Industry Trend The Transformation to Sustainable Food Packaging
Food packaging is one area where plastic is used in abundance as it keeps food fresh for a longer period of time, is cost effective and flexible in nature. With the plastic menace looming over us, it’s time to switch to more eco-friendly materials which deliver more sustainable food packaging options but what does this mean for packaging machine manufacturers in the food sector? Read on to find out…
Plastic is a growing threat to us as it impacts the environment, land and marine species as well as human beings. Active measures are now ongoing to reduce or eliminate the use of plastics across various industries including the food packaging industry. A new report by the UN Environment Programme states that plastic pollution could reduce by 80 % by 2040 if countries and companies make deep policy and market shifts using existing technologies and the food packaging sector aims to do just that.
Demand for sustainable food packaging on the rise
The demand for sustainable packaging materials is growing. Headquartered in Italy, the industrial and packaging solutions expert Coesia shares that its customers are pushed by increasingly stringent legislation, especially in Europe, in terms of sustainability and recyclability of packaging. They are also driven by their own customers who are increasingly attentive to sustainability and climate change - with consequences on their own purchasing habits. Choosing one brand over another due to the sustainability profile of their packages is not uncommon at all.
Adding to this, Marco Nese, Product Manager HFFS, Ima Ilapak says, “End users are increasingly environmentally conscious and focused to safeguarding the planet - consequently food production companies are adapting their offer to market demands, both from the point of view of the product and the packaging. This process also involves the packaging industry which is moving in this direction by proposing recyclable and sustainable wrapping materials such as paper-based, compostable and mono plastic films.”
Eco-friendly packaging solutions
In this background, the food packaging industry is exploring the use of various eco-friendly materials and this change has also led to ripple effects in the sector with machine manufacturers now offering new and enhanced solutions that are capable of handling numerous sustainable materials for food packaging.
For instance, Ima Ilapak has made an industry breakthrough, launching the world’s first variable geometry flow wrapper. The revolutionary Delta Of-360 X is capable of running any packaging films, from paper-based films to complex laminates and recyclable mono-polymer films, with changeovers effected simply by pressing a button on the machine’s HMI. At a time when the future direction of sustainable packaging is fluid and uncertain, this HFFS solution gives manufacturers and packers total flexibility to switch easily between different substrates - whether they already exist or have yet to be developed, shares the firm.
The Delta Of-360 X incorporates a new universal patented folding box system that prevents paper films from tearing or microbreaking whilst providing the precision control that plastic films require during the forming operation. Ima Ilapak has also built three different longitudinal sealing technologies into the Delta Of-360 X. Users can choose from a heated roller, a linear sealing bar and ultrasonics, depending on the characteristics of the material they are running at any given time, opines the company.
Nese mentions, “The Delta Of-360 X is a machine for companies who want to explore next generation films and want to be poised to convert to new materials as they emerge. As the name suggests, this flow wrapper delivers 360-degree flexibility. Effectively, it gives users access to the full suite of flow wrapping technologies within Ima Ilapak’s portfolio and the ability to switch between them via smart, tool-less and fast changeovers.”
Another solution is GEA’s Powerpak Plus thermoforming packaging machine which is equipped with the Powerpak Plus technology. The solution provides a paper-based packaging alternative and is used for a variety of packaging solutions such as handling protection, vacuum, MAP and shrink packaging. The innovation’s packaging option is made from a moldable paper composite consisting of more than 80 percent paper and a residual amount of plastic for features that deliver barrier properties, shares the company’s press release.
It adds that the key advantage of GEA’s Powerpak Plus thermoforming packaging machine lies in its motor-driven unwinding systems for the top and bottom films. Both unwinding systems are synchronized with the machine’s advancing cycle. This means that only minimal force is applied to the paper solution and the top film, which are unwound in a controlled and uniform manner. In addition, the membrane sealing system ensures tight and even seals. That’s not all, to dispose the packaging for the purpose of recycling, one can easily separate the paper from the thin plastic film on top. For this, the firm has integrated a device for punching peel corners into the thermoformer’s molding tool, mentions the release.
The Volpak SI-280 HFFS Pouching Machine features options to manage sustainable films. The solution is available on Coesia’s Integrated Pouch-In-Box Line which is an innovative turnkey pouching system and is engineered with multiple features to pouch, carton, and load products onto pallets effortlessly and efficiently. The line is composed of the Volpak SI-280 HFFS Pouching Machine, a R.A Jones Criterion CLI-100 with the new intelligent, flexible transfer system (iFTS), and a Flexlink RC12 Collaborative Robot Palletizer.
According to the firm, the pouching and the cartoning machines both feature Optimate and Performate, two of Coesia's Digital platforms, making the operator's experience with the line consistent from one machine to the next and allowing for real-time remote control over production data. By integrating these technologies, manufacturers utilizing this system will experience less downtime, easier and quicker changeovers, and a more flexible line for packaging a wider range of pouch product configurations.
Sustainability is the new change
As the demand for more sustainable food packaging grows across the globe, packaging machine manufacturers will transform and incorporate new features to its existing solutions to meet customer requirements. However, within the current scenario, it looks like this is just the start of a green revolution in the food packaging industry and if one doesn’t adapt to it, they will become obsolete.