Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Revival of the Tin Can - The Collectible as Marketing Tool

A steel can or tin can, or just a tin, is a single-walled container moulded mostly by impact extrusion of tinplate or black plate (including tin-free steel) and designed for packaging products. Tin plate has been replaced by tin-free steel which is given a tin coating, usually as thin as a human hair, to prevent rusting. Protective (plastic) coatings applied to the inside of the cans ensure the integrity of the contents, allowing tins to hold a wide variety of products,

Except for the day-to-day food cans, the tin is nowadays a marketing tool, giving the product a luxury image.

The Tin’s History
With glass and wood, the tin made from steel is one of the oldest pillars of the packaging industry. The tin's history began in 1795 when Napoleon Bonaparte, who famously noted that an army "travels on its stomach", offered a prize of 12,000 francs to anyone who could invent a method of preserving food. Military prowess and colonial expansion required a method of keeping food unspoiled over distance and time.

A Parisian named Nicolas Appert, a jack of all trades, used his experience as a former candy maker, vintner, chef, brewer and pickle maker to perfect his technique. After experimenting for 15 years, Appert successfully preserved food by partially cooking it, sealing it in bottles with cork stoppers and immersing the bottles in boiling water. His theory of canning was all his own - Louis Pasteur's discoveries regarding bacteria were still a half-century away. But Appert assumed that, as with wine, exposure to air spoiled food. So food in an airtight container, with the air expelled through the boiling process, would stay fresh. It worked. He was awarded the prize in 1810 by the Emperor himself.

Appert's method was so simple and workable, that it quickly became widespread. In 1810, fellow Frenchman Pierre Durand (also known by his English name, Peter Durand) was granted a patent from King George III for the idea of preserving food. Durand intended to surpass Appert and fashion containers out of tinplate. Made of iron coated with tin to prevent rusting and corrosion, tinplate could be sealed and made airtight but was not breakable like glass.

The earliest tins were laboriously made by hand. Iron was pounded into sheets and dipped into molten tin. The resulting tinplate was then soaked in brine baths, creating a hot and odorous atmosphere. Using considerable skill and muscle, artisans cut the sheets into the required body parts and ends. The body pieces were bent around a mould or hammered into a die, while the seams and ends were soldered in place. Some tins were real artefacts with embossed and beautifully painted decorations.

This process allowed even the most skilled workers to only make about ten ordinary food cans per day, let alone the special editions of tins which required much more time and craftsmanship.
Eventually mechanization sped these processes.

In the past centuries, tins were used to preserve and store many products, including commodities such as tea, tobacco, coffee, spices, chocolate and snuff, because of their air tight seals that guaranteed freshness. Before the days of media publicity, advertisers relied on these tins to colourfully promote their products.

Nowadays, except for the traditional vegetables, fruits and fish products the tin can is replaced by cardboard, plastic and aluminium packages.

The Sculptured Metal Technology
As a counter-attack to this move from steel plate tins to plastic or aluminium containers, Silgan Containers Corp., the largest manufacturer of metal food cans in the United States, launched in 2008 it’s shaped can manufacturing capability under the brand name “Sculptured Metal Technology”. The new technology was driven by the desire to provide increased value proposition via a metal alternative.

With, according to an independent research, 68% of the buying decisions are made in the aisles, marketing communication has moved from advertising to the shelf, while, more and more, the design of the packaging determines whether or not the product ends up in the shopping cart.
Silgan’s innovation enlivened the sometimes dull appearance of the round steel can.

Shape communicates instantly, there is no reading required. Shape creates memorable and recognizable branding. It also offers upscale, sophisticated cues. Innovative, shapely designs which support brand positioning, coupled with a complimentary colour pallet help contemporize metal packaging and the products they contain.

And with this statement we are where we want to be: The special shaped tin container, which indeed became a very popular collectible in the past and of which we see a revival lately.

