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FLEXO Magazine : March 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES uctsinawaythatitisnot harmful to human life or the earth's ecosystems. A popular way to approach packaging sustainability has been called the 4Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Reclaim, and Recycle). While these concepts have been around for decades, they have been in and out of popular favor, depending on the popular culture, and the degree to which the popular culture is promoting an en- vironmental agenda. THE WAL-MART PUSH In late 2006, Wal-Mart announced its own sustainability pro- gram. Its goals are very aggressive and have specific targets. The agenda is very comprehensive and covers both the products it sells and its own operations. Wal-Mart has established ambitious sustainability goals for itself, and has also established goals for its supply base. Among its target metrics are several that will impact the packaging and flexo industries. They are: Reduce packaging across its supply chain 5 percent by 2013. Reduce solid waste by 25 percent. Have 20 percent of its supply base aligned with sustainable products. To emphasize the importance of sustain- ability, Wal-Mart has stated that this will be an ongoing high priority for the company. This has garnered a significant amount of industry attention and has created a large amount of concern among Wal-Mart's sup- pliers, particularly as to how this may change the relationship they have built with this im- portant customer. Wal-Mart has the leverage to push this agenda through the industry in a way that other companies cannot. The retail giant has created a scorecard it will use to evaluate sustainability and has asked its suppliers to begin loading detailed information related to each SKU. Each package will be assessed and graded. The scorecard criteria are weighted, emphasiz- ing various issues that impact sustainability. From the supplied information, a score will be generated and your packaging will be ranked and compared to other packag- ing. Needless to say, the packaging, with the highest sustainability and lowest cost, will be identified as the preferred product. It is safe to say this has caused everyone to scramble. In many cases, the information has not been readily available to complete the scorecard data entry. So, a great deal of data is being collected. The consumer prod- ucts companies are completing the data en- try on their SKUs. Although printers do not provide data directly to the scorecard, printers are asking their sup- pliers for help and support. In fact, the ink industry has received inquiries related to sustainability of inks; as well as general questions on sustainability. Wal-Mart is not including inks, coatings, and adhesives in this initial round of activity. Inks, coat- ings and adhesives are not part of the scorecard. Wal- Mart personnel have stated this at several conferences. WHAT ABOUT INKS? There are many different forms of inks (i.e. paste, liquid). For the purpose of this article we will focus on the liquid form which is used for flexo printing. Within flexo printing there are several different types of liquid inks available; solvent-based, water-based, and radiation-cured (UV and EB). But, flexo inks can be further broken down by chemistry. Within each type of flexo ink there may be a number of different chem- istries used, each having its own unique sustainability characteris- tics. The chemistry chosen for any one application may have less to do with the choice of the printer than the requirements of the job. Wal-Mart's Scorecard Weightings 15% - green house gas emissions 15% - material value 15% - product to package ratio 15% - cube utilization for transport 10% - transportation 10% - recycle content 10% - recovery value 5% - renewable energy usage 5% - innovation Figure 1.