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FLEXO Magazine : March 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES FLEXIBLE PACKAGING 34 FLEXO MARCH 2008 www.flexography.org Flexible Packaging, Ecological Packaging Innovations Are Making Films More Enviro-Friendly By Malcolm Cohn There's an undeniable shift under- way in the world of packaging. The global packaging industry is facing mounting economic pressures to reduce non-renewable waste, as more and more nations move to limit the commercial use of oil-based products. America is no excep- tion, and the hot-button action today is to focus on this emerging market for socially responsible packaging. Why the big move to biodegradable and/or sustainable packaging? Ecological flexible packaging has become increas- ingly important to all who are concerned about the future well-being of our planet. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, "The future depends on what we do in the pres- ent," and we need to do something now to radically change the way we conserve our natural resources, our oceans, the quality of the air we breathe; indeed, to conserve the environment in which we live, for fu- ture generations. WAKE-UP CALL Let's have a look at some of the key drivers behind the growing awareness and interest for compostable packaging. The world is just beginning to come to the realization that its dependence on oil and oil-based derivatives is a significant cause for concern. This realization is to a great extent a result of price volatility and diminishing supplies. Petroleum-based products are being depleted worldwide for several reasons. There is increased demand from China and India, further aggravated by the continuing uncertainty in the Middle East. Catastrophic events like hurricanes Katrina and Rita left their mark on oil production in the Gulf States, significantly impacting delivery infrastruc- tures that brought increases to the prices of, not only gas, but also the cost of resin. Accumulatively, all these events have led packaging suppliers to seek alternative sources of packaging materials. When one considers the high depen- dence of the packaging industry, particu- larly the rigid tray and flexible packaging formats, on oil-based derivatives, the industry should be concerned with respect to this dependence. Changes in the flex- ible packaging industry need to start today, utilizing more sustainable raw material feedstocks in a controlled fashion. Let's look at some of the statistics and absorb the significance thereof: An estimated 8 percent of oil is con- verted into plastics. More than 50 percent of packaging is plastic. Oil has increased in excess of 600 per- cent since the 1990s (1960s: $4/barrel, 1990s: $15/barrel, 2008: $100/barrel). Then we have the experts who argue over how long before the oil runs out. What is certain is that for every four barrels of oil we consume today, only one new barrel is being discovered. Photos courtesy of Innovia Films.