Flexible thinking: packaging for a sustainable future

Jorge Gonzalez Alvarez, Regional Sales Manager, Consumer Packaging, Korozo Group

On 16 January 2018, the European Commission published a communication laying out a strategy for plastics in a circular economy (“Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe“). It supports the shift towards sustainable growth via a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy by transforming the EU’s economy into a sustainable one by 2050 using circular economy principles.

In parallel, different measures were taking place globally, such as those adopted by The American Chemistry Council plastic division, which signed “A Commitment to a Circular Economy for Plastics” (Recover & Repurpose: Keeping Plastics Out of the Environment – American Chemistry Council), and The UK Plastics Pact, which is a trailblazing, collaborative initiative, delivered by WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme), that creates a circular economy for plastics (“What is The UK Plastics Pact?” wrap., to name just two.

All strategies identify the same key challenges: • Low reuse and recycling rates of plastic waste. • The greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics production and incineration.

• The presence of plastic waste in oceans.

All of these measures seek to overcome the above key challenges, the main objectives being to: • Reduce overall plastic usage. • Reduce overall CO2

emissions as much as possible.

• Use recycled material whenever possible. • Design packaging to be reusable. • Improve litter collection. • Improve recycling plants technology/capacity.

The world of packaging has changed rapidly during recent years. Many end-use markets have already implemented strategies to fulfil these resolutions: reducing the overall amount of plastic in containers (down-gauging), switching to alternative materials/products, adopting fully recyclable packaging products, or including post-industrial or


Rigid bottle • Material: HDPE. • Weight (bottle): 53.6 grams. • Weight (closure cap): 2.8 grams. • Total weight: 56.4 grams.

Stand-up pouch • Material: HDPE. • Weight (pouch): 16.3 grams. • Weight (spout): 2.0 grams. • Weight (cap): 0.9 grams. • Total weight: 19.2 grams.

The results show that when the traditional HDPE bottle and flexible stand-up pouch with spout are used for motor oil, the flexible structure will generally have a favourable outcome in terms of fossil fuel

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post-consumer recycled content in packaging, to name but a few.

However, several other end-use markets are still only taking small steps to re-design their strategies to reach these objectives on sustainability. Sometimes the product is difficult to pack in alternative materials/ containers, or the amount of capital employed in packaging machinery lines makes it difficult to invest in new equipment, and sometimes companies just don’t know what path to follow. Perhaps the automotive fluids market belongs to the latter.

In April 2018, The Flexible Packaging Association conducted a study which compared several typical end-use packaging products against some of their sustainable alternatives (LCA - from cradle to grave). Comparisons were made for packaging in different end-use markets: coffee packaging, laundry detergent, baby food and motor oil. The results were astonishing. In the particular case of automotive lubricants, the comparison was made between a typical rigid High Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE) containers against a flexible, stand-up pouch made of HDPE. Below are some details:

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