The last months have seen a wave of interesting developments in packaging structures as well as in the application of natural packaging material. Here are some examples. More to come.
USA – Co-polyester that imitates glass
With no significant new developments from the glass packaging industry to be expected in regard to the breakability of glass and consequently the abandonment from events, glass will be replaced more and more by plastic alternatives, all with similar properties as glass.
Eastman Tritan co-polyester is one of these alternatives. It balances the properties of clarity, toughness, dishwasher durability, high-heat and chemical resistance and is free of bisphenol A (BPA). Tritan makes it possible to deliver products that have the genuine look and feel of glass, as well as extreme durability.
Drinique, a manufacturer of drinkware, was able to injection mould both thick and thin walls in its design, making the drinkware more aesthetically appealing and durable, with improved insulation.
The company claims that manufacturing with Tritan allowed it to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases, bringing a more eco-friendly product to market compared to products manufactured with polycarbonate (PC).
Customers who have made the switch to Drinique have reportedly saved thousands of dollars by dramatically reducing costs associated with repurchasing drinkware.
UK – Bamboo and Bulrush
Gillette partnered with package design company Burgopak and Be Green to develop a Cradle-to-Cradle certified solution. Bamboo and bulrush form the basis of new packaging for Procter & Gamble’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor. The razor package replaces the traditional clamshell format with a formable pulp tray made of renewable fibres, supplied by Be Green Packaging LLC.
The innovation revolved around stretching the boundaries around what mouldable pulp can do in relation to a depth-to-draw relationship, creating a packaging system that can be coloured and bleached without adversely affecting the environment, yet maintain strong shelf impact for consumers. Gillette also implemented a new way to introduce methods that will maintain a sealable closing system that is easy to open but is hard enough to drive theft away.
The new structure is said to use 75% less plastic, including the outer fibre-based packaging and the plastic razor organizer tray, which was reduced in size and weight for greater environmental benefit. The package also represents a 17% reduction in pallet weight and improves pallet density by 16%.
All these improvements are said to have been accomplished without any cost increase or detriment to pack aesthetics.
USA – Mushroom Roots
We stay with natural materials. Only two Diamond Awards for Excellence in Innovation, Cost/Waste Reduction and Sustainability were handed out this year, and one was won by Ecovative LLC for its EcoCradle protective packaging product.
It’s grown from mycelium (mushroom “roots”) and regionally sourced agricultural by-products such as cotton burrs or oat hulls. Positioned as a cost-effective, home-compostable, and more sustainable replacement for expanded polystyrene and other petroleum-based protective packaging materials, it’s been in commercial use for more than a year. Users now include office furniture maker Steelcase and computer manufacturer Dell.
Why “revolutionary?” It capitalizes on mushroom fungi’s natural ability to break down organic matter. And because the organic matter in this case is crop waste, it means that this technology, unlike some other biopolymers, isn’t based on turning food or fuel crops into packaging material. Only inedible crop waste is used.
The magic, of course, is mycelium’s ability to self assemble lignin and cellulose into strong biopolymers as it breaks down the crop waste. Ecovative creates this completely organic and natural process within the confines of a mould, baptised, a “grow tray.” It’s the grow tray that gives the resulting part whatever shape the customer requires. Once the material has grown into the desired shape, it’s heat-treated to stop the growth and the part is finished.
These grow-trays are engineered to last for a number of years, and will eventually be recycled. EcoCradle parts take about a week to grow, and the company is able to scale the number of grow-trays to accommodate the monthly unit volume and delivery requirements.
The costs for a mould are between USD 5,000 to USD 10,000
New Zealand – Artisan Botanical Perfume
The intricate outer packaging is made from recycled, biodegradable paperboard, using no glue and only vegetable-based inks. In addition, the creamy, natural solid perfumes are cradled in diminutive wooden pots made from beech wood sourced from sustainable forests.
Each box contains a sustainable Beech push-out stand up Nikau tree. A gift enclosing the beautiful wooden pot of perfume.
Looking for a designer with fresh ideas, Pacific Perfumes Ltd approached the School of Design in Wellington. Receptive and excited by the idea, Tutor Tulia Moss took the concept to her packaging design class who quite simply ’ran with it’ and a fast and furious competition was launched with the brief: 100% sustainable!
The resulting packaging was designed by Packaging Design student Mike Peters.
Elegant yet simple in design, the wooden pots are compact, transportable and beautiful to touch. A clever snap-to system carved in the wood keeps the lid secure. As the company doesn’t support the logging of New Zealand native timber, it searched for some time to find an eco-friendly alternative. Sustainable Beech is the perfect solution. Sourced from certified sustainable New Zealand forests a new tree is planted for every one that is logged.
Sweden – Microwave Pasteurization
Sweden’s Lantmännen Gooh commercializes an in-pack microwave cooking and pasteurization concept from MicVac for its ready-to-eat meals. It provides a refrigerated shelf life of at least 30 days at 8ºC while it is said to ensure maximum taste, nutritional value, and texture.
The combination of microwave technology, a special thermoformed tray, and a patented valve designed to open or close when needed complete this development from MicVac, in cooperation with SealPac.
This new method of preparing food involves a thermoformed tray filled with raw food ingredients – meat, poultry, vegetables – and certain partially pre-cooked ingredients such as potatoes. The filled polypropylene tray is topped and heat sealed with a peelable PA/PP flexible film.
Just before the lidding material is applied a small hole is punched in the lidstock. while over the hole a special MicVac valve is applied.
Filled, lidded, hole-punched and “valvelized” the trays are sent through a microwave tunnel, in which the contents are cooked for 4 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the particulates in the tray. During this cooking process, the MicVac valve opens to release the internal pressure created as the food releases steam. The patented valve can open and close multiple times.
The seal of the lidstock to the tray is strong enough to withstand the internal pressure during pasteurization and heating up in the consumer’s microwave yet remains easy to peel away when the heated food comes out of the microwave.
The final result is a cooked, pasteurized, and vacuum packaged ready meal. For more detailed information about this new pasteurization process and the packaging read the Packaging World Magazine article with video written by Pat Reynolds: “Microwave pasteurization puts ready meals where consumers want them”