2020/09/22 A Circular Economy: Working Together to Achieve Sustainability in Packaging (part 1 of 2)

A Circular Economy: Working Together to Achieve Sustainability in Packaging

Meeting industry-driven sustainability goals in packaging is a must — even in a world economy drastically changed by a pandemic.

Source from:

Many prominent consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have set ambitious sustainability objectives, like targeting a supply of high levels of recyclable or reusable packaging as soon as 2025, while reducing the use of plastics.

These goals resonate with consumers. According to a 2018 study conducted by the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), 78% of consumers say that they support or buy from businesses with sustainability initiatives, and 79% say they prefer products that are in sustainable packaging over products that are not.

The key to helping CPGs meet their 2025 targets is cross-industry collaboration. Flexible packaging converter partners play a key role by working closely with their suppliers, such as ink, coating, adhesive, paper and film manufacturers, to develop packaging solutions that achieve greater sustainability.

Ink and coating manufacturers then must also work closely with their own suppliers, with regulatory bodies, with substrate and equipment manufacturers, and with material recovery facilities and recyclers through a wide range of industry consortia and trade organizations — such as Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX), Food Packaging Institute (FPI), the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and more — to develop an overarching approach to meet market demands and regulatory requirements.

Working with partner organizations across the overall supply and value chains to define common sustainability goals helps to prioritize initiatives, leading to more substantial and long-term solutions.

For example, many brands have followed the United Nations’ “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” by setting corresponding sustainability goals to achieve by the year 2030. Some partner companies, like Sun Chemical, are also aligning their goals with those on the UN’s agenda to ensure necessary actions are taken to enable a more sustainable packaging industry with an overall positive impact on the environment.

The collaborative approach allows ink and coating manufacturers to see the full circular economy requirements, allowing product designs that consider not only cradle to gate but also cradle to grave.

By working together to establish common goals and by utilizing renewable resources and raw materials that promote bio-renewability, compostability and/or recyclability, CPGs can help achieve the vision of a circular economy as introduced by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (Figure 1, page 32)
One example of partnership can be seen in the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Heavily driven by CPGs and brand sustainability goals, due to their recyclability, roll-fed labels specifically on PET bottles have already seen an increase in widespread adoption.

By working with the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and teaming up with its diverse members, an ink or coating manufacturer can help to explore ways to further boost the rate of PET recycling and ultimately assist CPGs in achieving ambitious sustainability goals around improved PET bottle recyclability.

This collaboration has resulted in enhancements to a current ink offering with a recycle-friendly new washable ink technology for the flexo market currently in development. This ink technology can be removed from post-consumer printed PET packaging in typical existing recycling processes, without staining the recovered PET flake or the process wash water. Designed for crystallizable PET shrink sleeves that can be recycled together with the PET bottles, the washable ink allows for the increased recovery of high-quality, clean, recycled PET resin.