Moving the eco discourse forward


While Packaging Innovations has always done what it says on the tin, over the past few years it could be argued that, while still visible, some of the innovative tech and applications on show at the event have been overshadowed by the ongoing debate about plastic – a debate that too often writes plastic packaging off as irredeemable.

As a result, many brands have moved away from using plastic, often without considering the carbon impact of the replacement material. And it was in this direction that the conversation moved forward at Birmingham’s NEC on 26-27 February.

A number of the show’s 300-plus exhibitors showed developments and technologies designed to lower packaging’s carbon impact, and it was standing room only at many of the packed seminars devoted to debating the latest industry thinking on the topic.

Speaking on the Ecopack Stage, Kevin Vyse, head of technical at Rapid Action Packaging UK, said: “It’s carbon that is killing the planet, not packaging... We are not looking at the facts.

“As we create new solutions to replace plastic, we are actually releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than ever before. The reason we are in such a mess is that we are reacting to opinion which is leading us down the wrong paths.”

Another Ecopack Stage session, ‘Resolving single-use packaging, not single-use plastic!’, saw a panel discussing some of the refillable and reusable types of packaging available.

Catherine Conway, founder and director of zero-waste shop Unpackaged, stressed that reusable packaging “isn’t the death of the packaging industry, it’s an adaption”.

“And there’s plenty of money to be made by designing things that are more innovative and fit for purpose for a world with shrinking resources,” she added.

“People in the supply chain should be going and talking to their customers to find out how they can solve problems.

“But there does need to be a lot of innovation; it’s not like there are lots of re-usable systems out there that are just ready to go, that are scaled, that are proven.”

Fortunately, there was plenty of innovation on show, and not only with regard to reducing packaging’s carbon impact.

Duplo showed a tech preview of its new PFI Blade B3 shape cutter, which is aimed at short-run packaging operations.

Epson, meanwhile, showed production units of it C6500 and C6000 series industrial colour label printers, which are available in either auto-peeler or auto-cutter variations, for the first time.

“As consumers we want more personalisation, and a greater breadth of products now needs to be produced on demand, so the 8in model is really filling that space,” said product manager Dayle Guy.

Colpac used the show to debut its Stagione range of packaging for the hot-food-to-go and delivered meals markets.

Head of marketing and product Kate Berry said: “This is a really unique product for the marketplace because it works as a Kraft PP lined FSC-sourced product, it can be used in the chill chain, in ambient, and in hot-food-to-go and it works well for delivered food because it’s got a really tight fitting lid so it retains its heat really well.”

Organisers said the show saw just over 7,000 visitors attending across both days, up slightly on the figure of 6,922 recorded last year, and Easyfairs’ UK packaging portfolio event director Renan Joel was also pleased with an in-creased percentage of people that had pre-registered to attend.

He hailed show features including the new Cobot Area, which showed the latest advances in the automated systems now used widely in the sector, and the returning Start-Up Village, which invited six up-and-coming packaging companies to present their own innovations.

“We don’t charge companies in the Start-Up Village [to attend], it’s something we do to give back to the community,” he said.

Packaging Innovations will run its luxury-focused London show once again on 23-24 September at Olympia while the flagship event will return to the NEC in March.

“We are changing the floorplan quite drastically next year. We’re moving to bigger halls, so we are expecting growth, and it means the whole configuration of the show is changing and everybody will have a good stand location,” Joel said.

“We’re also simplifying the show to two brands; Packaging Innovations and Empack, and we’re simplifying our seminar programme. So instead of having lots of different sessions going on throughout the show we’ll have one big main stage with high-level keynote speakers flying in from around the globe.”

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