Packaging Europe Issue 16.6

Page 1

VOLUME 16.6 – 2021








Change your perspective now. With us. And our dynamic performance in the production of packaging. Where speed goes hand in hand with conservation of resources and environmental responsibility. Strong brands that deliver: Your products. And our ALLROUNDERs. Step into the future. With ARBURG.


Advertising Coordinator

Victoria Hattersley

Kayleigh Harvey


Administrative Assistant

Elisabeth Skoda Libby Munford

Megan Cotterill

Digital Editor

Syed Hassan

Fin Slater

Junior Journalist Melina Spanoudi

Editorial Intern Hannah Cole

Production Manager Rob Czerwinski

Digital Design & Production Assistant

VOLUME 16.6 – 2021

Digital Analyst Operations Director Amber Dawson

Brand Director Tim Sykes

Sales Director Jesse Roberts

Senior Portfolio Sales Manager





Dominic Kurkowski

Meg Garratt

Portfolio Head of Marketing & Sales Managers Audience Development Matt Byron Kamila Miller

Guy Helliker

Packaging Europe Ltd Part of the Rapid News Communications Group 9 Norwich Business Park, Whiting Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 6DJ, UK Registered Office: Carlton House, Sandpiper Way, Chester Business Park, Chester, CH4 9QE. Company No: 10531302. Registered in England. VAT Registration No. GB 265 4148 96 Telephone: +44 (0)1603 885000 Editorial: Studio: Advertising: Website: Twitter: LinkedIn: YouTube: © Packaging Europe Ltd 2021 No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form for any purpose, other than short sections for the purpose of review, without prior consent of the publisher. ISSN 2516-0133 (Print) ISSN 02516-0141 (Online)

3 Editorial Victoria Hattersley 4 UPM Raflatac Designing it right: Why label choice is vital 8 Disruptive Innovations for 2022 A look at the year ahead 11 Tom Szaky interview Designing the way back to reuse 13 EMF interview Global Commitment report 2021: Have we reached the virgin plastics peak? 17 Industry 4.0 Industry 4.0 and beyond 21 Sustainable Innovation A sustainable future for packaging 23 Wider View - Mitsubishi What does ‘digital transformation’ really mean for the packaging industry? 26 Barrier properties An outlook 28 Wider View - Toray Is EB offset the future of packaging print? 32 On second thoughts... Does plastic really make us safer?



t’s our final magazine of a year that has seen some tentative return to something like a recognizable state of ‘normality’. In the wake of the COP26 summit – which, while disappointing in some respects, at least set foundations for how the world can attempt to mitigate the very worst of the impending climate catastrophe – we hope the majority of the packaging industry enters 2022 with an even greater determination to play its part. To give a flavour of what this might involve, this issue gives a snapshot of some of the more disruptive innovations and trends we can expect to see throughout the value chain over the next year. Our lead feature for this issue takes on the subject of labels: UPM Raflatac give us a compelling argument as to why it is so important to make the right labelling choice if the packaging industry wants to reduce its reliance on fossil resources – and why this importance is sometimes overlooked. Regarding the ongoing challenge of virgin plastics reduction, Elisabeth Skoda recently spoke to Lily Shepherd of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy about the 2021 Global Commitment Progress Report, produced in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme. She discussed the main findings from this report and what they mean for brands and retailers, which makes for interesting reading. Libby Munford homes in on some of the most exciting areas of recent development in sustainable packaging innovation. Elsewhere, Fin Slater speaks to Aquapack’s John Williams about barrier properties and some of the key issues around sustainability, recyclability and compostability, including ‘forever chemicals’.

Victoria Hattersley Senior Writer

And as ever, we have also invited some guest contributors: we welcome back TerraCycle’s Tom Szaky, who tells us why we need to rethink our current reuse models. Our On Second Thoughts… columnist for this issue is US-based environmental advisor Holly Kaufman, who questions whether plastic is really the safest, most hygienic choice. Ending on a positive note: next year we are looking forward to (finally) returning to a full programme of physical events. Alongside year-round virtual panels, the Sustainable Packaging Summit will host four in-person events in 2022. The high-level summit in Lisbon on 24-25 May will be the centrepiece of the programme – a ‘Davos’ for the packaging and FMCG value chain to address its key sustainability challenges. In addition, we’ll be hosting special conferences at Anuga FoodTec in April, FachPack in September, and Q4 will see the launch of a new event focusing on the opportunities in pre-commercialized sustainable packaging innovation. No doubt like many of you, we can’t wait to hold face-to-face discussions on the major sustainability chaln lenges facing the industry. We hope to see you there.

Victoria Hattersley Victoria Hattersley @PackEuropeVicky

Packaging Europe | 3 |


WHY LABEL CHOICE IS VITAL Why is it so important to make the right labelling choice if the packaging industry wants to reduce its reliance on fossil resources? Victoria Hattersley spoke to Eliisa Laurikainen, Business Development Manager, Consumer Goods at UPM Raflatac, to find out.


hen it comes to future-proofing packaging, labels matter. And yet often the importance of the label when it comes to ensuring the overall sustainability and recyclability of a package can easily be overlooked. That’s why this company, which since the 1970s has been creating high-performance and sustainable label materials, argues brand owners should put the same care into selecting their labelling materials as they do into choosing their packaging. The ultimate aim, as it says, is to empower brand owners to move ‘beyond fossils’ to a more sustainable use of the world’s resources – and always designing packaging with recyclability or reuse as the end goal. This requires employing the strategy of eco-design: that the whole lifecycle of the packaging, including the label, should be considered from the start of the design process. This encompasses everything from raw materials to manufacturing, right through to how the package is disposed of, factoring the labelling material into the packaging design right from the start. This approach is summed up – by UPM Raflatac – with the dual message of ‘Make the Switch’ and ‘Close the Loop’. Each of these two are intertwined: the one relies upon the other.

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“With the message ‘Make the Switch’ we are encouraging brand owners to change to more sustainable label material choices,” begins Eliisa Laurikainen. “This can be reducing the use of raw materials, for example using thinner or resource-optimized label solutions, or taking advantage of the wider availability of label materials made from post-consumer recycled waste (PCR), such as our PP C-PCR – a polypropylene film where virgin materials have been replaced with chemically recycled post-consumer waste – or for paper labels UPM Raflatac Recycled Coat Plus PCR-FSC face paper material using 100% recycled fibres. “Packaging recyclability is important today and it will be even more important in the future as brand owners are envisioning a waste-free world. Choosing the right label can help optimize recyclability and that’s where ‘Close the Loop’ comes in. The packaging choices made will determine which recycling stream the pack will go in so it’s vital we make good label choices to support the recycling or reuse process.” One key solution developed by UPM Raflatac that supports the ‘Close the Loop’ approach is RafCycle – a label waste recycling service designed to offer customers and brand owners a circular recycling solution. This is important because, as UPM Raflatac says, many companies may not know

how to deal with label waste and the release liner is often overlooked in the waste stream. RafCycle enables companies to put valuable materials back into the product stream, in many cases returning the waste to the label value chain. The process is a simple one: RafCycle partners need only collect their waste and then UPM Raflatac will arrange a pickup and recycling. To find out more about this service, visit: products-and-services/services/rafcycle-recycling-services/ UPM Raflatac’s solutions also include wash-off labels for PET packaging that allow the label to be separated from the package during the recycling process. But with some recycling processes today it is not even necessary to separate the label from the package and in this case – for example for HDPE packaging – there is the option to use recycling-compatible labels. This is just a snapshot of what is possible; but as we will see, it’s a complex choice involving a large number of metrics.

the most important role for the package and that is to protect the product and deliver it safely to the consumer to avoid product waste, and it’s good to keep in mind that different products have different requirements. Choosing the best sustainable label to suit the package is where our expertise comes in.”

Challenges for brand owners It’s also important to note that the material choice doesn’t always come down to the needs of the product – sometimes there are other deciding factors. For example, there are regional variations when it comes to recycling infrastructure,

“With the message ‘Make the Switch’ we are encouraging brand owners to change to more sustainable label material choices.”

