Click the link below to read the article in Packaging Digest Magazine:
By replacing its poly-coated carton for fabric softener sheets with an economical recyclable/repulpable alternative, Seventh Generation qualifies for the “Widely Recycled” claim on its How2Recycle label and gets a step closer to its 2020 zero-waste goal.
Yet this new carton—which marks its national debut in the first quarter of 2017 for the company’s 80-count fabric softener sheets in two fragrances: Free & Clear and Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender—offers better barrier properties.
How is this possible? The eight-month-long project began in March 2016 and the updated production specification was officially released in November. The packaging change did not require a switch in carton suppliers (Seventh Generation sources this carton from two companies but prefers not to identify them)—but it did require a change in paperboard for the cartons.
The new board stock is HiQ Eco(B) from Hansol Paper, the largest paper mill in Korea, and contains at least 60% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content and sometimes as much as 88%.
HiQ Eco(B) paperboard uses EarthCoating from Smart Planet Technologies as the liner. Hansol Paper began licensing the EarthCoating technology at the end of 2015. EarthCoating is created by blending low-cost calcium carbonate into polyolefin resin, which displaces between 40% and 60% of the plastic.
According to Smart Planet Technologies, EarthCoating is engineered for efficient processing in paper recycling systems. It fractures into small, dense particles in the pulping process, thereby avoiding the challenges found with traditional plastic coatings on paperboard. EarthCoating is repulpable and recyclable because of the blending in of the minerals, and it behaves differently in the pulper. That’s why the package qualifies for the “Widely Recycled” label.
The reduction of plastic is a bonus attribute, but highly appealing as well. Kelly Murosky, Seventh Generation packaging engineer, says, “That is important to us as we look to remove all virgin petroleum-based plastics from our packaging materials by 2020. Many of our bottles are already 100% PCR.”
The EarthCoating mineralized poly compound is extrusion coated onto the paperboard at high speeds. This alternative barrier coating is waterproof and grease-proof, as well as heat sealable. Although not needed in this case, EarthCoating is also compliant with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for food contact applications.
For the Seventh Generation dryer sheets project, the base paper is 400 grams per meter squared and the EarthCoating is 20 g/m2, applied on the inside of the carton. (EarthCoating can also be applied to a package exterior, providing barrier properties and a premium print surface.)
By making this change in packaging materials, Seventh Generation is able to upgrade its cartons from the less appealing “Check Locally” description on the How2Recycle label from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition to the coveted “Widely Recycled” category.
Murosky answers Packaging Digest’s questions about the project.
Why is it so important to qualify for the “Widely Recycled” claim?
Murosky: We try to reduce our packaging materials sent to landfill. Zero waste is one of our 2020 goals, so we strive to design products and packaging that is recyclable or biodegradable.
Did you make any other changes to the packaging at the same time (graphics, for example)?
Murosky: No other changes were made besides the paperboard substrate and coating. Our How2Recycle logo will need to be updated on the artwork, but we’re waiting to make that change because other artwork updates are in the pipeline for the fabric softener sheet cartons. [Editor’s note: All those updates will appear in 1Q2017.]
Was the change a cost-neutral solution? Was that an important consideration in your decision to make the switch?
Murosky: Yes, the change was cost neutral. As with any project, you want to keep cost increases to a minimum. However, as a company, we have an internal carbon tax that we use to fund packaging sustainability changes. Essentially that fund helps offset the price increase to new sustainable packaging components so that it does not affect margin. Luckily, in this case, we did not have a cost increase to offset.
What other solutions did you consider and why didn’t you go with them?
Murosky: No other solutions were considered. We would have stuck with our current poly coating if the project was not successful.
Did your manufacturing partner [which Seventh Generation asked not to be named] have to make any changes to the packaging line because of the new cartons?
Murosky: No line changes were needed. The new board substrate had no effect on packing line efficiencies or scrap.
What tests did you do to ensure the new box was compatible with the product and protected it?
Murosky: We have a vigorous qualification process at Seventh Generation. I put the product through a variety of tests to ensure that the new substrate preformed at parity or better to our current configuration. There was a:
• Graphics review to ensure the new board substrate had the same print quality;
• Box performance testing (carton drop tests, case drop tests, tear feature test, environmental chamber testing) to ensure that the board adequately protected the substrate (fabric softener sheets) and prevented oil migration;
• Substrate compatibility testing to ensure that the mineralized poly-coating did not interact with our fabric softener sheets in any way.
We also had each of our suppliers preform testing:
• Converting (printing/cutting) trials at the carton supplier;
• Packaging line trials and substrate compatibility evaluation at our manufacturing partner;
• Third-party lab testing to evaluate board performance (oil resistance, water absorption, water-vapor transmission rate/WVTR).
What did the results show regarding the package’s barrier properties?
Murosky: The barrier properties of the EarthCoating performed better than our previous packaging, allowing us to confidently make the switch.
Did you do any tests yourselves on the recyclability of the package or was that all handled as part of the How2Recycle label application process?
Murosky: That was all handled by Smart Planet to receive the “Widely Recycled” logo certification from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
How much did Walmart’s Sustainability Index, or the new Playbook, influence your decision to go with this particular package?
Murosky: It actually didn’t really affect our decision. The project was basically complete when Walmart’s Sustainable Packaging Playbook came out. As a brand, we are always trying to push the limit on packaging sustainability and meet our 2020 sustainability goals.
Where are your fabric softener sheets sold?
