A flexible packaging sustainability tale

By Rick Lingle in Sustainable Packaging on October 02, 2019

TC Transcontinental Packaging helps brands rewrite their flexible packaging story using recyclable and compostable materials.

 

Packaging professionals and many more millions of people outside this dynamic market know well the importance of sustainability in all walks of life.

From the viewpoint of a packaging editor, this eco-minded approach is frequently front and center for numerous press releases and, usually negatively, in mass media reporting. Sustainable materials and containers are now a staple of trade shows, which is where I became more familiar on multiple occasions with the impressive array of sustainably-aligned flexible packaging from TC Transcontinental Packaging, the Packaging Sector of TC Transcontinental.

That interest reached a tipping point when the company was recognized for an award-winning package launched in North America earlier this year for one of the first-in-market, 100% recyclable, multilayer barrier stand-up pouches in partnership with American tea company Harney & Sons for their loose-tea flexible plastic pouch. The innovation was in the spotlight at the 2019 Flexible Packaging Achievement (FPA) Awards of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) where it won a Gold Award for Sustainability, a Gold Award for Packaging Excellence and the Silver Award for Technical Innovation.

I subsequently connected with the ideal contact at the company, Alex Hayden, senior vice president, R&D, innovation and sustainability, who enlightens us on the company’s commitment to sustainable flexible packaging.

First things first: How does the company define sustainable packaging?

Hayden: We define sustainable packaging as packaging presenting a lesser environmental footprint than that of alternative packaging solutions. It has been proven, through life cycle assessments (LCA), that flexible packaging uses less fossil fuels, offers an excellent product-packaging ratio, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and uses less water than other packaging formats. We also consider recyclable, compostable and reusable packaging formats and packaging made of post-consumer recycled content as sustainable.

We design our packaging for a wide range of end-product applications and seek to find the right balance between material composition and weight while ensuring an optimal product protection.

Being highly engaged in sustainable packaging development also means that we need to be part of the efforts made to tackle the challenge that flexible packaging presents, which is end-of-life management. Packaging composed of several polymers are currently more difficult to recycle. We are fully cognizant of this dilemma which is why our R&D Department dedicates substantial effort towards developing eco-responsible packaging solutions.

In terms of compostable films, we offer custom-designed solutions developed in collaboration with our customers. These solutions are made from 100% renewable resources. For example, we developed a new flexible peanut bag from certified compostable materials in order to support the green initiatives of arenas and stadiums in the United States that won a Gold award for Sustainability at the 2018 FPA Awards.

How would you characterize the current interest in sustainable packaging?

Hayden: When we first entered the packaging industry a few years ago, sustainable packaging was part of some of our discussions with customers, and usually came as a topic at the end of a meeting. Today, when meeting with our customers, independent of market or size, sustainable packaging solutions are top-of-mind and, more often than not, the very first topic of the meeting.

Brands are keenly aware of the growing global concern regarding the environment and have come to realize that consumers are looking for packaging options that are better for our planet. They are demanding sustainable products that are recyclable or compostable, as they wish to contribute to a better environment starting with what they consume and in reducing packaging waste. Consumers are also asking to understand how recycling works and how they can make a significant impact. There are definite opportunities to educate them on the topic.

In this context, many of our customers have already committed to sustainability targets of their own either through the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment or their Corporate Social Responsibility Plan. They are seeking to develop solutions with their partners and are more willing to test and commercialize those solutions faster. As such, we are definitely seeing a growing interest in sustainable packaging from our customers, as well as from all stakeholders involved in the supply chain, and beyond. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with them and to continue supporting our customers along their own sustainability journey. Our R&D strategy is focused on a deep understanding of our customers’ needs and market trends. Working closely with our supply chain partners, we intend to accelerate the path towards a circular economy for plastic packaging.

Next: Challenges, options and best practices for brands

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Packaging professionals can find pre-Halloween packaging treats in Minnesota during MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) in the form of solutions for food packaging, package design, shipping and more. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.

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Rick Lingle

Rick Lingle is senior technical editor of Packaging Digest. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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