Packaging Europe Issue 16.5

Page 1

VOLUME 16.5– 2021

HOLYGRAIL 2.0

WHERE NEXT FOR DIGITAL WATERMARKING? ADHESIVES • PAPER PERSPECTIVES • RFID • DIGITIZATION


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CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES

CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE

CIRCULAR ECONOMY

ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE REUSABLE MATERIAL RECYCLING

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Editor Victoria Hattersley

Journalists

Administrative Assistant Megan Cotterill

Elisabeth Skoda Libby Munford

Digital Analyst

Digital Editor

Operations Director

Fin Slater

Amber Dawson

Junior Journalist

Brand Director

Melina Spanoudi

Tim Sykes

Editorial Intern

Sales Director

Hannah Cole

Jesse Roberts

Production Manager

Senior Portfolio Sales Manager

Rob Czerwinski

Advertising Coordinator Kayleigh Harvey

VOLUME 16.5 – 2021

Syed Hassan

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Dominic Kurkowski

Portfolio Sales Managers Matt Byron Guy Helliker

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Editorial Victoria Hattersley HolyGrail HolyGrail 2.0: Where next for digital watermarking? Adhesives Packaging adhesives and sustainability Renewables An inside look at the Forest Stewardship Council Track & Trace RFID: Traceability in a globalized supply chain Trademarks podcast Trademarks in packaging Wider View Koehler: The future for barrier papers Digital transformation Creating a secure, efficient and sustainable supply chain On second thoughts... Has the packaging industry been hijacked by plastics haters?



EDITORIAL |

AS

I write this we are gearing up for the 2021 Sustainability Awards to be held at FachPack, and by the time this issue goes to print we will know our winners. Given the year that it’s been – the ongoing Covid crisis, further evidence of the damage our activities are having on natural ecosystems – it’s heartening to see what is still being accomplished on this front. All our nominees have added something important to the sustainability conversation, whether that’s developing a solution to drive a circular economy, recyclable packaging, bio-based packaging or something else entirely. Front and centre of this year’s issue, we look at what’s been happening with our Overall Winner of the Sustainability Awards 2019, The HolyGrail project. Now in its second iteration, we spoke to project partners AIM and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste to find out what this phase involves and how digital watermarking fits into the wider environmental picture. Elsewhere, Fin Slater has been talking to the Forest Stewardship Council to find out about the valuable work they are doing in the renewables sector. I myself have been burrowing into the world of track & trace technology; I spoke to representatives from PragmatIC Semiconductor and SATO to find out how, in an increasingly complex global supply chain, technologies such as RFID and blockchain can help secure goods from the producer to the consumer. I’ve also been speaking to Dave Swedes from Valco Melton about how increasing levels of automation and digitalization are helping to build more secure, efficient and sustainable production models.

Victoria Hattersley Senior Writer

Elisabeth Skoda highlights the important – and some might say underappreciated – role adhesives play in, quite literally as she points out, holding packaging together. She also recently interviewed certified IP lawyer Dr Eckhard Ratjen about trademarks in packaging and all the issues surrounding these – something that all brand owners have to consider sooner or later. Finally, our On Second Thoughts… column this time comes courtesy of Andrew Manly of AIPIA, who puts the question: Has the plastic industry been hijacked by ‘plastic haters’? We’ll leave you to decide whether that’s the case. Finally, I’d like to remind all our readers that our Sustainable Packaging Summit virtual platform will be packed with panel discussions and interactive meetings every week throughout Q4. If you haven’t already, sign up for free to join upcoming live sessions and access any discussions you have missed on demand (and catch up with the Sustainability Awards n 2021 ceremony if you missed it) at PackagingSummit.earth/join.

Victoria Hattersley Victoria Hattersley vh@packagingeurope.com @PackEuropeVicky

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HOLYGRAIL 2.0: WHERE NEXT FOR DIGITAL WATERMARKING? For the second iteration of the HolyGrail project – HolyGrail 2.0 – AIM, the European Brands Association, and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, have announced the beginning of semi-industrial trials. We spoke with Michelle Gibbons, Director General of AIM, about what this next phase will encompass. We also spoke with Jacob Duer, President and CEO of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, about their own involvement in the project and how it fits into the wider goal of waste reduction.

MICHELLE GIBBONS, AIM

PE: What are the aims and objectives of HolyGrail 2.0 and how does it represent a step-change from the first iteration of the project?

MG: The Digital Watermarks Initiative HolyGrail 2.0 is a pilot project with the objective to prove the technical viability of digital watermarks for accurate sorting of packaging waste as well as the economic viability of the business case at large scale. In Phase 1, we focus on the development of a functional add-on module for the detection sorting unit that can efficiently detect and separate the digitally watermarked packaging from packaging waste. The first prototype, built by Pellenc ST and Digimarc, which combines the digital watermarks technology and NIR/VIS infrared for sorting of packaging waste, was validated in September 2021 with a >95% ejection rate. Over the next four months, trials and demonstrations with around 125,000 pieces of packaging representing up to 260 different stock-keeping units (SKUs) will be held. The second prototype by Tomra/Digimarc is currently being developed. During the semi-industrial test phase, both units will be tested at two different locations that are capable of running semi-industrial trials. The first controlled tests using industrial sized equipment and the Pellenc ST/Digimarc module are scheduled for October 2021 at the ARC (Amager Resource Centre) sorting centre in Copenhagen. The Tomra/Digimarc module will be tested in Germany at the end of 2021 – beginning of 2022. A software model and identification parameters will be developed and tested for a category specific sorting based on digital watermark detection. Pending successful completion of the semi-industrial tests, brand owners and retailers will then bring their enhanced products commercially

to the market in three EU countries: Denmark, France and Germany. During this phase, which is planned to kick off in Q1 2022, the aim is that consumers will buy on-shelf products with digitally watermarked packaging, which after consumption will enter the waste stream. The functional prototypes developed by Pellenc ST and Tomra will be deployed in a large-scale pilot in commercial sorting and recycling facilities under normal operating conditions with minimal adjustments and optimization of components. This last phase is scheduled to run until Q3 2022 after which the HolyGrail 2.0 Initiative will release a final public report outlining the techno-economic analysis of the digital watermarks technology for sorting of packaging waste. We have also just announced our two new partnerships for the initiative. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste has joined us as key partner to drive the project. With the City of Copenhagen we are delighted to have another precious partner for the semi-industrial test phase on board.

PE: What would you say are the biggest infrastructural challenges in Europe when it comes to building a circular economy?

MG: To truly empower consumers to play their part in the Circular Economy, reliable, relevant, clear, understandable and EU harmonized information about the sustainability features of a product, such as environmental aspects, proper waste disposal, anti-littering and recycling, is crucial. Any such information needs to be ‘actionable’ by consumers. Unfortunately, with today’s increasing (national) proliferation of more than 200 environmental labels in the EU, a considerable number of consumers feel more confused than empowered to make a green product choice. Therefore, as brands we want to support citizens in their efforts, not only by continuously developing our products and making them more sustainable, but also by providing consumers with clear and relevant information about the sustainability features of products, whilst not overloading them with information.

PE: For those unfamiliar with the technology, can you explain how digital watermarking can help the EU to achieve its circular economy goals?

