This is a very informative article regarding many aspects of sustainable packaging in the beauty and cosmetic industry.
It was written by Jamie Matusow, an editor of Beauty Packaging Magazine in May 2009
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) defines sustainability as “sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for performance and cost, made entirely using renewable energy and once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations.”
While this is an ultimate goal that few companies have yet to achieve, almost any beauty brand and packaging supplier can point to measures they’ve taken regarding sustainability. From recycling, to constructing energy-efficient manufacturing facilities, to lightweighting a package, to printing directly on a tube, to using materials that can biodegrade in home compost, to offering refills and recycling empties, many beauty manufacturers and suppliers are making their way on the often bumpy road to compliance.
According to market research firm Mintel, the use of biodegradable packaging and ingredients in beauty products has more than doubled in the past year, as a result of the continued evolution of the sustainability trend. In the hair care and soap/bath categories, the firm notes, it more likely applies to the ingredients, while in cosmetics and skin care, it refers to the packaging. Mintel’s January 2009 report “Green Living” found that most segments of the green market far outperformed the comparable conventional market from 2006-2008. The long-term outlook for growth in the green market is positive, according to Mintel, but the recession may impede growth well into 2009. One of the segments pinpointed as being well-positioned to survive the economic crisis? Green personal care.
What’s more, cost may not be a deciding factor when making a green purchase. A recent report by Green Seal Inc. and EnviroMedia Social Marketing, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, found that 82% of consumers (four out of five) polled said they are still buying green products and services today—which sometimes cost more—even in the midst of a U.S. recession.
Two Driving Motivations
What prompts companies to pursue sustainability, even in a slow economy? Jack Miller, senior consultant, North America, Pira International, consultants for the packaging supply chain, says that while Wal-Mart began the drive toward sustainability to save money [when it announced its packaging scorecard in 2006], now others see the merits. “The movement is led by two motivations,” he notes: “companies that are true to their brand [if it’s organic, etc.], which in this case, are leading the consumer, doing more than consumers really understand; and brands that
are being led by retailers such as Wal-Mart, to save money.”
It’s a trend that shows no sign of abating, adds Miller. “Contrary to what many are saying, in light of the economic crisis,” he says, “sustainability is not really on the back burner this year.” While Miller concedes that incurring expense (i.e., plants installing new machinery, brands outlaying cash, etc.) to be greener will be down, except for an overall handful of brands and consumers, “It actually saves money if you reduce excess packaging, energy consumption and materials waste.”
Sustainability: A Business Model
Like Miller, Darrin Duber-Smith, president of Green Marketing, Nederland, CO, views companies’ interest in sustainability as a 50-50 split: 50% cost reduction and 50% brands targeting consumers. He says that companies engaged in sustainability efforts should focus not only on why they’re doing it, but how they’re doing it. This, he says, should include meeting consumers’ needs, reaching corporate objectives, and doing so in a way that demonstrates continuous improvement with regard to how it positively affects people and the environment, such as reducing emissions, etc. “The whole thing leads to ROI,” he says. To be successful, he stresses, companies must be transparent. “For sustainability to work as a company platform, it needs full cooperation from the top. It’s a business model,” he says.
Duber-Smith says he’s now consulting with large personal care manufacturers he would have never imagined would be interested in sustainability. “Giant cosmetics companies are getting into it,” he says, “because their competitors are doing it, their shareholders are asking for it, and end users and retailers are demanding it.
“Sustainability is a growing trend not a fad,” says Duber-Smith. “Any beauty company that wants to succeed has no choice.”
P&G Beauty: Focus on Reduction
Jenny Rushmore, global sustainability leader for P&G Beauty & Grooming, says that creating beautiful and sustainable packaging is a core part of the group’s sustainability strategy, and a priority for P&G as a company. She says that corporate research shows that consumers perceive packaging to be one of the main environmental impacts of beauty products, and at the same time, P&G wants to make beautiful packaging in as cost-efficient a way as possible. “This means,” says Rushmore, “that focusing on reducing both primary and secondary packaging, as well as developing other innovations in the area of materials and recyclability, are crucial for our business.”
