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Flexible packaging offers new sustainable options for liquid food producers

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer an option for any organization. Instead, it is an imperative belief that must be instilled into a company’s culture.

CSR must now be evident throughout the entire organization—product-by-product, department-by-department, and employee-by-employee. No matter the size of the organization, CSR initiatives are being integrated into today’s business models across the globe.

The commitment to CSR is validated with recent events such as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris, where during the course of two weeks, 195 countries agreed to a worldwide reduction of climate change by cutting their carbon output and keeping the global temperature increase “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). According to this BBC report, U.S. President Barack Obama said the Paris agreement “is the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”

CSR, as defined by the Business Dictionary, is “a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates.” One way companies achieve this is through their waste and pollution reduction processes.

Food manufacturers are taking note as well and are focusing on food waste. As reported in this GreenBiz article, 30 leaders from various businesses and organizations, including multinational market leaders, recently vowed to cut food waste in half during the next 15 years, essentially meeting one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to halve food waste by 2030.

According to the article, food waste and loss accounts for $940 billion in lost revenue to farmers and producers, and actively contributes to greenhouse gas emissions with unharvested or uneaten foods rotting in fields and landfills emitting methane—up to 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Some food producers are actively working to reduce their overall environmental footprint and help reduce overall waste by way of packaging—lightweight packaging to be exact.

Easy to empty lightweight packages saves space in the consumer bin and in the total waste handling process. In the image above, 25 Ecolean packages are compared to 25 other packages for liquid food.

Ecolean, a Sweden-based packaging supplier for liquid food producers, is taking a lighter approach when it comes to both the physical weight and environmental profile of its aseptic and chilled packaging solutions.

The company’s products,uses up to 50% less raw materials compared to other packaging formats, including cartons, cans,and glass bottles. An empty one-liter Ecolean aseptic package only weighs half an ounce (14.3 grams).

Ecolean is able to achieve such a lightweight and minimal packaging material by using very thin layers of polyethylene, polypropylene and barrier material. The company uses calcium carbonate, also referred to as chalk, as a mineral filler (up to 40% by weight) to further reduce the use of plastics and add stiffness to the material. This creates a self-standing, yet flexible, package that lays completely flat when empty. No aluminum is used at all, allowing the package to be recycled and used to make other plastic materials, or recovered as energy by incineration.

Because Ecolean’s flexible packages can be completely flattened, the company is also helping to reduce food waste. “When an Ecolean package is seen as empty, consumers can simply roll the package up to squeeze out every last drop of product,” said Anna Annerås, marketing director, Ecolean Group. “Ecolean’s packaging empties with a minimum of product left, while other packages on the market often leave up to 10% of unused viscous product to waste.”

Anna Annerås, marketing director Ecolean Group.

“This combined with an overall lower environmental footprint and reduced transportation impact, makes Ecolean one of the most resource-effective packages throughout its lifecycle,” Annerås said. “Brand owners using lightweight packaging are reporting an improved environmental profile, and company and brand image among other benefits. Ecolean completely supports the global demand of a resource-saving society, and we’re proud to offer liquid food producers a lighter approach to packaging—in more ways than one.”

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