Mr. Jeevaraj Pillai, Joint President Packaging at UFlex Ltd., is a Mechanical Engineer and an MBA. He has been working with UFlex for the past 22 years. He has over 34 years of experience in Packaging, covering the entire gamut of packaging technology from Pre-press and cylinder making, different types and grades of film making, to high-end conversion of flexible packaging material. He has a sound understanding of web handling, extrusion & coating technology and bag making for varied applications. He has a command on
Energy Curing Technology, Cast and Cure systems, Hot Foil Stamping on Flexibles, Hologram Embossing, Actively Modified Atmosphere Packaging Technology, thin Film Extrusion, new generation Flexi-Tubes and Diaper Film Making Technology. He has presented paper on Plastic Packaging and Environment, Application of E-beam Technology, Anti-counterfeiting options and Anti-microbial Films.
In an exclusive interview with Packaging 360, Mr.Jeevaraj Pillai, Joint President, UFlex Ltd., discusses the role of innovation being embedded in the DNA of the organization. He explains the various solutions offered from UFlex Ltd. to cater to the requirements of various end use sectors & also highlights the technology developed to deliver a sustainable packaging platform for the industry.
P 360: Please enumerate the growth plans of UFlex Ltd. to cater to the packaging requirements of the Indian market.
JP: As India’s largest flexible packaging company, our two main businesses are Packaging Films and Flexible Packaging. In India, our growth is driven by our Packaging business, for which we have expanded capex over the last four years. We have made investments in Pouching, Holography and Aseptic Liquid Packaging businesses in India. Even our allied businesses have witnessed growth. Across the globe, we have grown by leaps and bounds in Packaging Films business, which reflects in our stature and acceptance across Indian and global market leading clientele. We are expanding overseas simultaneously across Nigeria, Hungary, Poland and Russia which will add on to the company’s top line as well as bottom line in the coming years.
As a company that believes that sustainability will drive the future of Packaging Industry, sustainability is a part of our growth plans be it via technology we develop or practices we adopt. We have been the first company in India to commission washing and recycling lines of post-consumer PET bottle waste and Multi-layer plastic (MLP) waste to be converted into granules and we plan to our emulate Noida model of washing and recycling of post-consumer waste at all other packaging films’ facilities that we have, across the world.
P 360: Please elaborate the recent technology unveiled by UFlex Ltd. to achieve sustainability goals. Please enumerate the steps taken by UFlex Ltd. to support plastics waste management practices adopted by various brand owners.
JP: UFlex has always been cognizant of the fact that sustainability is the way forward and it realised quite early that the growing plastic use will lead to equal amounts of plastic waste being dumped in landfills and oceans, due to lack of waste management infrastructure. Towards this, UFlex started working on addressing this issue more than 25 years back and became the ‘first company in the world to recycle mix plastic waste’, much ahead of other developed economies, for which it earned recognition at Davos Recycle Forum in 1995 with the Best Paper Award’.
With increased consciousness by brand owners to support plastics waste management, UFlex has been working each day towards developing newer technologies to address the stock and flow issues of plastics waste such that we are able to convert this waste into valuable commodities. In year 2019, we had launched our global sustainability initiative Project Plastic Fix with a vision to keep plastic off the environment but in the circular economy by recycling and reducing plastic waste in the world. In line with this campaign, we have recently commissioned two lines in Noida for washing and recycling of post-consumer Multi-layer Plastic Waste and PET Bottles waste to be converted into granules and chips for further useful applications such as our green BOPET films with upto 100% PCR content ‘Asclepius’; and other household and industrial articles like dustbins, flower pots, road dividers and much more. This plant in Noida is aimed to mitigate the piling plastic dumps in Delhi–NCR and give these wastes a second life. For recycling of post-consumer waste MLP, the plant uses UFlex developed RELAM 250 machine, a one of its kinds recycling machine induced with a technology that makes all types of multi-layered flexible plastics (MLP) bags, carry bags etc be recycled homogeneously into granules, without separating layers of plastic and aluminium. UFlex has been working with other convertors and brand owners to adopt this technology that shall help them achieve their sustainability goals. Also the green film ‘Asclepius’ developed by UFlex R&D team helps brand owners have a packaging that is green sourced without any compromise on its attributes and create a loop economy.
To address the issue of flow of plastic waste, UFlex is going to offer to its customers its latest technology that will make plastic films bio-degradable as well recyclable. Thus, the plastic waste that remains uncollected and seeps into landfills shall become biomass at the end of its assigned life.
P360: Could you highlight the high growth areas or sectors (FMCG, F&B, Cosmetics, home care, pharmaceuticals etc.) In India for the next 5 years? How your company plans to partner with major brands to develop new applications & new markets.
JP: The onset of COVID-19 has disrupted entire world economy. COVID-19 is expected to have a lasting impact on consumer habits and its predicted that people will prefer packaged goods due to the hygiene aspect. Similarly, we can expect demand for hygiene and sanitation products increasing with consumers becoming more health conscious. At the same time, changing consumer sentiment will see less spend for certain categories like hi-premium goods and cosmetics. Having said that, it is still too early to predict anything, we will have to evaluate once situation turns normal. Though one thing that I can confirm is that all brand owners, be it FMCG, F&B or Pharmaceutical will ask for packaging designs and substrates that address hygiene and consumer-safety concerns, like minimize the possibility of the virus’s survival on the packaging surface.
Innovation is in the DNA of UFlex and we are constantly working on developing new products and technologies or improving earlier ones. So our future applications will stem from a combination of requirements from brands which we can customise whereas some will be based on our study and R&D based on need for a certain kind of packaging product. Lately, we have been approached by brand owners to cater to certain products that we were not packaging earlier for e.g. hand sanitizers and we are packaging that for our customers in FlexiTubes. Likewise, given the ongoing demand for PPE kits, we have developed one with value added features for healthcare workers.
P360: What are the innovative packaging formats / structures from UFlex Ltd. to help brand owners achieve sustainability targets?
JP: In the greater well-being of the people of this planet, Packaging Sustainability is being looked at with much interest and seriousness by manufacturers, brands and consumers alike globally. Today, Packaging is appreciated as a key source for brands to display and communicate their sustainability credentials to their consumers. Green Packaging and sustainable solutions have become a rule rather than a norm for CPGs and end-users. Cost effective solutions that provide significant environmental impact are rare in the packaging arena and brands owners are looking to work with packagers that provide these solutions as part of their sustainability roadmap. UFlex Group has been a trendsetter when it comes to sustainable innovation and our packaging formats made out of award winning green BOPET films Asclepius with upto 100% PCR content is an attestation of that.
One of our product FlexFresh’ variant called Waterless Internet Flower Packaging won the prestigious Dow’s 2018 30th Awards for Packaging Innovation and the Sustainability Awards 2018. It extends shelf life of fresh flowers with Active Modified Atmospheric Packaging(AMAP) technology.
Also, our bio-degradable packaging format clubbed with 100% Recyclable Packaging material would take our customers closer to their sustainability targets.
Then, we have the 4D Bag with Handle packaging for rice which has re-closable zipper options helping in re-usability of the pack.
There are many more but one more that I can list here is facial cleaning wipes end-sealed pouch we made for one of our clients that was even recognised by AIMCAL as Sustainability Winner for 2020 fir it its completely recyclable asymmetric nylon-polyethylene (5-micron nylon in 20-micron PE)/ reverse-printed/adhesive/60-micron special PE structure.