Created by scientists from MIT, Mirel is a family of high-performance bioplastics that are sustainable and completely biodegradable in a wide variety of conditions including soil, home cold compost, industrial compost, waste treatment facilities, septic systems, wetlands and marine environments. Mirel is suitable for a versatile range of cosmetic applications.
Rushmore adds that beautiful packaging is an integral part of the beauty product experience for P&G consumers, “so we have to ensure that our sustainable innovation does not interfere with this experience—a challenge when looking at options such as integrating higher levels of PCR [post-consumer resin] into our products, which can affect color.” But, she says, although they know that the majority of American consumers want to make choices that are more environmentally friendly, P&G also knows that consumers are not willing to compromise on performance or appearance, so the challenge is to deliver improvement with no trade-offs. “Therefore,” she says, “we’re trying to meet their needs through innovations on our mainstream brands such as Pantene and Olay—where they don’t have to make any trade-offs to buy a more sustainable product.”
P&G has reduced the packaging weight of Pantene Pro-V bottles to save more than 450 tons of plastic
For example, P&G has reduced the packaging weight of Pantene Pro-V bottles. “These changes,” says Rushmore, “are forecast to save over 450 tons of plastic per year—which is the equivalent of over 13 million bottles of Pantene Pro-V.” For Olay Total Effects, P&G has reduced the plastic in its pump to save 800,000 pounds of plastic per year, equivalent to the weight of a Boeing 747.
Even in the current economy, P&G is staying its course, even pushing ahead. Rushmore says, “We believe there is no better time to drive sustainability, as this causes us to think about doing more with less.” She says P&G assesses potential sustainability interventions in its operations for their ability to also deliver a win to the business, and they almost always deliver cost savings. Even in tough economic times, says Rushmore, the consumer still wants to live a more sustainable life. “We will continue to help her do that, while also getting the performance she wants and the prices she needs. This is our ‘no trade-offs’ principle for sustainability innovation. Sustainable business practices are good for us, the consumer and the shareholder in the long term.”
Estée Lauder Takes a Big Step
The Estée Lauder Companies also maintains that cosmetic packaging must be sustainable as well as beautiful, and takes the challenge one step further. The beauty giant designs its packaging under a “cradle-to-cradle” philosophy, with the goal of maximizing the use of renewable and recycled source materials, designing for recovery at the end of product life and manufacturing its packaging using renewable energy—as defined by the SPC’s definition of sustainability set forth at the beginning of this article. The company’s Environmental Packaging Design Protocol, in effect since 2001 and updated regularly, mandates the use of bio-based or technical materials that can be recycled, composted or recovered in a waste-to-energy facility. It bans the use of materials from old growth forests and favors recycled paper and fiber products, or materials from sustainable sources. PVC is avoided in packaging wherever practical. Estée Lauder is also a partner in the largest solar-powered plant in New Jersey. With the purchase of renewable electricity for all of its operations facilities by the end of 2007, Estée Lauder claims to be the only beauty company to use green power for all of its manufacturing.
Still, the company’s efforts continue to expand. John Delfausse, vice president global package development and chief environmental officer, Estée Lauder corporate packaging—and a member of Beauty Packaging’s board of advisors—stresses the need to recover more packaging. (Please see Delfausse’s article on our site.) He says cosmetics companies must do a better job recovering and recapturing materials—better recycling methods—not just using more recycled materials in packaging. What’s more, Delfausse insists that consumers will have to take more of an active role in being sure the packaging is recovered, and brands will have to take a role in recovery and recycling. To this end, Estée Lauder has launched a number of innovative programs. (Bond No. 9 launched a similar recovery campaign for fragrance bottles back in 2007 to help in New York City’s recycling efforts.)
Estée Lauder’s Back to M·A·C Program accepts returns of the brand’s primary packaging. By returning six M·A·C containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics online, consumers will receive a free M·A·C lipstick of choice as thanks.
The Origins brand headlines Estée Lauder’s most recent recovery attempt. Because cosmetic and toiletry bottles, tubes, caps and jars are among items that are not usually recognized by community recycling centers, which tend to focus just on soda and water bottles, they often needlessly end up in landfills. The Return to Origins recycling program helps curtail this situation by accepting all cosmetic empties, regardless of brand, at Origins retail stores and department store counters. Origins then sends the collected cosmetic packaging to be recycled, when possible, or converted to energy.
