthen COVID monitoring across the industry,” United Food and Commercial Workers (WFCW) International President Mark Perrone said. “UFCW is urging all companies in the industry to follow Tyson’s lead and take immediate action to expand COVID monitoring as we work to flatten the curve.”

Tyson also created a Chief Medical Officer role in its organization to support the new program.

Nestlé Invests $90 Million to Upgrade Pet Food Plant

Image courtesy of Nestle Logo_NESTLE.jpg

Nestlé Australia announces a $90 million upgrade to its Blayney site, which manufactures Nestlé Purina PetCare pet food. 

 

The announcement brings total investment to the site to almost $200 million in the past 10 years. 

The upgrade will extend existing production areas and include installation of new equipment, allowing for increased production capacity and export growth.

Announcing the upgrade, Nestlé Blayney Factory Manager, Andrew Devlin said the investment was a reflection of Nestlé’s commitment to supporting local manufacturing.

“Nestle is committed to investing in continuous improvement of the Blayney site, and this investment also signals the continuous support for the broader Blayney community.

“The upgrade is estimated to take about 18 months, during which we estimate there will be 100 construction, installation and commissioning jobs here on site, with an estimated $10 million of civil works planned.  

“When it’s completed, we will see an increase in the use of local ingredients as we ramp up production.” 

Currently, more than 80% of raw materials used at the Blayney factory are sourced locally, including meat and grains.

“Increased production capacity will also help us to boost our local and export volumes," Devlin continued. "More than $45 million of pet food left Blayney for export last year, including to Japan, New Zealand, and Thailand.” 

The Nestlé factory in Blayney began operations in 1989, and now features world-class facilities which manufacture brands such as Proplan, Supercoat, Felix, Fancy Feast, and Purina One. 

Nestlé Blayney employs more than 280 staff and supports more than 60 local businesses and contractors in western NSW. 

A Deeper Dive Into PFAS, and Why Bans Are Misguided

Image: Lily/Adobe Stock Chemistry graphic

Recently the state of New York legislated a ban on the production and use of food packaging containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS. PFAS are used to line paper and paperboard food packaging to make it resistant to grease, oil, water, and heat. PFAS have been used since the 1940s in packaging and to make stain- and water-resistant fabrics and carpeting, cleaning products, paints, and fire-fighting foam, according to information from the FDA.

PFAS remain intact in the environment, which is why they are often referred to as “forever chemicals,” and over time these substances have been found to accumulate in levels that could be harmful to human and animal health. The FDA notes in a report on PFAS that while “the science surrounding potential health effects of PFAS is developing, current evidence suggests that the bio-accumulation of certain PFAS may cause serious health conditions.” In 2019, the FDA formed an internal working group committed to engaging with consumers, industry, and federal, state, and local government partners to determine if there are any detrimental effects to humans.

While the science on PFAS is inconclusive — as is often the case with polymers and chemicals — Los Angeles attorney Jeffrey Dintzer told Packaging Digest sister publication PlasticsToday that in his view, there are some “serious confounding and biased issues” surrounding the studies that are being relied upon by regulatory authorities to heavily regulate or altogether ban PFAS. Dintzer specializes in environmental and land-use law and is a partner in the Alston & Bird LLP law firm.

“PFAS are ubiquitous,” he said, noting that attempts by scientists to find test subjects with no PFAS in their blood to establish a base line for the effects of PFAS in the human body have failed. “They couldn’t find anyone — not even people living in remote areas of the world — without PFAS in their blood.” Dintzer added that some of the studies have “serious issues” and need controls using statistical analysis in which exposure to PFAS is well defined so that the studies can be replicated.

The quest for PFAS alternatives

For the food packaging industry, the goal is to find another material with which to line paper and paperboard food containers. Developing a strong, sustainable grease barrier for food containers is an objective at BASF, because the PFAS “persist in the environment long after the container’s useful life.” In a white paper released on June 29, BASF noted that the fluorine bonds that make up these chemicals provide hydrophobic and lipophobic properties to produce the non-stick, grease-resistant, and waterproof capabilities that consumer products require.

According to the BASF paper, the FDA currently allows for shorter-chain PFAS, which are less bio-accumulative, to be used in food packaging, but this is expected to change over growing concerns about sustainability and health effects. Environmental officials from a number of European countries have already announced a plan to restrict all PFAS chemicals by 2030, and more than a dozen US states have unveiled legislation that includes a ban on PFAS within the next few years, said BASF.

“People are really starting to question the impact of fluorochemicals on the environment and their sustainability as grease barriers,” said Simon Foster, Industry Marketing Manager for Printing and Packaging at BASF. “Brand owners are seeking new solutions and new options, and JONCRYL HPB 1702, a water-based emulsion, is one of those effective options as a major component of a grease-barrier formulation.”

Liners in paper food containers have increasingly come under scrutiny because of the renewed interest in replacing plastic containers with paper and paperboard for take-out foods, such as pizza boxes, where structural integrity is necessary. Given that plastic is being attacked by its detractors as “toxic,” we’re learning that paper and paperboard food and beverage containers that require linings to make them strong enough to prevent leakage of grease and liquids just might not be a better alternative.

“Paper food packaging must resist permeation from water, oil, and grease from hot foods,” said BASF. “It should also be flexible enough to withstand creases and movement without compromising the integrity of the package,” said BASF. Foster explained that “the package itself is often folded or creased in order to work effectively, but those tend to create weak spots in coatings. JONCRYL HPB 1702 shows continued strong performance, even after the package has been creased or folded.”

