November 17, 2020
When it comes to sustainable packaging, source reduction is a key factor in minimizing environmental impact. Reduce is the first of the 3Rs of sustainability, and it’s all about creating less waste.
Downgauged labels and packaging can greatly reduce natural resource dependence, from raw material extraction and processing, through manufacturing phases and all the related transportation steps.
Outlook Group has a legacy in leading its customers to reduce material consumption as a first step in being more sustainable. We help customers validate and choose thin film PS label structures—both facestock and release liner—to reap benefits including cost savings, lower GHG emissions, more efficient supply chains, and increased uptime on filling lines.
Let’s evaluate an example with a product that uses 120 million labels per year on plastic bottles. The current material specification is a paper facestock, standard permanent adhesive, and a thin film 1.2mil PET liner. With the 1.2mil thick PET liner, the customer accrues approximately 97,500 lbs. of waste each year. We are in the process of trialing and validating a .92mil thick liner that will reduce liner waste by 23,700 lbs. each year. Another customer of ours avoids almost 1 million lbs. of liner waste each year by using thin film liner vs. paper.
On top of decreasing the amount of solid waste, we estimate that our customer, by moving to the downgauged thin film label structure, will:
- Reduce raw material consumption by 14%
- Reduce water usage in gallons by 2%
- Reduce energy usage in kWh by 8%
- Reduce GHG emissions in tons of CO2 by 4%
Moreover, there are additional rewards to moving away from paper liner into thinner plastic liners: More labels on each roll, which reduces the number of changeovers required and gives operators more time to improve quality output across their equipment. Also, simply increasing the volume of labels in a single roll leads to a positive environmental ‘domino effect’—more labels on each pallet, and more labels in each shipment means more product getting to our customers, faster, with less fuel and with fewer emissions.
In all of the market segments we supply, we believe that less is better, and we strategize to reduce material consumption. Pouches too can be downgauged to reap source reduction and cost benefits while maintaining performance and barrier properties required by customers and the products put into the pouches. We found opportunity to minimize the environmental footprint of one customer’s pouches by reducing the construction from 48ga PET/4.5mil LLDPE to a 200ga PCR PET/60ga PCR PET. The additional benefit of transitioning to this thinner material construction is our ability to incorporate PCR content. We also work with our folding carton clients to downgauge board material whenever possible while maintaining structural integrity and fit for purpose objectives.
In the midst of managing through this global pandemic with supply chain challenges at every turn, it makes great sense to move with Outlook Group now to downgauged packaging materials in order to realize more with less.
While the industry is currently largely focused on recycling compatibility and the Circular Economy, the positive impacts found in material reduction are easy and REAL, and I encourage readers to use Outlook Group’s source reduction calculator to validate the opportunity for the benefit of your business.