Recently, Origins also made a commitment to produce its folding cartons using only renewable energy and to add consumer communication to its packaging.
Telling the Story
Indeed, the use of packaging as a communications tool can sway a sale. Just as large corporations need to show transparency along the supplier chain to maintain integrity about their sustainability claims, brands, too, must communicate with consumers.
P&G’s example of the amount of plastic saved in Olay’s pump equaling that of a Boeing 747, illustrates the type of comparisons being made to provide consumers with a tangible reference point as to just how much material has been saved and which certifications have been met.
Recently, a television ad for Almay PureBlends, Revlon’s first complete line of cosmetics offering 95%+ natural ingredients, in eco-friendly packaging created by Anthem Worldwide, NY, NY, caught my eye. Not only does the new line appear in an array of lovely floral packaging, the copy boasts: “95% natural ingredients; packaging is 44% recycled materials.” Each item in the line—three paperboard compacts and two tubes made of recycled or PCR materials—conveys natural beauty and ingredients—but the package and the website also prominently communicate info on what percentage of recycled materials are used. For example, a reduction in the overall amount of packaging used on the blush/bronzer saves 34,900 lbs of paperboard (17.5 tons); 300 trees; 0.45 acres; 71,540 KWh energy; 122,150 gallons of water; 57.6 cubic yards of landfill; 1,050 lbs of air pollution. The approach is a responsible point of difference from other mass cosmetics, says a spokesperson for Anthem.
Revlon continues to pursue sustainable packaging opportunities not just with Almay, but throughout its brand portfolio. Like Estée Lauder, Revlon is concerned about the failure or inability to recycle cosmetic components. In a recent Businessweek.com report, John Butcher, senior vice president, packaging and equipment development at Revlon, discusses the company’s sustainability efforts. Butcher says Revlon is committed to eco-friendly packages and materials made from renewable resources. As small packages are not viable to recycle, he notes, biodegradability offers a good option.
In this particular case, Butcher is referring to a new bioplastic material, called Mirel, which Revlon is experimenting with for both compacts and antiperspirants. Created by Metabolix, Cambridge, MA, Mirel is a family of sustainable and biodegradable high-performance bioplastics made from corn sugar, a renewable resource, which are durable in use, but will biodegrade harmlessly at the end of their useful life.
Mirel’s feature of biodegradability sets it far apart from PLA, a corn-based bioresin from NatureWorks, which suppliers say does not biodegrade and cannot be recycled in community recycling plants; nor does it offer the same moisture barriers claimed by Mirel. Instead, PLA components are compostable under industrial composting conditions of sustained heat and humidity—but most communities lack these facilities.
According to Bob Findlen, VP sales and marketing for Telles, a joint venture between Metabolix and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), which is commercializing Mirel, the difference between Mirel and PLA is mainly in the chemical makeup of the resin. Mirel is a PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate), whereas PLA is a polylactic acid. PLA is compostable in hot industrial compost, whereas Mirel is biodegradable in a wide range of natural environments, including soil, home cold compost, industrial compost, waste treatment facilities, septic systems, wetlands and marine environments. While both are corn-based, they go through a different process to create the resin. Overall, says Findlen, Mirel provides the broadest range of environmental benefits of other bioplastics available. The resin is tough, durable and has excellent resistance to both heat and moisture.
In addition, Findlen says unlike other bioplastics used in cosmetic applications, Mirel will not melt in intense heat, such as when left in the car; Mirel, he says, will maintain functionality above 120°C, as opposed to NatureWorks PLA, at about 60°C. Commercial grades of Mirel include injection molding, cast and blown film, extruded sheet and thermoforming.
“In the cosmetics and personal care industry,” says Findlen, “Mirel injection molding grade resins provide a high performance, bioplastic material with the physical properties of petroleum based resins.” Mirel, he says, can be fabricated into everyday products like compact and lipstick cases, mascara containers, lip balm tubes, brush handles, jars, razors, applicators, and caps and closures.