The right label material for the right product ‘Make the Switch’ and ‘Close the Loop’ are two clear, actionable ways for brands to move forward and make their packaging more sustainable. But the biggest sticking point can be agreeing on what this should look like as the word ‘sustainability’ can mean different things to different groups. So what, in UPM Raflatac’s opinion, constitutes a sustainable labelling solution? “My view is that the labels are a vital component of the primary or secondary packaging so really everything must begin from the package design,” says Eliisa. “This means you have to consider the labels from the very early stage and factor in the end-of-life scenarios. And, of course, we cannot forget the end user needs so the label has to have all the necessary functionality (e.g. peel and reseal) and will have to tolerate a wide range of conditions. Any solution not meeting all these requirements is not sustainable.” A key component of the packaging design phase is choosing the packaging material itself, and then choosing the right label material to combine with this to ensure circularity. But is there a ‘best’ packaging material? Does UPM favour any in particular or should we be agnostic about this question? “Today we see so many innovations and new materials tested or introduced to the market and I completely support that development. But we cannot forget

climate conditions, etc: one solution might be appropriate for some metrics, but in another geographical region another material is the appropriate choice for the same product. As we’ve said, it’s a complex equation. These regional variations are one of the biggest challenges for brand owners. “The recycling infrastructure is not homogeneous in every region and in most areas it is still developing to meet requirements,” says Eliisa. “The difficulty is: how do they meet these requirements when it is not clear what is needed?” How indeed. Furthermore, while many brand owners are taking clear steps to shoulder their own share of the environmental burden, their requirements are of course for large-scale solutions. This, paradoxically, can somewhat limit their choice when it comes to innovative, sustainable materials. As Eliisa adds, “There are many innovative niche label or packaging solutions available, but the capacity for these is often limited. Multinationals need solutions that are available on scale and follow high standards for sustainability, from sustainable raw materials sourcing and efficient production to third-party certifications. This is not always so easy to achieve, but we are a global company able to work with multinational brands to support them in making the best labelling decisions.” Packaging Europe | 5 |

Make labels ‘change agents’ Given all the above, how can labels come to be more widely perceived as not just functional items but, as UPM would describe it, ‘change agents’? In practical terms, this comes down to making data-driven decisions, rather than decisions driven by emotions or subjective impressions. “As I’ve said, we at UPM Raflatac want to make it easy for brands to make educated decisions when it comes to their label choices,” says Eliisa. “UPM Raflatac Label Life LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) tool is great example of that. It’s a scientific, externally verified method for analysing the environmental impacts of our label materials. Through this service brand owners can get cradle to gate LCA calculations on three fundamental impacts: greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and water consumption.”

“Labels are a vital component of the primary or secondary packaging so everything must begin from the package design.” Label materials can also play their part in mitigating climate change through reducing reliance on virgin, fossil-based materials. UPM’s Forest Film is an example of this. Certified by ISCC PLUS, according to the company it is the first wood-based plastic label material on the market. Eliisa says the reason this is such an important addition to the company’s product selection is that its technical performance is ‘identical compared to standard film made from fossil resources’. It’s not just recycling we have to consider, either: while their uptake may be slower than many might have hoped, reusable packaging solutions are slowly but surely growing in importance. It may be years – if at all – until they take up a sizeable proportion of the market but the labelling solutions still need to be there to support them. There are plenty of wash-off options to meet the needs of the reuse sector, whether that is for glass packages, aluminium or plastics. Casting an eye into the future, Eliisa identifies a couple of growing areas of innovation in the labelling sector that we might want to keep our eyes on. “Labels carry the inks and removing the labels from the packaging during recycling is improving recycling quality and quantity. Really all those solutions | 6 | Packaging Europe

that can improve packaging recyclability are growing areas of innovation. Pressure sensitive labels are a great canvas for information for many reasons; they can have an active role in recycling and improve the packaging recyclability in many ways. They can also provide functionality to packaging. “Linerless label technology is interesting and it can already meet labelling requirements in many end-use areas like retail and logistics. Linerless technology is developing with big environmental advantages. We at UPM Raflatac have invested in this growing area.”

‘We have to be clear in our communication’ Eliisa believes that helping the brand owner wade through all these different choices to find the optimum solution comes down to an emphasis on clear communication from companies such as UPM Raflatac on the relative benefits of certain materials. No producer should be ‘championing’ one material to the exclusion of others for the sake of vested interests. It is also important that there is communication along the supply chain itself – a message that fortunately now appears to be taking hold. “We now see many brands working upstream in the value chain to ensure the quality of the raw materials they are purchasing and this kind of collaboration will be vital in the future.” The labelling industry – and indeed the entire vast and complex structure that is the packaging value chain – is just a single cog in a much wider, global system. Labels, as part of the packaging and the value chain, must play a role in bringing about systemic change. And that, readers, is what is desperately needed if the world is to avoid climate catastrophe. To summarize what is required from brand owners: design the label in from the start; focus on metrics; focus on facts; communicate; stay neutral and support the push for systemic change. This requires wider communication along the value chain to understand the options available so they can make n the switch to more sustainable packaging options.

Find out more here


As we move ever closer to a new year, it’s time to ask what kinds of trends, priorities and disruptive innovations we can expect 2022 to bring. We hear from a range of voices across the industry on subjects such as bioplastics, packaging waste, automation, recyclability, paper & board and more.



he bioplastics industry has made substantial progress in developing renewable, bio-based plastic packaging solutions that are poised to eventually displace the established class of non-renewable plastics. The European Union is supporting this transition with funding from its Horizon Europe plan and the BBI JU programme and its successor CBE JU, the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking, which are expected to scale up bio-based technologies and lead to industrial deployment. European Bioplastics (EUBP) is involved in several of these leading-edge research projects, one of which, PRESERVE, has the ambition to replace 60% of food packaging currently used on the market with innovative bio-based packaging materials that can be upcycled into new products. The project partners are developing removable protein-based adhesives and coatings to reach the desired barrier properties of PLA (polylactic acids) and PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) materials for food packaging. A recycling pilot plant will be built to demonstrate the viability of a new delamination technology and feature sorting

technology via advanced photonic and artificial intelligence. The recovered materials will then be used as secondary raw materials for non-food applications, such as upcycled textiles, durable reusable packaging materials, and personal care products, all with less than 15% of virgin bio-based materials.



dopting a circular economy requires the redesign of products, packaging, and business models. New innovations are making this possible. Apeel is a new technology that replaces plastic with an edible material that creates no waste. It’s a powder that when mixed with water

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at the point of production and brushed onto fruit and vegetables keeps them fresh for longer without the need for packaging. Food manufacturers no longer only have the option of unrecyclable plastic wrapping. Tech innovations are also starting to emerge that help manufacturers provide essential information on products, while reducing plastic packaging. Danone has produced a bottle with branding directly embossed on it, removing the need for the usual plastic sleeve label. The barcode has been moved onto the cap, and the bottle itself is produced from 100% recyclable PET. The HolyGrail 2.0 project is breaking new ground in facilitating more efficient recycling of packaging. It applies digital watermarks onto packs, allowing both users and waste sorting centres to more accurately identify the packaging that can be recycled. Packaging supplier Amcor is currently piloting the technology with brands in Copenhagen.



fter two pandemic years, we have learned that flexibility in printing is a must. This new motto will require more automation, digitalization and new materials developments. In labels, the digitalization of colour such as BOBST DigiColor and oneECG will fuel flexo press sales. Inkjet, with its simple architecture, will impose itself as the ultimate technology for label production. Speeds up to 100 metres / min and competitive economics speak for themselves. Laser cutting will enable short runs to be finished faster. A new class of presses combining digital printing and flexo modules, like the BOBST DM5 All-in-One, All-in-Line, will help customers to optimize their entire production

floors. Demand for water-based printing solutions will grow but such solutions are not yet ready. In flexible packaging, new mono-materials and processes enabling companies to address the sustainability pledges will become reality. Digitally printed flexible packaging continues to grow with highest growth rates in stand-up pouches, flow wraps, and single-serve packages Corrugated remains the highest growth engine for packaging overall. The increase of e-commerce and retail-ready packaging is a winning formula. Corrugated board companies will boost the sustainable appeal of corrugated packages with new design and inside-outside printing. Digital printing

has gained momentum, with more than 100 units of digital printing presses installed worldwide. Its promise has not yet been fulfilled as economics do not yet answer the market requirements, but this will come before the end of the decade.



date the most common applications for near-field communication (NFC) have been for bank, transport and ID cards. However, whilst there have been examples of NFC being used for product authentication and customer engagement, so far these have been relatively high value products in low volume and have not scaled to mass market adoption. At PragmatIC, we believe there are two main reasons for this. The first is quite simple – the cost of silicon-based NFC tags is too high for everyday goods like food, beverages and pharmaceuticals, where the cost of each item is less than one €/$/£. This barrier will be overcome in 2022, with new ultra-low-cost NFC being delivered at volume.