Comparing JONCRYL HPB 1702 with fluorochemicals, Foster notes that it meets the same level of performance in basically every application. “The performance is certainly better than other water-based components on the market because of its temperature tolerance (room temperatures up to 60oC) and ability to maintain performance after it’s been folded or creased,” Foster added.

Cortec Corp., based in Zagreb, Croatia, just announced a moisture liner for retail and consumer food packaging as an alternative for polyethylene- or wax-coated paper and cardboard. Recyclability has been the primary challenge, as these lined packaging materials are much more difficult to re-pulp than regular uncoated paper and corrugated board and typically cannot be recycled through normal channels, said the company in its announcement.

To replace these environmentally problematic materials, Cortec pioneered EcoShield, a water-based barrier coating that is recyclable and 100% re-pulpable, effectively eliminating the need to use traditional wax and polyethylene coatings.

PlasticsToday asked Cortec if Ecoshield could be an alternative to PFAS substances. “Our EcoShield barrier coating for paper and linerboard would make a great replacement for PFAS in certain applications,” responded Ana Juraga, Marketing Manager.

“There are two main things to consider. PFAS is a broad group of chemistry. To provide a recommendation for direct replacement, you would need to understand which specific PFAS are being used,” said Juraga. “Some PFAS are used for oil, grease, or water resistance, an application where our coating could be used. Other PFAS are used as surfactants or heat-resistant materials, which would not be replaced effectively by our coating.”

The second consideration, noted Juraga, is the way PFAS are applied to paper to create water or oil/grease barriers, which can be different from applying Cortec’s coating. “Application methods or conditions will need to be adjusted; a direct substitution may not be successful. This is something that we can support when troubleshooting a new application for our barrier coating,” she explained.

The “parts-per-trillion” tragedy

Ultimately, while companies are searching for ways to replace various types of plastic food containers, including rigid polystyrene and expanded polystyrene (foam), with paper as the “better” alternative, we can see that paper and paperboard also have problems. According to the FDA, continued research and additional analysis of foods will help inform its efforts to identify and prioritize activities to reduce PFAS in human and animal food. This research will also increase the agency’s ability to detect, evaluate, and respond more quickly to potential contamination issues involving food.

In assessing PFAS in food, the FDA states that these substances can enter the food chain through environmental contamination. However, “it is important to note that PFAS contamination in the environment (air, water, and soil) where food is grown does not necessarily mean the food itself will contain detectable PFAS. This is because the amount of PFAS taken up by foods depends on many factors, including the specific type of PFAS and characteristics of the food. Limited FDA testing for certain PFAS chemicals has found that most foods have no or very low levels of PFAS,” stated the FDA.

In 2019, samples that had been collected as part of the FY2018 Total Diet Study were analyzed for 16 types of PFAS chemicals, according to the FDA’s report. While the sample sizes were limited and could not be used to draw definitive conclusions, based on the “best available current science, the FDA has no indication that PFAS at the levels found in the limited sampling present a human health concern.” The samples were analyzed for PFAS in parts per trillion, which is reaching the level of near statistical irrelevance. 

Analyzing chemicals in the environment in “parts per trillion is a great tragedy for humans because we’re looking at microscopic concentrations of something that will do nothing to you. In low doses the body can compensate for effects,” said Dintzer. “While PFAS do not excrete quickly from the human body, there are no replicated studies that show there is any risk from exposure to PFAS at part-per-trillion concentrations. There is no reliable evidence that concentrations this low will have any negative effect on humans. Keep in mind a part-per-trillion equates to one drop of a chemical in 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

The FDA’s report looked at samples of domestic and imported bottled water, carbonated and non-carbonated, and found that none of the 30 samples had detectable levels of PFAS. Samples of seafood, including fish and shellfish taken from 13 species of fresh and saltwater fish, found no indication that the substances present a human health concern. FDA also tested milk samples and found that only one of the 12 raw milk samples and none of the 49 retail milk samples had detectable levels of PFAS.

Currently there are a host of lawsuits throughout the United States, including a “rash of lawsuits against 3M” that “have intensified concerns that it could face massive legal and cleanup costs” over PFAS. According to a December 23, 2019, news report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Maplewood-based industrial giant “has already reached a historic $850 million pollution settlement with Minnesota. . . . 3M has set aside an additional $235 million to cover legal claims, but some estimates of the ultimate costs exceed $10 billion.”

Dintzer told PlasticsToday that PFAS lawsuits could exceed asbestos as one of the biggest tort cases in the United States.

As with many other science-based products that have made modern life better for people worldwide, much of the science is being ignored as these lawsuits move forward. Non-scientific information is being put forth as facts, even when they have not been scientifically studied or analyzed. For example, an article on Earthjustice.org praised the New York legislature for its ban of PFAS in food packaging, noting that they “followed the science” linking PFAS to “serious diseases” and that they “may exacerbate the detrimental health effects of COVID-19.”

No scientific studies have been done relating PFAS to COVID-19 that I could find.

The FDA reviews updated scientific information on food-contact substances as it becomes available, said the agency. For example, in 2011, the FDA obtained voluntary agreements with the manufacturers of certain long-chain PFAS under food-contact notifications to remove those substances from food-contact applications. Long-chain and short-chain refer to the number of carbon atoms in the molecular structure of the subset of PFAS. In 2016, the FDA revoked the regulations that authorized the remaining uses of these long-chain PFAS in food packaging.

Science, particularly science pertaining to plastics, continues to take a back seat to fake science and hype promoted by anti-plastics activists. The plastics industry has fought – and won – almost every battle over the past several decades, including the long-running war against BPA, which continues in spite of dozens of studies and final FDA conclusions that it is not harmful in the minute amounts contained in various applications. At the end of the day, science from credible sources must prevail.