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  • 12 Jan 2011

Global Green Awards

As sustainability becomes a core element across the label supply chain, Danielle Jerschefske assesses the importance the Global Green awards presented at Labelexpo Americas 2010

The second annual Global Green Award competition, held at the Gather on the Green area at Labelexpo Americas, offered label converters ideas as well as hardware and software solutions to reduce the environmental impact of their business.

‘Green’ continues to be an important factor in consumers’ buying decisions. The 2010 ImagePower Green Brands Survey conducted by global communications group WPP revealed that ‘over 60 percent of consumers prefer to purchase from environmentally responsible companies. While cost is still a barrier, the 2010 data indicates that the majority of consumers plan to spend the same or more money on Green products in the coming year, with more than 70 percent of consumers in China, India and Brazil saying they will spend more.’

Against this background the judges reviewed a wide range of submissions for the Global Green awards, and evaluated them in terms of sustainability -- pollution reduction/prevention; environmental leadership; economic effectiveness; relevance to the industry; responsible sourcing; and potential for industry advancement.

Participants included suppliers critical to each facet of label manufacturing and the total life-cycle of a label. Materials development and testing, label production management, end user waste recycling & recovery consultation, and consumer education are all areas where the label industry can find ways to reduce not only its own, but also its customers’ environmental footprint.

Channeled Resources Group (CRG) was selected as the 2010 winner of the Global Green Award because the company is ‘making a global contribution to reducing the environmental impact of label production,’ according to one judge.

CRG has contracted to supply matrix waste to Greenwood Fuels in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to turn into energy pellets. The pellets produce similar BTUs as coal and burn cleaner.

The program will assist converters and coater/laminators with the logistical issues of delivering their waste to Greenwood Fuels locations and divert this waste from landfill. While the solution is only economically and environmentally viable for converters within 300 miles of Greenwood Fuels locations in Wisconsin – and soon Cincinnati, Ohio – plans are set for continued expansion.

CRG president Cindy White said, ‘Given our knowledge, we can quickly have an impact helping gather this material and keep it from the landfill. The waste generated by label stock is enormous. Finally there is a place for matrix waste beside the landfill. We need to find alternatives to coal and oil – here is one.’

In addition to this new partnership, CRG has found a way to re-utilize the silicone coated paper left after a pressure sensitive label is applied at the contract packager/brand owner level. The material is converted into de-siliconized pulp (DSP) that can be used by the paper industry. To date CRG has run 1,000 tons; it has a goal to run 20,000 tons annually by 2015.

The global consumption of PS label release liner is approximately 1.4m tons. North America and Europe are estimated to each produce around 450,000 tons of paper bases for silicone coating. Less than 8 percent of liner waste is recycled globally and maybe 10 percent in the Western World; this recycle rate has to improve. According to the Leading Futurists (The future of packaging on p. 32 of L&L issue 2 2010 – @packfutur), recycle rates within the industry will be expected to reach 80-90 percent in the next few years.

‘The P&Gs, L’Oreals, Sara Lees who apply millions of labels per month have been landfilling this material,’ says Cindy White. ‘They now have a solution for their bi-product, thus providing converters with an edge if they bring the idea to the large users of PSA. Looking at the Walmart and P&G Sustainability Scorecard, this is one way of providing a recycling benefit.’

In the case of matrix waste and liner recovery, the key to closing the loop is education. Converters must be aware of the availability of DSP in the market. If they stipulate the use of DSP in liner and facestock materials it will force more paper mills to increase production. Secondly, converters must understand the value of bringing such solutions to their customers. They must enlighten brand owners to the possibilities, and encourage rapid adoption.

Materials

Evonik Goldschmidt promoted the environmentally friendly qualities of its UV-curable silicones, highlighting the energy saving benefits.  Evonik’s ‘cold curing’ Tego RC Silicones can be applied to BOPP film liners, and Evonik says BOPP has a low carbon footprint compared to glassine. BOPP release liners are 100 percent recyclable and brand owners can recover expenses normally incurred for paying for disposal.

Evonik says its silicone technology provides instant cure with no heat stress on the substrate. AET Films touted its new RE OPP film, where 10-20 percent of the content is post consumer recycled waste. The film supplier is actively working to increase the market demand for PCR materials to similar levels as PET and HDPE. The RE OPP film has similar performance to virgin OPP, though PCR content material is not approved for direct food contact.

Avery Dennison talked about some of its company-wide sustainability initiatives. It is FSC chain of custody certified, LIFE certified, and offers a line of Fasson Tree Free and PCW (post-consumer waste) wine label materials. It introduced its ThinStream material that is 50 percent thinner than the industry standard PET liner. Plastic Suppliers entered its EarthFirst PLA brand of films, which are wholly corn-based and compostable to ASTM D6400 and DIN EN 13432 standards in the US and Europe respectively. The biopolymer is made from the ‘near carbon neutral polymer’ Ingeo. The supplier introduced EarthFirst R*PLA films containing a minimum of 60 percent post-industrial recycled material.