The first commercial-scale production plant is being constructed adjacent to ADM’s wet corn mill in Clinton, IA. The plant is designed to produce up to 110 million pounds of Mirel annually. The resin is being sold to companies at a range of $2.25-$2.75 per pound.
According to Findlen, “Biodegradable materials such as Mirel, which biodegrade in backyard compost, take the guesswork out of the problems involved with recycling, as recyclable materials may or may not be recycled at the local plant.”
Demand to Replace
The use of biodegradable materials for packaging has created the fifth R of the sustainability requirements for packaging—Replace—along with the already expanded Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and (now) Recover. While there can be a good deal of crossover between the various processes, here’s an effort to sort out (pardon the pun) various solutions in each.
While Mirel is being considered by beauty companies such as Revlon, here’s how several other suppliers have succeeded in finding substitutions for fossil-based packaging materials. PLA, however, is still a popular choice for brands looking for plant-based alternatives.
Eric Caridroit, sustainable project director, Alcan Packaging Beauty, commenting on the trend in general, says, “The eco-friendly trend is driven by a new paradigm in our society: The product that the consumer buys is now related to who is making it and how. Eco-friendly material is a way to address this consumer expectation to have a more responsible approach toward the buying decision.”
Among many eco-friendly solutions, Caridroit says Alcan Packaging Beauty strives to define ways of replacing fossil-based materials with more environmentally friendly ones. “Our materials evaluation experts have continued to remain at the forefront of these new materials, from biodegradable to bio-sourced.” In this vein, Alcan Packaging Beauty has created Organic Life Range, a compact made of 100% PLA, a corn-based polymer.
Italian firm Lumson, also supports the use of new materials, including research on bioplastics. Recently, it patented a new material called 3D, made of two plastic materials: PP, which is fully recyclable, and PA, obtained from castor plants, a renewable resource. The new material entered the market almost immediately with Lumson’s Victoria and Alexandra lines.
Lumson has been formally recognized for its sustainable philosophy by Ecocert Italia and has obtained the Ecopackage label for three of its packaging collections. Stefano Focolari, marketing manager for Lumson, says the company’s innovation with the use of PA is one step of many that allows the company to move ahead on customers’ demand for sustainable packaging in a concrete way. “Lumson is going for completely recyclable packaging, applying all rules and regulations,” he says.
Alpha Packaging, St. Louis, MO, offers a number of alternatives to traditional petroleum-based plastics. For example: bottles and jars made from NatureWorks PLA. “However,” says Marny Bielefeldt, marketing manager, Alpha, “polylactide (PLA) does not offer the same moisture barriers that PET and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) offer, so it’s not ideal for water-based health and beauty products or products affected by humidity; but it can be a good solution for oil-based products or any beauty products with a short shelf life.”
Jeff Morrow, vice president sustainability at Label Impressions, says the most exciting thing on the company’s horizon is the development of several eco-friendly packette/sachet materials. “We currently have three,” he says, “but are in development on a few others. Our clients have indicated that the biodegradable packette is the ‘holy grail’ and are awaiting our results.”
Second Time Around: Recycling
Bielefeldt says Alpha experienced the first surge of interest in sustainable rigid packaging about four years ago, when NatureWorks PLA resin was first made available in a blow molding grade. “About two years ago, she says, “when higher grades of FDA-approved post-consumer PET became available, we saw a dramatic increase in requests for PCR and fewer requests for PLA.” One solution Alpha offers: post-consumer PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is recycled PET that’s been collected at curbside (usually consisting of water and soda bottles), then cleaned, sorted and repelletized into post-consumer resin (PCR) that the company runs in its standard PET blow molds. “By using this highest grade of recycled PET,” she says, “our PCR bottles cost about 10% more than bottles made from virgin PET.”
Bielefeldt says both PCR and PLA can have surprisingly good clarity, and both resins accept colorants very well. And, she adds, once a PCR or PLA bottle is filled and decorated, it rarely looks any different than the PET bottle it replaces. “It’s also important to note,” she says, “that most companies that are truly committed to sustainable business practices care less about the appearance of the bottle, and more about its carbon footprint.”