MG: One of the most pressing challenges in achieving a circular economy for packaging is finding a way to accurately sort post-consumer waste. Up to now, typical industrial sorting facilities produce about 16-20 single sorting fractions. Each fraction requires more or less a specific recycling route. More differentia| 4 | Packaging Europe


tion in the sorting process of for example identical packaging materials used for different purposes (e.g. food- vs. non-food application) is not possible today. Digital watermarks have the potential to revolutionize this process. Digital watermarks are imperceptible codes, the size of a postage stamp, covering the surface of consumer goods packaging. They are able to carry a wide range of attributes (e.g. manufacturer, SKUs, type of plastics used and composition for multi-layer objects, food vs. non-food usage). The aim is that once a package has entered a waste sorting facility, the digital watermark can be detected and decoded by a high-resolution camera on the sorting line, which is then able to sort the packaging in corresponding streams, thus enabling sorting processes that are not yet possible today with near infrared (NIR) technologies.

PE: Are there any perceived ‘drawbacks’ to digital watermarking from

aesthetic aspects of the packaging, such as shelf appeal, are crucial for brands and retailers. In this context, the initiative will release a public summary report on best practices for digital watermarks.

the brand owner point of view that would need to be addressed in order to ensure their more widespread adoption?

PE: Are there any other upcoming project milestones that you would be

MG: The main success factor for a full-scale implementation of digital

MG: During the semi-industrial test phase at the ARC sorting facility in

watermarks for intelligent sorting is acceptance by brand owners and retailers of the digital watermarks technology. That is why specific work packages within HolyGrail 2.0 address the technological and aesthetic concerns of packaging producers for digital watermarks in print. The

Copenhagen, Open Houses comprising a virtual tour and demonstration of the prototype sorting detection unit for HG2.0 members and external stakeholders will take place on 19 October and 18 November 2021. Interested stakeholders can get more information directly on our website: www.digitalwatermarks.eu. n

particularly keen to share with us at this time?

JACOB DUER, ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE (AEPW) PE: Why is AEPW getting involved in HolyGrail 2.0? How does the project fit into your overall mission and what place does it occupy in your route map?

JD: The Alliance to End Plastic Waste has the clear mission to end plastic waste in the environment. We do so along four strategic pillars: infrastructure, innovation, education and engagement, and cleanup. HolyGrail 2.0 covers more than two of those, testing an innovative solution to sort plastic packaging waste as well as the infrastructure which is needed to make best use of the digital watermark technology. The Alliance brings together a global network of business leaders, governments, intergovernmental organisations, entrepreneurs and civil society to speed up the development of solutions to end plastic waste. We are dedicated to developing solutions to different aspects of the complex plastic waste challenge. One of these areas is recycling. As we aim to steer towards a realization of a circular economy for plastic, recycling and innovative technologies to improve current and explore new processes play an important role. HolyGrail 2.0 will close important gaps to realizing circularity and, thereby, complement our project portfolio.

PE: Why is now – as the second phase of HolyGrail scales up its trials – the right time to partner with the project?

JD: In its first phase, HolyGrail 1.0, between 2016 and 2019, the project was facilitated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that worked together

with different stakeholders from the packaging value chain to identify the digital watermark technology as a promising solution for intelligent sorting. At the Alliance, we like to say we are a ‘do-tank’, rather than a ‘think tank’ — we focus our efforts to result in concrete action and aim to implement solutions on the ground. This second phase of HolyGrail, facilitated by AIM, turns the theoretical concept into life as we test the economic and technical viability of digital watermarks to learn how this solution could be implemented.

PE: Drawing on your holistic view of the global plastic waste problem, could you comment on the wider picture of what is required (beyond the actions of the HolyGrail stakeholders) to accelerate the implementation and impact of digital watermarking?

JD: Innovative solutions must be sustainable and scaled for impact. To achieve this, we need collaboration and a pioneering mindset. Digital watermarks are one important solution to overcome gaps in current recycling processes. Many more solutions are needed to improve recycling processes and advance a circular economy. As the plastic waste problem needs to be tackled across different dimensions, we must work on these simultaneously, across different regions, and with different focuses, to enable technology solutions like this to scale. Bringing together key actors to find and implement solutions to end plastic waste by assessing local circumstances and using this knowledge to identify the best way forward is what we need to do — for the digital watermark technology, but also any other solution that helps to solve the n global plastic waste challenge. Packaging Europe | 5 |




PACKAGING ADHESIVES AND SUSTAINABILITY Adhesives are a more or less invisible, but play an important part in quite literally holding packaging together. Elisabeth Skoda looks at the latest market developments and discusses recent trends and developments with H.B. Fuller and Bostik.

A

ccording to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the global packaging adhesives market is expected to grow at with a CAGR greater than 5% between 2021 and 2026. This is mainly driven by a growing demand from the food and beverage industry. Asia-Pacific accounted for the biggest market share and is likely to continue dominating demand.

Trends and developments in the packaging adhesives space Mega trends like globalization, urbanization and digitalization have been impacting the way we live and work, and have challenged how products are designed, manufactured and consumed. With increasing consumer awareness, food safety concerns and product ingredient transparency, sustainability is here to stay. As part of this new reality, the main drivers we see in the food and beverage industry are firstly regulatory changes, primarily in Europe with the new Green Deal, ban on single-use plastics legislation and related guidelines impacting packaging; and secondly the impulse coming from brand owners themselves. In some cases, these are also heavily influenced by the consumers, putting pressure on brands via social media and through their purchasing choices,” explains Elizabeth Staab, Global Strategic marketing manager at H.B. Fuller. She identifies that within the sustainability area, the biggest trend is the avoidance or reduction of plastic as a packaging material, forcing many food and beverage producers to seek mainly fibre-based alternatives, i.e. paper and board. “These changes in packaging design and materials used lead to different adhesive requirements. The recyclability of the primary packaging material is essential, so adhesives need to be formulated to facilitate this recycling process. New materials such as paper straws or new designs such as multipack bundling, like KHS Nature MultiPackTM or GPI’s KeelClipTM, demand completely new solutions and developments to fulfil the requisites of the new packs,” adds Ms Staab.

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Wladimir Moraes, Global Market Director for Flexible Packaging - Bostik Advanced Packaging, agrees that the push towards design for circularity and recyclability has further intensified. “This key trend is shifting gears for all elements of packaging, including adhesives and sealants. Re-designing in mono-material structures to allow sorting and mechanical recycling remains an important drive for innovation and sustainability in flexible packaging. Therefore, there is a real need for adhesives that allow and even enable this. Adhesives can also play an important part in combatting food waste, as he points out. “We have observed a growing demand for our adhesives and systems for reclosable packaging, to reduce food waste and preserve resources.”

“Changes in packaging design and materials used lead to different adhesive requirements. The recyclability of the primary packaging material is essential, so adhesives need to be formulated to facilitate this recycling process. New materials such as paper straws or new designs such as multipack bundling demand completely new solutions and developments.” All this shows that adhesives are a key element in packaging and its sustainability, even though they are naturally almost invisible to consumers. Mr Moraes highlights the example of mechanical recycling of multilayer flexible structures, where the right adhesive can provide safety for consumers and the required performance for food protection, while not impacting the quality of the recyclate.


