THE SUSTAINABLE STAND-UP POUCH
As with most things in the fast-paced flexible packaging market, the expectations around what a pouch should do are changing. Along with providing the barrier properties required to keep food fresh, serving up convenient reclosability, and wowing consumers with dynamic graphics, it seems pouches of today and the future will, more often than not, be required to offer up an attractive sustainability advantage, as well.
Sustainability has been the buzz word in packaging for more than a decade, ushered in by the renowned Walmart Sustainability Scorecard. The confusion that ensued was infamous, and with cost considerations, it seemed “sustainability” might burn itself out. But, fast-forward to a market today dominated by demographics that not only embrace Corporate Social Responsibility - but expect it.
This article will not cite statistics on the growth of sustainable flexible packaging, nor quote recycling rate projections. There are plenty of subject-matter experts armed with studies and statistics to last into the next millennium.
Instead, we’d like to talk about ideas and solutions to help you, the converter, the brand owner, the business person, to prepare for the demands of producing quality pouches, at a manageable cost, with a sustainability advantage - for you and for your customers.
Pouches Offer Sustainable Advantages Over Rigid Containers.
Most polymer-based substrates offer a lower overall carbon footprint than cans or boxes. They generally use less source material, require less fossil fuel to ship and have production processes that are efficient, with less impact on the environment, Oh, and let’s not forget about a lower cost.
Recyclable or Recycle-Ready Pouches
Materials providers have blanketed the news with the “recyclable or recycle-ready” pouch – made possible by the development of an all-polyethylene blend used to convert a stand-up pouch with comparable performance and the potential for cost-savings that is also fully-recyclable (in locations with PE recycling.) This is the type of promise today's sustainability-conscious buyers are looking for, and early-adopting converters will gain the market advantage. Having equipment with a wide processing window, flexibility and sophistication to anticipate, adapt and succeed with exotic blends, will be a significant advantage for tomorrow’s converters.
To make packaging more sustainable, there is continuing discussion regarding the commercial feasibility of recycled-content pouches. Given the need for very consistent film properties when making pouches, this idea has some work before true commercialization. Once it comes to fruition - and if the market need is there, it will - pouch converting systems will need the sophistication and finesse to adjust to challenging sealing and web-handing requirements.
Make Your Equipment Work for You
Robust machine performance - choose a system with strong structural integrity and have your system laser-aligned upon installation and whenever it is moved. Along with traceable sealing parameters, a solid machine offering less chance for process variability will be of great value with new and emerging film structures because it will minimize variations in the process and produce a higher quality pouch with lower waste and downtime.
Advanced Sealing Technology - new, sustainable materials must not only pass the technical tests, but they need to be made profitably. To do so, converting equipment should feature sealing technology that tracks seal parameters and adjusts machine settings. This is important, to reduce costs associated with materials waste and machine downtime, and to deliver verifiable quality pouches to your customers.
Simple, accurate quick changes - the variability of adjustments between jobs opens up the possibility for error, and wasted precious materials as well as potential lost product, and profits. Clear and easy visuals for mechanical adjustments, as well as recipe storage and a super-easy HMI color touch screens help improve operational efficiency and reduce errors and waste.
A trusted partner - your OEM should have the resources and technical skill set to make sure you get the most out of your equipment investment. Look not only for training and operational support, but also a commitment to advance technology so you stay ahead of changing customer demands. They should have a well-equipped facility for you to test the convertibility of new materials and products, and the stability and commitment to support you as your needs and requirements change.
Arming yourself with the right equipment technology to adapt to variations inherent with the inevitable new and changing substrates positions you well against your competition for the next new market demand.
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