Glass Packaging - sustainability, potential and challenges
The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. Thomas Dreier Well, once you spend a lot of time on anything, you either become an expert or a lifelong learner. I think that food packaging to me is something that incites various emotions within me. I am fascinated with glass, as it has been used for thousands of years, historians believe the first glass bottles were made in 1500BC in Mesopotamia! As a matter of fact, the oldest unopened wine bottle in the world was found in Speyer, Germany, dating back 1,700 years. Almost no other man-made material provides so many possibilities across so many industries and disciplines as Glass. For making hollow glass vessels, the blowpipe was invented around 1 B.C. This allowed molten glass to be gathered on the end of the blow pipe and blown into the other end to create a vessel. Eventually, the use of a mold was introduced, followed by the invention of a semi-automatic machine called the Press and Blow. In 1904 Michael Owens invented the automatic bottle machine. Sustainability: Glass is the trusted and proven packaging for health, taste and the environment. It is also the only widely-used food packaging granted the FDA status of “GRAS” or generally recognized as safe – the highest standard. On a global scale, the market for glass packaging is thriving due to increased demand for green sustainable packaging solutions. Glass is considered to be a step towards circular economy and is made in a closed-loop cycle. Recycled glass can be used to remake the exact same product, over and over again, for ever. Another perspective claims Glass to be more detrimental to our environment than plastic because of the processes involved in manufacturing the material and the subsequent weight of glass containers in shipping. These dynamics of glass production and delivery result in the fact that glass has a much higher carbon footprint than plastic. In terms of Glass packaging’s sustainability and impact on the environment, probably the reality is somewhere in the middle considering the amount of glass that is recycled, reused and produced. Aesthetics and brand appeal: The need for manufacturers of food packaging materials to demonstrate that their products are safe has become more important than ever. Other challenges in the market are related to the product differentiation and the need to effectively position the brand in the market. As premiumization grows in all categories in food and beverage, no other packaging material matches glass for a premium consumer experience. Design attributes only possible with glass offer an exceptional package. Glass bottles with thick bases, embossing and decoration work together with label designs present an image that can convey the story of the brand and offer an unmatched shelf presence. Glass bottles and glass containers remain the packaging solution of choice for alcohol, jams, pickles, thick pastes, beers, wines and spirits. Properties that help Glass: Some of glass’s unique properties make it at the cusp of cutting-edge of technology even after thousands of years of its existence... Chemical: Corrosion resistance and Inertness Thermal shock resistance Optical: Reflects, bends, transmits and absorbs light Electrical insulation Mechanical: Surface is hard (scratch and abrasion resistant) and Elastic Smart glass bottles and containers whose colour changes depending on the liquid temperature (medicines, wines, perishable products, etc.) Interactive drinking glass Glass Packaging Design Challenges: For any FMCG or food product market success, these three principles—transport, stack and store—determine the efficacy of the packaging design. It’s important to realise, one of the package’s main function is protection of the product. Unnecessary packaging will have an effect on the environment. It is prudent to manufacture products that minimise product waste by consumers and try and maximise product to packaging weight/volume ratios. By managing the trade-offs between primary, secondary and tertiary packaging, transport efficiencies can be maximized. Over the last decade there has been a big push to reduce the weight of the glass bottles. Food manufacturers want to reduce costs, but at some point putting less glass in the bottle will cause the bottle to be more fragile and break easily. Glass bottle makers are under pressure to produce glass bottles with low weight but strong enough to withstand the pressures in the filling lines. Think about how you like the packaging to be intuitive for consumers. As with any design, knowing what information and copy needs to be included in the artwork dictates the final design. It is always recommended to check security, measurements and legislation that you need to include on your package and on to the label. If your food business packs product into glass, extra caution is required. Glass breakage and cleaning procedures will need to be detailed to ensure that any broken glass is not missed or left to fall into product at a later time. Product should be easily taken out from the container and shouldn’t stay in edges, recesses etc. Decide if you’re opting for bespoke or off-the-shelf packaging. If glass containers are being used in a manufacturing process and air blown or product rinsed to clean them, do you class this process step as a CCP? Regarding contaminants, glass in glass OR other contaminants, what sort of control measures you have in plan? If you are having hot fill process, what sort of process validations and controls you have in place that will ensure proper usage of glass containers and no cracks OR breakage because of process or material variations. If the production line speed is medium to high speed, what sort of line controls have you in place that ensure optimal back pressure during conveying, good control during filling, labelling, packing, de-palletising and palletising? Along with packaging, some other areas of Research and Development for the future of glass are Special coatings for buildings: Smart mirrors and highly insulating glass windows for photosensitive, switchable or electrochromic glazing Anti-reflection properties and technologies for clean energy generation Strength: If glass of any type were available at 50 times its current strength, new products and opportunities could emerge in the marketplace, like ultra-thin and light container glass and lighter flat glass and fibreglass for composites. Some applications already render glass stronger by 2 to 6 times Functional integration in glass that can then become an ideal substrate for OLED lighting, touch screens, audio-visual displays, etc. Photovoltaic sunroof to provide electricity to hybrid and electric vehicles LED light sources in jewellery Mirrors assessing the health condition of the person standing in front of it Jewellery assessing the cardiac rhythm and body temperature More complex glass shapes and further improved insulation properties to free architects from constraints Smaller and best performing photovoltaic and wind energy electricity generation equipment. Glass is an extensively useful material whose number of applications is constantly evolving and which is more and more used in combination with other material for food packaging and in other high-tech applications. Do you like glass in food packaging and what do you think is glass’s future?
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