Elizabeth Staab | Global Strategic Marketing Manager

“High recyclate quality is key to enable virgin material replacement and allow a high number of reuse cycles in a circular economy. Bostik offers a laminating adhesive that is fully certified by Recyclass for compliance with the polyethylene films recycling stream.” There are numerous ways in which the choice of adhesive can impact the sustainability of packaging, as Ms Staab points out, and one of them is having more efficient adhesives that achieve the same effect using less. “With faster production lines and less adhesive per pack or container, a lot can be achieved. For example, we apply the absolutely minimum necessary amount of adhesives needed to help create packaging that meets the ‘do more with less’ rule and consumes fewer resources.” Some hot melt adhesives can be applied at lower temperatures, which is in turn saving energy in use. Also, adhesives facilitate the recycling of primary packaging material.

For instance, wash-off properties for labelling glass or PET containers are crucial for returnable bottles or a cleaner PET recycling stream. “Thus, the separation of adhesives from paper, carton board or corrugated is essential. For flexible packaging, various 2K laminating systems are certified for mechanical recycling to then use the regained plastics in other applications,” adds Ms Staab.

Reducing packaging Furthermore, packaging design can be rethought to reduce the amount and type of materials used. Multipack bundling for beverages has proved this point, showing an overall reduction and eliminating plastic shrink wrap, she says. “Primary packaging is important, but also pallet packaging to safely transport goods from the producer to the supermarket shelf. Here

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adhesives can add stability to the pallet, which can substantially reduce the amounts of shrink wrap and other tertiary / quaternary packaging used to ship goods.” Mr Moraes agrees that adhesives can help to eliminate the need for plastic film wrapping used to stabilize goods on pallets, and outlines further solutions where adhesives help with reduction of packaging. “Our reclosing solutions for lidding films allow replacement of clamshells by top-sealed trays, thus reducing weight of the plastic used by up to 20%. Our polyester sealing resins seal directly on mono-material PET trays, eliminating the need for a polyethylene layer, which also facilitates recycling. This also allows the use of adhesive weight: our Kizen technology has been designed to bond better with less quantity (-20% in average) and to create lighter packaging.”

Keeping consumers safe A major challenge for adhesives in packaging has been to provide everhigher consumer protection, required performance and convenience features, in the most cost-effective way. “On top of this, adhesives face the common challenge of minimizing the environmental impact and enabling circularity. The main challenge for flexible packaging adhesives is not to adapt but rather to enable new packaging developments. At Bostik, we see partnership within the whole value chain as the only way to accomplish this, accelerating innovation and bringing coherent solutions to the market,” says Mr Moares. “For example, Bostik’s laminating adhesive certified by Recyclass for recyclability in the PE flexibles stream addresses the need of our customers to develop recyclable packaging. Another innovation is a joint development with a customer in USA for a reclosable lidding film technology for fresh produce trays, that streamlines the process and replaces clamshells. This solution is being introduced in the marketplace now.”

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Boosting the consumer’s e-commerce experience E-commerce puts further challenges on packaging. Since a growing percentage of purchases arrive at the consumer’s doorstep, companies must ensure their e-commerce packaging protects the contents and their brand image, while providing an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the packaging waste. Retailers are looking at right sized packaging options, says Ms Staab. “There are various solutions to enhance functionality of e-commerce packaging: right sizing of packaging, easy opening for the consumer and reclosure for return to the retailer are now near requirements in the industry. Adhesives offer several solutions for easy, quick closure at the warehouse for shipment. At H.B. Fuller, we have customized products for closure and reclosure that also easily separate from the carton board or corrugated for optimal recycling of e-commerce packaging. Easy opening features generally use tear tapes. To date these have been plastic based, but our new Sesame Evolution tapes are fibre-based and replace the plastic tear tapes. This improves the customer experience two-fold: easy opening without the plastic tape.”

Application challenge: Compostability Compostable packaging has experienced higher demand in recent years, and adhesives have to be carefully considered in order to work well with this type of packaging. Industrial composting is carried out at 60°C over several months, requiring the application temperature of the adhesive as well as storage of the finished pack during hot summers to be well under this threshold so as not to inadvertently trigger the composting process. “This means that completely new and different raw materials need to be used to make the laminating flexible packaging adhesive. It takes great effort and time to test the various raw materials and formulations with compostable testing standards


work in 3-month, 6-month and yearlong intervals, which can add a lot of time to the development process. Working closely with a compostable film supplier, ink supplier and the brand owner we were able to develop a laminating adhesive for dry food packaging that is now commercial in the US,” says Ms Staab.

“The main challenge for flexible packaging adhesives is not to adapt but rather to enable new packaging developments. At Bostik, see partnership within the whole value chain as the only way to accomplish this, accelerating innovation and bringing coherent solutions to the market.”

Application challenge: Paper straws As mentioned before, paper straws have been a true challenge for the industry and consumer alike. “For the consumer, the feel in their mouth is substantially different and no one appreciates a soggy straw in their beverage. Paper straws are produced with water-based adhesives that then must withstand liquids for several hours. Also, the straw needs to be sufficiently sturdy and stiff, so that it isn’t easily crushed and then cannot be used. In comparison a plastic straw has the advantage of withstanding greater forces and still returning to its initial shape. In addition, the consumer puts the straw in their mouth to drink, so the regulatory food contact aspects are of key importance,” concludes Ms Staab. “Our water-based R&D team worked closely with specialized paper and machine manufacturers to customize the formulation for high-speed paper straw production and the adhesive exceeds the consumer safety requirements and withstands liquids for several hours. Numerous hurdles were successfully n overcome to offer a plastic-free alternative to plastic straws.”

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AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE FOREST STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL

Fin Slater spoke with the Forest Stewardship Council to learn more about the work it does.

FS: In terms of impact evaluation specifically relating to Europe, what tangible effects has the work of the FSC had on the environment? FSC: FSC Principles and Criteria strive towards reducing the negative impacts of forest management interventions and promoting responsible forestry. Sustainable forest management always requires a compromise between profitability and conservation and in this fragile equilibrium, certification is fundamental. There is scientific evidence that FSC plays a key role in preventing biodiversity loss and deforestation and protecting forests of High Conservation Value (HCV) as well as bringing different stakeholders together to co-create solutions to conflicts or issues. With the proactive engagement of diverse stakeholder groups, at international and national levels, the FSC Principles and Criteria help to ensure that these many different interests and opinions regarding forest management are all considered via consultative processes which result in robust, nationally applicable standards.

FS: How might becoming FSC certified benefit a member of the packaging value chain?

