Its development and implementation are the result of both growing demand from customers and end consumers and tightening of legislation in different countries, where governments are tightening environmental standards for packaging.
In 2021, the company said it successfully produced and shipped ready-made bags from mono-material structures for such segments as dairy, confectionery, grocery, pet food, and household chemicals. It said eco-friendly packaging for other segments is also in testing phase.
Generally, packaging found on the store shelves consists of several layers of different types of plastic (PET, PE, PP, etc.). Each solves one of the manufacturer's tasks: one layer is responsible for the formation of seams, the other performs a barrier function to make it possible to extend the shelf life of the product, etc. During the production of multilayer packaging, the layers are laminated together and as a result the packaging can be difficult to recycle - delamination is either technically impossible or economically inefficient.
Uniflex said it has successfully developed and now manufactures on an industrial scale packaging, each layer of which consists of one polymer (polyethylene or polypropylene), non-barrier or barrier. This packaging retains all the usual functions of a multicomponent structure, but is also recyclable.
“The trend for ecological packaging is set both by the authorities of individual countries and unions and by consumers from among individuals,” said director general of Uniflex Alexander Khomichenko.
“For example, UK and EU plan to increase taxes for non-recyclable packaging significantly by the end of the current decade and half of the recycled packaging must be suitable for repeat usage. There are similar plans in Russia – since 2022, the Government of the Russian Federation will restart the extended producer responsibility (EPR), according to which producers and importers must dispose of manufactured or imported products at the end of their life cycle.
“At the same time, consumers behave more and more conscious and do not make their choice of products impulsively, but carefully study the products and pay attention to sustainability and natural ingredients of goods, as well as sustainability of packaging. Uniflex also contributed to this trend: under the company's general strategy to be more environmentally friendly our company is one of the first printing houses that started development of mono-material structure packaging. Our previous large-scale environmental project was carried out with the support of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and concerned the launch of a gas cleaning unit that captures 97% of the volatile organic compounds of the production site.”
The production of recyclable mono-material structure packaging is an important step for Uniflex on the way to building a sustainable business by incorporating circular economy principles and complying with standards of national and international standards on waste management and environmental protection.
“The development of mono-material structure packaging in Uniflex is carried out by Research and Development department. First tests began two years ago and the first shipping of the recyclable packaging to client took place in December 2020,” said deputy general director for technology Sergey Kostin.
“Since then, many issues have been resolved, many films from various manufacturers have been tested, and now we have a result that completely satisfies both us and our customers. At the same time, it is important to understand that the process of developing of eco-friendly packaging can run only in close cooperation of the printing house and the client.
“It can take a long period before the launch of industrial production, and it requires constant feedback to obtain the result that client needs concerning the properties of packaging for a specific product.”