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A view of sustainable packaging from packaging R&D

George Hill is senior research principal, Packaging R&D, at lawn and garden products manufacturer The Scotts Co., Marysville, OH. He talks about some trends he’s seeing in packaging.
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What are you seeing on the sustainable packaging front?

George Hill
We’re taking an approach to sustainability that encompasses more than just packaging. On our fertilizer bags, for example, we now communicate that if you use our fertilizer you won’t have to water as much. We’re also looking at lightweighting and using post-consumer resin where we can in some of our rigid packaging.

Do you ever worry about just how light you can make a plastic container before top-load issues become a problem?
We don’t worry too much about top-load strength because we use corrugated dividers in our cases to support the weight. Dealing with chemicals as we do, we don’t want leaks anywhere, at home, at retail, or in our own warehouses. Especially at retail. With the strength we get from the dividers, we think we may have some opportunities for lightweighting of the primary packages.

Any material substitutions on the way?
We’re looking at moving out of HDPE to PET on some containers. It’s a better chemical barrier than HDPE. Our main bug killer is Home Defense, and we have to fluorinate the extrusion blown HDPE bottles to give us like a Teflon coating inside. If you compare PET bottles to fluorinated HDPE, the PET is cheaper.

This would mean transitioning away from extrusion blow molding and toward injection molded preforms that are reheated and blown?
Yes. This will be for Ortho 24-oz liquid in the 2011 season. Our retailer partners have seen what this will look like.

What are you hearing about retail-ready packaging?
We’ve been using tear tape cases for nearly ten years. We started with a double strand, one between the plies of corrugated and one on the inside, but now we are in single-strand tear tape. Walmart had a big push for those some time back. But now it’s mostly Lowes and Home Depot. Walmart decases and puts primary packages on shelves.

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