FS: How does the certification process work, from start to finish? FSC: Becoming FSC-certified shows compliance with the highest social and environmental standards on the market. There are five steps to follow to obtain a certificate: 1) Contact FSC accredited certification bodies 2) Submit a certification application to the FSC certification body of your choice 3) Ensure that an appropriate FSC Forest Management or Chain of Custody Management System is in place in your business operations 4) Undergo an on-site audit by your chosen certification body 5) Gain certification approval. FS: Are there any tips that you would give to packaging organizations that are thinking about applying for FSC certification? FSC: FSC is based on three pillars which have to be accounted for at the same time: environmental, social and economic. Therefore, if a company has already included sustainability in their policies and respects the rights

FSC: FSC certificate holders indicate that meeting client demands, achieving competitive advantage and market access were the primary reasons for becoming certified in the first place which closely aligns with the business benefits identified by respondents who have been certified longer than a year. On the other hand, communicating about corporate social responsibility as well as improving public relations and communication were the main benefits for holding a promotional license. In the current context of moving towards biomaterials in the packaging VC, FSC certification plays a key role in providing reassurance to consumers and brand owners that with the sudden increase in fibre for packaging, the resulting pressure on forests does not need to be negative.

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of their employees, the path for obtaining a certificate will be smoother. Having a pre-existing quality or environmental management system like ISO 9001 or ISO14001 in the company makes the climb to FSC Chain of Custody requirements a lot faster and easier.

FS: How is pricing determined and how does it work in practice? FSC: Pricing for certification is made up of the cost of audit (usually the greatest cost) and FSC’s Annual Accreditation Fee (AAF, an updated version was just released), which is the amount FSC charges companies, through CBs, to become FSC certified. FSC uses the AAF from Certificate Holders to maintain and develop the FSC certification scheme and system. Overall pricing for certification depends on many variables, and usually the most significant cost is the FSC audit and this depends on the size and complexity of a company’s operation. The more complex an operation, the longer it tends to take to audit and therefore the higher the price will be. If the company already has a quality management system and staff are trained, it might be faster and therefore less costly.

FS: A number of competing certification schemes exist – the PEFC among them. In your view, what separates the FSC from its competitors?

In 2009 FSC introduced a policy to which organizations associating with FSC had to commit, forbidding them from involvement in potentially destructive forest practices, such as illegal logging. This pioneering policy means that FSC licence holders can be investigated, and potentially excluded from the system not just from company activities within their FSC-certified concessions, but also that carried out elsewhere. Earlier this year FSC announced its disassociation from the Indonesian Korindo Group, a certificate holder alleged to have been involved in deforestation, human rights abuses and the destruction of high conservation values in its (uncertified) palm oil operations.

FS: What does the future hold for the FSC, and how might increasing demand for fibre-based packaging impact the work that it does? FSC: FSC will continue to strive to protect forests and the communities that rely on them, so we can have forests, for all, forever. With an increase in demand for wood and wood-based products, the need for FSC certification will become more evident. At the same time, as the world is transitioning towards circularity, there is the FSC Recycled label allowing to give more lives to a material that go beyond one single product making sure n that sustainability aspect comes with all of them.

FSC: Many social and environmental stakeholders look to FSC because of its use of the High Conservation Value (HCV) concept, which ensures that ecological and cultural values of forests (species-at-risk, rare forest types such Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs), ecological services, and social and cultural sites) are not only conserved but improved through management activities. Other schemes do not require stakeholder consultation for ‘ecologically important forest areas’, nor the use of the precautionary approach when managing them and do not recognize IFLs as a value requiring conservation. FSC was one of the very first forest organizations to champion Indigenous people’s rights and has requirements and detailed requirements and guidance to ensure that the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples is implemented robustly. FPIC is an essential right according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Other schemes don’t systematically require the application of FPIC globally.

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In an increasingly complex global supply chain, how can technologies such as RFID and blockchain support security, safety and sustainability from producer to end consumer? Victoria Hattersley spoke to representatives from PragmatIC Semiconductor and SATO to explore this question. ©PragmatIC

RFID: TRACEABILITY IN A GLOBALIZED SUPPLY CHAIN T here has never, of course, been a time when product security was not important, but in today’s globalized marketplace – with all the factors that come into play – ensuring traceability along the supply chain is a more complicated, and yet vital, process than ever before. Added to this, there is growing pressure from both consumers and legislators for transparency from producers and suppliers. All of this calls for ever-more sophisticated tracking solutions. Traceability is a factor in all sectors, but in Europe the focus from a legislative perspective – as laid out in the FMD Directive – is still heavily on prescription pharmaceutical goods. “The system in the EU only covers prescription medicines,” says Alastair Hanlon, CCO at PragmatIC Semiconductor, “but the level of counterfeiting in OTC medicines and many other market segments is also very high and can also have very damaging outcomes. There are huge potential benefits to extending the system to more product categories. Then there are further opportunities to use the serialization for track and trace from factory to the consumer. While this is not a requirement yet (in the EU or the US), enabling track and trace will need significant investment from all actors in the supply chain.” As others have already pointed out on this platform, the EU could do worse than follow the example of Russia in this regard. Russia has taken the long view with its trace and trace system, setting up a series of public-private partnerships and rolling it out to include an increasing range of sectors from personal care to food and drink. “While Russia’s approach is characteristically bold,” says Alastair, “other countries have focused on prescription pharmaceuticals as the first products that require serialization and are likely to build from there. The key lesson from Russia is, whatever products you’re seeking to protect, these systems must be built with scale in mind.”

RFID – ‘An obvious choice for supply chain traceability’ In simple terms, the two most ubiquitous track and trace technologies in use today are barcodes and RFID. In this article, our focus will be on the latter, as, according to Alastair Hanlon, RFID has several advantages over the present barcodes on the market. “It can be added under the label, so doesn’t require real estate on the package of a minimum size; it’s difficult to copy and doesn’t need line of sight to read. Barcodes can also easily be damaged by wrinkles or overwriting, image defects etc. Large numbers of RFID tagged items can be read in a very short period of time, making stock control/inventory checking very fast and efficient. Couple this with the software and databases that have been developed to manage RFID records, and it is an obvious choice to use this technology for supply chain traceability.” Certainly, we have by no means exhausted the prospects for RFID and it will continue to have a key role to play within wider systems. “Where RFID’s future

Alastair Hanlon Packaging Europe | 17 |


©PragmatIC

©PragmatIC

importance comes into play is when the technology is implemented as part of a larger infrastructure development,” says Norberto Bermudez, Product Manager Europe at SATO, “whereby the business connects their existing software, such as warehouse management system or enterprise resource planning system, to analyse and monitor real-time data to help prevent downtime or develop new opportunities.” To improve efficiency and safety further in a wider range of end-use markets, increased functionality including smart temperature or moisture sensors could be incorporated into RFID systems. As Norberto Bermudez points out, extreme changes in temperature during transport can potentially be very dangerous. “For example, many seafood supply chains are heavily regulated and require unique RFID technology that includes their species name on capture, so they can later be scanned by QR code into a warehouse management system to prevent mislabelling. In the pharmaceutical industry, efficient track and trace systems can help reduce monetary loss by only recalling the faulty product, rather than the entire batch. Serialized items can also be located easily to provide potential life-saving information, such as displaying expiry dates or alerting operators to counterfeiting concerns.” Then there is near-field communication (NFC) technology – sometimes referred to as the ‘next step up’ from RFID, although the two could perhaps be best described as complementary. RFID and NRC technology can be combined to create a complete experience. It gives brand owners the ability to communicate important information about the product – and its authenticity – directly to the consumer rather than only retailers or distributors etc. “The main driver for using NFC is that the end consumer has a reader in their pocket – their smartphone,” says Alastair Hanlon. “The reason that the vast majority of modern phones have NFC is because of contactless payment. Android phones have allowed the use of the same NFC for other applications for some time, and we are now seeing Apple allowing the use for things other than ApplePay as well. So using NFC extends the use of embedded electronics all the way through the supply chain right to the customer.”