“For national brands,” she says, “much of the motivation is driven by large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Target, which have put metrics in place to measure sustainable packaging efforts by their suppliers, and from what we’ve seen at Alpha, this is the dominant force driving most companies to sustainable solutions.”
What is the greatest challenge when complying with demand for sustainable packaging?
“The greatest challenge is demonstrating that the packaging you’ve selected is “greener” than the packaging it replaces,” says Bielefeldt. “Much of this has to do with the fact that most eco-friendly options are still a compromise—for example, if you switch from virgin PET to PLA, you’ve replaced a petrochemical with a corn-based resin (which can be good), but you’ve also eliminated the ability for that bottle to be recycled in any existing recycling stream (which is bad). We recommend that our customers take a series of small steps that work with their product line to move in the right direction—but not to expect to find a ‘magic bullet’ that makes their packaging the perfect green solution.”
For now, Bielefeldt says Alpha thinks eco-friendly decorating methods and 100% recycled PET bottles will represent the future of health and beauty packaging. “The 100% post-consumer PET resin is an easy way for companies to switch their packaging, since there is usually no product compatibility issue moving from virgin PET to recycled PET.”
Alcan Packaging Beauty is also innovating on the PCR front, recently introducing its Post Consumer Recycled Tube, with a sleeve made from up to 60% recycled materials, from recycled milk containers. “Its multilayer structure ensures perfect compatibility with bulks as only the outer layer is PCR, while the inner layer is made from virgin material,” says Alcan’s Caridroit.
David Fawcett, UK sales, Cosmopak, says there has been a huge move toward more recycled cardboard packaging and the use of PCR, which the company has delivered in components such as tubes and lipstick cases. “There is an increased awareness from consumers and brands for recyclable packaging, but it has yet to fully feed through in products on the shelves,” he says. Within the next 18 months, however, Fawcett says more of these products will appear in shops.
Recently, Cosmopak entered into an exclusive supply agreement to produce PCR plastic material, in response to a demand for more environmentally friendly raw materials, for the cosmetics industry. “As a result,” says Fawcett, “we are able to supply finished packages, as well as supply raw flake to designated bottle and jar molders on behalf of cosmetic clients.”
Fawcett concedes that the economy has made a dent in demand for eco-friendly products. “Everyone was talking about environmental issues some time ago, before the economic downturn. However, sustainable packaging is generally more expensive than standard packs, so companies are still trying to find the right balance. We offer post-consumer recyclable plastics at different percentages—25% and 30%.”
Curtis Packaging’s forte is the design and manufacture of environmentally friendly paperboard folding cartons. Don Droppo, Jr., principal of Curtis and also the SVP of marketing and sales, says the company has noticed a recent trend in terms of recyclability. “Almost all beauty companies are asking for packaging that is fully recyclable,” he says. Droppo points to a popular product Curtis created six years ago, Curt-Chrome, which simulates the look and feel of foil or met poly laminated products; it’s less expensive than foil and is recyclable. Droppo also says that Curtis’ folding cartons are the only ones in the beauty industry (and the entire packaging industry as a whole) that are produced in a carbon neutral facility that uses 100% wind power. “We offer paperboard folding cartons that are fully recyclable, can either be FSC- or SFI-certified and contain PCW (post consumer waste) percentages from 10% up to 100%. And, he adds, “This percentage is steadily growing year over year.”
There are many motivations behind beauty brands wanting to be more environmentally friendly, says Droppo. “Not only are consumers demanding it, but so are the stakeholders of the beauty brands. No one can ever say a bad word about a brand being environmentally sensitive. It can only help one’s image, and it is of critical importance that the beauty companies do this in a smart way, and not get caught up in “green washing” comments. Everything we do at Curtis is third-party verified and certified. We need to be bulletproof, and the beauty brands need to do the same; they need to have a clear strategy of what they are trying to accomplish and what the timeframe is, as the education piece is critical to one’s future ‘green’ success.”
