Going Green
by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek

Strides in packaging cater to environmentally conscious consumers.

 A package should save more than it costs. Tetra Pak founder Dr. Ruben Rausing believed in this idea back in the 1950s, and today’s packagers are following the wishes of environmentally conscious consumers.

Packaging companies interested in sustainability believe a good package must not only meet the requirements of preservation, protection, convenience and communication. It should also use minimum resources to produce, store and transport the package and its contents.

Good packages not only protect the product they contain, they also protect the resources invested in producing and handling them. A good package saves food, raw materials, energy and the environment.

To that end, several companies are finding success with innovative ways to use traditional materials as well as new materials seen as lessening the impact of waste on the environment.

Milk Evolution
For mothers who are tired of cleaning up after their little ones’ clumsy attempts with family-sized packages, the new Tetra Pak Square Mini is a portion package with a straw that has been specially designed with small hands in mind.

The Tetra Brik Square Mini is the smallest package to be produced by the Tetra Pak C3/Flex filling machine. Available in 200- and 250-milliliter sizes, the Square Mini joins the Tetra Brik Family as a low-cost, logistic-friendly and unique package that promises access into new product segments, according to the company.  

Tetra Pak also has introduced a new standard of packaging material for all ambient and roll-fed chilled-liquid product packages. Even though the material is stronger, it’s 30 percent thinner and requires fewer polymers to produce. As a result, Tetra Pak will be reducing its global consumption of polymers by 50,000 tons per year, which equates to about 2,500 shipping containers annually, according to the company. Not only does this reduce the use of non-renewable resources, it also has a direct and positive impact on the environment in terms of shipping, distribution and energy usage.

The Tetra Wedge Aseptic Clear 200 S is the world’s first aseptic transparent stand-up pouch, says Giovanna Prestes Lemos, marketing and communication manager, Tetra Pak Inc., Vernon Hills, Ill. “Designed especially for kids’ on-the-go drinks, it has a unique soft and squishy feeling and see-through look, which 6- to 12-year-olds find fun and cool, according to market research in North America and Europe.”

Tetra Pak recently launched composting programs in schools throughout the nation, continuing to embody its role as a community steward while setting the standards in innovative and sustainable packaging.

“Environmental sustainability is a very important part of Tetra Pak’s way of doing business, and we’re proud to be the leader in the packaging community when it comes to closing the life cycle of the package for school milk — from trees in sustainable managed forests, to cartons, back to mulch for growing new plants,” says Jeff Kellar, vice president of strategic business development.

Dairy processors want a packaging supplier that can help them beyond the technical aspects of providing a solution, Prestes Lemos says. “Make no doubt about it, technical excellence is mandatory; this is the ante to be in the game. However, today’s processors tend to think of their suppliers as an allied network to help them innovate, reduce costs, and help them in other areas, like to build an environmental program,” she says.

“Tetra Pak routinely monitors our customer satisfaction across many functional areas to ensure we are addressing our customers’ expectations and to show continuous improvement.”

A New Crop
Seal-It Inc., a manufacturer, converter and printer of heat-shrinkable films, recently introduced with Plastic Suppliers the EarthFirst® TDO Shrink film, to its existing group of shrink films, PVC, PETG and OPS. This new film made from with NatureWorks® PLA corn-based resin, is not petroleum based and is environmentally friendly and compostable within 47 days. The film is used for tamper-evident bands, shrink labels and sleeves for multipacks.

“The TDO Shrink Film is one of the films of the future, with no dependency on oil,” says Sharon Lobel, president and chief executive officer of Seal-It, Farmingdale, N.Y.

“EarthFirst is a great addition to our family of films. Each film has its own special characteristics, which lends itself to specific projects. EarthFirst has many of the same properties as other films including excellent machineability, clarity, printability – meaning can be printed to 10 colors in rotogravure or modified flexographic — and shrinkage up to 75 percent,” Lobel says. “EarthFirst film is different in that it is made from an annually renewable resource, corn. With the addition of EarthFirst our customers, with our help can make the decision as to what film is best suited for their needs.” 

Lobel says Seal-It developed a label that looks like a stalk of corn that can be put over the container. The story is told on both sides of the label. “I think it’s a strong selling point,” she says. “Consumers feel comfortable with that. It’s a big buzz right now.”

Columbus, Ohio-based Plastic Suppliers’ addition to the EarthFirst family of sustainable films provides the converter and brand owner an environmentally friendly alternative to currently available petroleum-based shrink films. EarthFirst TDO shrink film is specifically designed for shaped containers that require high shrink percentages. The film is manufactured in 50 and 60 micron thicknesses and offers a superior surface for ink adhesion with excellent shrink characteristics, superb gloss, low haze levels, excellent scratch resistance and may be stored in temperatures up to 104 degrees with no natural aging.  

EarthFirst TDO shrink film utilizes NatureWorks PLA resin from NatureWorks LLC. Introduced three years ago, PLA is polylactide acid, a polymer made from corn dextrose. Clarinda, Iowa-based Naturally Iowa was the first dairy processor to offer organic milk in corn-based containers.

NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn., recently introduced a Smart Care program to help companies that handle the nature-based plastics through proper care and handling from converting lines to store shelves.

“The introduction of a new polymer, such as NatureWorks PLA, requires different thinking when managing through the supply chain,” says Jim Hobbs, product director for NatureWorks. “It is our goal to assist all our customers, brandowners and retailers in successfully using our nature-based plastic in their daily operations.”

Tampa, Fla.-based Polypack Inc. recently introduced a shrink wrapper designed for biodegradable film. The Bio-Wrapper was created to multipack different size and shape products with PLA film. Polypack has worked in collaboration with PLA film suppliers, to develop a biodegradable and compostable shrink film capable to be used on its automatic Bio-Wrapper shrink machine.

Deer Park, N.Y.-based Overnight Labels Inc. recently rolled out its environmentally friendly packaging and print options. Overnight Labels uses a flexographic printing process for shrink sleeves and neck bands that uses water-based inks instead of solvent-based inks that are still used in other processes, such as gravure printing.

This means that there is no problem with solvent retention. In addition, the smell that is unavoidable with solvent-based inks is non-existent in their water-based counterparts. Water-based inks do not pose the threat of migrating into the contents of a product and contain no volatile organic compounds, so they are safe for consumers and for the environment, according to the company.

The water-based inks are used exclusively in Overnight Labels’ shrink-sleeve production and in all colored printing on other available substrates. The company offers a choice of water-based inks in combination with an aqueous coating instead of ultraviolet coating. A variety of PLA substrates including PLA label film, PLA shrink film, PLA lamination film, PLA packaging film and tree-free face stock made from bamboo pulp, bagasse or sugar cane and cotton linters, can be used in place of traditional labels and films.

According to the company, PLA, PETG and OPS are considered to be more environmentally friendly and price stable than traditional petroleum-based substrates.  

Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.  

DAIRY FIELDS MAGAZINE, November 2006, p12