How can traceability be extended to waste management?

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But when we think of track and trace technologies we should not only consider their benefits in terms of security and consumer safety. Less appreciated is the role they can play in building a circular economy. What happens after the consumer has bought the product, and can traceability be extended to addressing the waste stream? After all, some of the biggest circularity challenges we face at the moment are related to inadequacy – or lack of uniformity – in regional recycling and waste infrastructures. “We have several sustainability projects ongoing, for example using the technology to help track waste to ensure it isn’t fly-tipped; using it to sort waste to maximize the value of that waste and keep it in circulation; or enabling reuse models,” says Alastair Hanlon. “The area we are really excited about is how it can be used to reduce waste – for example by adding sensors and a small amount of compute, it will be possible to ensure that food has been kept in optimum conditions and remove the need for conservative sell-by dates.” Norberto Bermudez emphasizes the impact mislabelling can have on product waste. “Essentially,” he says, “faulty labelling means the company has to reproduce the item that was mislabelled then re-transport the goods through logistics, thus generating more material waste and energy, increasing their overall carbon footprint. Track and trace technologies can help to combat these errors. For example, in the food industry, items tagged with RFID labels that later need to be recalled due to safety concerns can be individually identified and returned accurately, reducing waste and with minimal impact on carbon footprint. Our CT4-LX label printing solution is ideal for businesses looking to reduce their impact on the environment. Its RFID capabilities provide heightened flexibility for track and trace inventory management, while its increased data collection input delivers re-labelling accuracy.” We can also expect to see the plastic waste itself being tagged with RFID, to help identify individual materials and make it easier to sort in the waste


©PragmatIC

streams. The SORT-IT project by PragmatIC has been designed to do just that. And finally, we are now seeing RFID technology that is plastic-free by design and easily recyclable. Stora Enso’s ECO™ RFID tag technology that enables paper-based tags are just one case in point, but this is likely just a taste of what is to come.

Where next? Looking forward, there will be steadily increasing automation of track and trace processes – something that has already been speeded up by the COVID-19 crisis. “Who could have imagined we could transition so quickly to online in some many aspects of life?” says Alastair. “In the past year we have seen e-commerce explode, e-health catch on, but with more of us using the internet, there are more possibilities for fraud and so traceability from source to consumer, ie. a secure and transparent supply chain, is even more important. In future there will also be more and more AI added to the systems that predict trends, for example to anticipate restocking.” Many experts also seem to agree that blockchain will have a major role to play in traceability, as in so many things. This can be combined with technologies like the Internet of Things to automate the tracking of production, transport and quality control. It will also allow companies to share their track and trace data with customers – while preserving certain aspects of IP – in order to provide proof of authenticity and ethical supply chains.

“The advantages of using blockchain technology for supply chain traceability in e-commerce business models are clear cut,” says Norberto. “By securely and automatically storing digital assets, it offers a convenient and trusted solution to providing third-party traceability. In food packaging, consumers can now simply use their smartphone to scan a QR code found on the packaging to discover the location of where the food was sourced and learn about where it was manufactured.” Alongside all the above, the costs of RFID tech are steadily lowering – making the most sophisticated track and trace technologies an increasingly affordable reality for many more companies of all sizes. The creation of smaller RFID chips is one promising area of development highlighted by Norberto that is helping control the bottom line. “Not only does it reduce the cost of an RFID tag dramatically, but it also means they can be manufactured at speed to essentially get more chips for half the cost. This means businesses like supermarkets can track low-cost items such as packed fresh fruit and vegetables from farm to fork without increasing their supply chain costs.” None of the above solutions are perfect and none can operate in a vacuum. Maintaining some acceptable level of control of supply chain security today requires the use of many complementary technologies and processes across multiple platforms along the entire supply chain. The above are just some of the most prevalent, but technology is developing all the time and no doubt in n the coming months we will have more to share with you. Packaging Europe | 19 |


Competition around new packaging formats and pack designs can be fierce in the packaging world. But when does it make sense to protect these by trademark, and what are the challenges along the way? Elisabeth Skoda talks to Dr. Eckhard Ratjen, who is a certified IP lawyer focusing on trade mark law and copyright at the legal firm Boehmert & Boehmert, to find out more.

TRADEMARKS IN PACKAGING

ES: What parts of a pack can be protected by trademark? Is it the whole pack, a certain functionality, material or design?

ER: First of all, companies are free to decide what they want to try to register as a trademark. The question should be: Is it always reasonable? There are quite a few pitfalls. As a general rule, in Europe any signs can be protected as a trademark. Trademark laws in Europe stipulate that the shape of the packaging of goods, for example, can be protected as a trademark and there is a presumption to do so. This this is the wording of the trademark laws. There are strict requirements for the allowance of protection, and I can give some examples. First of all, signs must always be capable of being representatives in a manner which enables the public to determine the clear and precise scope of protection. Packaging material would be excluded from protection as a | 20 | Packaging Europe

trademark. I would refer you for example to technical intellectual property rights such as patents and utility models. Another obstacle to protection is that no protection is granted for signs which consist exclusively of the characteristics of goods. Technical functionalities, such as a zipper or a closure, are excluded. A third reason why signs often cannot be protected as a trademark in packaging is that no protection for signs is granted exclusively on the shape which gives the so-called substantial value to goods. For example, an elaborate bottle by a famous designer - you would assume that the customer is purchasing the product because of the design, and not because of the product as such. Also in this case packaging would be barred from registration. The most important grounds why trademarks are often refused in packaging designs is the following: Any sign must be capable of being distinguishable from the goods of one undertaking from those of other undertakings. This sounds like a typical sentence of a lawyer. Putting it


“It is not a coincidence that supermarket own brands pack designs are very similar to the designs of brand manufacturers. Retailers are often interested to take a free ride to increase their own sales and turnover.” simply, any sign must function as an indicator of origin, have to draw a link to a certain undertaking and should perceive the packaging design not as a mere packaging. There must be something more than that. As you can see, this is sometimes very difficult to show.

ES: What are the different types of trademarks that would be applicable for the packaging industry?

ER: Thinking about trademark law, the first things that come to mind are presumably company names, product names as well as logos, such as the Apple logo. When it comes to the packaging industry, figurative marks are most important. Another type of trademarks are three-dimensional marks

with three-dimensional depiction, and also colour marks, for protection for a specific colour or colour combination of the product packaging. Regarding all these types of trademarks you always face the same problem. It may be questionable whether such a sign can function as an indicator of origin. Fortunately, this can be overcome by showing so-called acquired distinctiveness through use. In other words, you have to show to the examiner or judge that the packaging has gained market acceptance. This is always difficult to ascertain and generally involves market surveys that certify that the packaging has gained a certain recognition value within the relevant trade circles. In my opinion, the trademark officers have become much stricter. Unless you can show a survey, and the sign is already known to a certain extent, it will be nearly impossible to obtain protection for packaging design as a trademark. Packaging Europe | 21 |


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“Milka had launched one of its chocolate products in square packaging. Ritter Sport was the owner of the respective threedimensional trademarks in Germany, and invoked these trademark rights against Milka.”

