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Making Sustainability More Economically Viable

By: Alessandra Funcia
Posted: August 29, 2012, from the September 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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When it comes to coloring biopolymers—and making packaging that is appealing to today’s consumers—there are several options available to maximize both their environmental profile and their economic viability. All-natural colorants, made from plants, insects and other natural sources, can provide a completely renewable and biodegradable solution. Other options use conventional (non-natural) colors and additives to provide a broader, more economical choice of colors and functionality, while still meeting important U.S. and European standards for compostability and ecotoxicity.

Using More Recycled Plastics

Many consumers prefer packaging made from postconsumer recycled (PCR) plastics, but it can often be difficult to achieve bright, attractive colors in these materials. Other plastics—especially PET, the polymer used in soda pop bottles and one of the most commonly recycled materials—can degrade when reprocessed, and lose important processing and in-use performance properties when that happens.

Fortunately, with newer color and special-effects technologies available, it is now possible to make PCR packaging more colorful so it is a good environmental choice that can compete effectively for the consumer’s attention on store shelves. For PET, additive technology can repair polymer chains that have broken due to degradation during recycling, so this relatively abundant recycled material can be used in higher-value applications, including beauty packaging. Interestingly, these same additives can also be used to improve the processing characteristics of biopolymers, so that they become more economically viable as well.

However, as attractive as these naturally derived and recycled plastics can be, you have to remember that they need to succeed in the real-world marketplace. They need to be economical to source and manufacture, and it must be possible to turn them into packaging that fulfills the promise of the brand and entices the consumer to buy your product again and again. Partnering with a packaging supplier with global experience, knowledge and premium services is ideal for brand owners and major packaging converters in new application research so that, together, you can make sustainability both responsible and profitable.

Alessandra Funcia is global head of segment packaging for Clariant Masterbatches in Muttenz, near Basel, Switzerland. A native of Brazil, she joined Clariant in 2001 and worked in the R&D and color matching lab in São Paulo. In 2004, she moved into regional key account management and was named head of segment packaging for Latin America in 2007. She became global key account manager in 2011 and transferred to Switzerland to assume her current position in January 2012. Her educational background includes a degree in chemistry from the Universidade de São Paulo and an executive MBA awarded by Fundação Dom Cabral. She also has completed postgraduate studies in finance and strategic marketing for packaging, and she is active in the Color Marketing Group.