A tough question addressed at the Sustainable Packaging Symposium 2011, organized by Greener Package and the AIChE’s Institute for Sustainability, is the issue of balancing population growth and finite resources. Speaker Tony Kingsbury, executive-in-residence, Center for Responsible Business, UC Berkeley, and an executive with Dow Chemical, shared seven packaging-related predictions for a resource-scarce future, among them:
1. The most resource-efficient package will win. There will be greater competition and scarcity for energy and materials, the most carbon- and water-efficient packages will lead the marketplace. Carbon and water equate to money, said Kingsbury and packaging efficiency must take on a systems approach, taking into consideration the energy required for storage, consumer use, end-of-life, and other stages of the package life cycle, as well as the environment in which the package will be used.
2. Functionality will be king. Packaging may be 10 percent of a product’s footprint, while the other 90 percent is the product; however, a failed package will result in a 100 percent loss of the energy and materials that went into the product.
3. Bio-based packaging materials will grow, but not necessarily biodegradable. Kingsbury believes that traditional polymers, such as polyethylene, PET, and polypropylene produced using renewable resources, will take the lead over new plastic alternatives such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). The reason, he said: “The PET is molecularly the same.” Traditional polymers are very efficient from a systems standpoint, including the ability to be recycled. Composting—an end-of-life alternative offered by resins such as PLA—“is a pretty inefficient way to keep the molecule in play.”
DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers will increase capacity at its site at Dordrecht, Netherlands, to meet demand by July 2011 for some of its more eco-friendly specialty copolymers, Bynel adhesive resins, Fusabond modifier resins and Appeel lidding sealants used in packaging, construction and industrial markets.
Fusabond resins are modified polymers that help bond dissimilar polymers, a value for post-consumer package recycling programs for their ability to yield higher value applications for the recycled material. Appeel is a solvent-free lidding sealant which can replace solvent-based lacquers; such lacquers are typically vented to the environment or require an energy-intensive recovery process. Bynel coextrudable adhesive resins help packaging manufacturers bring together and optimize barrier, heat-seal and other functions in multi-layer structures such as films, bottles, tubes and thermoformable sheets.
The production ramp-up is in line with the findings from DuPont’s global survey of consumer packaged goods companies and packaging converters. According to their report, “Sustainability, Cost Challenge Global Packaging Industry,” nearly 40 percent of the 500 packaging professionals surveyed identified sustainability issues as the top challenge facing the packaging industry, This was followed closely by 33 percent who named cost issues. Of those respondents working specifically on sustainable packaging, 65 percent say their efforts are focused on design for recyclability or use of recycled content; 57 percent are focused on weight reduction; 41 percent rely on renewable or bio-based materials and 25 percent say they are focused on compostable materials.
Taking a look at ICT companies and their efforts on sustainable packaging, The Guardian has reviewed some of the notable achievements of the sector.