workers at flexible packaging plant

In our most recent blog, we discussed how sustainability is helping to drive the growth of the flexible packaging industry .

As our emphasis on sustainability continues, we will focus on how flexible packaging manufacturers help corporations meet sustainability initiatives, with a real-world example of how SigmaQ developed and produced eco-friendly packaging for a food manufacturer. 

Sustainability is becoming a prerequisite in the business world

Sustainability is more than a trend; it is a way of life. Here are some examples :

  • Nearly all the world’s largest companies publish sustainability reports and set goals. 
  • More than 2,000 companies have agreed to science-based carbon targets.
  • Banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America, have pledged from $1 trillion to $2.5 trillion to invest in climate action and sustainable development.
  • Corporations are urging suppliers and vendors to set science-based sustainability targets and, in some cases, issuing goals if they fail to do so.

So, as corporate sustainability initiatives and environmental legislation influence packaging design, more companies are using flexible packaging to reduce energy and resource consumption. Recent upstream innovations in materials such as resins have also helped reduce packaging weight. 

In fact, sustainability assessments such as this one have proven that flexibles are more sustainable than glass bottles and aluminum cans. 

Beverage Packaging Product Weight Packaging Weight Product-to-Packaging Ratio Packaging Weight per 100 g Product Energy Consumption MJ/8 oz Emissions Kg Co2 e /8 oz
Glass Bottle & Metal Cap 8 ounces
(236 g)
198.4 g 1:1 83.9 g 3.36 0.29
Aluminum Can 8 ounces
(236 g)
11.3 g 21:1 4.7 g 0.99 0.008
Stand up Flexible Pouch 6.75 ounces (199 g) 5.7 g 35:1 2.8 g 0.45 0.02

Recyclable flexible packaging 

Most flexibles are made from multiple layers of different materials, and separating those layers can be labor-intensive and time consuming. This structure process makes flexible packaging difficult to recycle. However, advancements in infrastructure and materials are helping the industry make significant progress toward expanded recyclability. According to a McKinsey report

“changes with film converters and recycling infrastructure to build recovery capability to accept polyolefin multi-substrate films, which could allow for a much larger amount of flexible packaging and other multi-material packaging to be recycled. This also involves developing and scaling more advanced recycling technologies.

“Plastic film producers, meanwhile, are pushing hard to develop mono-material (such as all-polyethylene) packaging solutions, which are fully recyclable at the end of their lifecycle and can replace today’s multi-material flexible plastic packaging that cannot be recycled with today’s processing technology. There is also substantial work under way to develop more food-safe-grade plastic films incorporating recycled content. This development will increase the use of recycled materials in the large quantities of flexible packaging that are used today for food.”

Case study: SigmaQ customizes packaging to meet manufacturer’s sustainability objectives

Problem

  • To meet an internal sustainability objective, a well-known North American food manufacturer needed recyclable flexible packaging for its traditional hot sauce.
  • The packaging would need to include a convenient design for restaurants to pair to-go orders. 

Solution

  • SigmaQ designed rollstock sachets (single-serving airtight bags) that the food manufacturer filled with sauce using automated form-fill-sealing (FFS) equipment.
  • The flexible packaging featured:
    • A mono-material polyethylene structure that would be recyclable
    • A shape that would easily synchronize with the manufacturer’s equipment
    • Easy-open functionality
    • An appearance and quality level that met or exceeded brand standards
    • A resilient barrier that retained the sauce’s distinct flavor and the chemical resistance required for this application.

Results

  • SigmaQ’s recyclable sachet design met the manufacturer’s recyclability objective.
  • Customer personnel discovered that their FFS machines could run at lower temperatures, enabling them to save significant revenue through reduced electricity usage.

Interested? Need more info?

Contact a SigmaQ Flexible Packaging Expert.

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