In today's market, the most collectible tins are those from the 1920s through the 1960s. These tins were produced in such large quantities that they are still easy to find, In today’s market we can see a revival of the tin as a collectible. In other words the well-shaped tin upgrades the desirability of the product and as a consequence of its popular position in the market for collectibles, companies in these days use tin packaging as a marketing tool, adding an extra value to the purchase.

Let’s have a look at some recently introduced tin containers from simple to beautiful collectibles.

SheerBliss Ice-cream
First: SheerBliss. In 2006 SheerBliss started to put its ultra premium ice-cream in pint-size galvanized steel tins. The beige decorative tin consists of a litho-printed body and lid, and provides one-year shelf life.
SheerBliss claims that the metal container not only looks great, but differentiates the product in the freezer aisles of the supermarkets, protects the ice-cream better than traditional paperboard containers by preventing crystallization and eliminating the need for preservatives. The tin is so durable that it often experiences an afterlife as pencil or candle holder.

Silver Joe’s Coffee
Although coffee has been packed in tin containers for a very long time, the coffee tin is extinct in these days. However in 2007 Silver Joe’s Coffee, which produces a premium 100% Arabica bean coffee uniquely geared toward the outdoor adventure market, linked with Airstream Motor Coaches for the introduction of a sleek, silvery can, envisioning an idealized travel trailer. The can itself, seen from above, as lyrically described by Bernard Abrams in his article for the Packaging Digest, seems like an exclamation point that lost its dot and went off its diet. Why Bernard claims it went off its diet, I never understood, but allah. According to its designer Cameron Clement, brand development director of C3 Brandworks it is a “streamlined teardrop”, a little bit strange statement as the idea was that the can should suggest a streamlined travel trailer.

But whatever the case, the tin is a definitive departure from the typical round metal coffee can of the past 100 years. The tin's iconic graphics include recessed spot labels and direct embossing of a steaming coffee cup. The satin-finish tinplate material from which the tin is made, won out over aluminium.

The silvery material is 25-ga (6,35 mu) tinplate steel. It is satin-finished and deeply embossed with the intertwined elements of the logotype. The Silver Joe’s component is printed in red, the coffee cup in a café latte colour and the idealized travel trailer shows a bright silver. Planet Canit, manufacturer of the tin, printed the tin via a four-colour lithography process plus one tan tone and an overall varnish post-printing. On the line, it feeds smoothly for automated filling with 11-oz (312 gr) of ground coffee. Every other can nestles neatly, head-to-toe, for efficient casing and projected retail display.

The spot labels from WS Packaging Group are colour-coded and made from 2.6-mil (0,066 mm) pressure-sensitive white polypropylene, flexo-graphically printed in one colour, with the coffee variety printed in reverse. When applied to the can, the labels are recessed to protect them from scuffing.

During the initial design phase, a prototype was tested among several focus groups and 99% of those tested stated they would buy the product at least once just to own the can.

Nestlé Easter Eggs
This year the industry decided to strip the Chocolate Easter Eggs from its excessive packaging material, using less and more recycled material to meet the ongoing consumer requirements regarding sustainability and ‘greenness’. In my next post I shall describe in detail about the ‘revolution’ in Easter Egg packaging and the consequences for the environment. I mention the Chocolate Easter Egg here, as the next beautiful packaging is the Nestlé Chocolate Easter Eggs. Exorbitant? No, the wraps are made from recyclable material and the tin is promoted as a collectible. And by the way, tin cans made from steel plate are fully recyclable and can be marked as a ‘light green’ packaging. For more information about the sustainability and recyclability of tin containers, see the end of this article.

But now first the Nestlé Chocolate Easter Eggs for the Brazilian market. 240 grams pure milk chocolate in 4 exclusive tins with decorations of historical Nestlé images. The tins are shaped in the traditional form of the ‘good old’ milk cans, farmers used for transporting their milk to the factory. I don’t suppose many of my readers do remember this age, but you can still find them as they turned into a collectible after the introduction of the milk machine and milk storage tanks.
Nestlé is one of those companies, which seldom or never reveal details about their packages. However I collected some.
The packaging, designed for Nestlé by FutureBrands, won a Silver PentAward in 2008. The tin is made from Expanded Steel by Rimet in Brazil and printed in 6 colour lithography with a varnish. The chocolate egg itself is wrapped in a metallised BOPP film, rotogravure printed in matt finish by Converplast.
This is a collector’s beauty, and you can imagine that many a consumer buys this Easter Egg with the tin and not only the wrapped egg, which can be bought also without the tin. It is clear that Nestlé appeals to the nostalgic image of the tin can as collector’s item.

