Is aluminum the sustainable packaging  solution of the future? 

There is a growing demand for environmentally friendly packaging solutions that is being led by consumers and ecological groups. This movement is increasing in voice and stature as larger numbers of consumers become more aware — of both the environment and their impact on it. 

This push has meant that in recent years companies in the food and beverage industry have started to put an effort in to support the environment. You can read more about why aluminum might well be the answer to winning the “war on plastics” in my article.             

Metal Packaging: At the Forefront of Sustainability

Discarded plastic packaging has swamped our planet — quite literally — and it is impossible to dispute the grave threat it poses to our environment. Greenpeace has reported that plastic has now “been found in every corner of the world, including the deepest ocean trenches and uninhabited islands.” The organization’s own researchers have also found plastic pollution in Antarctica.

As a result, there is a growing demand, led by consumer and ecological groups across the world to win the “war on plastics”, particularly single use plastic packaging. This movement is increasing in voice and stature as larger numbers of consumers become more aware — of both the environment and their impact on it. The shift away from single use plastic packaging for beverages has seen a resurging focus on Aluminum solutions to meet changing demands, particularly for water, but also for other soft and alcoholic drinks. Even while established beverage brands are looking to transition their packaging to Aluminum, new beverage launches in cans are rapidly growing market share, according to Ball Corporation, one of the largest global manufacturers of beverage packaging.

There is an increasing global effort to implement more sustainable solutions in this regard, led by some of the world’s largest food and beverage brands, including Coca Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo to name a few. Bloomberg reported that PepsiCo is transitioning its Aquafina water brand to aluminum packaging and is due to hit shelves this year! 

Aluminum: Infinite Recyclability

Logo is property of Metal Packaging Europe

In the drive for sustainability, Aluminum wins out in the best possible way, because it is infinitely recyclable. Aluminum cans can be recycled over and over again to produce the same high-quality standards of packaging, with no deterioration in material properties. This cannot be said of plastic. There are numerous reasons why Aluminum is a good fit for beverage packaging, notably the longer shelf life it offers, even over plastic. In addition, it maintains a higher quality of product, with little to no effect on taste because no light infiltrates the cans.

Although Aluminum production is an energy intensive process, this can be offset, according to The Aluminum Association, almost 75% of all of the Aluminum that has ever been produced in the US is still in use today thanks to its recyclability. Moreover, the costs of recycling Aluminum (bottom line and in terms of energy and resources) is considerably lower than for plastic or original production. Compare these figures with those published in the Science Advances journal, which quotes that only 9% of plastics produced globally has ever been recycled. 

Metal Packaging: Sustainable Manufacturing

Additionally, new and innovative technologies for improving the production process of metal beverage packaging are further meeting sustainability goals across the industry. This is where I play a small part in the global collective, providing products which are used in the process to manufacture metal packaging, such as high performance can forming lubricants and highly efficient can cleaners. The lubricants enable increased production efficiency and the can cleaners use environmentally responsible surfactants.                                                                        

In combination with consumer awareness, recyclability and efficient manufacturing processes, metal packaging  provides numerous advantages as a sustainable option for food and beverage applications. For additional information on Henkel solutions, please visit our website or reach out to me directly via LinkedIn.

Stay tuned as we continue to explore solutions for metal packaging manufacturing enabling process efficiency, improving health and safety, and reducing environmental impact in the "Keep it Rolling with Henkel" Blog Series .                                                                       

Emily Mullins

As the Global Market Strategy Manager for the Surface Technologies segment of the Metals business, Emily is responsible for developing global business and product development strategies based on trends and innovations in the industry, such as the drive for more recyclable and sustainable products and more efficient production processes. With a background in chemical engineering and almost 20 years of experience in the industry, she offers a wealth of product expertise to both internal stakeholders and external customers.

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