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Flexo Sustainable : Winter 2008
The guidelines ask packaging designers to re-define the idea of a quality design. It suggests that packaging designers typically consider 1. Technical Performance; 2. Cost; 3. Appearance and 4. Regulatory Compliance (where applicable). The Guidelines ask designers to expand those requirements to include 5. Optimizing Resources; 6. Responsible Sourcing; 7. Material Health ; and 8. Resource Recovery Considerations for building sustainable packaging involve what the guidelines refer to as a “cradle to cradle” model. This concept depicts materials and energy as items to be metabolized through consumption and disposal. The more sustainable a package, the more usable and re-usable it is, as well as more energy efficient it is to produce. StrategieS for SuStainability It is important to understand the flow of packaging materials. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the packaging lifecycle. Production of sustainable products requires consideration of every aspect in the chain. SPC’s guidelines offer strategies that positively affect one or more aspects of the lifecycle. In most cases, the ideas outlined in the guide are intended for a package designer working for a CPC. The descriptions that follow are aimed at preparing flexographic printers/converters for the intentions of sustainable-thinking customers. Source Reduction. Good packaging design produces the least amount of materials entering the waste stream. Source reduction, according to the guidelines, “deals with both the resource intensity associated with materials throughout their lifecycle as well as the amount of materials used in a single packaging design.” Printers/ converters can assist customers by offering packaging materials that have a lower impact on product processes. They can also choose suppliers who implement environmentally conscience practices, as well as committing themselves to such green policies (see below). Use Recycled Materials. Corrugated printers/converters are figure 1. This diagram reflects the flow of packaging materials from sourcing to manufacture to packaging manufacture to use and to potential end-of-life fates. © 2006 GreenBlue. likely familiar with this step, particularly as it pertains to recycled linerboard (See FLEXO February 2007, page 66). According to SPC’s document, production of recycled materials often consumes less energy than virgin raw materials. In addition, using recycled content helps support and encourage the recovery and reclamation industries. Printers/converters should maintain dependable sources of recycled materials. Even if a customer does not specify recycled substrates, proactive partners ought to consider if the technical requirements of a package can be met with recycled content. When recycled matter is not sufficient, SPC offers renewable virgin materials from sustainably managed sources. The guide defines these materials as that which is “grown and harvested using management practices that maintain the productivity of natural systems without compromising the capacity for future generations.” This mainly applies to paper and pulp resources, but is also possible through sustainable agricultural practices for certain types of films, such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is made from corn. Environmental Best Practices.Many flexographic packaging pro- figure 2. The lifecycle icon explained. © 2006 GreenBlue. ducers are already active in recycling internal waste and proper handling of hazardous materials. CPCs who are striving for sustainability will be more scrutinizing of their suppliers’ environmental policies. SPC recommends that printers/converters comply with all related reporting requirements, create internal goals for minimizing the use and production of hazardous materials, and employ closed-loop systems for recovering process chemicals, water and energy. Know the Chemistry. Printers/converters to the food and beverage industry understand the importance of knowing the chemistry of the materials used to create a package. Flexographers should be monitoring material bans, restricted substance lists, and legislation prohibiting substances in packaging. Proactive partners ought to keep a list of chemicals that will be used in a given package down to 100 ppm, ready to present at a customer’s request. www. f le xomag.com WINTER 2008 Sustainable FLEXO 11