The second reason is that the use case of ‘consumer engagement’ is not attractive enough on its own. What could drive uptake in the use of NFC is seeing how this technology can help brands deliver on their promises to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, all businesses want to improve the circularity of their goods and the biggest barrier to doing that is enabling consumers to do the right thing once they have finished using products. NFC can be used to provide up-to-date and localized recycling information, as well as rewards. We believe 2022 will be a breakthrough year for NFC, when we will start to see the technology used to address this and other global challenges.



nclusivity will be one of the biggest drivers in design for 2022 and beyond. Creating a packaging design that is accessible for all is imperative. This can already be seen from the likes of Degree Inclusive, who won the Innovation Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions for the development of a deodorant that makes application a seamless process for those with visual or limb impairments. Merging technology and packaging will soon become the norm, as QR codes take the user to a virtual world where they can access further informa-

tion that they may struggle to attain on-pack. In fact, with packaging generally facing increased scrutiny, using technology to enhance the pack experience will become commonplace. As companies begin to incorporate ESG into their business model, brand transparency is key, and consumers will want to virtually access information on supply chain and product source. As highlighted at COP26, food waste is a huge contributor to the carbon footprint so obtaining assurance that food will stay fresh for longer

will also be an imperative. In order to tackle the problem of food waste, the durability of a product is increased when wrapped in plastic packaging. 2022 will see a shift on the war on plastic towards a more nuanced approach, as we reach an understanding of how this material can actually help protect the environment. Packaging Europe | 9 |



022 will see rapid acceleration of sustainable packaging across the luxury sector. The past century has taught consumers that ‘premium’ is glossy, polished and refined. Yet, more often than not, this relies on plastic, heavy glass, or foiling and lamination adornments that make it extremely difficult to recycle. The ‘conscious consumer’ holds more purchasing power than ever before, expanding beyond millennials and Gen-Z to all demographics as the climate crisis escalates. I predict that luxury brands will cotton on to the fact that they now have no choice but to authentically embrace sustainable packaging if they want to engage the new generation of consumers. Long considered weak, blemished and too ‘rustic’ for the premium look, the luxury sector has typically avoided recycled papers for not fitting with their brand positioning. While this may have been true ten years ago, the paper industry is expanding the look, feel and quality of its recycled ranges exponentially, which is set to explode even further over the next 12 months. In the world of recycled papers, textures are diversifying. Weights are getting heavier. Whites are becoming brighter. Materials are looking cleaner and less blemished. The choice in recycled papers is developing rapidly, with swatch books such as Materia Viva offering nine families of fine papers from recycled materials. I expect luxury packaging that unites beauty with environmental responsibility will increasingly become the norm across 2022, with paper selection playing a large role in this transition.



expect sustainability goals to continue driving innovation in the packaging industry into 2022 and beyond. At Tetra Pak, we are working to create the world’s most sustainable food package: one that is made entirely from responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials, is fully recyclable and carbon neutral. In short, a package that has circularity and recycling ‘built in’ – along with anti-littering measures, too. To realize our future package, further improving design for recycling is critical. With this in mind, we continue to collaborate closely with our suppliers, start-ups and other stakeholders across the value chain, to simplify the material structure, increase the paper-based content and minimize the usage of virgin, fossil-based components, replacing them with renewable or recycled materials. This focus area includes progressive replacement of aluminium foil where possible from our aseptic packages as well as investment in the development of anti-littering solutions, such as tethered caps. In this regard, our first aseptic packaging solution without aluminium is already on shelves, and we are committed to launching a fully renewable aseptic package by 2023. Today, carton packages are recyclable. They are collected and recycled where efficient waste management and recycling infrastructures are in place. But for us at Tetra Pak, that’s not enough. Accelerating design for recycling is only one out of the six strategic areas we are working collaboratively across the value chain to improve how cartons get recycled and contribute to a low carbon circular economy. Alongside 4evergreen, we created a forum to make synergy and boost the contribution of fibre-based packaging in a n circular and sustainable economy that minimizes climate and environmental impact.

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DESIGNING THE WAY BACK TO REUSE Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, explains why we need to completely rethink reuse models if we want them to gain a larger market share.


t’s only been about 70 years since disposability became the norm. Before mass production and the advent of inexpensive materials such as plastic, waste reduction and reuse were intuitive. While it can be a short way back, the path will be complex, as single-use models have matured such that they’ve become ingrained into the business of consumer goods.

Modern reuse models are incompatible Reuse is far from new and today exists across the modern economy. However, its models are so fragmented that as a solution for single-use packaging waste it cannot achieve the scale needed for impact. In many ways, ending packaging waste starts with design and does not stop at the containers, but extends to the architecture of the systems packages flow through. Today, the largest scaled reuse model is prefill, which allows the purchase of filled products at stores and the return of the empties into a bin. Think propane tanks in the US, or returnable beverage containers in Germany. The challenge is the models are incompatible: empty propane tanks cannot be returned to the same location as an empty beer keg, and vice versa. The design of a ‘buy anywhere, return anywhere’ ecosystem for reusables across categories – namely fast-moving consumer goods in food and beverage, household and personal care – will make it easy for consumers to access, businesses to sell, and governments to benefit from.

Challenges for converting from single-use In order to offer viable alternatives to single-use, reuse must deliver on its virtues, and better. Modern packages are lightweight, inexpensive and easy to use. They are also high-functioning, featuring spouts, resealable closures, and easy open tops, as well as multi-layer technologies that extend freshness and quality in transit, on store shelves and with end-users. With all their innovative add-ons and fitments, single-use has been standardized such that modular, disposable designs exist across industries. Suppliers sell aluminum cans and flexible plastic pouches in similar shapes around the world, and filling lines have been calibrated to their weights and configurations for interchangeable distribution and shelf space in every market. Some brands (in collaboration with their vendor partners and suppliers) have never before worked with steel or glass. Existing capabilities need to recalibrate for heavier, durable containers, or new ones need to be built. Either way, modularity for reusable containers supports optimization for the systems carrying them, for widespread learnings and replication.

Guidelines for implementing reuse Defining the specifications of a package that can be physically reused, and by what parameters, is one of the ways to achieve this. The films of plastic shopping bags are often sturdy enough for reuse, for instance, but this is not their intent; they are not collected and recirculated by manufacturers and retailers, or cleaned, stored and transported beyond the initial use. Packaging Europe | 11 |

The last dimension for container design, technology, provides the tracking and identification capability to prevent losses and link to larger systems in the supply chain. Again, reuse and life cycle of containers, or the reuse system – refilling, use, collection, storage/transport, cleaning, and initial production and end-of-life – are inextricably linked to these attributes.

Getting back on board

This is the purpose of the World Economic Forum Consumers Beyond Waste (CBW) initiative’s community papers, released in conjunction with the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit during UN General Assembly week earlier this year. Featuring Design Guidelines, Safety Guidelines, and The City Playbook, the documents offer a holistic view for reuse in different environments, and are authored by a variety of stakeholders for a less wasteful future; I am one of them, along with TerraCycle and Loop colleagues, city officials, retailers and many more leaders from the public and private sector.

Considerations for durable packaging systems The Design Guidelines specifically focus on a set of attributes (materials, container design, artwork/labeling and technology) for reusable containers. If a package is cleaned a number of times at a certain temperature, intended to be refrigerated, or interacts with corrosive substances (such as household cleaners and some food and beverage items), it should be made of a material that will not prematurely degrade aesthetically or functionally, and maintains the integrity of the product inside. Then there’s the design of the container. Interdependent to the material choice and intention for the package (food and beverage or industrial cleaners, or a package that could work for either), the shape of the container itself, as well as its composition, are conducive to proper cleaning, space-efficient storage, and minimal damage or (safe) breakage in a variety of scenarios. For example, our Loop reuse system requires brands and manufacturers entering the platform to have products withstand a minimum of ten reuse cycles to qualify, and be recyclable into itself at end-of-life. We assess through phases of stress tests featuring drops from different angles, chemical compatibility measurement, transport trials, and more. Through reverse logistics, we’ve found it’s possible to recover durable packaging forms in combinations of materials that improve functionality above and beyond many single-use packages, such as a resealable food container or soap pump with a spring top. For the dimensions of artwork/labeling, there are a variety of techniques that are more or less permanent and also have implications for modularity. For example, a label that is etched onto a glass container is more challenging to change than a peel-off label. This may last for a number of uses, but a chip or scratch might obscure the decoration enough to become a liability. | 12 | Packaging Europe

It’s a matter of front and backend design to enable a manufacturer to produce reusables that can be sold at any retailer for a consumer to buy and return anywhere, safely and conveniently. This is top priority for Loop as we expand. Today for grocery we have Tesco in the United Kingdom leading the way with the most SKUs on the platform, Carrefour in France planning to expand to more locations across their hypermarkets, grocery and convenience stores next year, Aeon in Japan and Walgreens and Kroger’s Fred Meyer banner soon in the United States. In QSR (quick service restaurant), McDonald’s was the first to pilot the model in select stores in the UK, followed by Tim Horton’s in Canada then Burger King in several countries in the coming months. Where companies may initially look to stand out with their designs in order to drive short-term value, appeal and competitiveness, they cannot work in silos. Because while the general public is finally putting the onus on brands and manufacturers to design more responsibly, it’s the suppliers and vendors that need to get on board in order for reuse to scale. Modular, standardized designs for reuse have the potential to unlock large quantity orders for certain container designs, which minimizes risk and increases incentives around increased production, supply line upgrades and investments, and the prioritization of systems change. Today we know the take-make-waste model is unsustainable, degrades the environment and wastes finite resources, so a fundamental shift is needed in how we use materials. But, as it offers convenience and cost-effectiveness to consumers, changing course must make reuse work for companies, retailers and local governments by driving n value, with less waste.

