The hottest trend in manufacturing these days is that a packaging solution should work not only for the product it will be housing, but also for the customer who will be using it. Consumers are increasingly well informed, and thus the demand for recyclable packaging solutions continues to grow. Peace of mind is created, too, when the product that you, the consumer, will be using is filled in a factory that employs the market’s most eco-friendly machinery. Here, we look at the direction in which the product-filling industry is moving.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. These three words encompass the global environmental movement, in a mantra that needs to be embraced by the manufacturing industry all over the world. The reason is obvious: humanity must make a concerted effort to prevent extraneous waste from entering the landfills, keep plastic out of the oceans, and protect our precious resources for future generations if we hope to have a planet to live on in the time to come.
However, packaging manufacturers and product-fillers face challenges – including how to reduce plastic consumption in their processes. In fact, a spokesperson from packaging-systems design company, Filmatic, says this has become a priority in their work, which encompasses the filling of liquids like milk, other beverages and edible oils into plastic containers such as bottles and tubs. Other concerns include avoiding other materials waste and the need to keep energy usage low in their quest to be as green as possible.
Of course, companies must now design with recycling in mind to bring the entire packaging value chain towards a sustainable future, but consumers must also be reminded to, in fact, recycle the recyclables. In the EU, for example, the legislation is in place to take care of the “recyclability” end of the chain; but recycling itself still needs to be incentivised and regulated not just in that region but also across the globe.
With consumers becoming increasing well educated on environmental matters, manufacturers need to follow suit to stay current and in vogue with the most eco-friendly choices on the market. So what is required of industry members in 2020 and beyond when it comes to equipment, systems and packaging solutions?
Firstly, manufacturing equipment should be sourced from approved agents, designed to minimise material losses during production and to wage as long as possible a working life span;
Next up, those at work in the packaging-solutions industry should educate themselves on the difference between a solution that is “technically recyclable” and one that can actually be recycled.
As consumer journalist Wendy Knowler declared in her 5 June “ConsumerTalk” slot on Cape Talk 567AM: “If the material is too expensive to recycle or there’s virtually no market for the recycled product, off to the landfill it will go”; and
Thirdly, while “going green” and “being sustainable” are often interachangeably used, the former refers to advancing a process or product so that it does not harm the environment; while the latter describes a manufacturer’s over-arching approach. So, not trading with this approach in mind could have a major effect on a manufacturer’s ability to compete successfully within their niche in the time to come.
Managing director at Filmatic, Riaan van Zyl, recommends employing more robust, long-lasting and power-efficient machinery in a plant; putting cooling systems in place that use stored rainwater, for example, rather than municipal water; and ensuring that any effluent is disposed of in the safest possible manner. He says that while there may be cost outlays in being sustainable at the outset, cost savings can then be enjoyed forever onwards through energy savings, paperless operations and a client preference for your products and services.