Glass in a Recyclable Class
Both paper and glass recycling are on the rise in the U.S. Glass, which is endlessly recyclable, can be manufactured with up to 100% recycled content. With this in mind, renowned France-based glass house SGD, in collaboration with design agency Extreme Paris, created Gaia, the first 100% recycled (post-consumer cullet) and 100% recyclable glass for perfumery and cosmetics packaging. “The design is based on the idea of a continuous cycle, which symbolizes the ultimate in recycling: “Nothing gets lost, everything is transformed,” to infinity, explains Shéhérazade Chamlou, vice president of marketing and global account executive for SGD N.A.
When we use recyclable materials to make new glass products,” she says, “we are using less energy, cutting raw materials and C02 emissions. SGD is the first glass supplier to introduce eco-designed 100% recycled and 100% recyclable glass, ‘Infinite Glass,’ for perfumery and cosmetics, which is the ultimate sustainable glass packaging.” The name Gaia comes from Greek mythology, Chamlou explains, and is the name of the goddess of nature personifying earth and symbolizing the ecosystem. The line consists of six perfumery and cosmetics references (50- and 100ml bottles each with FEA and GCMI necks and 50- and 200ml jars with GCMI necks). The physical properties of the recycled glass (weight, resistance) are the same. In terms of aesthetics, the glass has a slightly green tint, which, once decorated, cannot be distinguished.
Chamlou says because consumers have become more interested in greener packaging, brands have found that packaging fitting the sustainability criteria is a competitive proposition, as it is deemed eco-conscious and has broader appeal. “We have had very positive feedback from our customers and continue to work closely with them on this initiative,” she says. The innovation, however, comes at a higher cost. “Due to the recycling involved and its unique glass composition,” explains Chamlou, “the glass costs more than regular flint glass. However, we have to take into consideration the positive impact that this glass has on the environment.”
Reducing: Lightening the Load
While reducing product weight is now a widespread practice, as it saves materials and fuel transport costs, resistance is sometimes met in the luxury market due to the desire for a more substantial feel, equating weight with quality.
Alcan Packaging Beauty’s Caridroit explains that cosmetic packaging is not only used to protect a product, but also to convey a dream. “Sustainability involves a cultural change, and even if consumers often relate to the need to reduce the environmental impact of a pack, at the time of purchase, the influence of the dream can take the upper hand.” For this reason, says Caridroit, consumer habits will dictate the speed at which these changes take place.
Caridroit says rather than seeing this as a constraint, Alcan views it as an avenue to new opportunities. “We intend to continue making eco-conception propositions and new product offers in order to force the pace as much as we can,” he says. “For example, even if product weight is still associated with luxury and quality, and therefore appears as incompatible with material reduction objectives, reducing the weight of a compact by just 1 gram will save one ton of plastic for 1 million units. Reducing thickness of caps, eliminating needs for label or refill systems, are all viable options to consider, even for luxury packaging. In many cases, the consumer will not perceive the difference, whereas material savings are huge.”
Alcan Packaging Beauty recently created Slender, billed as the lightest oriented dispensing cap for tubes. With 50% material savings, Slender offers the same manufacturing performance, convenience and aesthetics as a standard flip-top cap.
Alpha Packaging, too, has found ways to make changes that would be barely perceptible to consumers, but that mean savings to customers. Alpha’s Bielefeldt says the company has light-weighted about a dozen of its PET jars with 70- and 89mm necks to remove an average of 10% of the total gram weight, so customers who use those jars can claim a measurable reduction in material used for their packaging, and can also realize freight savings from the reduced weight of their product during shipping.
Xela Pack has been producing environmentally conscious sample and trial size packaging since 1987. The paper portion of its 100% PCR (Kraft and white) packs is 100% recycled, but the construction of the packet is paper/foil/poly. “When comparing our sample packaging to traditional forms such as plastic bottles and tubes, our packaging is by far, more environmentally sound,” says Anthony A. Gentile, director of art & marketing, Xela Pack Inc. “The Xela Pack has a self-closing orifice making it ideal for single- and multi-dose packaging applications,” explains Gentile.
For many years Xela Pack offered a 100% PCR paper pack that had a Kraft appearance. Now the company also offers a pack constructed using 100% PCR paper that has a white aqueous coating applied at the manufacturing plant. Offered as a Xela Pack standard, Gentile says demand is rising.
