As every year the Flexible Packaging Association honoured a wide range of flexible packages with an award. We will have a look at a selection of them in a minute, but first I like to discuss the subject “flexible packaging”.
Flexible packaging is the sweetheart of the consumer goods industry and the thorn in the eye of the (bit fanatic) environmentalist.
In a nonsense article in Packaging Digest, titled “The irony of flexible pouches” Robert Lilienfeld argues against the environmentalist who opposes (he calls it “lambasting”) the implementation of multi-layer flexible packaging. The article and his arguments are, in my eyes, ridiculous, because he writes apparently assuming that the average education level of the Packaging Digest reader isn’t above that of a first grader.
What to think of this phrase: “Ironic, isn’t it, that a major food producer is given so much grief for packaging that has become a staple among companies whose value propositions are based on providing a highly educated, affluent and environmentally concerned clientele with wholesome, organic, responsibly grown and therefore sustainable foods?”
Since when is “..providing a highly educated, affluent and environmentally concerned clientele with wholesome, organic, responsibly grown and therefore sustainable foods” a licence to dump on the market whatever eco-unfriendly packaging you can find?
There is only one reason, “these environmentally sensitive companies” (as Lilienfeld calls them) use flexible packaging exclusively for cost reduction (and some marketing features) in comparison with other packaging formats. Nothing else, nothing wrong with this reasoning, but don’t come up with the claim “environmentally sensitive companies”, because they aren’t. Profit is the adage, simple as that. And the rest is green-washing.
And then Lilienfeld’s childish example. In his comparison of a steel can and a foil/LDPE flexible pouch, he forgets to tell that steel is infinitely recyclable and as such a renewable resource. The LDPE in the pouch is a fossil not-renewable resource and the foil, although also infinitely recyclable in itself, can’t be retrieved from the pouch (anyway not in the USA) and is consequently also a non-renewable resource. And thus it ends up on a landfill, while the steel in the can is re-used.
And laughably he concludes that “Even with 0% recycling, the pouch produced about 30% fewer discards by weight than did the can”. No, my friend, the can doesn’t produce waste, it’s re-used and re-used over and over again.
Lilienfeld must be very bad at math, because he claims “So, once you do the math, you can’t blame pouches for creating too much waste simply because they’re not recyclable”.
Ever seen a collection of 60 billion empty post-consumer pouches? The “harvest” of just one year!!
Like the environmentalist groups, Lilienfeld better had lambasted the US flexible packaging industry, and in particular Kraft as the largest user of flexibles, for not implementing recycling systems for post-consumer flexible packaging. Are they available? Yes, there are systems available. Read my articles about this subject:
Flexible Packaging And Its Recycling Problems
Recycling Packaging Material With An Aluminium Component
From Post-Consumer Flexible Packaging To A Durable Consumer Product
Lilienfeld has to realise that it’s not the “lambasting” environmentalist, who is to blame, but the US industry, which is far behind with the rest of the world in terms of recycling, and not only because of its despising Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
I leave it to my readers to work out the why.
Anyway, do I oppose flexible packaging? Of course not, it’s one of the best and most promising packaging formats. Although I must say every now and then flexibles get the level of a hype, when companies use them wrongly, only to cut costs and falsely claim environmental benefits. False environmental claims or not, the results of the FPA Awards show clearly that flexible packaging as a packaging format is maturing
But back to the beauties of the Flexible Packaging Awards. I made a selection of some 10 beauties and will show them in 2 articles. The full results of the FPA Awards you can download here (pdf-file).
The patented Intervoid Sterile bag of Coveris Flexibles in Winsford is a multi-industry sampling package innovation that combines ultra-sterile, ultra-secure, composite sampling systems for the first time.
