Packaging Predictions: 2016

Posted on 1/6/2016 12:33:48 PM By Hallie Forcinio

As the old year is behind us, it’s time to look forward. Although we can’t be completely certain about what the new year will bring, there’s no doubt adhesive innovations will continue to play an important role in the packaging of the products we bring home or use at work or play. 

I think it’s safe to say all areas of adhesive technology will evolve to address demands for more sustainable packaging, lower costs, higher productivity and shelf impact. As a result, we’ll see expanded use of:

• Melt-on-demand sealing systems
• Green chemistries
• Recycling-friendly adhesive formulas
• Consumer appeal

Melt-on-demand sealing systems
Melt-on-demand (MOD) sealing systems were prominently displayed at PACK EXPO Las Vegas (Sept. 28-30, 2015 at the Las Vegas Convention Center), and interest in what are sometimes described as “tank-less” or “tank-free” systems is growing. MOD systems offer the potential to consume less adhesive and energy, enhance productivity by minimizing charring and degradation, significantly shorten make ready times and reduce maintenance requirements. Advanced software allows machine status to be viewed from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Pattern controllers optimize application. 

Green chemistries
Green chemistries replace solvents with water or 100% solids and non-renewable raw materials with renewable natural rubber, starch derivatives, cellulose, soy, natural gum, plant oils and biopolymers. Green formulas simplify compliance with regulations minimize or eliminate emissions of volatile organic compounds,lower risks associated with flammability and prevent pollution. With sustainability now a part of most company’s cultures rather than a short-term initiative, interest in renewable materials appears to be growing. 

Recycling-friendly formulas 
Use of recycled-content plastic is expanding hand-in-hand with the use of plastic containers. Unfortunately, contamination in the recycling stream can limit bottle-to-bottle recycling, especially for polyethylene terephthalate containers. A major source of contamination is labels. During the wash process, adhesives don’t remove cleanly and/or inks bleed and dye the plastic. As a result, a growing number of label adhesives are being formulated in accordance with guidelines established by the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR), Washington, DC, and/or meet the approval of the European PET Bottle Platform, a voluntary industry initiative. Recycling-friendly label structures typically rely on proprietary adhesives and have carried a higher price tag. However, as technologies evolve, prices are declining, and the premium is evaporating. 

Adhesive residue also can be an issue with returnable plastic containers (RPCs), particularly when used in the food industry. However, the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA), Linden, VA, addresses this issue in its protocols for washing, handling, storing, packing, displaying and collecting RPCs. Developed by RPA’s Food Safety Working Group, the guidelines combine common knowledge and best practices to provide standardized protocols that surpass industry regulations. The guidelines related to label adhesives include a test protocol to confirm the RPC will be clean and free of adhesive residue for each trip. 

Consumer appeal
Consumers appreciate packaging that stands out on the store shelf and makes a product easy to use. As a result, we’ll continue to see growth in retail-ready packaging. Typical designs quickly convert from shipper to store display, minimize handling at the store level,grab the attention of passing shoppers and often depend on hot melt sealing. 

Demand for functional packaging also continues to rise, spurring demand for features like peel/reseal labels, tear notches, dispensing closures, handles or hand grips and interactive “smart” packaging such as spoilage indicators or labels with near field communication tags that communicate with smartphones.