GLOBAL COMMITMENT REPORT 2021: HAVE WE REACHED THE VIRGIN PLASTICS PEAK? The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and UN Environment Programme’s 2021 Global Commitment Progress Report shows that after decades of growth, virgin plastic use appears to have peaked for Global Commitment brands and retailers, and is set to fall by almost 20% by 2025. Elisabeth Skoda takes a closer look at the report with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Programme Manager Lily Shepherd.


lobal Commitment brands and retailers have collectively reduced their consumption of virgin plastic in packaging for the second year running, according to new data. Progress is largely driven by recycling. “We’ve seen a fairly small, but absolute reduction in each of the last two years in terms of use of virgin plastics in packaging. That follows decades of exponential growth in the consumption of virgin plastics by the industry, so feels significant. This year, we’ve introduced reduction targets as a new mandatory requirement to be a brand or a retail signatory of the Global Commitment. We’re expecting those to drive a total decrease of almost 20% between 2018, when we started, and 2025, when our targets run to,” explained Lily Shepherd. A strong driver for this reduction in virgin materials is a growth in the area of recycled content. “We’ve seen about 30% growth for the second year in a row with our signatories, so we’ve gone from about 5% across the group weighted average in 2018 to just over 8% in 2020; again, a very positive development.” When combined with the impact of existing commitments, it is estimated that raising ambitions to this level will avoid eight million tonnes of virgin plastic from being produced each year by 2025. That is equivalent to keeping 40 million barrels of oil in the ground.

More action is needed While this virgin plastic reduction is a welcome trend, current and planned progress is driven largely by switching from virgin plastic to recycled plastic. This is just one part of the solution, but does not address the total amount of plastic packaging on the market. There is little evidence of ambitious efforts

to reduce the need for single-use packaging in the first place. Less than 2% of signatories’ plastic packaging is reusable, and for more than half of all signatories, this is 0%. Big changes are needed to address this problem, as Shepherd points out. “We know that we can’t recycle our way out of plastic pollution. Future scenarios involving recycling and disposal alone have been shown to result in higher annual leakage and higher greenhouse gas emissions. To really tackle plastic pollution and to achieve a circular economy for plastics, we are going to need to reduce the total amount of material that is moving through the system. Our signatories and the rest of the industry need to look beyond simply substituting one plastic for another, or perhaps substituting plastics with paper. They need to look at how we can fundamentally redesign the packaging or the product, or the business model to design out the need for single-use packaging altogether.” This challenge can also be an opportunity for companies, as Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder & Chair of Trustees at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, points out. “[Upstream innovation] doesn’t just allow us to design out waste, it also means we can design out carbon emissions whilst creating new opportunities for business. Shifting just 20% of plastic packaging from single-use to reuse is an opportunity estimated to be worth USD 10 billion.”

The reuse challenge Drilling deeper into the report, Shepherd observes some progress in the area of reuse when it comes to the number of reuse model pilots reported by signatories. Packaging Europe | 13 |

“We see pilots as a good indicator of early engagement with reuse: the number reported by signatories has gone up year on year by about 50%. About 100 in total reported last year, and it’s 150 this year. That’s positive especially in a year that has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.” On the flipside, the overall proportion of reusable packaging does remain extremely low. “Reusable packaging still amounts to less than 2%, and it actually fell marginally between 2019 and 2020. We think that some of that is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused some to move away from reuse models. These changes also take time. However, current efforts don’t really go far enough. Even within businesses that are piloting reuse models, these are often small-scale efforts. A substantial proportion of our signatories, over 50%, are not engaging in pilots at all. We need everybody to take a big step up in terms of the focus and the investment that they are making in reuse models if we want to see this translate into change at scale in the next few years.”

Tackling the climate crisis A circular economy for plastics can play an important role when it comes to tackling the challenge of cutting CO2 emissions, explains Shepherd. “The production and the disposal of plastics emits around one billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year – the same as the entire airline industry in a normal year. A circular economy for plastics has been shown to have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their production use and after use by at least 25% by 2040. As mentioned before, our

| 14 | Packaging Europe

estimate is that around eight million metric tonnes of virgin plastic will be avoided by 2025, and this will translate to about 13 million tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided. Our signatories cover around 20% of the plastic packaging market. If you were to extend the efforts of our signatory group across the market, you can really see the potential of how this could help alleviate the climate crisis.”

“We’ve seen a fairly small, but absolute reduction in each of the last two years in terms of use of virgin plastics in packaging. That follows decades of exponential growth in the consumption of virgin plastics by the industry.” Beyond voluntary initiatives to a coordinated global response Voluntary initiatives like the Global Commitment have begun to deliver change, but it has been recognized by a large number of businesses and countries that voluntary initiatives alone will not be enough. Global Com-

mitment signatories are responsible for just over 20% of global plastics packaging. A coordinated global response is needed, so the entire industry and all governments move at the necessary scale and pace. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has observed unprecedented momentum behind a global agreement on plastic pollution. Over 80 leading businesses and 119 national governments have called for a global agreement to tackle plastic pollution, and more than 2 million people have signed a public petition in support. UNEA 5.2 in February 2022 is the crucial moment, when governments will decide on next steps, including whether to start an intergovernmental negotiation for a global agreement.

Calls to action

treaty on plastics. We’re seeing substantial support from the business community for that, and over 100 countries have specifically expressed support for starting negotiations on a global agreement in 2022.” The second call to action relates to the roll out of an Extended Producer Responsibility policy for packaging. “We’ve had substantial expression of support from the business community, with over 100 leading businesses explicitly publicly recognizing that EPR is the only proven way to ensure sufficient funding for collecting, sorting and recycling packaging. Governments can hopefully build on this very strong signal to accelerate implementation of this policy. Eight out of nine of the national governments who report to the Global Commitment have already indicated that n they’re planning to implement those policies by 2025.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation urges businesses to continue to play their part. “We hope that more companies will join our signatories in setting absolute targets to reduce the amount of total plastic or virgin plastic contained in packaging. We consider this as the ‘new normal’ of what should be expected of a business trying to actively tackle the changes around plastics, and secondly, to really step up that focus and investment in phasing out single use packaging altogether,” adds Shepherd. For governments, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation sees two big priorities for the years ahead when it comes to moving beyond just voluntary agreements. “Policy has the potential to help capture that remaining 80% [of the plastics packaging market], to help align governments in an approach to support them and to level the playing field for businesses. Our first call to action is to capitalize on this unique opportunity to build on momentum towards a global

Packaging Europe | 15 |

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| 16 | Packaging Europe

INDUSTRY 4.0 AND BEYOND Industry 4.0, the automation of manufacturing and industrial processes with smart technology, featuring machine-to-machine communication and the internet of things, is omnipresent in the packaging industry. Elisabeth Skoda gains insights from two major players in the field on recent developments and innovations, and explores the relatively new concept of Industry 5.0, which sets out to put the worker at the centre. Packaging line efficiency and sustainability Inefficiencies in a packaging line usually go hand in hand with bottlenecks, waste and increased energy use, and of course companies are keen to address these issues. Dan Rossek, Omron’s UK marketing manager, explains that the first remedial step is to explore where exactly the problem lies, and outlines how smart automation can help. “Some of the underlying issues that packaging companies face, and that are hard to pin down, are unplanned downtime, long changeover times and machine bottle necks. Smart automation, or at least support data driven analysis, can play an important role to determine what the root cause of an inefficiency is. Once it has been identified correctly, mitigation in the form of solutions like preventative maintenance, flexible part handling or robotic automation becomes possible.” In line with this, AI analysis and smart automation have been successfully used to support packaging sustainability, for example when

using materials such as compostable or recycled materials or bioplastics, which continue to be more in demand, but come with their own set of challenges. When it comes to heat sealing or thermoforming, many of the more ecologically friendly packaging media are not as robust as traditional materials and legacy packaging machinery cannot be easily converted to use them. For example, ‘traditional’ teabags often contain plastic to strengthen the bag, and to make the forming and sealing process more reliable, as Mr Rossek points out. “As part of their sustainability drive, one of our customers, a teabag manufacturer, decided to remove the plastic from their teabags. They then faced the challenge of a high number of rejects, because the material wasn’t sealing correctly, as it is more sensitive to temperature fluctuations. To address this, we measured the thickness of the media, using high-speed, high precision gauging systems, and monitored the temperature in the sealing jaws, recordPackaging Europe | 17 |

| 18 | Packaging Europe

ing everything over a three-month period. We then analyzed any changes and used an AI algorithm to calculate the optimum sealing temperature and optimum web tension to improve the process.”