When comparing Xela Pack samples to bottles and tubes of similar product capacity, there is a significant overall reduction in packaging materials. The Xela Pack uses approximately 93% less plastic than similar sized plastic bottles and tubes, says Gentile.
For example, a 10ml plastic bottle with cap weighs 4.74g, while a 10ml Xela Pack card weighs 2.29g (52% reduction by weight). Prior to filling, 100 15ml Xela Packs occupy 115 cubic inches of space, while 100 empty 15ml tubes occupy 270 cubic inches, and bottles require even more space. This reduces the overall use of pallets, packaging materials and energy/fuel before the filling process. Also, the Xela Pack is fully collapsible when empty.
Reducing the Label
In the midst of increased communication to consumers via packaging, labels play a key role. At the same time, to reduce packaging materials, suppliers are finding ways to eliminate the customary paper and glue.
With Alcan Packaging Beauty’s Pixel, for example, a new tube printing technology that allows high-quality direct print, the need for a label and associated glue, even for the most sophisticated designs, is eliminated.
Alpha offers earth-friendly container decorating that uses UV inks (with no volatile organic compounds or dangerous heavy metals) to screen print directly onto packaging (including PLA). “Not only are our inks more ‘green’ than the conventional inks many companies still use,” says Alpha’s Bielefeldt, “but we help companies reduce their package weight and amount of materials consumed by switching from pressure-sensitive labels to direct screen printing.”
Label Impressions, which claims to be the only flexographic label and pouch printer in the U.S. with both FSC certification and carbon neutral status, uses a different approach to cutting out paper labels. Instead, the company manufactures labels—and folding cartons, waterproof bags, sleeves and marketing brochures—from stone. FiberStone, that is, which is paper made from limestone. To the touch, it feels like a regular coated paper. And because it doesn’t require water to manufacture, it saves more than trees.
“By far,” says Label Impressions’ Morrow, “our most requested label and pouch materials are our biodegradable films and our FiberStone tree-free, waterproof, stone paper.” FiberStone labels offer high-quality graphics, abrasion and moisture resistance, conformability, foil stamping and screening options. A ton of FiberStone paper saves 20 trees, 16,000 gallons of water, 18,000 BTU’s of energy and contains no harmful chemicals.
Reuse and Refill
Reuse, one of the original 3 R’s, is one of the most effective ways to cut down on packaging waste. Xela Pack’s Gentile says, “The three R’s are in order for a reason. The most important thing is to Reduce. After you have reduced as much as possible, you Reuse, and when you have reduced and reused all that you can, you Recycle.”
Bond No. 9’s recovery program enables the company to reuse many of its fragrance bottles.
PKG Group, in partnership with Yonwoo Korea, has worked to introduce environmentally friendly products to the market, including a multitude of airless packaging products. These are available with options for reusable components, which can be sold as refills for the primary package, thus reducing overall waste.
One of PKG Group’s new packaging components is an airless syringe product for skin care, cosmetics and other pinpoint applications. The 10ml inner container is polypropylene and can easily be discarded and recycled. “At the same time,” says Benny Calderone Jr., sales director, “the marketer can offer the consumer an option to purchase a refill cartridge at a reduced price compared to the full primary package.”
PKG Group offers this same solution for an airless center point dispensing jar as well as a new airless line called Show.
Alcan manufactures several refill skin care jars, such as Inositol, developed in collaboration with Yves Rocher. “Our customer required a light cream jar that could be refilled and therefore contribute to material reduction consumption. That’s how Inositol was born,” says Alcan’s Caridroit. It resulted in a 78% material saving.
Whether through reducing, recovering, reusing, replacing or recycling, Caridroit sums up the broad benefits for companies seeking to find their way along the sustainability path, relative to what Alcan has discovered, even in a compromised economy.
“It is undeniable that sustainability is a new way of doing business,” says Caridroit. “We also know that it is becoming an integral part of brand value. At Alcan Packaging Beauty, sustainability is fully integrated in company culture, value and long-term strategy. So how could sustainability disappear even in economic turbulence, when, on the contrary, in such a period, companies need to rely on this fundamental pillar? We have realized that it leads us to operational efficiency that would have taken more time to achieve without this approach.”