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Flexibles promote 'enviropackaging'

Refill packs for Tide and Cheer laundry detergent garnered FPA's "Green Globe" award for 1994. Three other FPA winners were also big contributors to source reduction efforts.
FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy

Advances in flexible packaging materials continue to provide valuable options to converters and packagers seeking to source reduce. Improvements in product protection barrier characteristics print surfaces and in some cases economics are causing companies to utilize "enviropackaging" in applications that go far beyond the "green" agenda. Four converters were cited by the Flexible Packaging Association Washington DC for outstanding achievements for specific packaging applications that are particularly noteworthy for their contributions to source reduction. They include: * Paramount Packaging for Procter & Gamble's Tide and Cheer refill bags. * James River for Heinz Pet Products' 9-Lives Meaty Morsels(TM) dry cat food resealable stand-up pouches. * Graphic Packaging for Andrew Jergens' Jergens® lotion refill pouches. * Printpack for Ben & Jerry's® Peace Pop(TM) ice cream bar bag. Achieving source reduction At a time when some firms are retreating from proactive environmental policies Procter & Gamble Co. Cincinnati OH is still solidly behind its flexible refill packages for Tide and Cheer granulated laundry detergents (see PW April '94 p. 1). The package style (1) won FPA's Green Globe award for converter Paramount Packaging Corp. (Chalfont PA). Billed as refills that can replenish previously purchased cartons the bags are constructed of 4.5 mils of a three-layer laminate. Virgin layers of low-density polyethylene surround a core layer of recycled high-density PE. One of the webs is tinted white to provide a good background for the heavy coverage of the bright fluorescent inks. The outer ply is reverse-printed by gravure in five or six colors to trap the inks and prevent scuffing or abrasion. The package's "green" credentials come in two forms: by weight the bag weighs 80% less than the carton and the bag material incorporates 25% post-consumer recycled content. So not only does the package score high in source reduction but it also meets the 25% PCR content that is being required in some states. Paramount is most proud of developing the material and for discovering methods to print the bold fluorescent graphics says the converter's Harry Perriatt. The colors and look of the bags needed to match those of the products in paperboard and in plastic bottles. The material is supplied to P&G in roll form and "specialized equipment" is used to make and fill the gusset-bottom bags. The bags contain 9.5 lb or more of granular detergent. When filled the bags produce a tight square-shaped package for easy display. "So far as P&G is concerned we're still committed to reducing solid waste in the environment and the consumers are telling us the refill bags are a good idea" says P&G's Anthony Burns. He declines to identify where or how they're filled. The bags are used for Tide Tide with Bleach and Cheer with Color Guard. "The marketplace has responded very well to this package" the P&G spokesman concluded. Resealability Heinz Pet Products Newport KY an affiliate of H.J. Heinz Co. hopes cat owners will soon be purring about its new resealable stand-up pouches of 9 Lives Meaty Morsels dry cat food (2). Introduced to test markets in the Southeast in October '94 the test is now expanding northward throughout the region. The beef-and-chicken-flavored product is sold in 1- and 3-lb pouches. Also available is a shrink-wrapped "buy one get one free" pair of 1-lb packs. James River (Milford OH) prints and laminates the approximately 5-mil structure which includes 48-ga polyester and white opaque linear low-density polyethylene joined by an extrusion of LDPE. James River sends rollstock to Minigrip/Zip-Pak (Manteno IL). The ITW company applies the zipper to the rollstock and then makes the flat-bottomed pouches. Heinz tells PW that it intends to use automatic horizontal form/fill/seal machinery and apply zippers in line when volume justifies machinery purchases. The zippered stand-up pouch is uncommon in the pet food market. To promote the pouch's distinctive resealable convenience Heinz uses a bold yellow banner that stretches across the front panel of the pouch along the zipper at the top. Within the banner is blue-colored copy that reads "New! Resealable for Freshness!" Arrows direct the user where to tear open the pouch. The same copy appears at the bottom of the pouch though without tear arrows or zipper. James River reverse-rotogra-vure-prints the 48-ga outer polyester in eight colors to help the package "pop" on store shelves. Distinctive colors and vertical stripes of gold metallic ink make the package a handsome one. but the pouch is more than just another pretty facing. "We chose this structure for its consumer convenience and barrier properties and because it represents about a 70-percent reduction in weight compared to folding cartons we use with other dry cat food products" explains Heinz's communications coordinator Laura Young. Compared with the 22-pt clay-coated recycled newsboard Heinz uses on some of its dry cat food products the new pouch "maintains a consistent level of aroma and product crunchiness" says Young. "The cat food tends to conform to the environment and can either get too dry or become soggy. The pouch provides considerably better moisture barrier than the carton to better maintain freshness." The structure also provides grease resistance and its hermetic seal reduces insect infestation that can be problematic to pet foods. "We've worked with Heinz in the past on folding cartons but this is the first time we've worked with them on a flexible package" notes James Guse James River's business development manager for pet foods. "If you look at many pet food packages they use folding cartons or self-opening sacks. Those are not hermetically sealed like this pouch which maintains product equilibrium provides resealability and gives the user spill-proof advantages." Source-reduced refills When Cincinnati OH-based Andrew Jergens introduced its stand-up refill pouch for hand lotion in 1992 it promoted the pouch's 75% reduction in package weight compared to the primary package a cylindrical HDPE bottle holding 10 oz of product. Now the pouch itself (3) has been further source-reduced. Both Andrew Jergens and current pouch