The proliferation of digital twins Mike Loughran, CTO for the UK and Ireland at Rockwell Automation, also highlights the importance of agility and flexibility when it comes to using rapidly changing packaging material types that are being developed to reduce waste and increase recycling and sustainability. “By adopting a smart automation approach, your machine is not just ready now but for future developments. This flexibility needs to be built in at design stage.” In order to build an agile, smart system, digital thread is key, starting at the design stage. “Digital thread, i.e. creating a digital twin, allows us to test all aspects of a machine prior to building – this can help speed up development, enable multiple test machines to be built and trialled prior to the actual build commencing, it can be designed and tested to check performance, output and ensure it is the most efficient it can be. The machine can be virtually tested for many scenarios to provide performance guarantees.” Commissioning the digital twin virtually then helps cutting down on time on site, travel required and provides the foundation for remote support, which in turn can reduce downtime. “The digital twin also provides the basis for trialling new materials or products prior to applying so you can test before running and is passed on from design to operations for the machine life cycle,” adds Mr Loughran.

FMCG mass personalization Traditionally, product flexibility is often thought of in terms of short production batches and speeding up changeovers with automation, but smart automation can take this a step further. OMRON recently launched what is described as the ‘world’s first automation architecture for personalization at scale’. The Robotic Integrated Controller (RIC) is designed to make made-to-order mass production ‘commercially viable for FMCG businesses. The control platform is able to coordinate personalized FMCG production. What could previously only be done manually and on a very limited scale can now be executed via a fully automated workflow. “This enables the serial production of unique products. For example, it’s frustrating to buy a biscuit selection box at Christmas, but always having some bis-

cuits left over because nobody likes them. As a consumer, I’d like to decide, how many and what flavour biscuits I want in the selection box,” says Mr Rossek. “The essence of this concept is to empower consumers to self-select the combination of products they want and in the pack formats and sizes they want. There is potential for seasonal and special occasion gifting products, such as nail varnish gift sets in colours selected at the point of order, selfpicked cheeseboards or gin advent calendars in which the bottle behind each door has been individually chosen for the recipient. Up until now, such products have been niche and expensive because they have had to be manually assembled. The RIC makes automated production of these bespoke selections more feasible and cost-effective.”

“By adopting a smart automation approach, your machine is not just ready now but for future developments. This flexibility needs to be built in at design stage.” Addressing labour shortages Another area where Industry 4.0 applications can come to the rescue are labour shortages, an issue that the packaging industry, like many others, has suffered. Industry 4.0 can help to ease the situation, for example with the help of the previously mentioned digital twins, as Mr Loughran points out. “With digital twins, skills in the existing workforce can be captured, and this knowledge can then be utilized to train and support new talent. Augmented reality can help to provide on the job support, speed up training and reduce cost.” The technology makes it possible for an expert to always be available, and helps with self-configuring and diagnosing machines. “It gives the ability to predict and prescribe a problem/issue/stoppage and take corrective action or provide a forward report to the operator or maintenance team so they can plan in remedial action based on production needs. This then frees up the operator or engineer to be working on other proactive tasks, and reduces fatigue and repetition, and can help to increase safety and productivity.” Packaging operations, as a rule, deploy quite high levels of automation compared to some other sectors, but certain operations have traditionally been difficult to automate and are labour intensive, such as handling raw or organic food products. Packaging Europe | 19 |

“This can be challenging as products are often irregular and difficult to handle. We’ve seen developments in solutions that offer food safe contact surfaces and are designed for thorough cleaning routines. Other enabling technologies like soft and adaptive gripper technology for handling delicate products are also being developed to support automating applications which traditional had to have human intervention,” adds Mr Rossek.

Putting the worker centre-stage There is now increasing talk of Industry 5.0, defined by the European Union as a vison of industry that aims beyond efficiency and productivity as the sole goals, and reinforces the role and the contribution of industry to society. It places the wellbeing of the worker at the centre of the production process and uses new technologies to provide prosperity beyond jobs and growth, while respecting the production limits of the planet, and complements the existing Industry 4.0 approach by specifically putting research and innovation at the service of the transition to a ‘sustainable, human-centric and resilient European industry’. “Technology is an enabler; it is about enhancing human effort and providing the tools to be successful, driving first concept innovation through to life cycle support of the machine design, operate or maintain. It is there to support humans, not replace them. It can increase safety, reduce repetitive tasks, and enable them to do their best work, and drive innovation,” says Mr Loughran. “Technologies like robotics do not just lead to manufacturing production efficiencies, but also have the more fundamental function to relive workers from manual repetitive tasks, which carry a risk of injury. Society will be challenged with a shortage of accessible labour and rising labour costs, which will lead to increased costs of goods. Robots again play an important role in relieving this pressure Collaborative technologies also allow human workers to be more efficient and automate the repetitive non-value add operations and allow human workers to perform the skilled ‘value-add’ operations, leadn ing to more fulfilling and rewarding opportunities,” adds Mr Rossek.

Dan Rossek | 20 | Packaging Europe

Mike Loughran

A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE FOR PACKAGING Within the packaging industry, collaboration with longterm goals is key when it comes to sustainable packaging innovation. From exploring a single project, to the e-commerce sector, to the entire supply chain, Libby Munford takes a look at how the packaging industry is innovating for the future.


this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?” – Sir David Attenborough addresses world leaders at the Cop26 summit 2021. “If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet…surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”

Winning at sustainable innovation

As mentioned above, NEXTLOOPP proposes to close the loop on food-grade rPP. Doing this will have important benefits for both industry and the environment, namely reducing the production and use of virgin plastics from petrochemicals, reducing CO2 emissions, and reducing food-packaging waste. But this innovative example is just one of many across the spectrum of the industry. How else is the industry collaborating towards a sustainable future? Packaging Europe has adopted a new motto, ‘A sustainable future for packaging’, in order to highlight the industry-wide collaboration we are witnessing.

How else to kick off the topic of sustainable packaging innovation than with this year’s overall winner of Packaging Europe’s Sustainability Awards 2021? E-commerce and sustainability Nextek’s NEXTLOOPP – with its ground-breaking Tania Montesi, the global e-commerce business project that aims to create a circular economy manager at H.B. Fuller, focuses on bringing the next for food-grade polypropylene. generation of e-commerce packaging design to the Polypropylene (PP) is one of the most prolific and market – particularly concerned with eliminating versatile plastics in the world – it is also missing plastics, and ensuring packaging is recyclable or from our recycling streams. PP is found in pots, tubs disposable without harm to the planet. and trays – the majority of packaging in the foodTania Montesi She comments that within the e-commerce sphere, to-go category. The absence of food-grade recycled “A lot of e-tailers and retailers scramble to bring products polypropylene (FGrPP) means that all PP food packaging to market without thinking about sustainability – using is currently made from virgin plastics. surplus packaging and adding void fillers etc, essentially shipping If we can create a circular economy for food-grade PP air and in turn more gas emissions. At H.B Fuller we understand from packaging waste we would be able to reduce the production of virgin plastics from petrochemicals, in turn reducing CO2 emissions and divert- consumer surveys that across both North America and Europe consumers are really concerned by the amount of waste from e-commerce packaging.” She ing waste from both waste-to-energy/landfill and lower-quality plastics. argues that Amazon, as a trendsetter, is really pushing e-tailers now to not In the absence of government or industry body initiatives to tackle the just redesign their packaging, but start again from scratch. Can it be smaller? challenge of food-grade PP recycling, NEXTLOOPP believes there is a need to More lightweight? Can you remove anything that’s not recyclable? All of these gather stakeholders across the PP supply chain to try and solve this problem. considerations are essential. The problem is challenging because, for consumer safety, the European At H.B Fuller, first and foremost, recyclability is a top criterion. Tania Montesi Food Standards Authority (EFSA) requires that recycled food-grade materials explains that they work closely with OEMs, packaging companies, e-tailers and can only be made from (>95%) food packaging and that the recycled plastic the brand owners to ensure they bring an entire solution to the market. must meet the same high standards required for virgin food-grade plastics. Packaging Europe | 21 |

“Our new, patent pending sustainable e-commerce solution, Sesame® Evolution™ fibre-based tear tape, has recently won the European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO) sustainability award, being the only recipient in this category in 2021. As you know, FEFCO issues seven awards every two years during their Technical Seminar for categories including presentation, sustainability, innovation, lifetime achievement, and health and safety,” she shares. With the accelerated growth rate of online shopping comes the looming reality of dealing with an increased amount of packaging waste and tough issues to solve related to recycling or finding other alternatives than plastic. “Our scientists and engineers designed Sesame Evolution sustainable fibre-based pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) opening tear tapes to provide frustration-free opening on e-commerce packaging,” continues Tania Montesi. “Unlike competitor plastic tapes, this breakthrough technology recycles directly with the board, and adds usable fibre to the recycling stream in support of the circular economy. It is designed for an excellent consumer ‘unboxing’ experience of everyday packages used to ship goods from e-tailer to consumer.” H.B. Fuller has also developed Evolution water-based barrier coatings – an innovative alternative to help reduce the plastic content of fibrebased packaging used to ship goods bought online and shipped directly to consumers. It is heat sealable to itself and to paper and may serve as an oxygen barrier to protect contents inside e-commerce packaging with as little excess packaging as possible. Additionally, its water-based barrier coatings are an alternative to polyethylene (PE) coatings. PE coatings may prevent packages from being recycled at standard recycling centres.

