3 New Industry Changing Plastic Packaging Methods

For markets from food to pharma, three diverse breakthroughs share a common theme of improving sustainability, in one case up to 88%.

3 New Industry Changing Plastic Packaging Methods: After a four-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Pack Expo Intl. tradeshow held this week October 23-26 staged a dramatic comeback with more than 44,000 attendees, surpassing the high of the pre-pandemic 2018 event.

This new edition of the biennial Chicago location boasted 2,200 exhibitors showcasing groundbreaking packaging innovations found across more than 1.2 million net square feet at McCormick Place.

In walking dozens of packed aisles and seeing dozens of new products, PlasticsToday narrows that down to the three featured in this slideshow gallery of clever plastic packaging. These include a truly unique plastic-reducing child-resistant closure, a bucket-busting hybrid corrugated/plastic replacement for 5-gallon plastic pails that uses 88% less plastic, and a shelf-life extending, food-waste-reducing technology for flexible packaging.

We start with a new design for a child-resistant, snap-on cap that is as unusual as any you’ve seen.

3 New Industry Changing Plastic Packaging Methods: Despite their small size, the new Pop & Click cylinder bottles stood out in the booth of Drug Plastics more so for their novel design than their colorful appearance.

Let’s start with the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles, which are available in stock sizes of 60-, 100-, and 120-cc volume. The bottles can also be manufactured using post-consumer recycled (PCR) HDPE.

While the sustainability option is nice, it’s the unusual polypropylene (PP) child-resistant (CR) closure that puts the packaging into the “wow” category as a unique option for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and cannabis products.

Resembling a flower-like cap with small petals around the perimeter, the clever packaging design permits one-handed opening.

In fact, it allows one-finger opening of the CR cap, which is quite remarkable.

To open, the mounded center of the cap is pushed down with finger pressure. That opens the small edge petals or “fingers” so they release the cap’s hold from a lip molded into the bottle’s rim.

To re-engage the cap, the user pushes the cap center back to normal and affixes it back on the bottle with a little pressure accompanied by a pleasing snap sound.

Seniors and others who lack finger strength can use their elbow for opening, we were told.

The cap can be paired with a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) induction-seal insert.

On the sustainability side, the one-piece Pop & Click closures use 65% less plastic than a comparable industry-standard 38-mm push-and-turn closure.

Overall and depending on bottle size, the total packaging can reduce plastic by 22% to 27%.

Pop & Click is used by a Canadian company to package cannabis flower.

Now the taller cylinder design will see more utility and wider engagement with the larger brand-friendlier sizes. I learned that “major pharmaceutical companies” are already interested in the new size options. Drug Plastics is also working with capping machinery companies to permit high-speed production volumes.

3 New Industry Changing Plastic Packaging Methods: CDF ’s at-show debut of a bucket-busting revision of the 5-gallon plastic pail was nothing short of being one of the most impressive packaging designs I came across at Pack Expo.

The base version called the Smart Pail consists of three components: An outer corrugated box, an inner thermoform insert, and several lidstock options to seal a filled thermoform.

It’s optimized for e-commerce shipment and is nearly 100% recyclable using common materials.

In detail:

1. The protective corrugated box can use a standard stock box with a tear-strip opening sized for the thermoform, which describes the Smart Pail version.

A premium, strengthened version called the Meta Pail uses a robust combination C/B flute alternative sourced from WestRock. With a distinctive hexagonal style box design, it can accommodate heavier liquid products.

2. The plastic insert for containing the product is thermoformed with high-density polyethylene. The slanted corners that give the insert a slightly modified hexagonal shape provide added strength.

According to Aimee Marion, the packaging application engineer involved in the project, the insert is curbside recyclable along with HDPE milk jugs.

3. Lidding options include tamper-evident heat-sealed films with or without a reclosable flap. A thermoformed cover is also available.

Options include slits or handles on the box side.

The savings vs. a 5-gal bucket are dramatic: 33% more containers per pallet and an 88% reduction in plastic.

Other sizes are available starting around 2 gallons through container height adjustments while using the same footprint.

Along with the packaging, Marion helped developed a packaging production system that can handle 12 containers per minute.

Marion reports that a dry pet food company is rolling out the Smart Pail packaging for ecommerce distribution in January including with consumer-convenient resealable lidding.

3 New Industry Changing Plastic Packaging Methods: By far the tiniest of the plastic packaging breakthroughs I found at the show introduces an improved method to prolong shelf life for produce packaged in flexible packaging.

AcuBreathe Nano from the laser-perforations specialists at Preco is an advancement in microperforated films. The process results in breathable film structures aka modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) for bagged produce.

After about eight years’ development, Perco is now able to shrink the hole size down to 65 microns or even 25 microns. Preco notes that competitors’ laser systems can only perforate consistently down to around 75 microns.

What sounds like a tiny improvement yields dramatic benefits; those smaller holes can add one- to two-weeks shelf life to bagged lettuce.

It’s suitable for low-respiring romaine, iceberg, and chopped lettuce and is also seen as a “game changer” for lidded fruit trays.

The company reports it is currently working with multiple customers.


3 New Industry Changing Plastic Packaging Methods: Original Article


New Packaging could Lower Plastic Industry’s Carbon Footprint

Extruders to Solve Plastic Sustainability Problems

7 Facts about Plastics Recycling that May Surprise You