Williamson's Elephants
Tea and coffee always have been big ‘tin-lovers’, unfortunately the packaging for tea and coffee changed over the years in bags and cardboard boxes. One original tea merchant doggedly maintains the tradition of tea in tins. Williamson Fine Teas, a Scottish leading tea producer since 1869, has a range of metal tea caddies containing the company’s best selling types of tea. The caddies are shaped in the form of decorated Indian elephants and are colour coded to reflect the type of tea inside. Each caddy comes in 2 sizes containing either 50g loose tea or 125g in 50 tea bags. The company states that the full range of caddies is available in luxury stores worldwide.

The funny thing with the Williamson’s tea caddies is that the company regularly adds new designs to their range of elephant themed Tea Caddies.
Last year the Santa Elephant, produced for the Christmas market, featured the Williamson elephant in a Santa suit, decorated with holly and bearing a sack of presents in his trunk. The tin contained 25 tea bags of a special Christmas blend of Williamson’s tea, in a foil laminate pouch.
The Scottish Elephant, marketed for Hogmanay (the Scottish word for de last day of the year) and the Scottish Homecoming event (a series of events, which started this year at January 25, organised to stimulate people from Scottish ancestry to visit Scotland) is in a richly decorated, predominantly purple design, and is wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes. The Scottish Elephant caddy contains 25 special Scottish Blend teabags in a foil laminate pouch.

And just with regard to ‘greenness’, the company claims that all the tea is grown on Williamsons’ own Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance accredited Farms.

The beauty of Williamson’s elephant tins is, that it looks as if they are embossed or impact extruded. However the tins have just flat bended sides and it’s the painted decoration that gives the three-dimensional image.
A very efficient packaging, an eye-catcher on the shelves and a collectible in optima-forma.

The Financial Crises and the Banker’s Dozen
The last one is much more simple, but simple can still be beautiful and add extra attraction to the product. I have no details of this tin, as the company did not respond to my request, but with the financial crisis in full swing and many a banker and investor (speculator) belly up, I could not resist to end this article with the satirical “banker’s dozen”.

Financial Crunch is a delicious gourmet chocolate packaged in an elegant embossed green and gold octagonal tin filled with a “banker’s dozen” i.e. 11 pieces of coin shaped, milk chocolate crunch. Adding to the fun, each .5 oz. (142 gr) piece has a tax bite out of it!
Why 11 pieces? According to the company: Just as 13 is a baker’s dozen, Financial Crunch has coined 11 a banker’s dozen.

The financial crunch concept was created twenty years ago when college student, Nalen was lacking credit at home, school, and the bank. Realizing that she was, in fact, in a real “Financial Crunch”, Sweet Assets was born. With the help of two friends, Financial Crunch was sold all over the US, London, and Bermuda and made the “A” list of many connoisseurs of fine and funny chocolate. However, the three partners were recent college graduates and went on to establish other careers -- the company and concept began a 20-year hiatus.
In 2004, Nalen contacted and bought out her former partners. Financial Crunch is manufactured in Philadelphia.

I know there are many more collectable tins in the market. Take a look at the Panetones in Brazil, the chocolates in Belgium and Switzerland, the tins in which the rare and fine Scottish whiskies are presented. In terms of ‘greenness’ tins have the colour ‘light green’. In terms of marketing, presentation and collectibles there are unique.