to shift towards complete automation, this year some grocers will find sustainable decisions are being made without the need for humans to steer them into doing so. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play an increasingly crucial role in intercepting and correcting problems quickly, which can dramatically cut waste, from preventing over-ordering to alerting when fridges are not holding the right temperature. It’s not just in stores – AI will also be increasingly used to find efficiencies in production processes back down the supply chain too. This is something that will be increasingly important to start tracking and presenting to customers, now that they are getting a taste for measuring their carbon footprints.” Whether driven by customer expectation, shareholder demand or an increasing sense of responsibility, businesses are increasingly recognizing many of the benefits greener operations can bring. “AI and ML play a key role in creating sustainable supply chains by measuring environmental and social impacts, and then advising on the most intelligent response. Across key areas including demand forecasting, energy monitoring, intelligent replenishment and transport optimization, these technologies are already making a real difference. “AI and ML enable businesses to have a multi-faceted view on a wider scale, enabling real change. After all, you can’t deliver sustainability on good intentions alone: businesses will need to adopt new ways of operating.” Whether the sustainable innovation is in a particular material, sector or focused on efficiencies within the entire supply chain, the packaging indusn try is uniting towards its one goal: a sustainable future.

An efficient supply chain Wayne Snyder, VP Retail Industry at Blue Yonder, shares his thoughts on how having a sustainable supply chain means having an efficient supply chain. One that is more intuitive, more predictive and capable of making intelligent and profitable decisions that overall reduces the environmental impact and waste. “Grocers will find their supply chains contain many opportunities to practice what they preach on sustainability. As supply chains continue SUS Tear Tape | 22 | Packaging Europe

WHAT DOES ‘DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION’ REALLY MEAN FOR THE PACKAGING INDUSTRY? The phrases ‘digital transformation’, ‘digitalization’, ‘smart factories’ – we’ve heard them all so much the past few years that in some ways it can be hard to pin down their meaning. Like another ubiquitous word, ‘sustainability’, they can mean different things to different people. What we should really be interested in is how these words can translate to practical change in the industry, and this was the crux of Victoria Hattersley‘s recent conversation with Malte Schlüter, Global Director Food & Beverage/Life Science at Mitsubishi Electric Europe B.V. Factory Automation.


irst, we have to acknowledge that for some digitalization has become a buzzword,” begins Malte. “There are lots of different levels to this concept but in general I would say that digitalization on the production floor (OT) itself is still lower than it could be. Production machines are generating huge amounts of data, however in many cases the full potential of the intelligence that can be gained by analyzing this data has not yet been fully identified or realized.” So, taking this into consideration, how can companies turn data into actionable insights to improve efficiency and productivity? Some would say they should all be processed in the Cloud but this, says Malte, should be deliberately and cautiously rethought when pursuing a digital transformation strategy. To demonstrate why, Mitsubishi Electric carried out a simple experiment. The company took a basic flow wrapping machine for cookies as a test case and worked out what it would cost to store all the data it produced in the Cloud for one year. The result was around 10,000 euros for just one machine, which means that with the amount of data generated by an entire factory, the potential costs can become millions of euros.

“To minimize the amount of remote storage needed and create highly responsive production systems, we suggest to our clients that they should implement edge computing technologies alongside Cloud solutions. These can provide local real-time data analysis capabilities that can lead to improved efficiencies while also reducing the amount of data that needs to be processed in the Cloud. Thinking ahead to the next stages of production optimization, the implementation of vision systems, 3D technology etc., can also be simplified as the effective collection and analysis of this data is already ensured.”

Case study: ‘Smart cocoa’ and the power of data One example Malte gives to highlight the transformative role of data is Mitsubishi Electric’s recent collaboration with a global cocoa producer. The company collects data on several variables that could affect its product, from cocoa bean farmers – weather, for instance – which can influence the end quality. All this information is then factored in when implementing milling settings on the factory floor to achieve the desired product characteristics. The result: ‘Smart cocoa’. Packaging Europe | 23 |

“Production machines are generating huge amounts of data, however in many cases the full potential of the intelligence that can be gained by analyzing this data has not yet been fully identified or realized”

Malte Schlüter, Global Director Food & Beverage/Life Science at Mitsubishi Electric Europe

To increase efficiency and productivity even further, it would be necessary to combine this ‘smarter’ use of data with more advanced technologies on the factory floor itself. “Manual quality control can be time-consuming. To speed up this process and free up operators for other value-adding tasks, a vision system with deep learning technology could be used for checking the product and predicting the quality of the cocoa powder. Based on this data, the parameters for the milling process can be regularly and automatically updated. At the same time, another connected vision system can measure the output. The result is a constant closed loop system that guarantees consistent quality and even reduced production times.” All the data generated by these vision systems can be analyzed and the results applied to additional production units, helping to optimize entire manufacturing lines. To benefit even further from this technology, vision systems could be used for a wide range of applications, such as inspecting packaging quality or sealing quality. These systems can also enable producers to drastically reduce waste. Looking at this development from the consumer perspective, the next phase of this evolution could see each bar of chocolate with a QR code on it to offer increased traceability. This will allow the people to see where it was produced, where the cocoa was milled and what kind of cocoa was used in the mixture. “You would even be able to see a picture of the farmer

and their family, enabling true personalization all the way along the value chain. It would mean the consumer has full transparency about what they are eating, if it is fair trade etc. This is still in the trial stage but it is what the future of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) will look like.”

From robots to cobots Moving away from this single case study on data analytics, what does increased automation mean for the packaging industry as a whole? It is fair to say that the industry – or large parts of it – are shifting from sequential production to a different paradigm based on high levels of customization. “There is demand for many different stock-keeping units (SKUs) and sequential flow strategies cannot efficiently support this, as machines carry out a single task and it can take weeks to change a line,” explains Malte. “In a smart factory, incoming pallets with QR codes, for example, can be scanned and help setup the manufacturing line, deciding which machine the product will be moved to or whether there is an in-between step. Today, modern and flexible robotic production lines can also be easily adjusted and repurposed to quickly conduct different tasks, support various packaging formats and SKUs.” In addition to this, smart robots can be equipped with cameras and use vision technology, coupled with AI, to recognize what they are handling. Thus, the production model itself can be thought of as a series of ‘working cells’. The product flows through these cells until the final package is complete.

“You would even be able to see a picture of the farmer and their family, enabling true personalization all the way along the value chain. It would mean the consumer has full transparency about what they are eating, if it is fair trade etc. This is still in the trial stage but it is what the future of fast-moving consumer goods (fmcg) will look like.” | 24 | Packaging Europe

While the adoption of AI-equipped industrial robots on the factory floor is playing a central role in boosting the flexibility of manufacturing, Malte would like to discuss the future importance and added benefits of cobots. Unlike industrial robots, which are enclosed by physical barriers, collaborative robots can work safely alongside and with humans on the factory floor. However, he says, most of the ones that are currently available are only able to operate at low speed.

“MELFA ASSISTA’s programming with ease, speeding up its installation and redeployment.” There are applications that may benefit from a hybrid industrial-collaborative approach enabling both high levels of customization as well as mass production. Supporting both strategies, Mitsubishi Electric’s MELFA ASSISTA is designed to work alongside humans without physical barriers, while also supporting high-speed operations when they are not present. Malte explains: “By equipping MELFA ASSISTA with proximity sensors, the cobot can adapt its operations based on what is happening in its surroundings. It can run at high speed when its workspace is not shared with humans. When

a person or object enters defined zones, it will then slow down and switch to collaborative mode, so that workers can safely interact with the machine. If the cobot makes contact with an object that it has not been programmed to interact with, it slowly retracts to a safe position. These characteristics are both particularly important in facilities where space may be limited.” To enable quick deployment, MELFA ASSISTA is easy to set up and program, he adds: “When installing traditional industrial robots, skilled programming expertise is needed to define motion paths and operating parameters. Designed to simplify this process, our cobot offers a direct teaching feature as well as drag and drop functions for pick and place applications. As a result, even non-expert staff can make adjustments to MELFA ASSISTA’s programming with ease, speeding up its installation and redeployment.” Combined, the benefits of hybrid industrial-collaborative robots and advanced data analytics are quickly eroding the barrier to a more widespread adoption of automation in the workplace. At the same time, the productivity improvements achieved prove these technologies to be cost-effective solutions. The reluctance of companies to invest in new technology is also disappearing, and in part, says Malte, it comes down to changed perceptions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “People have realized in how many situations we are relying on humans to do very basic, repetitive tasks that could be automated. Technology has the potential to free up operators to take on more complex, value adding tasks. We are already seeing large businesses moving in this direction, as well as smaller industry players, and we expect an increasing number of n manufacturers will follow.”