ES: I sometimes notice in the supermarkets that own brand designs are very similar to branded goods. Where are the lines drawn there and have there been any disputes that you’re aware of?

ER: It is not a coincidence that supermarket own brands pack designs are very similar to the designs of brand manufacturers. Retailers are often interested to take a free ride to increase their own sales and turnover. It’d only in exceptional circumstances that there is consent to use such a similar design. More often no such consent is granted, and the packaging imitation is made on purpose by the third party. Whether or not such similar packaging can be prohibited depends to my experience on two main factors. Firstly, is the design of the brand manufacturer protected by intellectual property rights? If not, it may be very difficult to do something about it. As a general rule, without having protection by means of intellectual property rights, copying cannot be prohibited. The second important factor appears is if there is sufficient distance between the respective overall impression of the packaging designs. Often such pack designs are not identical, but only similar so there is a certain distance which is deliberately maintained. In conclusion, provided there are no intellectual property rights which can be involved one can only rely on claims based on - in Germany one would say “unfair competition” in the UK “passing off”. The more distance there is between the packs, the more difficult it will become to do something about it. However, even if intellectual property rights are affected, there is still no guarantee that something can be done. In a nutshell, there is no clear answer to the question and it always depends on the circumstances of the specific case.

ES: Do different countries take different approaches to trademarking or is there an international consensus?

ER: Unfortunately not. Different countries have different rules when it comes to trademark protection and no general statement can be made. The particularities of national laws need to always be considered. National

trademark laws even differ within the European Union, although a harmonisation by the European legislator has been taking place. There are still national particularities when it comes to the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the trademark act. There is one particularity I’d like to point out in the European Union. It’s possible to apply for pan-European intellectual property rights at the EU intellectual property office, called European Union trademark registrations and community design registrations.

ES: Trademark disputes often are long and drawn out for example the dispute between Milka and Ritter Sport. It was finally decided in favour of Ritter Sport. What were the deciding factors there?

ER: The case was finally decided earlier this year. The final ruling was reached by the German Federal Court of Justice after a nine year long battle. It started with Ritter Sport attacking Milka, who are their main competitor in Germany when it comes to chocolate products. Milka had launched one of its chocolate products in square packaging. Ritter Sport was the owner of the respective three-dimensional trademarks in Germany, and invoked these trademark rights against Milka. In response, Milka submitted requests for cancellation with the German Patent and Trademark office in 2011, in order to have Ritter Sport’s threedimensional trademarks for its packaging deleted. Milka won in the first and second instance. Finally, the case went to the German Federal Court of Justice and it confirmed that Ritter Sport’s trademark on the square packaging will remain in place. The court confirmed that a three-dimensional dimensional mark for packaging is not barred from registration and there are no grounds for refusal. It also said that the packaging design of Ritter Sport has acquired distinctiveness through use in Germany and therefore functioned as an indicator of origin, and consumers in Germany would perceive the packaging of Ritter Sport as a trademark

ES: Can you give us some other examples of packaging trademark disputes and how they were resolved? Packaging Europe | 23 |


ER: Over the last years there has been a substantial number of decisions regarding three-dimensional trademarks and packaging designs in Europe and Germany. The vast majority of decisions concern the question whether a three-dimensional trademark is registrable as a trademark in the first place. For example, back in 2011, Coca-Cola applied for a three-dimensional trademark for the plain Coca Cola bottle. In the first and second instance, the European intellectual property office denied protection as a trademark. This rejection was also confirmed by the European General Court for trademark matters in 2016. The judges stated that Coca-Cola was not able to show that the bottle has acquired distinctiveness through use throughout the European Union, meaning that the plain bottle would not be perceived as a trademark. Therefore, no protection was granted. Another case was decided in Germany in the year 2012 involving the German juice concentrate brand Capri Sun. Capri Sun is the owner of Dr. Eckhard Ratjen

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various three-dimensional trademarks for the drink packaging. The brand’s drinking pouch is trapezoidal in profile when filled and rectangular when flat. Capri Sun invoked these-three dimensional trademarks against the product of a competitor whose product packaging was nearly identical in shape. In this case the court in Hamburg confirmed trademark infringement, saying that the German consumer will easily perceive the drinking pouch of Capri Sun as a trademark and not as a mere packaging. It was also taken into account that Capri Sun is a well-known brand in Germany.

ES: In conclusion, what tips would you give to our listeners who may be interested in trademarking their product packaging? What are the key points to bear in mind and what pitfalls should be avoided?

ER: I always recommend to my clients to get the packaging design protected first by means of a three-dimensional design registration, and only subsequently optimise the level of protection, for instance by means of trademarks. The exact strategy depends of course on how much budget is available. One has to bear in mind that registering a three-dimensional trademark is not only time consuming and sometimes difficult it also involves high costs. A threedimensional trademark, when it involves obtaining a survey on market acceptance can cost about €20,000 per country. Therefore, it is always recommendable to start with a design registration, as the costs are lower. The general recommendation I can give is that companies should ensure that they have built a certain basic foundation of legal protection when introducing new products and packaging and they should have this in place in good n time before the market launch.


KOEHLER: THE FUTURE FOR BARRIER PAPERS Our last Wider View article with Koehler Paper tackled, and we hope dispelled, some of the prevalent misconceptions around paper packaging. This year, it’s all about looking to the future of barrier papers: how far have they come and what will the third, fourth – even fifth? – generations bring in terms of functionality? Victoria Hattersley finds out.

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very week we hear of new innovations, collaborations and areas of application in the field of high-barrier papers, driven by ever-greater market pull and demand for sustainable packaging solutions. According to a Smithers Pira report, ‘The Future of Functional & Barrier Coatings for Paper & Board to 2024’, volume demand for functional and barrier coating applications in paper and board packaging reached almost 3 million tonnes globally in 2018, with a value of $7.8 billion. The same report

says the market is forecast to grow at a rate of 5.0% to 2024, pushing market value to almost $11.0 billion and worldwide consumption to just under 4 million tonnes. Compared to older iterations of paper packaging, the newer generations of barrier papers offer far more in terms of safety, hygiene and product protection. So what attributes can we expect the third and even fourth generations of materials to bring us? Packaging Europe | 25 |


Eckhard Kallies, Director of Flexible Packaging

“The next ‘big’ move is to launch a coated paper with a very good water vapour barrier under tropical conditions in combination with a mineral oil protection barrier”

“In general, we can say that the next generation of barrier papers is gaining speed. The next ‘big’ move is to launch a coated paper with a very good water vapour barrier under tropical conditions in combination with a mineral oil protection barrier,” says Eckhard Kallies, Director of Flexible Packaging. “We expect full market implementation of this in the second half of 2022. We are also involved in a strategic alliance with leading flexible packaging converters to develop the next generation of functional coated barrier papers for specific end-use applications.” Other areas of innovation for these new generations of papers include the development of biodegradable coatings, and a focus on weight reduction to further reduce the CO2 burden.