The ‘Light-Green’ Colour of Tins
You as a sustainable conscious consumer likes to know of course whether you can buy the beautiful desirable tin container with no or little interest for the contents as you want to have it as a collectible. It is sóóó´beautiful, but is it green?
Let’s finish this article with a look at the sustainability and ‘greenness’ of tins.

The latest figures from APEAL (the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging) show that 69% of steel packaging is recycled in Europe. This represents over 2.5 million tons of food and drinks cans and other steel containers being recycled in 2007, saving 4.8 million tons of CO2. Top performers were Belgium and Germany where more than 90% of steel packaging was recycled. Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands follow closely behind, recycling over 80% of their steel containers.
According to the latest available data, this places recycling rates for steel above those of other packaging materials such as plastic, beverage cartons and glass (19.7%, 32% and 62% respectively).

Steel is an excellent performer in terms of recycling, being easily collected and effectively sorted through a variety of systems. And recycling is second nature for steel as recycled materials are an essential part of the steelmaking process. Steel is one of that few materials that have an infinite recycling loop - it can be recycled over and over again without any loss of its inherent properties. Hence, reusing steel for packaging and recycling it into new steel is a never ending process. This potential for unlimited recyclability gives steel a huge advantage in terms of sustainability.

By integrating recycled steel into the manufacturing process the industry achieves energy savings of 70% and lowers its output of CO2. Put simply, when it comes to steel for packaging production, the higher the recycling rate, the lower the CO2 emissions; as recycling goes up, so carbon emissions come down.

So without feeling guilty regarding the environment you can buy your collectible. Dream of your collection, sleep soundly and don’t have nightmares. But? But, what? What about the iron ore mines which destroy the rainforests, the coal mines which dump their waste into the rivers and the steel mills polluting the air?
Leave that to the legislation. That’s why I said: The tin can has a ‘light green’ colour!

For this article I extracted some text and images from the websites of the Can Manufacturers Institute and APEAL (the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging). Websites worth visiting, as they have a good story about the history, manufacturing and recyclability of the can and a series of beautiful nostalgic photographs of collectibles.


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Innovation is Key to Sustainable Packaging

"Innovation can eliminate packaging waste and enable a future where all packaging is recycled or its value is recovered", said William F. Weber, vice president and general manager - DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers, during the keynote address at the Packaging Strategies CEO Summit.

“The packaging industry has long focused on reducing to the minimum necessary packaging. But this is not enough - we can do more through innovation.”

“Packaging provides value in preventing costly food waste. And, in the future, all packaging can provide added value through recycle and recovery,” Weber added. “By broadening our thinking about what recycling means from a narrow focus on physical recycling to a broad suite of solutions that includes capturing the energy in packaging through waste-to-energy or the nutrient value of food and packaging through composting, we can deliver sustainable value to our customers, to consumers and to the world. This must be our goal as an industry going forward.”

As an example, Weber outlined DuPont’s approach to sustainable growth. He described sustainable packaging, which is aligned with the company’s goals to create shareholder and societal value by reducing the environmental footprint of the value chains where it participates, as an important focus area for DuPont, a leading provider of high performance and innovative performance materials.

Weber called on the packaging industry to take three actions:
* Develop new technologies that will enable broad recycling in the future. Examples include waste-to-energy, better sorting technologies among others.
* Set standard measurement and reporting metrics that communicate the footprint for packaging products and the end-of-life recommended disposal method.
* Support the cap-and-trade approach as a way to establish clear, predictable market-based requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, providing a clear pathway to rapid transformational change to the low-carbon economy the industry seeks.

According to Weber, collaboration will be key to developing technologies and systems for end-of-life solutions that enable this vision, but in light of the economic environment, collaborative innovation is important now.

“We absolutely must drive waste from the packaging value chain. Initiatives to cut waste will yield improved sustainability as well as cost-effectiveness,” Weber said.



It is remarkable with the economy worldwide at its (probably) deepest point, that there is an avalanche in verbal positioning of multinationals and international organisations, to defend the status of the packaging industry, to pronounce their views for the future, to promote effective measurements for recycling and sustainability and in general to justify the overall use of packaging.

