Green packaging is centre stage at Birmingham expo

Nick Mansley
Monday, February 5, 2018

The environment will feature strongly at this year’s show on the future of packaging.

Packaging is once again high on the news agenda. Images of rivers clogged with discarded plastic bottles and packaging trays, and sea life contending with increasing amounts of plastic waste in the oceans, have been all over television screens recently.

Packagers are under pressure from their customers to find ways of mitigating the harm caused by plastic packaging like never before. As well as initiatives from retailers such as Iceland and Waitrose, Coca-Cola, for example, has announced a “massive global ambition” to recycle a used bottle or a can for each one that it sells by 2030, and pledged to make all
of its packaging recyclable. Similarly, Unilever has urged the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector “to step up its efforts to tackle the mounting challenge of ocean plastic waste and create a circular economy for plastics”.

With all this going on, it was perhaps inevitable that the environment would feature heavily at Packaging Innovations 2018 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Indeed, the section of the show that is focused on advances in sustainable packaging, Ecopack, is bigger than ever. James Drake-Brockman, divisional director of Packaging Innovations, points out that environmental concerns have been targeted at the sector for many years, and these pressures are driving his exhibitors to ever greater levels of innovation.

The global market for sustainable packaging is forecast to reach about £170bn by the end of 2018, with it being touted as the top challenge facing companies by 2023.

Drake-Brockman says: “We launched Ecopack back in 2008, when we first identified sustainability as becoming one of the biggest challenges facing the packaging industry. Some 10 years later, the issue of sustainability is more prolific than ever, which is why our dedicated theatre is packed full of educational content. We have major names, such as Innocent, Co-op and TerraCycle on board, looking to discuss and educate those in attendance on all things ‘green’. It is not to be missed.”

There will be an extensive programme of seminars and interactive sessions hosted on the Ecopack Stage, which will explore current trends, issues and possibilities in the world of sustainable packaging. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from businesses that have sought to address the sustainability conundrum. Among those leading the discussions will be Simon Reid, sustainability manager at Innocent Drinks. His talk called ‘Go circular or go home’ will outline the brand’s own ongoing quest for sustainability.

The Ecopack Panel Talk, which is titled ‘How to tackle the packaging problem’ will feature retailers, recyclers and local authorities. Ecosurety managing director James Piper will chair the debate, which will explore how brands can help to deal with packaging after use and make sure that visitors stay up to date with this fast-moving policy area.

Retail behemoth Tesco will join the Recycling Panel, led by Prismm Environmental, to discuss the challenges, opportunities and innovations facing the packaging market as it moves to become better at recycling.

Marks & Spencer is once again sponsoring the Ecopack Challenge, which is intended to give companies creating truly innovative and sustainable products the chance to win the opportunity to develop an idea with the retailer.

Retailers, recyclers and local authorities will also be taking to the stage to discuss sustainability, as part of the Ecopack Panel Talk, titled ‘How to Tackle the Packaging Problem’. James Piper, managing director at Ecosurety, will be chairing the panel debate, which will explore how brands can take on the growing problem created by packaging at the end of life, and stay up to date with the fast-moving policy area.

The show organiser says there will be a bigger focus on what print is bringing to the packaging table. Drake-Brockman says there will be more onus on machinery, with more machinery manufacturers, print converters and print service providers exhibiting. In fact, he says, there will be more machinery manufacturers altogether as part of a strategy to grow the Empack element of the show.

The Big Print Debate will discuss the future of the label sector and consider “whether a label is defined by its size,

its scope or the purpose it serves”. Joining the panel this year will be Kevin Vyse, senior packaging technologist at the M&S Food Group.

CS Labels technical director Andrew Mansfield will outline the work that his company did in creating an innovative digitally printed flexible pouch for snack brand Graze, taking visitors through the flexible digital packaging process and highlighting the benefits and the pitfalls of the method.

Asda will take part in the FlexoTech Debate to discuss whether advances in technology have done enough to help Flexo adapt to changing trends in the market today and in the future.
Glossop Cartons will be looking to educate visitors about the increasingly popular varnish effects that it has been able to deliver at a lower cost and in shorter turnarounds, thanks to recent investments.

Cambrian Packaging has expanded its range of packs and will be highlighting its ability to supply HDPE bottles in post-consumer recycled material.

The show’s seminar programme is, as ever, a key draw. The organisers say there will be more than 20 hours of content spread across five theatres.

While the full programme has yet to be published, Drake-Brockman says: “The programme promises a unique insight into the cutting-edge trends, current issues and latest opportunities within the industry, and guarantees inspiration for any industry professional in attendance. We are also due to announce some very special sessions.”

Packaging Innovations remains a popular show, and Drake-Brockman expects more than 6,000 visitors to attend over the two days. Part of its appeal, he says, is its breadth of content, which is able to draw in attendees from across the whole buying chain, from brand managers, product managers and procurement, to packaging professionals, print buyers and engineers.

“They come to the shows, explore them as individuals then get back together to share ideas, discuss the latest innovations they have spotted and explore the hottest trends,” he says.

“The event enables key decision-makers and buyers to see more than 300 suppliers, from major names through to the niche specialists, all under one roof.”

In terms of exhibitors, there is a long list of company names that will be familiar to printers. For instance, Epson, Vivid Laminating, GMG Color, Zünd, Xaar, Durst, Esko and Kase Make will all have a presence in the Label & Print section of the show. Mark Andy will be exhibiting at the show for the first time and will be presenting its Digital One dry toner entry-level labels press. The press has been designed for ‘micro-run’ applications for converters, who don’t have sufficient business to need a production-level digital solution. Meanwhile, HP returns as the sponsor of the Networking Bar.

Zünd will demonstrate a G3 L3200 digital cutting table, configured for sample-making and production applications in the packaging market. Managing director Stuart Cole says: “Together with Arden Software, we’ll be demonstrating a complete system for sample-making and production for packaging, a sector that has really seen an explosion of creativity and innovation in recent years.”

Meanwhile, Empack will host those manufacturers that specialise in packaging kit, including companies such as Yorkshire Packaging Systems, Herma, Adpak, Ibis and Atwell Self-Adhesive Labellers.

Need to know
Where Halls 9 & 10 NEC, Birmingham
When 28 February – 1 March, 2018
Opening times
Wednesday 28 February, 10am to 5pm, Thursday 1 March, 10am to 5pm
More information
Added extras Packaging Innovations will run alongside two co-hosted shows: Empack, which will showcase the latest developments in packaging machinery, and Label&Print, focusing on printing, labelling and converting. As well as these, there
will also be dedicated areas for contract packaging exhibitors, Contract Pack, and sustainable packaging specialists, Eco Pack


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