Processing & Storage

Redesigning is key to revamping plastic packaging sector - Woodmac

woodmac plasticSignificant investment is needed to reduce lifecycle carbon impacts as the circular plastic economy develops and redesigning is the opportunity to clean up plastic packaging as sector GHG emissions are predicted to rise 75%, says Woodmac


Plastic pollution caught and maintained the world’s attention in the mid-2010s as images of marine environments ravaged by deposits of disposed of plastic led global governments and corporations to commit to improving the circular plastic economy, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie (Woodmac), a global energy, chemicals, renewables, metals and mining research and consultancy group.

Woodmac opines that the packaging industry has embarked on a transformative journey according to the company with a range of initiatives designed to increase the sustainability of the plastics value chain – from virgin plastic to the ongoing recycling of those elements with longer potential life. While recycling emerged as a front-runner for effective end-of-life treatment of plastics, a comprehensive solution requires a step-change in how brands and consumers think about the role of packaging in the first place.

 Wood Mackenzie's model shows that the plastic sector GHG emissions will rise by 75% by 2050. Polymers currently account for ~4% of energy-related emissions. While the value chain will become more carbon-efficient, robust demand growth will result in 48 gigatonnes of emissions by the looming deadline of the Paris Agreement.

The packaging sector is beginning to explore new solutions to reduce plastic consumption. In this Circular Plastic Packaging Report, Wood Mackenzie leverages its ‘Material Applications Platform’ to simulate a scenario in which the industry seeks to redesign its approach towards packaging.

 Andrew Brown, head of plastic and recycling research at Wood Mackenzie, said, “This ‘packaging redesigned’ scenario reflects our view of an aggressive approach towards adopting new technologies and business models with three main principles guiding the effort: elimination, substitution and reuse.

“Rigid packaging applications are most impacted by redesign models. In this scenario, bottles, for example, would consume about 16% less plastic each year than otherwise forecast, while other rigid applications may see 14% of annual demand displaced by 2040.”

If the industry fails to pick up the redesign baton, Wood Mackenzie estimates that plastic packaging demand will more than double by 2050 – driven largely by an emerging middle class in developing Asian and African economies.

Olivia Loa, a polymer sustainability analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said, “Recycling will play an important role in meeting rising demand while reducing the environmental impacts of the packaging sector. Bottle recycling rates are expected to rise from just below 50% globally in 2020 to 67% in 2040. However, it won’t be sufficient to achieve the gains required, and if the industry is unable to grasp the nettle an increasingly stringent regulatory response to driving change is the most likely outcome. 

The report further emphasises that suppressing demand through packaging redesign, increased recycling and sourcing low carbon power will be absolutely key to mitigating base-case emissions growth – and value chain collaboration is vital to address the challenge systematically.

 

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StePac expands range of recyclable top seal solutions

StePacFresh produce packaging producer StePac has expanded its range of top seals which extend the shelf life of fresh fruits and ready-to-eat salads


The company’s newly upgraded portfolio includes lean and fully recyclable easy-peel film structures designed to be sealed onto trays or containers housing produce items such as summer fruits, freshly cut fruits and vegetables and more for on-the-go convenience. 

According to StePac, the films are engineered with StePac’s flagship Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) condensation control technology, rendered with capabilities to significantly extend the shelf life of fresh produce and designed to preserve their quality and nutritional value. The built-in modified atmosphere properties slow respiration inside the packaging, effectively delaying the ageing processes and inhibiting microbial decay.

Leaner, fully recyclable top seal solution

Gary Ward, PhD and business development manager for StePac said, “We are leading the transition from the use of traditional clamshells for packaging fresh berries to leaner, greener and more attractive top-seal solutions. This shift is designed to award multiple benefits. Firstly, it generates as much as 25-30% reduction in plastic use as it is a leaner product compared to the commonly used clamshells. Secondly, it is fully recyclable and thirdly, it provides shelf-life extension properties, enhancing food quality while reducing waste, all of which fall in line with our sustainability strategy. Last, but not least, it also ensures food safety.”

The company claims these solutions are already being used for preserving the quality of summer fruits in the domestic Israeli market by Rafkor, an Israeli company that packs and markets fruits grown by the farmers in the Upper Galilee region of Israel. “Since we started using StePac’s fully recyclable top seal solution for cherries, litchi, stone fruits and pears, we have noticed a reduction in waste and quality complaints from our customers,” said Haviv Aharon, CEO of Rafkor. He added, “This has a lot to do with the shelf-life extension properties of the product. Furthermore, since the product is hermetically sealed it helps enhance food safety. This is driving sales of our products in the e-commerce sector. We are now looking to expand the use of the film to other fruits.”  

Resealable for on-the-go convenience

StePac resealable top seal solutions are said to gain traction and top seal is comprised of a laminated structure composed of two layers, with a pressure-sensitive adhesive in between. A die-cut in the lower film layer opens up a window that displays the products packed in the tray and can be cut to the desired dimensions. The adhesive between the two layers is sufficiently strong so that the upper layer of film can be peeled and resealed to the lower layer up to 20 times making it ideal for multiple servings and can be applied to PET and PP trays as well as eco-sustainable materials. Each time it is resealed, the Modified Atmosphere (MA) activity regenerates and continues to preserve the quality of the food inside the consumers’ fridge. These solutions are already being used for preserving quality of summer fruits in the domestic Israeli market.

The resealable film also features a tamper evidence seal assuring customers that the packaging has not been breached or sabotaged in anyway before purchase. Ward recalls the strawberry scare in Australia two years ago where sewing needles were planted inside strawberries packed in clamshells. 

Over the last few years, StePac has focused its packaging solutions on the cold chain logistics of whole fruits and vegetables encompassing long haul shipments, bulk storage and consumer-oriented retail packaging. StePac’s develops diverse packaging solutions for this sector. In addition, the broad range of top seal solutions that the company offers is enabling them to venture into the minimally processed cold food sector as its novel top-seal can be affixed to containers housing freshly chopped fruits and vegetable salads while at the same time providing food safety benefits.

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