Packaging Europe | 25 |

BARRIER PROPERTIES: AN OUTLOOK From sustainability and recyclability to compostability and ‘forever chemicals’ – barriers and coatings often play a central role in many of the key issues faced by the packaging industry. John Williams, CTO at Aquapack, gives us an overview on the big questions. PE: Out of all the issues faced by the packaging industry, sustainability is probably at the top of the agenda right now. In terms of barrier properties, what are the key sustainability concerns as things stand?

JW: If we think back to when packaging started – it was a primary functional item to protect contents and obviously deliver material to the consumer in a suitable fashion. And I think, obviously, materials were developed, including barrier materials, to maximize things like shelf-life and protection and all the functional aspects of the material without, at the time, any particular consideration regarding, for example, end-of-life and the drive towards what we now call the circular economy and sustainability. Particularly over the last ten years or so, we’ve accelerated the move towards these considerations. So that presents a problem, in that you’ve given something a barrier property and then perhaps you’re asking it to compost or recycle, after you’ve already created a much more complex, more difficult material to handle in those processes. | 26 | Packaging Europe

So that’s the challenge. It’s that crash point of saying, we need to think of this perhaps slightly differently, we need to look at our construction of our materials differently and our choice of materials differently, to gain – without losing the functionality aspect – that sustainability aspect.

PE: In terms of drilling down, then, let’s talk about recyclability first. What are some of the tensions in the relationship between barrier properties and recyclability?

JW: Well, I think packaging has generally moved to complex, more layered solutions because we have demanded more of it. We want better barrier layers, we want extra protection, we want UV protection, moisture protection, non-migration of materials. All those things have developed excellent materials in terms of their performance but, of course, as we’ve moved in that direction, obviously the catalyst of this in many ways was the drive towards lighter weight packaging, so flex

packs particularly, for all the right reasons at the time in terms of logistics, handling, presentation, and protection. But, of course, that has inevitably led to almost a dominance in certain sections of the packaging market of light weight barrier items, which when presented to conventional recycling facilities, can’t be processed because you can’t separate the material.

PE: You were talking earlier about compostability – could you unpack the potential of compostable barriers for things like paper-based packaging, for example?

JW: This has been a tricky one, but also an interesting one in terms of biodegrading materials in closed systems, so composting or anaerobic digestion, particularly with short shelf-life food packaging or similar foodservice type items. And, of course, the other aspect of biodegradability is the unfortunate aspect of materials leaking into the environment – what’s the effect in water systems, marine systems, soil in terms of that? The difficulty is, of course, that with most of the early-stage compostable materials that are available and have been available for the last ten/fifteen years or so, they’re generally all based around the same sort of chemistries. They’re starch and polyester type chemistries and, like any other polymer system, are governed by the properties of the base materials. So, in order to change the properties of that base material, you’ve got to add something to it. Clearly food areas, for example, require, under legislation as well as functionality, certain properties in terms of a barrier property, a handling property, a resistance to something, a prevention of migration. You don’t get that from those base materials on their own, so you have to do something else to them. Now, the problem with that is that if you then start adding those systems into that, you take them further and further away from options regarding biodegradability. The basis of biodegradability is that you’re placing it into

a microbe-rich environment and the microbes either like it or they don’t, so they can either break it down or they can’t. Now some systems, like scratches on their own, are readily biodegradable because they are a food source for the microbes and the fungi that facilitate the breakdown process. If you start adding barrier layers to those, you often prevent access to the material which the microbes are trying to break down and they can’t break down the barrier layer. A lot of work has been thrown at this in terms of developing barrier compostables, for example, by combining them with other materials and allowing that functional aspect to improve and to give them the barrier they want, while also not interfering with the actual biodegradable process itself if it enters that particular environment.

PE: How can the industry balance expectations for functionality and efficiency with demands for increased sustainability? Can we have both, or does there have to be a pay-off somewhere along the way?

JW: I think it comes down to the specific applications. There are now good options in packaging, particularly for functional materials that have a defined end-of-life, so you might develop a specific compostable material that, for example, in that particular aspect, in that particular functionality, is absolutely fine. The difficulty, for some of these areas, is that brands don’t want a thousand different solutions that they have to use to answer all those questions. That’s just not sensible or economically viable. You don’t want to become too narrow here, so you’ve got to have materials which offer multi-functionality and ideally, multi end-of-life, so they can narrow the number of materials and combinations they can use. And clearly, this has still got to operate on conventional plastic equipment. It’s just totally not feasible to go around changing the whole of the plastic processing industry – nobody’s going to do that. So, again, you’ve n got to fit into those operating windows. Packaging Europe | 27 |

IS EB OFFSET THE FUTURE OF PACKAGING PRINT? How can the printing industry play its part in reducing the overall carbon footprint of the packaging supply chain? It’s one of the questions that must be addressed as we grapple with the global climate crisis and move – hopefully – towards a more sustainable future. For Toray Industries, Inc., one of the answers lies in offset Electron Beam (EB) technology. Victoria Hattersley spoke with Itsue Yanagida, Business Development Manager, Graphic Systems, Toray International Europe GmbH. What is the most efficient, most sustainable solution for the future of packaging print? According to Toray, the answer lies in electron beam (EB) offset technology.


hen it comes to the flexible packaging industry, offset technology is still not as widely used as the more ‘traditional’ print techniques such as gravure and flexographic. However, this may change: according to Itsue Yanagida, “Offset printing is more competitive especially in short and medium runs as it has a shorter time to market and offers more flexibility for production, as offset plate can be imaged within minutes. Also, offset printing plate material and processing costs are much lower than ‘traditional’ printing plates and cylinders. Recently these advantages of offset printing have been getting more important as food and consumable products are shifting to a wider variety of goods in smaller quantities.” In Europe, Toray may perhaps be known primarily as a chemicals manufacturer, but in fact the company has also been active in the printing industry for over 50 years, when it initiated its first R&D projects in the field.

In addition to the European headquarters in Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt, Toray offers its solutions for the packaging industry at two other European locations: Toray Textile Central Europe (TTCE) produces and distributes the company’s IMPRIMATM FR printing plates while also carrying out R&D; and Toray Films Europe (TFE) is focused on the production of special films.

The most sustainable choice? Why exactly does Toray believe EB offset is the most environmentally sustainable solution? Itsue Yanagida says there are two main reasons for this. “First, the volume of solvent used in gravure and flexo is high, leading to high CO2 emissions. On the other hand, EB offset ink doesn’t include any solvent so that it automatically results in lower CO2 emissions. Second, solvent ink need more energy to vaporize solvents from the inks and oxidize solvents from the hot air. Furthermore, as offset plates are made of aluminum, they can be recycled whereas flexo plates cannot. In the end, the total energy consumption of an EB offset press such as Comexi’s Offset CI Evolution is much less than in other ‘traditional’ printing technologies.”

Offset printing is more competitive especially in short and medium runs as it has a shorter time to market and offers more flexibility for production. ITSUE YANAGIDA

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According to Comexi, with whom Toray has formed a strong working partnership, its central impression cylinder (CI) offset printing technology, using EB curing inks, is solvent-free and is able to reduce the number of substrate layers and the carbon footprint. It encompasses, says the company, the advantages of offset printing and the safety of low migration EB inks and coatings, resulting in a wide range of substrates to be used for many applications. “EB inks and coatings are the optimal solution to replace solvents, reducing emissions, consuming less ink and energy, as well as creating a safe environment for the printing process,” says Felip Ferrer, Business Development Manager, Offset printing at Comexi, when asked to elaborate further on the benefits of this technology for the industry. “They are also highly resistant to chemicals, heat, sealing, and scratching, thus providing genuine replacement solutions, which are more recyclable and efficient than complex laminations. This is achieved by reducing the number of layers. When choosing to print PE reverse, the partial crosslink process will increase the thermal resistance of the external packaging layer, while surface printing results in the EB coating providing high surface protection.” Then there are the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to consider: to give a brief overview for the uninitiated, VOCs include a range of gases and small particles released during the manufacture of certain products. When it comes to the flexible packaging industry, this generally happens during the printing process itself. We now know that the particulates emitted have a major impact on the environment, contributing to the ‘greenhouse effect’ and emitting high levels of CO2. They are also highly detrimental to human health, particularly that of people with asthma, young children, the elderly and those who work in close proximity to these emissions. EB offset inks are entirely free of VOCs and are also an attractive alternative for flexible packaging printing.