The Intervoid Sterile represents a major breakthrough in flexible packaging for medical, food, and other specimen sampling through its highly technical conversion methods. The sterile bags combine unique track & trace identification, patented tamper evident closure and tape, perforation, secondary gamma sterilization and leak-resistant properties to deliver a composite, sterile and easy-to-use sampling solution for enhanced safety, security and environmental impact.
Eliminating the risk of cross contamination and enhancing traceability and function, Intervoid products are both food contact approved and UN3373 marked for product assurance and security against cross contamination. The tape of the sterile bags says “stop” if tampered with or not sealed correctly.
McCormick Skillet Sauce Mix Pourable Pouch
The McCormick Skillet Sauce pouch, manufactured by Bemis Company Inc., is a new line of home cooked sauces to help the consumer prepare quick and healthy meals. The design provides a clean pour of the sauce. With its die-cut spout and tear-off “cap,” the new McCormick Skillet Sauce package has the look and functionality of a bottle, but the efficiency and sustainability of a pouch.
The no mess, easy-open “cap” allows the consumer to simply tear open and pour, leaving the scissors and mess behind. The unique shape, stand-up format and vibrant graphics immediately set the product apart from McCormick’s popular dried spices to strengthen the company’s entry into the liquid sauce category.
This new idea was developed from research that indicated consumers prefer lightweight flexible pouches over bottles or jars in the skillet sauce category.
A published FPA case study specifies, on average, flexible pouches can result in up to a 50% reduction in landfill waste when compared to glass or plastic bottles with caps.
This claim used by McCormick to justify the implementation of sauces in a flexible pouch, however, is a bit dubious as neither a glass bottle nor a plastic bottle has to end up in a landfill, while for flexible packaging there is (in the USA) no choice other than the landfill. This kind of claims can therefore be archived under “green-washing”.
Medi-CRREO with Child-Guard Closure
This is the world’s first child-resistant flexible pouch using the Child-Guard Closure. The Medi-CRREO manufactured by Pactech Packaging, complemented with the Child-Guard Closure developed by Reynolds Presto Products has passed the testing requirements of Title 16 CFR 1700 of the Poison Prevention Packaging Act.
With the added benefits of the hermetic slider and optional tamper evident labelling, this new technology will allow products that had been previously packaged in child resistant boxes or bulky plastic containers to be packaged in flexible packaging.
The Medi-CRREO packaging with Child-Guard pouch is reusable allowing manufacturers to consider a new paradigm for sustainability. Potential exists for manufactures to setup return/reuse programs with their customers. For example, customers could return Medi-CRREO pouch to the pharmacy for refills.
SpraySmart Marking Paint Pouch
Rust-Oleum’s marking spray paint was packaged in rigid aerosol canisters.
These did not evacuate fully and also created a high volume of hazardous waste. The new SpraySmart Marking Paint flexible packaging, manufactured by Printpack, is a non-aerosol, propellant free, delivery system for marking paints, using compression air-technology.
The marking paint is supplied in a flexible pouch and uses a unique compression technology device to spray the paint. The device will fit into any existing marking wand and is powered by a rechargeable battery.
The marking process is done in the same manner as when using an conventional aerosol marking paint and wand.
The pouches mix and evacuate more effectively, providing more paint coverage for the same package weight, and the used pouches take up much less space and do not require disposal as hazardous waste. Also, the transparent areas within the graphics allow users to easily see how much paint remains in the pouch.
This is the first series of awarded flexible packaging. More to come in a next article.
Thanks for your assessment here regarding Lilienfeld’s article. Reading it, I felt like my head was exploding. I could understand how he did the math, but his conclusion was so irrational. Seeing your take on it made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy after all. I always appreciate your complete-picture approach to assessing environmental sustainability.
Thank you, Jennifer, I’m happy I avoided your head exploding. Lilienfeld’s article and reasoning irritated me and I couldn’t stop myself to attack it. Whatever it is with packaging we have to stay reasonable in regard to sustainability. Flexibles are fine, but I blame the US industry for not engaging in recycling programs.