converter Graphic Packaging (Wayne PA) are guarded when it comes to revealing the precise structures for either the old or the new pouch. What they do say is that the former 7.5-mil pouch comprised polyester and low-density polyethylene. It weighed 11.28 g and had a 9.56-lb puncture resistance. The current 6.5-mil pouch weighs only 10.29 g and offers a 10.4-lb puncture resistance. The original pouch was produced in Israel and sold to Jergens via a broker network. "We had to go through two or three sources to get to the converter in Israel" laments Sharon Dalton senior buyer for Jergens. "Communica-tion air freight charges turnaround time and not knowing when we were going to get materials made it very difficult for us. And there were problems with the structure itself." Graphic Packaging which had converted soap bar wraps and other materials for Andrew Jergens for many years was given the opportunity to solve the hand lotion pouch dilemma. "They offered us one-stop shopping in that they could not only convert the material with the appropriate barriers but they could also coordinate to have outside vendors handle pouch forming and filling functions" Dalton says. "Plus they're only about 30 miles down the road from us." "There were two major concerns Jergens had with the original structure" says Don James GP's division manager marketing. "One had to do with the chemicals in the lotion reacting with the pouch material and yellowing and discoloring it. The second was product weight loss caused by insufficient barrier properties of the structure." The new multilayer pouch structure includes nylon and other materials to create a chemical barrier web that prevents the product from discoloring the pouch and permeating to the outside of the pouch. The new pouches not only satisfy these structural problems they also "address ease of use for consumers" notes John Gier Jergen's supervisor of packaging development. "It is easy to handle which was a key concern to us and it allows easy pouring. We've also rounded the four corners to eliminate the 90-degree sharp edges that we had on the previous pouch." On top of these benefits Dalton says are financial gains. "By not having to pay air freight charges to and from Israel we save about $15 a year" she says. "We've also saved $40 in material costs with the new pouch structure." GP reverse-rotogravure-prints an outer polyester layer prior to sending the material through separate adhesive- and coextrusion-lamination stations on its Black Clawson (Fulton NY) laminat-ing/coextrusion line in Franklin OH. GP ships rollstock to pouch maker Riley & Geehr (Evanston IL) which runs the printed rollstock on a stand-up pouch machine that folds and cuts the material into the finished 4.375" x 9.05" pouch. The firm also machine-applies an adhesive strip to the back of the pouch which gives the consumer a resealing option. Next the stacked pouches are sent to contract packager Tiro Industries (Minneapolis MN). Tiro compounds the chemicals into the specific hand lotion formulas then fills and heat-seals them on customized machinery at speeds averaging 100 ppm. Andrew Jergens sells four hand lotion formulas in the upgraded stand-up refill pouches all in the 12.5-oz size. They are sold nationwide through mass merchandising drug and food retail outlets for approximately $2.60. Enhanced bag structure By eliminating a folding carton for its Peace Pop ice cream and yogurt bars (4) Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. Waterbury VT is reducing its use of paperboard by 165 tons each year. "We used to package our Peace Pops in a paper/polyethylene structure" explains packaging manager Michael Brink. "We then put each bagged bar into a folding carton. The 165-ton-per-year figure is simply the result of taking the folding carton weight times the projected annual 1994 sales." What enabled Ben & Jerry's to make this change in early 1994 was an approximately 2-mil structure from Printpack (Atlanta GA). The converter's Rhinelander WI plant reverse-prints flexographically 48-ga polyester in seven or eight colors then adhesive-laminates that to a 1.5-mil coextrusion layer of DuPont Surlyn® and white opaque low-density polyethylene. Rollstock is shipped to Ben & Jerry's for horizontal form/fill/heat-sealing on a machine from Doboy (New Richmond WI). "The film is very sophisticated and is designed expressly for this product" says Brink. "The reverse printing on the polyester gives our superpremium product an excellent look and allows us to sell in an alternative way without a carton." Eliminating the carton isn't the only "green" aspect to the packaging for Peace Pops. Ben & Jerry's has also reduced packaging weight in its secondary packaging. In the past 12 individually cartoned bars were placed in a display carton. Two display cartons were then packed into an outer corrugated shipper to make up a 24-pack case. "We essentially took the shipper and display carton and merged it into one E-flute corrugated shipper that holds 24 bagged bars " notes Brink. "That uses less material though we really haven't determined by how much." Brink says Ben & Jerry's "is enjoying some savings from using less packaging material but economics were not the primary driver of our change. Using less material continues to gain importance in this country and that was a key consideration in changing to the new wrap and eliminating the folding carton in the Spring of '94." Graphics promote this source reduction on each of the five 3.7-fl oz offerings of ice cream or frozen yogurt. On the front panel beside an appealing photo of the bar is a rectangle that tells consumers "No Box = Less Trash." The back panel describes the advantages of source reduction by the company's switch which it says "reduces waste by over 11 million boxes in one year's time. That reduces the amount of weight going into a landfill by 165 tons!" Besides bolder brighter graphics the new structure provides improved barrier properties for the ice cream compared with the prior paper/PE which was between 3.0 and 3.5 mils thick. Asked if eliminating the carton and using a thinner structure poses shipping concerns Brink responds "What we've learned is that since the bars are enrobed in a thick chocolate coating anyway the loss of the carton appears not to have caused any additional transit damage. Not only that but the structure gives us a much better printing surface as well as enhanced moisture and aroma barrier characteristics."

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