If you think the recession will temper consumer interest in sustainability, you think wrong. Packaging development programmes focussing on sustainability and degradability - in other words ‘green packages’ - will probably accelerate.

Why? Despite the economic recession, nearly 60 per cent of the consumers pay attention to the environmental friendliness of the food and drink packaging during their grocery shopping, claims a new survey released during the recent Anuga FoodTec in Cologne.

Why? Because, according to Tony Burns, associate director, sustainability, for Proctor & Gamble’s Global Package and Device Development (GPDD) group:
“About 80 percent of our consumers tell us that environmental sustainability is important. That [in] itself is reason for us to engage in this and to meet the needs of the consumers. They may not pay additional money right now for more sustainable packaging, but it’s important to them. Whatever benefits they are buying our brands for, we want to make sure that we package that in the most sustainable fashion possible.” and continues, “At times it does feel like packaging is becoming ‘the villain’, when in reality it is a small player in the overall environmental footprint of the product. However, viewed through the lens of our consumers, packaging is the first thing and also the last thing that they experience with our brands. Therefore if it is important to our consumers, then it is important to us.”

Why? Because when the US credit market collapsed, iconic institutions went belly up and corporations begged for handouts, something snapped in the public consciousness. Average people everywhere wanted someone or something to blame for the colossal mess, argues Mary Aichlmayr in her article “Can we live in a one-dimensional world?”
And continues to say (and I quote her in an edited version, cursive words are mine, to suit this blog):
“And, it changed everything.

Companies - the smart, perceptive ones, anyhow—started describing business objectives in three dimensions. Instead of focusing only on the financial bottom line—which consumers saw as the evil that got us into trouble—they used the term “triple bottom line.”

Turns out the phrase was coined back in 1994 by John Elkington, founder of London based business consultancy SustainAbility. He said there were three ways to measure a company’s progress: environmental impact, contribution to society and economic strength. Yes, that last one is profit - the original bottom line.

Clearly, one bottom line isn’t enough anymore. We now have three. Businesses have to think three dimensionally, linking disparate practices into one big survival strategy.

One-dimensional thinking is traditional, transactional and commodity focused. It’s the slap-and-ship mentality that says green is just a feel-good slogan. It’s appearance, not action. It’s talking, not doing.

Appearances only get you so far. The commitment has to be woven into the fabric of corporate strategy.

And, packaging plays a crucial role in a company’s long-term performance. Innovative and sustainable packaging design depends on simultaneously meeting the demands of three primary business dimensions: customers, employees and supply chain partners.

The buying public is sizing up your responsibility scorecard. The next generation of employees demands corporate accountability. Your supply chain partners just might force it on you”.
end quote Mary Aichlmayr

In our ongoing series of industry views which include (see previous posts) the visions of Dow Chemical in: “Dow Challenges Packaging Industry to Work Together Toward 100% Recyclability” and of IPPO in: “Packaging is the Answer to World Hunger”, we continue with the view of Dupont in the next post:
“Innovation is Key to Sustainable Packaging, DuPont Leader Tells Industry Experts”

Japanese Fashion: Recycled PET-bottles

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Packaging is the Answer to World Hunger

Read this position paper prepared jointly by the World Packaging Organisation and the International Packaging Press Organization.

Ever since World War II, global food production has increased faster than population growth, and food prices have remained relatively stable. Now, however, we are seeing a reversal of that trend-and we face a world food shortage. Populations are starving, and food prices have risen dramatically.

As a result, in many cases there is food but no money, or too much food in some places and too little food in other places.

The current food shortages have emerged quickly and with little warning. As always, several reasons are cited. The rising middle class in Asia and in other emerging markets with bigger purchasing power is one such reason, while another argument is the attractiveness and usage of food raw materials for other purposes, such as cattle feed, fuels, and materials. Some even say that the production of bioplastics (plastics made from renewable raw materials) is prejudicial to food production. Crop failures, climate change, protective tariffs, and poor logistics are other factors that are said to affect global food supplies. Traditionally, such problems have been addressed by increasing land availability for agricultural use (through deforestation), as well as plant breeding, artificial fertilisation, spraying, irrigation, etc., to increase yield per hectare. Genetically modified plants are also used, but the issue is controversial and many consumers are skeptical.

