Held for the first time virtually, Plastics News’ Plastics Caps and Closures 2020 event offered a programme of informative and engaging presentations spread out over this past week. One of the keynote speakers this year was Brian Hunt, executive vice president of consumer packaging at Berry Global, who, after his presentation, took the time to talk to Sustainable Plastics about, among others, innovation and Berry’s announcement of a new portfolio of new recycled content solutions.
The new portfolio, said Hunt, will be comprised of over 30 items – ‘that’s what I mean by a portfolio’ - containing a minimum of 25% post-consumer recycled material, and is due to be launched this month. The items include a range of different types of products, including hinged flip-top closures. Berry is working with two partners to ensure a consistent and reliable supply of raw material based on post-consumer waste. Both supply materials from kerb-side recycling, the sole difference being the melt-flow. “It’s two versions of the post-consumer - mechanically - recycled material, which are essentially the same grade but with a different melt flow.”
While initially the portfolio will be available in black only, by next year the company is confident that it will be able to offer the products in colour, as well. “Which I think is going to be important for the broader market acceptance,” Hunt noted.
The recycled-content portfolio fits within the company’s ambition to focus on increasing the sustainability of packaging: “Via lightweighting, via the institution of post-consumer material, and by creating partnerships with closed-loop systems,” said Hunt.
Among the most important issues in the plastics industry are the need to reduce plastic waste and, more generally, greenhouse gas emissions, he added.
Ensuring recyclability is key. “Having products all made from a single material, is more conducive to recyclability; establishing closed loop systems so we can get more post-consumer material back into the stream, and the recognition of the value of that material across the value chain - to me, those are all inextricably linked and comprise the most important problem to solve in the caps and closure space,” he said.
“For me, that’s pretty straightforward: the more recyclable product we put into the market, the greater the opportunity to reintroduce that post-consumer usage - which is obviously where those closed-loop systems come in. But the reduction of emissions is an important element as well – so that when we think at Berry about our efforts, we are focused on both of those things: the reduction of plastic waste and the reduction of greenhouse gasses.”
Lightweighting addresses both these issues. But how light can the industry go?
Obviously, that depends on the nature of the required functionality, but, said, Hunt: “In my keynote, I challenged the group – I said that as an industry, we should target a reduction of 10% for caps and closures over the next two years. That’s doable. One thing that is fair to say: plastic is a robust and versatile substrate and on occasion, we surprise ourselves about how much weight we can take out of a package and still maintain the intended functionality for the intended application.”
He described, for example, how Berry had launched a family of wide-mouth deep skirt closures – traditional continuous thread closures – that were as much as 25% lighter than the previous design. The new designs allows for more parts in a box, which means more parts in a truck, and hence less transportation, less fuel, lower emissions for the same number of parts to be shipped to the customer.