Walmart has been working with individual suppliers to reduce plastic in produce departments as consumer interest in sustainability increases.
Ross Farnsworth, senior director of the Southeast global food sourcing team for Walmart, gave two examples of that collaboration while speaking on a panel Jan. 10 at The Packer’s Global Organic Produce Expo. He called out from the panel audience Leamington, Ontario-based NatureFresh Farms and Yakima, Wash.-based Domex Superfresh Growers to talk about their work with Walmart on developing and experimenting with more sustainable packages for various produce items.
Farnsworth held up an English cucumber wrapped in plastic as an example of the difficulties of eliminating or changing packaging.
“Without the packaging, shelf life is max 72 hours,” Farnsworth said. “With the packaging, we can get almost 14 days. So this item doesn’t even exist if we don’t have some type of a packaging.”
Matt Quiring, executive retail sales account manager for Nature Fresh, said the English cucumber has been a target for the greenhouse company because Walmart has made clear that it wants to get out of single-use plastics. The companies brainstormed in recent months about possible solutions.
“The key here is you start with something and you move forward with it over the course of time, and if you get off track from the sustainability playbook, you just make sure you veer back into the right direction,” Quiring said. “That’s the key here is you just keep evolving over time, finding the right solution for the consumer.”
Quiring noted that it is unknown what the cost structure will be for the company’s more sustainable packaging for the item because it is not in the market yet.
Mike Preacher, director of marketing for Domex, mentioned that starting small with new, more sustainable packaging options is the best approach. Domex is piloting with Walmart in the New York market a four-count organic fuji consumer pack designed as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional packaging.
“From our view and what we’re learning and working with retail partners, as Ross said, kind of in a small way get the package out there — test it,” Preacher said. “We’re actively asking consumers for feedback — do you like this package, is it working for you, what’s your perception of it — all the while tracking sales.
“To Matt’s point too earlier, we don’t know how they’re going to sell, how they should be priced, what’s going to trigger more usage,” Preacher said. “I think we all have to have a little patience out of the gate, absent the scale, to build confidence that these things will work. Don’t go invest in a half-a-million dollar machine has kind of been our biggest thing, so do it manually, right, so that we don’t have somebody on the hook for that or we don’t put ourselves out of business.”
Farnsworth noted that Walmart is uniquely positioned to bring more sustainable packaging to market once consumer interest is confirmed.
“If we can identify a potential solution, trial it quickly, scale it and move, we have the ability to move that cost structure down pretty quick,” Farnsworth said.
He added that Walmart’s interest in being more sustainable is not limited to packaging. The retailer has an index that also considers water usage, electricity usage and carbon dioxide emissions, among other factors. Buyers use those scores along with metrics around quality and service to evaluate suppliers.
“It’s part of one of the lenses now that’s determined who are we going to go do business with, so that’s encouraging suppliers to change behavior,” Farnsworth said. “It’s not just around who’s got the lowest cost anymore.”
The EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive prohibits the placing on the market of single-use plastic products made from oxodegradable plastic, and the coalition is calling on the UK to maintain this regulation as it leaves the EU. The letter cites evidence from Defra and the EU refuting the claim that oxodegradable additives can transform polyolefin plastics into biodegradable plastics, as they merely accelerate the fragmentation of plastics into microplastics. Further evidence from the University of Plymouth in 2019 found that oxodegradable bags actually remained intact in the sea and soil after three years. These plastics are also unable to be recycled as they contain powders that render plastic polymers unstable when recycled together, while they are also unable to be composted, leading to confusion among consumers and retailers who consider them biodegradable as if they were compostable. A wide coalition of signatories led by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation called for a ban in 2017 and reiterated that call in 2018. The UK coalition again reiterates the call to ban oxodegradables. Members of the coalition include the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA), the REA, Greenpeace, A Plastic Planet and Recoup.
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Packaging is essential, now more than ever. During a time of global economic and health uncertainties, packaged products are a necessity. Whether it’s hand sanitizer, pharmaceuticals, testing kits, or food products, packaging is an essential part of keeping the world safe and healthy. Our packaging experts recently had a chat (with proper social distancing, of course) about the changes they're seeing in the industry as a result of COVID-19.
Nearly half of the CPGs interviewed for “Packaging Sustainability: A Changing Landscape 2020” are working to reduce their overall carbon footprint, focusing on reducing water, gas, and electric. Package design and primary packaging lines are other areas of focus, but secondary packaging lines are also under scrutiny to become more efficient. CPGs are expecting to purchase new equipment such as robotic case packers and palletizers, case erectors, cartoners, palletizers and de-palletizers, and automatic case packers. Machine modifications or adjustments are needed to achieve sustainable packaging goals, but some of the challenges CPGs face when moving to more sustainable packaging provide opportunities for OEMs to explore application details with customers: • Secondary packaging machines such as conveyors must be able to handle material reduction strategies, including lightweight corrugated. • Virgin fibers are being replaced with recycled materials, causing issues with case erecting, packing, and adhesive. Also, line speed is impacted with increasing amounts of PCR content in corrugated; requiring a broader tolerance range. Eliminating or reducing corrugated materials requires innovative bundling and shrink-wrapping solutions. • Machines need to run different style boxes to accommodate sustainability strategies, such as using the right size box. Case packers with a smaller footprint can help achieve sustainability goals through reduction in energy usage. • A more efficient process of unpacking the contents of a pallet and repacking them into different sizes or variety packs is needed, with a focus on reducing material usage. • Shrink film proprieties change as PCR content increases versus virgin materials, and machines need to handle both. Machinery needs to be optimized to enable smooth processing of recyclable PE laminates and co-extrusions, which have different machine handling requirements. • Reduced adhesive melting points in case erecting and sealing to minimize material usage. Said one Packaging Product Manager at an OEM, “We are exploring how we can avoid having to heat the glue so intensely or how we can reduce our consumption of adhesive; we now apply smaller and smaller dots of adhesive as opposed to the diamond shapes we previously utilized.”