Now we face new and bigger challenges that will also require new solutions. Consumers want their food to be as natural as possible, minimising use of genetically modified plants, pesticides in production and limiting use of sugar and salt as a traditional means of preservation. Further de-forestation to create new farmland could negatively affect the environment and the climate.

In order to cope with food shortages, a sharp increase in food availability is required by 2020, but such an increase need not mean a real increase in production. Large quantities of food are now wasted because of poor logistics, storage, and packaging processes, as well as the lack of cold chain facilities. In some developing countries, it’s estimated that as much as 50% of all food production is lost because of the scarcity of processing and packaging technology, while in industrialised countries, food is carelessly handled and between 25% and 50% is discarded because it has passed the "best-before" date.

Moreover, up to 10% of all fruits and vegetables shipped in the EU, worth some 10 billion euros, are destroyed. Enormous resources go into producing and transporting these goods, which are lost partly because of lack of adequate packaging.

This is one area where the global packaging industry can make a positive contribution to sustainability and fighting world hunger. The general public and politicians often see packaging as an environmental threat rather than a tool for sustainability. For instance, the usage of a few grams of plastic for packaging is often considered much worse than a kilogram of destroyed tomatoes, although the latter, taking into account all processes in production and logistics, in most cases affects the environment much more than packaging material.

Although there are continuous calls for the use of less packaging, the solution to these problems is perhaps to use more. That means larger numbers of packaging for more uses, but of course combined with a continued packaging weight reduction through better technology and process development for each individual package.

Ensuring that food produced in developing countries is effectively packaged would result in much larger quantities of food reaching the people. By adding adequate packaging, logistics and storage, yet more food could be delivered to those who most need it. A high proportion of all drinks consumed in the world are unpacked. By packaging larger quantities of drinks, especially in developing countries, vital nutrients could reach more people, and diseases could be reduced through improved hygiene and food safety.

The global packaging industry has provided solutions for many of these problems.

As in any other industry, there are failures, but overall the packaging industry has worked successfully to optimise packaging solutions over past decades. In the current tough economic climate, with enormous pressure on margins, packaging buyers won’t pay one cent extra for something that isn’t required to protect and promote their products. While packaging cannot alone fully correct today’s food shortages, it is an essential part of a long-term incremental process that will have to employ a blend of technologies and processes. It’s true to say that the global packaging industry can contribute greatly to increased prosperity and sustainability in the world by ensuring that larger amounts of food reach more consumers, and that it is preserved in a way that results in better quality and smaller losses.

Bo Wallteg
International Packaging Press Organization

Carl Olsmats
General Secretary
World Packaging Organization


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Dual-, Two-in-One-, Twin- or Kangaroo-packaging

Whatever you want to call them, the Dual-, Two-in-One-, Twin- or Kangaroo-packaging is a packaging holding two separate containers with two different products, which together form one entity in packaging as well as in product. I am not talking about promotional packages in terms of “pay two, get three” or whatever the promotion, nor am I talking about some extra bonus packed with the original product.
No, in this post I like to highlight the innovative creations of Kangaroo-packages (I like this word as it gives an exact definition of the matter), where the one product belongs or depends on the other product and brought together to form one product to serve a mutual goal.

Without doubt packaging history shows early examples of the Dual-, Two-in-One-, Twin- or Kangaroo-packaging. I remember, in the sixties of the last century being the beginning of packaging development in Europe after World War II, the tin packaging of Struik Conserven (in these days Struik Foods Europe) for the first experiments with complete ready-to-eat meals. Struik already had a reputation for its innovations in product and packaging. The one-litre tin had a “double bottom”, as the rice or something similar (I am not sure about it anymore) could be reached by opening one side and the prepared sauce by opening the other side. Two compartments in one tin, requiring the customer to open both sides.
As young packaging engineer I thought it was a remarkable innovation. It was primitive, in today’s terms, but then with such a limited choice of material and technology available, it was tremendous. At that time Struik used the same argument, Conagra is using (see later in this post) today: Separately prepared and packed products maintain their integrity in flavour, colour and nutrition values.
It took me years before I discovered another real dual of kangaroo packaging and I always wondered why, particularly, the food industry did not explore this innovative solution for quality and flavour with all the technology advances in materials available at this moment.

