Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) can enhance ease-of-use and brand differentation, and also offer sustainability benefits, Sharon Derbyshire told attendees in a presentation at Pack Expo 2013's Innovation Stage. Derbyshire is industry manager of packaging with the GLS division
. The division is a leading provider of custom formulations of TPEs within PolyOne, a provider of specialized polymer materials.
TPEs have the feel and performance of rubber, but can be processed through extrusion and injection molding like other thermoplastics. They offer sustainability benefits such as the ability be reycled with other plastics, with no need for separation. "TPE over-molded caps can be recycled along with the bottle, and are compatible with municipal recycle streams," according to Derbyshire.
They can also add functionality to packaging, especially in the area of opening and dispensing when used for closures.
"Today's consumers are on the go, they are looking for packages that are easy to open and portable," Derbyshire said, "and CPGs and food companies are looking to differentiate their brands." She pointed to the example of an arthritic person "trying to get a grip on the cap of a medicine bottle to get the pain relief inside. Which brand do you think this person is more likely to buy next time: The one with the cap that's hard to remove, or the one with the TPE over-molded cap that makes it easier for them to grip and open. Is there any doubt that TPE over-molded caps improve the quality of this person's life, and also provide brand differentiation?" In addition to better grip, the latest design of over-molded caps provide more efficient stacking of bottles on store shelves, in the process eliminating the need for cartons in the case of one Bayer product, for source-reductions and less landfill waste.