Production

Alphasonics promoted the environmental benefits of its AS1000 automated parts washer that utilizes on board flocculation. This device effectively removes UV and water-based ink pigment from waste wash water. In the case of water-based inks, it makes the waste suitable for direct drain disposal.  For UV inks, the flocculated material can be compressed to create a smaller volume of overall waste. The company’s figures show an annual savings in landfill of around $5000 for an average label printer.

Gallus asked the judges to evaluate its new Gallus ECS 340 flexographic press made of granite rock. The design of the press, first introduced at Labelexpo Europe 2009, offers a web path of just 11 meters and fast changeover print units, claimed to reduce the amount of waste produced per job by as much as 70 percent. The company estimates this to be equivalent to a reduction of around 10 tons of waste annually.

The ECS 340 uses ‘demand-based’ UV lamps that use 10 percent less energy than comparable systems. Further energy reduction can be realized when the UV system is used in conjunction with the presses’ central cooling system.

GEW was the 2009 winner of the first annual Global Green Award. This year the company promoted its e-Brick UV curing system and claimed to reduce running power by 30 percent when compared to choke and transformer systems and to decrease CO2 emissions by 30 percent, all while extending lamp life. The supplier has calculated its customers have saved $11.8M in energy costs and reduced carbon emissions by 39,300 tons between May 2005 and February 2010.

Xeikon, manufacturer of toner-based digital printing presses, submitted details of its new QA-I Toners. Punchgraphix, the Xeikon parent company, made it a corporate goal to reduce the amount of energy used and waste produced at its Xeikon brand toner production plant in Belgium. This directive has also helped the company comply with the EU’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) initiative.

The new toner system minimizes the use of energy, organic solvents and process water. All the energy used in the plant is contracted from renewable sources. Punch has reduced overall toner waste at the plant by 50 percent; any toner waste is recovered and combined with wood pulp to be used as energy to fuel manufacturing operations for the cement industry. The company says that the new formulation also increases production output by 2.5 times.

The toner bottles used in the Xeikon digital presses are made of recyclable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and the inks are safe for food contact as per US FDA requirements.

Xeikon has already earned a number of awards for its sustainable initiatives, including the Environmental Belgian Award for sustainable product development and the Ingede organization’s recognition of the de-inkability of Xeikon’s toner.

End user

Armor promoted its AWR 470 SolFree thermal transfer ribbons that are coated without the use of solvents, saving 365g of CO2 per standard industry roll. The ribbons are comparable in price to competitive options and the company’s employees are no longer exposed to harmful chemicals in production.

As retailers are the primary users of thermal transfer printers, this product allows them to reduce their own environmental footprint. But they need to be informed that these kinds of options are available.

CPGs evaluate their suppliers

Retailers are now demanding environmental transparency from their suppliers. Every last detail is being combed through: packaging weight, recyclability, home-use effects (such as water consumption required for detergent effectiveness), raw materials sourcing, distribution chain emissions and overall environmental footprint measured by a given scale.

The results can be seen in initiatives like Procter & Gamble’s Supplier Sustainability Index introduced in early 2010, initially rolling it out to 400 of its suppliers. Soon to be introduced to the rest of its supply chain, this index requests information about energy and water usage, waste to landfill and potential waste that is recycled, reused or recovered.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition, meanwhile, has adopted the Labeling for Recovery Project in an effort to assist the packaging industry in meeting more stringent end user requirements. The system is using the UK’s On Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) as a model. The project is developing a standardized system for package labels to alleviate consumer confusion and increase the recycle rate and reach of packaging materials.

An interesting software tool, called Compass, now allows designers to assess the environmental impacts of their package designs using a life-cycle approach. Compass evaluates information in four main categories: life cycle metrics, packaging attributes, emission metrics and life cycle phases. These cover issues such as consumption of water and other limited resources, recycled versus virgin content materials, greenhouse gas emissions and product distribution. The Compass measurements were developed using the SPC definition of sustainable packaging following ISO 14044 guidelines. It currently has data sets for the US, Canada and Europe.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has revised its Green Guides for the first time in twelve years, drastically curtailing the ‘Greenwash’ words marketers use to describe the environmental impact of their products’ packaging. The new guide will more precisely define terms such as recyclable, compostable, biodegradable and more. They’re to be revealed by the end of 2010.

Certifications

Among the bewildering array of environmental paper certification programs which have sprung up recently, the industry needs to remain focused on the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Forestry Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. As more forests are certified, the price differential with standard paper products should diminish. 

The US Green Building Coucil’s LEEDs certification program has also experienced enormous growth in 2008-2010. A number of converting operations throughout the US have earned various levels of LEEDs certification. Retrofitting manufacturing facilities to reduce energy and water usage is extremely popular.

At Labelexpo Americas, North America’s premier labels trade organization, the Tag and Label Manufacturer’s Institute, was heavily promoting Project LIFE, a certifiable Environmental Management System directed at label converters. By the end of 2010 TLMI will have over 20 active members certified. Project LIFE follows in-line with ISO 14001 certification.

Pictured: 2010 Winner: Channeled Resources Group

Click here for more stories about Labelexpo Americas on L&L.com. 

This article was published in L&L issue 6, 2010

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Danielle Jerschefske is Labels & Labeling's sustainability consultant.

See author’s profile »