In its Walloon factory in Ghlin near Mons, located on an 84-acre site, MD Verre produces some 160,000 tons of glass per year, mainly entry-level wine bottles.
Saverglass has continued to grow at an average rate of 10% per year over the past thirty years, largely due to its specialization in the booming segment of bottles and decanters designed to carry super premium spirits and fine wines. “With the commissioning of a powerful new ultra-modern plant in Guadalajara (Mexico) in June 2018, Saverglass significantly enlarged its footprint on the American continent, leading to consolidated sales this year that have topped the symbolic milestone of $550 million” said Régis Maillet, Marketing Director for Saverglass Group.
The Ghlin location meets the immediate need for a large and efficient production capacity to support the European presence of the Saverglass group in the world of fine wines. The production of its Emirates plant will be mainly reoriented towards the needs of customers from the Pacific and America regions. These changes will allow for the company to better meet the increasing demand in the Americas.
Adapting the MD Verre plant to accommodate its new target of high-end wines will rely on an immediate investment program of around $ 55 million over the next three years. This major financial effort, coming on the heels of the $ 550 million or so invested over the last eight years, will be facilitated by the modest cost of MD Verre, which was acquired for the symbolic price of one euro.
The transition of the Ghlin factory from mass production to the premium products of Saverglass will take place in stages thanks to a contract simultaneously being signed with Vidrala. The contract will lock in the supply of a significant part of its needs for the next five years.
At the same time, Saverglass is embarking on a major training program to prepare Ghlin's 250 employees to develop Saverglass products, with support provided by the technical assistance of at least 100 of its 3,400 global staff from the Saverglass Group.
"Plastic packaging gives our customers a safe, responsible and recyclable way to deliver products to their consumers," said Eric Roegner, President of Amcor Rigid Packaging (ARP). "PET is infinitely recyclable* and it’s carbon footprint is less than glass and other packaging materials. But there is still room for improvement, which is why we are working together with our customers and industry partners to boost recycling rates, increase the proportion of recycled content in the plastics we use, and reduce the waste in landfills and nature. Our goal is to create an overall positive impact for all stakeholders."
Not only are PET bottles and jars lightweight, shatterproof, transparent, recloseable and resealable, studies also show that they are infinitely recyclable, generate up to 70% less greenhouse gas emissions than other packaging types**, require fewer fossil fuels to produce than aluminum cans*** and have fewer transportation costs than glass1. Additionally, 90% of the PET that goes into recycling bins gets recycled2, while only 49% of cans3, 40% of glass2 and 16% of Tetra aseptic boxes4 get recycled.
Mr. Roegner also noted that 97% of Amcor Rigid Packaging's bottles and jars are designed to be recyclable. The company has pledged to develop all of its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025.
In addition, Amcor is working with associations such as The Plastics Industry Association, NAPCOR, and The Recycling Partnership to promote plastics, increase recycling rates and drive greater use of post-consumer materials. Amcor is also working with environmental organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Trash Free Seas Alliance to eliminate plastic waste.
GLOBAL PACKAGING SOLUTIONS
The packaging industry is changing at high speeds and customers are becoming increasingly demanding. The consumer's first impression is the one that counts and therefore can make or break their perception of the quality of your product.
As a global market leader, the Velcro Companies are in close relationship with the main market players includingmachine manufacturers, converters, film and corrugated cardboard producers, as well as the consumer packaged goods manufacturers, in order to enable us to provide a total solution.
With a growing need to develop sustainable alternatives to plastic, especially in the packaging industry, many novel technologies have surfaced. Bioplastics is one such category of substitutes for the highly versatile and highly polluting plastic.
Bioplastics are considered to be a lot more eco-friendly than ordinary plastics and are quickly replacing them in many industries. However, there are many misconception in the consumer community regarding the production and disposal of the same.
INEOS and PLASTIC ENERGY have today announced a collaboration on the construction of a new plant to convert waste plastic into the raw material to make new plastic. Production of the new facility would be targeted for the end of 2023. Advanced recycling technology converts waste plastic back to its basic molecules. The resulting material is then used in INEOS crackers to replace traditional raw materials derived from oil. First trials of product from PLASTIC ENERGY’s current advanced recycling process have been completed.
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