Sustainable packaging is becoming a priority for both brands and consumers - more now than ever before. It is clear that the term sustainable packaging today is more than a buzzword. Implementing sustainable packaging into a brand’s operations is no longer an option – it is a necessity. COVID-19 Pandemic has added a new dimension of safety and hygiene in addition to sustainability. It is against this background, E-Konnect Knowledge Foundation, Trayak & Packaging 360 came together to organize a three-day virtual masterclass on the subject. The participants were drawn from Converting sector, brand owners & additive masterbatch suppliers.

Objective of the Masterclass
The main objectives of the masterclass were to impart fundamentals of sustainable packaging, update participants on latest trends and regulations in sustainable packaging, use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool specially designed for packaging – COMPASS. Success stories from brand owners and guidance from certifying agencies aims to provide a roadmap to brand owners & all stakeholders in the supply chain.

Highlights of Day 1
The first day opened with an introduction to the basic definition of sustainable packaging by Dr. Prasad Modak. He alluded to the finer points of the definition as per Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) USA. He explained in detail the concepts od D4S & EPR & the role of sustainability interventions in the packaging supply chain. He also cited numerous examples of global majors in their pursuit of sustainability goals.

On Day 1 the participants shared two words that best describe “Sustainable Packaging”  and what it meant to them through a word cloud.

The participants shared their expectations from the Masterclass – LCA and Design for Sustainability emerged as the key interest areas.

Ms. Sunanda Kadam, Business Unit Manager Intertek spoke on Food Contact Regulations & Sustainable Packaging.  She alluded to PLASTIC MATERIALS- EU 10/2011- RECENT AMENDMENT. Regulation (EU) 2020/1245 to amend Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 specifies a date to enter into force of 23 September 2020.
Plastic materials and articles complying with Regulation (EU) No 10/2011 as applicable before the entry into force of this Regulation, and which were first placed on the market before March 23, 2021, may continue to be placed on the market until September 23, 2022 and remain on the market until the exhaustion of stocks. Applicable in all Member States.

Sunanda Also Addressed the Issue of Recycled Plastic in Food Contact Application. She explained the importance of Eu Legislation- Applicable to Recycled materials.
She identified potential risks in the recycled stream as

Input stream
1. Non-food contact materials
2. Misuse by consumers
3. Presence of different plastics or non-plastic materials
Recycling process
1. Detergents
Degradation products
1. Polymer breakdown
2. dditives

She also dwelt on the various sustainability protocols & certification tools required to make claims.

In the third presentation of the day, Dr. Modak spoke on the various challenges posed by the current pandemic, but also reiterated that opportunities for innovations have also opened up. The key trends which are noteworthy are Emphasis on hygiene, E commerce compatible packaging, Rapidly changing consumer preferences and perception towards packaging, Cost pressures and unevenness across regions, Digitalization of the value chain.

The participants had a divided opinion on why Sustainable Packaging in not practiced – ranging from regulatory to cost and functionality concerns.

Participants were divided into 3 groups & were invited to share their thoughts on the present situation, challenges thrown & way forward.

Highlights of day 2
The second day was devoted exclusively to develop understanding of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) & Calculate environmental impacts of a package from: Material Sourcing -Manufacturing -Distribution -Use -Disposal. Prashant Jagtap, Founder of Trayak explained the various aspects of this concept in detail. Jay Mehta of EMC gave a presentation & live demo on How to exploit the features of COMPASS software & arrive at alternatives & compare it with present packaging system. Following this, participants were provided with problem statements & asked to arrive at alternatives based on impact assessment. Use Comparative Packaging Assessment tool (COMPASS) to design your packaging system at sub-component level – and understand the impacts across all stages of the Life Cycle.

All the participants looked up to these major brands to take a lead to push Sustainable Packaging

The participants were divided on whether the COVID 19 pandemic will have any impact on Sustainable Packaging Initiatives

Most of the participants were not proficient in Life Cycle Assessment

When asked about LCA tools used by participants before – COMPASS emerged to be the most popular apart from Gabi and open LCA

Highlights of Day 3
Day 3 was dedicated to getting more insights into case studies & success stories from brand owners.
Ms. Katie Livesey, Sustainability Lead Intertek, LCA addressed the environmental aspects and potential environmental impacts throughout a product’s life cycle from raw material acquisition through production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling and final disposal (i.e. cradle-to-grave). The Global standards ISO 14040 series (ISO 2006) is adopted for this exercise. Katie also outlined the process of Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) in the talk.
Dr.R. Rangaprasad set the context for the case studies by highlighting the major milestones & striking innovations from brand owners.

Dr. Manatesh Chakraborty, Principal Scientist, R&D at ITC LTD, made a presentation of using the fundamentals of polymer materials, additives, compounding technology to the process of creating non food contact solid products after optimizing the recycling process stream. This is what is termed WoW by ITC. This programme is being spearheaded by ITC Ltd & involves all stakeholders in the recycling & waste management stream.

Mr. Sachin Laddha, End -Use Marketing Manager DOW Chemicals, made a pitch for use of Monomaterial in flexible packaging structures for a variety of food & FMCG product applications. He cited case studies to establish cost effectiveness of such an approach. He also detailed concepts of PCR based PE resins, use of bio-based sources for PE & other innovations in PE resin technology, which would enable convertors & brand owners to achieve their sustainability. He also introduced the new innovation of BOPE for sustainable packaging.

The participants were allowed to work overnight on COMPASS – and on Day 3, they shared their experience of using the tool

Key Learnings from The Masterclass

  • Sustainability is no longer a buzz word, but a serious corporate goal.
  • LCA is an important tool for quantification of sustainability
  • COMPASS software is a very useful tool to generate alternatives & to assess impact of the alternatives & enables decision making
  • Recent advances in FCM Standards & Regulations play an important role in sustainability goals as there is more clarity on quantification of recycled content in FCM
  • Monomaterial & easily recycled polymers are going to influence brand owner’s choice of sustainable packaging materials.
  • Sustainable packaging is difficult to practice because of limitations of functionality, cost considerations & lack of clarity on standards & policy governing EPR etc.
  • Brand owner’s initiatives play an important role in areas of PCR, quality standards & evolving specifications for recycled plastics to be included in the circular loop.
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About the author

Dr R Rangaprasad

Dr.R.Rangaprasad is a polymer & packaging professional with over 25 years experience. He has served as Consultant at Indian Institute of Packaging Mumbai & as Director at SIES School of Packaging / Packaging Technology Centre. Between 1995 & 2007, He was associated with Product Application & Research Center of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). He has also conducted training & knowledge workshops at leading FMCG companies in the area of design of polyolefin materials for packaging sector.

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