My chronologic overview starts in 2006 without having the arrogance to be complete.

Struik Conserven dual-tin-packaging - Italy’s Pasta Barilla dual packaging - Jekyll & Hyde twin packaging - EcoLab’s kangaroo packaging - Zhen Bao Fang Liqueur’s big brother, little brother - Wonder Tablitz’s empty dual-bottle - Sambuca con mosca’s bottle-in-a-bottle - The kangaroo bucket of Avlon - bio2TONIC’s dual packaging - Dawn Simple Pleasures’ two-in-one bottle - Double Down’s twin bottle - The Conagra Two-in-One Pack

Continue reading and see in detail the packages designed with special ingenuity.

Dow Challenges Packaging Industry to Work Together Toward 100% Recyclability

This is a paper I received from Dow Chemical and publish here unabridged as it is of importance for the future of packaging.

Plastic packaging is an important part of the solution in the big picture of sustainability, waste and the environment, according to The Dow Chemical Company. In a strong message first delivered to a recent gathering of packaging industry leaders, Dow is challenging packaging value chain members to work together toward 100 percent recyclable packaging solutions - and asking consumers to challenge their misconceived view of plastic packaging as "waste."

"Plastic packaging is viewed by many consumers as waste, or a problem, or in some cases as unnecessary," said Glenn Wright, commercial vice president for Dow's North American Basic Plastics business. "But if you dig a little deeper, a very different story unfolds, and you realize that plastic packaging can be very much a part of the solution to many challenges facing society. In reality, packaging should be viewed as a waste reducer. It contributes to the extended shelf life of many food products and reduces the amount of product lost to contamination. Through material science advances, companies like Dow are also creating opportunities for thinner and lighter-weight packaging, which can translate into tangible resource savings."

Raising the ante for the packaging industry as a whole, Wright added: "All the players in this industry need to work together to demonstrate the concept of life-cycle thinking when it comes to plastic packaging - from first uses to multiple re-use or traditional recycling, and eventually to the concept of recycle-to-energy - sometimes known as energy-from-waste. This last idea is exciting because it could potentially allow us to make two good uses of plastic packaging, first to save resources when used in a package and second as a source of energy that we could harness.

"As I think about these energy-producing possibilities, I ask myself, why do we mine coal for energy, yet bury plastic, even though plastic has nearly twice the energy value, according to the American Chemistry Council?" Wright observed. "Wouldn't it be great if we could help society view used packaging in its true light - a renewable energy resource, not waste?"

While the goal of 100 percent recycling, all the way to recycle-to-energy, is a bold consideration, Dow is calling on industry leaders to join it in challenging the status quo and find ways to initiate this industry-changing concept. For instance, with all rigid packaging materials being recyclable, could the recycling number on packaging be eliminated to reduce confusion and increase public participation in recycling? Could improved product marking for consumers also help them better understand the energy content (or second life value) of plastic packaging?

"The energy content of plastic packaging is significant," Wright said. "If we recycle the petroleum resources we've used back into energy, then we could actually get two uses out of the packaging in the end. Retailers and consumers could then experience these changes most noticeably in terms of energy- and purchase-related cost savings."

For example, thanks to the increased shelf life packaging provides, a grocery store can save 10 percent of energy costs associated with refrigeration *). These savings translate into decreased use of natural resources, which could be used to provide a family with electricity for more than 12 years**).

*), **) Sources (Equation Data): American Chemistry Council; U.S. Energy Information Administration

source: Dow Chemical