Murosky: Across the USA. Our top buyers are Amazon, UNFI and Kehe.
Do you plan to replace other cartons/boxes with this package?
Murosky: Yes, we are looking into it for our two other poly-coated paper carton packaging configurations used for boxed powders: Natural Powdered Laundry Detergent and Auto Dish Powder.
Simply Cups, the UK’s ONLY workable cup recycling scheme, has entered into a relationship with Smart Planet Technologies (SPT) to recover and recycle the ground-breaking ‘reCUP’ hot beverage paper cup that can be recycled at traditional paper mills.
Designed in California, USA, the reCUP looks and performs exactly the same as those cups currently in use at UK coffee outlets. The big advantage, however, is that the inside coating is blended with minerals, so its plastic content is reduced by up to 50%, and means that the cup is engineered to be compatible with the existing recycling equipment used at UK paper mills. This, for the first time, will provide consumers, businesses and the hospitality industry with a cup that can be more widely recycled, and is expected to be sold, at a cost comparable with traditional paper cups, through 4 Aces in the UK. 4 Aces is also a founding member of the Simply Cups scheme.
“The first step in resolving the lack of paper cup recycling is to give the recycling industry a paper cup worth recycling”, says Will Lorenzi, President of Smart Planet Technologies. “Once the coating is no longer an obstacle to recycling, a paper cup becomes a valuable material to recycle”.
“We have substantiated that our cup material can be processed through standard paper mill recycling infrastructure and our relationship with Simply Cups will provide assurance to businesses and consumers that the reCUP will meet its ‘recyclable’ commitment”, added Will.
Commenting on the relationship, Peter Goodwin, co-founder of Simply Cups, said;
“SPT has rightly recognised that, for its products to be recycled, they first need to be collected separately at source and then forwarded to a paper reprocessing plant. As the only organisation in the UK operating this service, Simply Cups was the obvious choice ”.
Now, when the reCUP is sold in the UK, membership to Simply Cups scheme will also provide a dedicated collection service for the cup – either by bag or by bale – which will then be routed to paper mills that have approved the product for acceptance under the same criteria, and value, as other paper products.
“We have been looking for the most efficient way to resolve the problem of recycling paper cups and a new cup that can be processed through existing recycling equipment is a major step in the right direction,” says Chris Penn, managing director of 4 Aces.
“We are committed to greater sustainability in disposable packaging and so we’re enormously excited to be integral in the roll out of the game-changing reCUP in the UK”, commented Chris.
Notes to Editors:
About Simply Cups
Simply Cups, a partnership between Closed Loop Environmental Solutions and Simply Waste Solutions, is the UK’s only workable paper cup recovery and recycling service.
Launched in August 2014, the service now provides paper cup manufacturers, organisations operating in the supply chain as well as beverage and hospitality outlets, with a cost-efficient collection and recycling service that will reduce their operating costs and improve their environmental credentials.
Founding members of the scheme include Costa Coffee, Bunzl Catering Services, BaxterStorey, ISS Facility Services, Huhtamaki, Benders Paper Cups, 4Aces, Dart Products Europe and Maxabel International
Popular packaging specialist, 4 Aces, a member of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG), will partner with Smart Planet Technologies to trial its reCUP, a paper cup designed to be recycled, for use in the UK market to address the issues with the recycling of paper cups.
Smart Planet Technologies of Newport Beach California has created the reCUP, a new type of paper cup, engineered for recycling and commercially available today in the US. The paper cup looks the same and works the same, but the coating is blended with minerals to reduce the plastic content by 40% and to make the cup compatible with standard recycling equipment. These cups then become a valuable material to collect and the recycling industry can go about the processes to recover them and recycle them profitably for use in recycled paperboard packaging.
“We have been looking for the most efficient way to resolve the problem of recycling paper cups and a new cup that can be processed through existing recycling equipment is a big first step in the right direction,” says Chris Penn, managing director of 4 Aces. “4 Aces is committed to greater sustainability in disposable packaging and we’re excited to see if we have found the missing piece when it comes to getting paper cups recycled effectively.”
“The first step in solving the paper cup recycling problem is to give the recycling industry a paper cup worth recycling”, says Will Lorenzi, President of Smart Planet Technologies. “We have been impressed by the commitment and effort by 4 Aces to lead on this issue on behalf of the industry and for the UK.”
Paper cups are a convenient, environmental packaging solution for coffee however the cups have a plastic liner coating on the interior to protect the paper from the liquid in the cup. The plastic liner coating is incompatible with paper recycling systems, so paper cups are generally sorted for landfill. It is estimated that more than 2.5 billion coffee cups are disposed of in the UK every year.
4 Aces was a participant in the release of the Paper Cup Manifesto, a statement of commitment by industry leaders to address the issue of recycling of paper cups, as highlighted on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s War on Waste documentary, broadcast by the BBC.
For further information on 4 Aces and its products, visit the company’s website at www.4acesltd.com or call 01992 535774.
Press enquiries, please contact: Liz Taylor
Notes to editors
4 Aces supplies a full range of plastic and paper cups, food packaging and water cooler products to a mix of customers in the vending, HoReCa and water cooler markets. Best prices and a tailored service are responsible for the company’s constantly expanding customer base and 35 per cent year on year growth. Having retained core staff, customers and suppliers since the business launched, 4 Aces prides itself on its ability to build relationships as well as the breadth of choice and the quality of the products that it offers.