Barrier papers for food: Case studies According to Eckhard, opportunities for barrier papers to take a more significant hold in the food industry – particularly confectionery – are wide open, as Koehler’s latest collaborations demonstrate. The company recently teamed up with Alfred Ritter to supply its NexPlus® barrier-coated paper for the confectionery producer’s new ‘Mini Mix’ pouches. NexPlus® can be seen as a real step forward in terms of product protection, providing a barrier against oxygen and mineral oil, among other things, as well as being resistant to grease. These pouches have been available on all international markets since January 2021, and have also been available in Germany since early March. In another high-profile collaboration, confectionery producer Südzucker has changed the packaging material of its sugar sticks to Koehler NexPlus® Seal paper. After passing the qualification phase and initial test quantities, all of the sugar stick packaging was changed over to Koehler NexPlus® after just a four-month test period. The new sugar sticks have been in stores across Germany since late February 2021. Yet some brand owners are still concerned that the challenge of adapting their existing packaging lines to paper will be too great. This, as we showed in our previous Wider View article with Koehler, is by no means the case anymore. For Alfred Ritter, while the switch certainly involved some careful test runs and minor adjustments, ultimately it was able to arrive at an optimal solution. | 26 | Packaging Europe

Expanding range of applications But while the food industry may be the biggest end-use sector it is by no means be the only important one for the barrier paper sector moving forward. While uptake is still slower in non-food applications when it comes to adopting paper over plastics or other materials, according to Eckhard, “Even here there is much more room for optimism as we see younger generations constantly asking for more sustainable products and packaging. “The main challenge, as always, is to build the right mindset to make changes and foster innovation. We are now seeing the ‘first & fast movers’ and these companies will create value and gain market share. Their market approach is different as they are very open to collaborate to combine expertise from all angles.”

Is legislation fit for purpose? On a practical note, I was interested to explore what further changes must be made to increase uptake across all potential end-use sectors. One issue that comes up again and again is the need for greater legislative harmonization across Europe.

“We need much more clarity and a pragmatic approach rather than contradictory guidelines.” If we take the example of Germany, here a packaging monomaterial is defined as one which consists of 95% or more of the same material. This ‘5%’ rule goes back to the 1990s but many would argue that it does not meet today’s reality, in which barrier paper technologies have changed so significantly. What should matter, arguably, is not the percentage of a non-paper ingredient in the waste material, but how much that non-paper material interferes with the paper recycling stream. We have seen several instances in the past year or two of functional barrier papers that can be placed in existing streams – Koehler’s NexPlus® barrier paper being just


one example of this. Clearly there is still work to be done to ensure a more robust recycling stream for all flexible paper packaging containing laminated composites, but the market is moving in the right direction. The definition of a polymer in the Single-Use Plastic Directive (SUPD) is also, to many, a questionable one. Certain kinds of packaging paper that are considered as monomaterials – paper substances such as modified starch or latex binders, let’s say – could also fall under this directive. Is there a strong argument for a rethink? “More legislative harmonization is key for transformation,” confirms Eckhard. “The current status of the SUPD is not supporting change and even more, brings much more uncertainty to the whole industry as nobody really knows in which direction to invest. We need much more clarity and a pragmatic approach rather than contradictory guidelines.” What this requires, he says, is a collaborative approach across the entire European paper industry. “The industry needs to align much more strongly and drive innovation across all sectors. We have so much in common and one, if not the most sustainable raw materials in our hands.”

What comes next?

coated barrier papers will look very different. Certainly we will be seeing significantly lower grammages with higher performing barriers. The barrier itself might be biobased and therefore biodegradable, and overall the footprint will be improved year-on-year.” Indeed, Eckhard is even confident that paper will come to ‘dominate’ the flexible packaging market for most applications, but he adds that “all developments must be ready for paper recycling and therefore feed the fast-growing needs of packaging from, for example, the rapidly growing online business sector. We might also see recycling fibres in flexible packaging for secondary packaging needs, although I’m still anticipating virgin fibres being used for primary food application due to the high food safety requirements.” Will paper really dominate the flexibles market in the next few years? What I think we can say for sure is that, in the future, it will no longer be just plastics that can provide the product protection and shelf life required for FMCG goods. But as ever, it’s not necessarily a case of pitting one material against another – rather of ensuring that in the future each material can reach its full n potential within a circular economy.

So far we’ve talked about what the emerging third and fourth generations of barrier papers can – and will – achieve. We’ve talked about the obstacles the industry faces to ensure the market and the recycling infrastructure is ready for these materials. But as we conclude, let’s look further ahead. What, we ask, might a fifth generation of barrier papers look like? “We are always talking about the evolution of materials,” says Eckhard, “and the same is true with paper. In a time span of 5-10 years, functional Packaging Europe | 27 |


DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION: CREATING A SECURE, EFFICIENT AND SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN How will increasing levels of automation and digitalization shape the future of the packaging landscape? Victoria Hattersley spoke to David Swedes, Vice-President Engineering & Manufacturing at Valco Melton, about the transformative effect automation is having on vital processes in the production chain such as dispensing, inspection and monitoring.

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he terms ‘digital transformation’ and ‘Industry 4.0’ are ones we are all now very familiar with, but they can mean different things to different people depending on where they are in the value chain. Increased automation is one obvious factor, of course, but they also encompass tracking along the supply chain from producer to consumer, AI, vision inspection and much, much more. All of this is with the aim of creating a more secure, efficient and sustainable production infrastructure for the future. “Transforming an entire supply chain can include everything from full plant automation and control to inventory tracking with barcodes/RFID to integrated transportation and distribution solutions that allow tracking of products from | 28 | Packaging Europe

vendors through to end-users,” says David Swedes of Valco Melton – one of the world’s leaders in adhesive dispensing machinery, vision inspection and electronic monitoring systems. “For Valco Melton, that transformation includes remote monitoring of packaging adhesive application systems, supervisory PLC control of previously machine-level systems, quality monitoring of packaging lines and packaging manufacturing machinery.” The packaging industry has been somewhat lagging behind other sectors when it comes to digital adoption and while there have been many advancements in robotics, smart packaging, AI and so on it’s still very much in the early stages. However, according to a recent survey by McKinsey it will be a clear


“Equipment makers must accept the reality that the quicker a line or system can be changed over, the more valuable it will be.”

priority for industry stakeholders moving forward. It found that while technology adoption in the sector is largely limited to applications such as consumer interaction and track & trace, we can expect to see it being leveraged to improve packaging recyclability, circularity and data collection in the future. The COVID-19 crisis, while wreaking untold havoc, has also served to accelerate the process of digitalization – for example by creating the need for more space between workers, which means increased adoption of automation. And then, ongoing lockdowns across the world have obliged many consumers to rely more heavily on e-commerce, increasing demand for packaged goods and putting greater pressure on the industry to increase output and efficiency.

