From cans to bottles to aseptic containers, beverage packaging is attracting attention for more than how it looks these days. Consumers, the media, Wal-Mart, other retailers and grocery chains, state legislators and whole countries are examining what a product is packaged in. Regardless if the issue is health, safety, the environment or aesthetics, packaging material is becoming an even greater consideration.
“Consumers are dramatically changing their views on packaging,” says Laurens van de Vijver, vice president of marketing and product management at Tetra Pak Inc., Vernon Hills, Ill.
A couple of years ago packaging was all about making a product more convenient for consumers, he explains. Today, consumers are more interested in packaging solutions that secure the basic needs for packaging a product, which is a certain amount of convenience, safety of the packaging and what’s inside, but basically about simplicity, van de Vijver says.
“We will never get rid of packaging, because it’s really a part of our daily lives,” he says. “… But it’s really about consumers wanting to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
Today, packaging innovations are about providing solutions. Social and environmental responsibilities, such as recycling, using less material and carbon footprints are at the forefront of packaging companies’ minds.
“Reducing the carbon footprints is a way of trying to work with your supply of natural resources and raw materials to be closer to the factory site as well as the deliverables of the packaging to the product manufacturer,” says Joe Cattaneo, president of the Glass Packaging Institute.
Additionally, manufacturers are under a lot of pressure to become sustainable, and sustainable products and companies are appealing to eco-conscious consumers.
“We think it’s great for glass,” says Kevin Stevens, vice president of sales and marketing for the North American division of O-I, Perrysburg, Ohio. “It’s great for the environment. It’s great for consumers to become aware of this sustainability effort.”
Sustainability is also having a beneficial impact on the use of PET in the beverage industry, says Thomas Henning, director of marketing at Constar International Inc., Philadelphia. “PET packaging is highly recyclable with a high recovery value, lighter weight resulting in cost savings, and a leaner environmental footprint enables more efficient transportation of products with less secondary packaging,” he says.
Recycling plays a significant role in a package’s sustainability effort. For example, using recycled glass in the manufacturing process saves on raw materials by reusing the glass and on energy costs because glass doesn’t need to be heated to as high a temperature the second time. “The more recycled glass we get back, [and] we can put back into the glass process, the more energy we can save in making the glass bottle,” Stevens says.
Additionally, glass does not need to be treated with chemicals before a bottle is melted down and used again. “You can take one glass bottle and melt it down and turn it into another glass bottle infinitely,” Stevens says.
The aluminum can is also recyclable indefinitely, and has a recycling rate of 52 percent, says Jennifer Hoover, manager of marketing communications for Ball Packaging Products Americas, Broomfield, Colo. “Aluminum’s recycling rate helps reduce the energy used to produce U.S. aluminum by nearly 50 percent,” she says. “The typical can also comprises more than 40 percent recycled aluminum.”
Currently, Exal Corp., Youngstown, Ohio, uses 53 percent post-consumer recycled content in the coil for its C2C process, a technology that turns coil into cans. But that fluctuates with the number of cans returned for recycling, says Michael Clark, Exal’s director of sales for beverage and C2C.
For PET, more than 1 billion pounds of PET bottles put into the recycling stream were sold in the United States in 2005, 42 percent of which were exported, Hoover says.
“While the reclamation capacity in the U.S. is almost 1 billion pounds, there continues to be considerable demand for this material outside U.S. borders,” she says. “The 2005 PET recycling rate was 23.1 percent, a number that could be much higher considering the economic and environmental savings of using recycled PET feedstock that continues to keep this industry thriving and demanding more recycled PET bottles.”
More than 56 million people in the United States live in communities where they can recycle aseptic carton packages, and that number increases every year, van de Vijver says. “We are committed to continue to invest in all kinds of ways to increase the recycling rates.”