West’s Packaging is at the cutting edge of the development of flexible packaging products with greatly improved environmental credentials.
Most current flexible packaging films are sourced from petroleum based derivatives.
They are fossil fuels that are also a finite reserve
They are manufactured in very large quantities and have shown themselves over many years to be efficient, cheap and suitable of a wide variety of purposes.
They bring excellent benefit to the finished food item, and with statistics suggesting over 96% of the carbon footprint is in the food product itself, protection of this valuable asset is critical .
Paper based bags offer very little product protection or shelf stability.
They have no wet strength and can tear easily.
The ideal pack would consist of hermetic seal integrity, functionality for use, strong graphic display and be easily machineable and very cost effective.
The last decade has seen a focus on compostability – an “end of product life” solution that minimises land fill.
This goal is realised with Innovia’s range of single structure Natureflex products.
Many are certified Home Compostable by OK Compost’s UK certification.
There are a limited range of certified compostable inks for surface print only.
These films have a limited range of uses.
Unfortunately compostable has become unachievable for any complex packaging solution.
Adhesives required to manufacture a laminated structure made of multiple parts are not compostable and this will prove unsuitable for any certification.
With this understanding the market is moving towards the “start of life” of the packaging.
Renewable and sustainable sourcing of the raw materials.
Take COFFEE as an example.
40,000 litres of water are required to deliver just 1kg of coffee beans. These are usually grown in other parts of the world and transported to Australia in shipping containers, a long and arduous journey. It is critical that the environmental investment in this finished product, namely roasted coffee beans, is not compromised. Any extra spoilage would certainly nullify the benefits of a more environmentally friendly pack.
Any new packaging medium would need to offer all of the fundamentals required: hermetic seals, machinability, high barrier credentials for product protection and excellent graphic appeal.
So instead of using Biaxially Oriented PolyPropylene laminated to a Metallised Polyester laminated to an LLDPE, it would be possible to use other options.
A Natureflex film used as a print web, laminated to a high barrier metallised Natureflex and then laminated to an Ethanol based PE would solve this issue.
The Innovia Natureflex films are sourced from sustainable forestry.
Traditional LLDPE is sourced from Ethylene, a petro by-product.
Changing this to Sugar Cane based Ethanol means the sourcing is both able to be regrown and can be managed long term.
Renewable and Sustainable.
- We haven’t mentioned cost
- The compostable options have proven to be very expensive – up to 150% more in cost.
- The Renewable and sustainable films options are proving to be 20 – 30% more expensive.
- This is certainly more acceptable at the point of sale.
No panacea, but certainly some steps in the right direction.