Good packaging protects, preserves and helps differentiate products.

Packages protect, preserve and support the marketing of most consumer products. That’s why so many industries place high demands on the technical characteristics, quality and feel of the packaging they choose. Customers may be justifiably concerned about all the packaging that they carry home only to toss in the trash bin.

But new developments continue in the field as sustainability issues gain in importance, leading to a clear trend towards reducing the unnecessary use of materials—and the size of the “garbage mountain.” One approach is the use of “mono-materials,” in which packaging is made from a single constituent to facilitate waste separation and recycling. Another is a focus on biodegradable packaging materials that break down relatively quickly and cleanly.

The carbon footprint of packaging can be reduced by cutting the use of materials made from fossil fuels—primarily plastics. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents to a recent Swedish consumer survey say they would choose paper over plastic packaging containing the same product.

Custom extrusion creates barrier layers and seals.

The Lund-based company Flextrus received the 2009 Packaging Innovation Award for its Flextrus Paper Lite®, which is based on FibreForm paper from Billerud, a leading Swedish forest products company that shared the award with Flextrus. The The Packaging Industry Awards cited reduced material use, lower carbon emissions, recyclability and good ductility in honoring the manufacturers.

FibreForm and Paper Lite®

Billerud FibreForm is a high-ductility, fluid-resistant, paper-based material that, unlike other paper packaging materials, can be molded in standard thermoforming equipment. FibreForm can stretch up to 20 percent, giving designers new ways to develop innovative packaging and exciting forms. FibreForm is made from paper bearing the Forest Stewardship Council eco-label, and the material is compostable and recyclable. Flextrus PaperLite® uses FibreForm in an extrusion process to create custom types of protective barrier layers and seals. PaperLite® is also certified by the FSC.

Food packaging

Packaging for the GreenHeart concept phone from SonyEricsson is made of renewable materials..

The British grocery chain Marks & Spencer has recently launched a line of sliced meats in a paper-based packaging from Flextrus. The package provides the same level of product protection as conventional plastic trays, but has several environmental benefits. Billerud manufactures the paper raw material, while Flextrus adds printing, the barrier layer and seals. The barrier is extruded in thin layers, resulting in lower material consumption, and the advanced flexographic printing provides environmental benefits through energy efficiency and reduced material consumption. The final consumer product is manufactured by Tulip UK in the company’s existing thermoforming machines.

“Marks & Spencer is pleased, as first to market, to have launched this packaging innovation with Flextrus. The packaging gives our ham a high-quality appearance and is made from environmentally certified paper,” said Mark Caul, Packaging Technologist at Marks & Spencer.

And there is another Paper-Lite® package on supermarket shelves in Britain. Kerry Foods has is differentiating its food products by keeping the paper’s white surface and opting for simple printing. In addition to the environmental benefits, the packaging reinforces the message that the product is natural and uses no artificial additives.

The GreenHeart mobile phone

PaperLite® has been selected to package of SonyEricsson’s new concept phone, the biodegradable GreenHeart, which features environmental innovations in every detail. The case is made from recycled plastic and coated with solvent-free paint, the phone features a special energy-saving display, and an online manual cuts paper consumption. FibreForm’s stretchability is essential in the elegant design of the leaf-shaped clamshell packaging, which is also 20 percent lighter than a traditional corrugated cardboard box.

Article published in April 2011