Unpacking The Eco Question
When it comes to eco-friendly operation, the food manufacturing industry has plenty of scope for making a significant difference. Whether it’s refrigeration, logistics, waste or packaging, companies are awash with solutions and suggestions. We asked this year’s Foodex exhibitors how they’re doing their part for the environment.
What are the biggest considerations for the environment within the industry today?
“The biggest challenge for the food industry in the next 3 to 5 years will be the progressive move towards recyclable packaging, in particular the reduction of plastic in packaging,” say vacuum pump specialists Atlas Copco Compressors. “A great example of this is the coffee cup. It is estimated that 2.5 billion are thrown away every year in the UK, yet only 1 in 400 are recycled. Designing economically variable and scalable solutions to issues like these is a big challenge, but also a great opportunity for the industry to lead the world and positively impact other sectors.”
Packaging giant, MULTIVAC, agrees: “Plastic reduction is one of the main topics for us at Foodex this year. Since the recent launch of the UK’s new agenda for the environment and The Courtauld Agreement 2025, the reduction of avoidable plastic packaging waste is one of the hottest topics for UK food producers today. We have started to see retailers respond to these agendas; Iceland announced their plans to go plastic free, Aldi’s own-label products’ packaging aim to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022 and Asda’s target is to reduce its plastic in packaging by 10% this year. It is important for us to work together with our customers to meet the demands of the retailers to offer solutions to reduce plastic packaging waste within the industry.”
And leading UK packaging machinery supplier, ULMA have their eye on government targets too. They observe: “The overall environmental impact of the packaging processes, materials and systems used are key considerations for many companies. This is especially the case in the UK whereby the government is aiming to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, including packaging, by 2042.”
What measures are you taking to ensure you are being as eco-friendly as possible?
“ULMA Packaging is dedicated to developing systems, which not only deliver exceptional packaging results with reduced downtime on the production line, but also reduce waste and energy consumption. Many of our packaging machines help to decrease waste while improving productivity. A great example of this is our award-winning TFS407R system, which has been designed to reduce film waste by up to 40%.”
“Energy efficiency and environmental considerations should be at the core of any product designed for the food industry,” say Atlas Copco. “A great example is the latest innovations in vacuum pump technology: to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, new pumps now incorporate variable speed drive, lower environmental emissions (e.g. oil, noise) and accurate pressure control. The ability to accurately set vacuum pressure ensures consistent product quality whilst also guaranteeing eco-friendly operation with less energy waste. Our GHS VSD+ cuts your energy costs by an average 50% and increases production speed by up to 10%.”
And in just one of its responses to environmentally-friendly targets, MULTIVAC has, “developed its packaging machinery to be more economical. All packaging machines now run from Servo Motor Control Systems, which significantly reduces the machine’s requirement for compressed air. MULTIVAC machines can also be specified to produce a reduced amount of edge trim during the forming of a pack so that less material is used and less material is wasted during production.”
What other steps do you think the industry as a whole could make to help the environment and reduce its waste and carbon footprint further?
“Investing in technology to create packaging systems that continue to push the boundaries of reducing energy consumption and waste will be increasingly important for businesses. This is especially true as environmental obligations are likely to become more stringent over time, as the volume of legislation and regulations increases.” say ULMA.
Meanwhile, MULTIVAC is thinking outside the box. They say: “The industry should adapt their packaging to make an impact in helping the environment and reducing waste and carbon footprint. An example of how they could do this is by replacing premade trays for an in-line thermoformed pack. A typical 750-micron tray could be replaced by 350-micron film, which then means one transport container of premade trays would be replaced by a pallet of film, reducing not only plastic but also transport, logistics and storage.”
MULTIVAC also posits that “Making a move towards more readily recyclable products can make a difference, however, the current challenge is the broader implication of having an ineffective infrastructure to the recycle waste material. There needs to be an improvement in the facilities and infrastructure available so that packaging can be more easily recycled.”
It’s safe to say that our exhibitors are one step ahead of the packaging trends and demands. In answer to the clear call for a plummet in plastic packaging, they have a wealth of responses and alternatives to help companies meet that important environmental directive and more. They will be on hand throughout Foodex to demonstrate, advise and find the right solution so you can get your packaging all wrapped up. Find our blog contributors at the following locations:
Atlas Copco Utility Vacuum
ULMA Packaging & Automation