Fabio Peyer, director of sustainability at Amcor Flexibles North America, recently gave a presentation on innovations made at the company to reach milestones in sustainability goals.
“The packaging of the future needs to be developed with the end in mind and contribute to the circular economy, while still continuing to meet productivity, product protection, and branding requirements,” Peyer said during his presentation at PACK EXPO Connects that was held virtually Nov. 9 to 13.
Amcor is one of the more than 450 organizations that have signed on to the Global Commitment spearheaded by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. In fact, Peyer said, Amcor was one of the pioneers when the initiative started in 2018 to have all packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. The coalition’s goals also include significantly increasing the use of recycled materials and driving consistently more recycling worldwide.
For years, a broad range of materials has been used in the flexible packaging industry to meet various functions. In the process, the industry has been able to “downgauge and lightweight” packaging, which has created numerous environmental benefits throughout the life cycle, Peyer said as part of the Innovation Stage event at PACK EXPO.
“That makes me believe that flexible packaging is a true sustainability hero as it stands,” Peyer said. “But, on the downside, these multi-material constructions are difficult to recycle.”
That is why Amcor is leading change toward a more sustainable future with its portfolio of recycle ready flexible packaging solutions, he added.
A recent report commissioned by the Flexible Packaging Association identified numerous paths that the industry should follow toward sustainability but noted that packaging design is the one true place that the industry has direct control. Other measures such as building new recycling infrastructure involve other stakeholders, such as governments, the report pointed out.
Designing flexible packaging for recycling requires finding ways to narrow the range of materials being used and developing mono-material solutions that are compatible with the recycling stream, Peyer said. The industry has been using polyethylene (PE)films for decades for various packing applications, such as shrink overwraps. But when it comes to more demanding applications like stand-up pouches, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies have had to make compromises with performance with the first generation of those applications, he added.
Those key challenges included the following:
- Circularity goals were sometimes at odds with expectations on productivity, shelf life, and appearance;
- companies didn’t have the means to validate that a new package maximizes environmental outcomes; and
- it was unclear if a new package would eventually qualify for recyclability claims, creating risk in the development stage, according to Peyer.
Amcor set out three years ago to solve those problems and created a product called AmPrima™ and AmPrima PE Plus™. The portfolio of films is designed to be recyclable through existing store drop-offs or curbside where available, he said.
Peyer added that the maximum speed that a first-generation film could run on flow-wrap equipment was about half of what a non-recyclable film could run. That has meant that a brand owner has had to invest in a second machine to match the performance of the non-recyclable film. However, AmPrima™ PE Plus runs at similar speeds as the nonrecyclable films, solving that problem, he said.
Amcor also ran detailed life cycle assessments, comparing AmPrima™ PE Plus to a standard non-recyclable product. The LCA showed 71 percent savings in energy use, 57 percent in the carbon footprint, and 47 percent in water consumption. The numbers assumed the product would be recycled at the end of its life cycle, he said.
CPG customers also don’t have to worry about performance. The new films can be customized to meet requirements for stiffness and strength, clarity, line speeds, fitment, and graphic and print finishes.
AmPrima™ products also are prequalified for the How2Recylce label, which means brand owners don’t have to worry about that either. “It eliminates the need for our customers to engage external labs for recycle-ready testing, which in turn means less costs, increased speed to market, and lower risk,” Peyer said.
Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE™.
For more information, go to amcor.com/amprima.