EB inks and coatings are the optimal solution to replace solvents, reducing emissions, consuming less ink and energy, as well as creating a safe environment for the printing process. FELIP FERRER, COMEXI

“Toray also supplies materials that can be used to produce VOC-free, water-washable EB inks. These special inks are cured using EB and don’t involve any solvents, which typically contain VOC. This makes 100% VOC-free printing possible for the first time, protecting both the environment and workers’ health.”

Why waterless? “On top of the above advantages of offset EB printing, there is another reason Toray is also a strong proponent of waterless offset EB printing.” adds Itsue. “While conventional offset printing requires the use of dampening water which typically contains environmentally damaging isopropyl alcohol and the wastewater after printing has to be handled as harmful liquid, waterless offset printing includes a water-absorbent material to cover the areas with no image, while an ink-repellent layer is applied which eliminates the need to use water on the printing plates and contributes to expanding the coverage of applicable film substrates.” Packaging Europe | 29 |

Toray’s unique waterless solution is its IMPRIMATM FR printing plates, which it says ‘enable a revolutionary way to make printing more environmentally friendly’. Alongside the environmental benefits it is also designed to allow faster setup, easier control and better consistency. The result is improved printing quality compared to traditional wet offset with brighter, more vibrant colours at higher resolution thanks to a colour-fast silicone coating with a thin polymer layer underneath with the ability to print on non-absorbent substrates, such as films.

No dampening water means no need to disposal harmful dampening water after the printing. On top of it, Waterless EB offset printing offers the printing solution for zero VOC which protect our operator’s health. The technology has been successfully tested with a European company and is also suitable for use in retort and boil packaging. In the future, Toray hopes that this VOC-free system will become a ‘global standard’ in the field. But as offset, especially waterless offset, is still a relatively new technology – at least for the flexible packaging industry – are there any drawbacks that will still need to be overcome? “The main one is the challenge of transferring the original graphic designs into offset printing,” says Itsue. “In other words, the fact that printing qualities and outcomes vary between printing technologies means that sometimes customers can be reluctant to switch from more traditional methods to offset. Perhaps they feel that it will be a complex process, when in fact this is not the case. One way in which we at Toray can address this is to communicate the benefits of this technology and its high printing quality to customers through the many media channels and touchpoints we have available to us.”

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Future prospects for EB offset Given all the above, it will be very interesting to see what the future holds for EB offset technology in Europe in the coming years. In particular, what role can we expect it to play in reducing the overall carbon impact of packaging? “Because diverse changes and improvements are being made in films,” says Itsue, “the waterless EB offset printing system has to adapt to these new substrates. It will be a process of continuous development until carbon neutrality and circularity are realized. But again, we wish to stress the major advantages of waterless EB offset printing in terms of CO2 reduction and zero VOC.” For Toray, the next frontier will be to offer VOC free waterless EB offset printing technology for monomaterials. This would ensure its compatibility with more recyclable packaging formats and, ultimately, help the n industry move closer towards a circular economy.



hroughout its long history in print, Toray Industries, Inc. has developed many strong partnerships with a range of players across the flexible packaging industry. One such company is the Slovakiabased Chemosvit Group – a European supplier of flexible packaging solutions for the food (80%) and non-food (20%) segments. The company works with a mix of printing technologies, one of which is EB offset – making it an ideal fit for the cooperation with Toray which began earlier this year. Through this, Chemosvit has been testing Toray’s EB waterless printing technology for different kinds of flexible materials. “This is a really interesting idea for the development of easier and effective printing processes,” said Daniel Dudaško, Project Manager, Chemosvit Group. “We believe waterless EB offset printing could give us input into how to optimize/ change the film properties to achieve the best printing results. Through this cooperation, we are working on fine-tuning the new printing technology. No dampening water means no need to dispose of harmful dampening water after the printing. On top of this, waterless EB offset printing offers the printing solution for zero VOC which protects our operators’ health.”

Meeting the sustainability challenges And more generally, how does Chemosvit view the sustainability challenges facing the industry and what are the most important issues that need to be addressed if we are to achieve a fully circular economy? “The new mantra of the packaging industry for next few years will be sustainability and circularity. All producers must develop products which can be easily separated and recycled. There are many discussions on the use of PCR regranulates for food packaging; this is really interesting question, but the PCR regranulates can´t compare with virgin granulates. A second interesting idea for the circular economy is chemical recycling, which produces granulates with the same quality as virgin, but today the products from this process are more expensive the standard material.” EB offset printing as a technology that is fully compatible with recyclable materials and Daniel Dudaško tells us, “We fully agree with circular economy ideals, and we also fully support the production and developn ment of the materials which can be recycled.” Packaging Europe | 31 |

ON SECOND THOUGHTS... DOES PLASTIC REALLY MAKE US SAFER? In the latest edition of our ongoing series, US-based environmental advisor Holly Kaufman asks whether plastic is a healthy choice.


he server at the bakery near my house used to pluck out a muffin for me after reaching into the glass case with a square of waxed paper. Now the woman behind the counter dons a pair of clear vinyl gloves to grab my treat, takes my money, tosses the gloves in the bin, and repeats the process for the next customer. When I asked why she put on a new pair of gloves for every transaction, she said that the owner required it because of COVID. Even at the local farmers’ market, where the entire neighbourhood flocks every Sunday to stock up on organic fruits and vegetables, juice samples are now doled out in tiny plastic jars. My suggestion to the vendor to use recycled paper tasting cups was not well received. She said, “With COVID, customers don’t feel comfortable with paper. They want plastic.” And this is the myth we must dispel – that plastic somehow makes us safer. In both of these stories, plastic was not only unnecessary, it was less sanitary. The only reason that plastic was used is because people believe that plastic protects them more than – in these cases – waxed paper or a paper cup. Plastic gloves have even replaced the more effective hand washing with soap and water. Touching money, a doorknob or your face with gloves on defeats the purpose of wearing the gloves – it contaminates them. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) says that, “The use of gloves when not indicated represents a waste of resources and does not contribute to a reduction of cross-transmission. It may also result in missed opportunities for hand hygiene.” Before COVID, the world was already drowning in discarded single-use plastic. Since COVID, reports from around the world show that massive amounts of ‘disposable’ protective equipment like gloves, masks and ‘hygienic’ coverings and casings of all kinds are clogging sidewalk drains and washing into rivers and oceans, all because of the myth that these items are more sanitary than washable, reusable and refillable ones. In the US, plastics associations and companies have claimed ‘an abundance of caution’ as the reason to reinstate widespread use of single-use plastic bags. But were we really operating out of an abundance of caution, we would avoid using plastic wherever possible. Plastic is a terrific vector for disease, as pathogenic microbes can accumulate on floating

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plastic and bring gastroenteritis, septicemia, and other maladies to new places and people. Plastic exposes us to a stew of petrochemicals that is harmful to human and ecological health, and plastics are a significant and growing contribution to climate change. Human health impacts are particularly acute in frontline communities near fossil fuel extraction sites, refineries, and plastic and petrochemical manufacturing plants, all of which emit toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the air, water and soil. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of production, consumption, and ‘disposal’ of ‘use-once’ personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks, gloves, and disinfectant wipes, all of which contain plastic. Globally, estimates are that 65 billion gloves and 129 billion masks have been used monthly during the COVID-19 pandemic, or nearly 3 million face masks per minute, many of which fall out of pockets and trash cans and otherwise contribute plastic pollution. PPE waste from the medical sector is generally tightly regulated and specialized waste management systems often involve waste sterilization and incineration. This tsunami of publicly generated, potentially infectious PPE waste is a new phenomenon with no waste collection and management strategy. It has also spawned illegal trade in used, dirty gloves. So how do we stay safe from COVID and minimize the ill-effects of copious plastic use? It’s time to dispel the fantasy of plastic. Let’s wash our hands well with soap and water instead of using plastic gloves; wear well-fitting, multi-layer cloth masks for everyday use; and dispense with the wipes and other plastic-containing gear that is causing us and the rest of the n planet more harm than health. Holly Kaufman is an environmental advisor with over three decades of experience designing and managing projects that integrate social and economic concerns into environmental protection and restoration. She served on President Clinton's delegation to the UN climate treaty negotiations, including as head of bilateral diplomacy at the US Department of State and of the climate change and national security portfolio at the US Department of Defense. For more information, see and LinkedIn, and follow her @Holly_Kaufman.

The Sustainability Awards

The world’s most prestigious competition for sustainable packaging innovation will be back in 2022, and opens for submissions on 10th January. Every year engagement with the Sustainability Awards grows: more entries and greater global impact. If you have collaborated on a significant packaging innovation or initiative aimed at improving environmental footprints, why not submit your work to be assessed by our international, expert judging panel and showcased as part of industry’s collective, worldwide effort to making packaged goods sustainable?

For full details about the Sustainability Awards and to enter (for free) visit: PLATINUM SPONSORS




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