The importance of vision systems And how is the industry meeting this demand through digitalization? First, let’s look at the vital topic of data and vision technology: accumulating information on the performance of packaging machines can enable quicker analysis and correction of production issues. Continuous improvements in vision technology are also key to improving efficiency and reducing waste on the factory floor. Systems such as Valco Melton’s ClearVision installed on case-makers aim to remove defective products from the stream before they create downtime at a packaging facility or are shipped to customers. Producers can, for example, monitor glue application, case score-line locations, fold quality, print and barcode quality before shipping. “However,” says David Swedes, “there is a second level to the importance of vision systems that is of great interest to quality and continuous improvement managers – process improvement. Manufacturing processes, by nature, follow certain statistical patterns and improving those processes always requires study Packaging Europe | 29 |


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David Swedes

and data. Vision systems provide volumes of images as well as measurements to recognize those patterns, prioritize issues and spend more time taking appropriate corrective action than attempting to recognize root causes. “But having a vision system that simply stores images and data that are not easily accessible or easily sorted and interpreted can be an impediment to using that data as it is simply too much and too difficult to get to. Tools like ClearVision’s MeasurementChek provide access to vision measurements from anywhere in a plant’s secure IT eco-system and allow data to be sorted in multiple ways to quickly locate relevant information.” Furthermore, hot melt beyond verification systems such as those offered by Valco Melton play a key role in terms of security by helping to ensure that cases and cartons have been properly glued and closed. “By utilizing combinations of images from different cameras, the applied adhesive is ‘seen’ through the closed flaps and verified to be in sufficient quantity and in the correct position. There is a second benefit of knowing that the flap is in fact closed. Clearly, assurance that cases are properly glued and closed prevents warehouse tip-overs and spills and more important, frustration with packages that fall apart in the distribution or retail space or even in transit or at the point of use. This is important not just for safety and security but also brand protection.”

The trend towards mass customization Let’s also bear in mind that demands are constantly changing, and the production infrastructure must adapt to these while keeping an eye to efficiency and sustainability. The ongoing trend towards mass customization, so much discussed, is a case in point including targeted branding, flavours, scents, sizes and so on. Incidentally, this is one area of innovation that the COVID19 crisis doesn’t seem to have speeded up – as David Swedes points out, consumers have been ‘happy to obtain the product at all’ during this fraught time – but once things get back to ‘normal’ the appetite for more personalized offerings and increased flexibility will return. “Long term, the need for flexibility in packaging equipment and variety in products will not disappear,” says David. “Equipment makers must accept the reality that the quicker a line or system can be changed over, the more valuable it will be. This is particularly evident when one sees packaging and manufacturing in Asian markets where batch quantities that would normally be 10,000 or 50,000 in a European market are closer to 1000. This small-lot approach influences the whole chain down to distribution and transportation where the last kilometre of distribution is often on a motorbike.”

In the past, shop floors were fairly static, producing one product, or line of products for long periods of time with minimal turnover. Today, mass customization and rapid innovation are driving factories to produce many more products in the same environment at faster rates with higher throughput. To keep up and stay competitive, manufacturers need machines and production lines that are substantially more flexible, versatile, scalable, and cost-effective than ever before.

Still some way to go While the packaging industry still has a long way to go before it reaches digital maturity, David tells us he has seen good reason to be optimistic that it is heading in the ‘right’ direction. “I recently saw a fully automated manufacturing site making cartons for high-volume beverage packaging. It was clear that this investment required a tremendous amount of work and cooperation on the part of the company running it, its vendors and partners and the local community around it. This factory relied on robotic technology for packing and material handling, supervisory scheduling, control and monitoring of production rates, barcoded identification of inventory batches and a stable workforce. With an advanced mill on site, it is reducing its transportation footprint by shortening the raw material to finished product cycle time. When I see this level of commitment to the goals of a sustainable, efficient factory, I am encouraged that there are good days ahead n for this industry.”

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ON SECOND THOUGHTS... HAS THE PACKAGING INDUSTRY BEEN HIJACKED BY PLASTICS HATERS? Andrew Manly, Communications Director of AIPIA, the global smart packaging organization, asks whether ‘plastics bashing’ is having a detrimental effect on the sustainability agenda.

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he planet is warming up quickly and this will have dire consequences if we do not do something about it. Yep we got that. We need to cool it down fast and packaging needs to play its part in that important mission. Yep the industry – sort of – gets that too. I say, ‘sort of’ because it seems to me that the agenda for the packaging industry has been almost completely hijacked by the plastics haters. The sector has forgotten the great benefits all forms of plastics packaging, flexible, semi-rigid and rigid, have brought to the industries they serve. The reason we have flexible packaging is because it’s light, easy to manufacture and transport in bulk, use as a highly versatile wrapping to protect a huge range of goods effectively and could, if properly collected, be recycled or turned into energy. No one in the industry is unaware that if it is discarded improperly it becomes a problem and that it needs to play a significant role in improving that. But collection and recycling is everyone’s problem, not just the producers. We use single-use formats because they save a lot of waste. And the science shows that wasted food has far more impact on the environment in terms of energy and water consumption, let alone the disposal hazards. Plus, a single sachet of a rehydration salt in a third world country is easily available and affordable to people who can neither buy in bulk nor store it if they could. Greenpeace want us to ditch plastics packaging almost entirely. They also want us to stop eating proteins such as red meat. There is no rational scientific basis for these views in my opinion. Plastics has attributes no other packaging can offer. Perhaps aluminium is a good alternative in many instances, but environmentalists say the impact on the climate of extracting primary aluminium is too great. My answer to that is: You cannot put everything in paper or board. And aluminium is infinitely 100% recyclable. To point up the skew on the science being perpetrated on the public, it is worth noting that the primary sources of methane globally are not cows, but natural wetlands and rice paddies. Is Greenpeace asking for them to be banned?

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A huge disservice is being done to the packaging sector, as the sustainability issue is effectively shutting out a lot of development of other packaging innovations which can add real benefits for the brand owners and consumers. For example, condition monitoring technology and shelf-life extending film formulations exist which can greatly reduce the estimated 30% of food which is thrown out each year around the world. Developed economies are the worst, as we still believe the Sell By and Use By dates are accurate. Mostly they are not! Ironically, adoption of some of these simple technologies could add significant profit margin to both retailers and food producers, as less food gets wasted along the supply chain and, in my opinion, the lazy practice of discounting food near its expiry date could be much more controlled. There is absolutely no point in ditching plastics in favour of other packaging materials if the environmental impact of switching to glass, or metal, or cartonboard has not been thoroughly assessed in a lifecycle analysis and proven to be beneficial. While l am sure some of this goes on, l am not convinced that many companies are going down that route. Many see it as better to show in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report that they are doing the ‘right thing’. Whether that is greenwashing or just a reaction to external pressures l leave for others to decide. Of course we need to take the plastics out of the oceans, tidy up our own poor practices and reduce packaging where possible. But let’s tackle this scientifically and address the root causes of waste too – these are poor recycling infrastructures and collection systems, together with a singular lack of public awareness that their little sweetie wrapper matters. What we need is a balanced approach not some hysterical flight to, in many cases, inappropriate solutions. Finally l will stand up as a Grumpy Old Man of packaging and say l HATE paper straws! They go soggy after a few seconds and have a strange taste or feeling on the lips which certainly diminishes the drinking experience for me. I carry a pack of plastic straws in my n pocket and discard them carefully after use.


Throughout the autumn the Sustainable Packaging Summit’s virtual platform is hosting live, interactive panel discussions featuring key players addressing the crucial questions facing the value chain. Register to join these live sessions or watch on demand – your colleagues and collaborators are welcome too!

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