In a world where sustainability is becoming increasingly vital, the packaging industry plays a significant role in reducing its environmental impact. We had the privilege of speaking with an industry expert, Paolo Gobrili, product manager FFS Machines, ILPRA, who sheds light on the future of sustainable packaging solutions. This insightful conversation delves into the challenges and opportunities of the packaging industry, particularly focusing on the role of Form–Fill–Seal (FFS) technology in creating a more sustainable packaging ecosystem.
Single-serve packaging in the post-COVID era
The discussion kicks off with a mention of 'thermoforming', a process integral to packaging production. Thermoforming is a technique used to shape plastic into packaging containers. Paolo Gobrili emphasized the importance of adapting to changing consumer behaviors, such as the increased demand for single-serve packaging due to COVID-19 concerns.
He discussed one of the notable trends, the surge in single-serve packaging, primarily driven by the reluctance to share dipping sauces. This trend aligns with the booming home delivery market, especially in India. The convenience of single-serve containers has made them increasingly popular. He highlighted, "It's important to note that these single-serve packages can be environmentally friendly, contributing to a circular economy when designed with recyclable materials."
While discussing the global packaging landscape, Gobrili also highlights the specific challenges faced in India. Despite the availability of suitable materials like PET, the main hurdle lies in proper plastic collection and recycling. He calls for increased efforts in educating consumers about recycling and waste separation.
He shared that the Material Lifecycle Assessment is a crucial tool for evaluating the environmental impact of packaging materials. While plastic may have a lower carbon footprint when recycled, consumer awareness of the importance of recycling and choosing the right materials remains challenging. Educating consumers about the benefits of sustainable packaging is vital for the industry's future.
A sustainable approach
Paolo Gobrili emphasized the importance of choosing the right packaging materials for a sustainable future. According to him, in an era where environmental consciousness is growing, packaging material becomes a crucial factor. He mentions the significance of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) as a mono-material, which is recyclable and ideal for circular economies. "This material's versatility and ability to be reused multiple times make it a standout choice for sustainable packaging," he said.
He added, "Historically, PET had limitations, especially in hot-fill applications, but recent developments have made it suitable for a wider range of products. PET is essential to the circular economy, as it can be recycled and reused."
A significant innovation highlighted in the conversation is the development of breakable PET. Gobrili highlighted that mono-material packaging simplifies the recycling process and promotes a circular economy, unlike traditional packaging that combines multiple materials. This innovation offers an eco-friendly solution, especially when compared to difficult packaging combinations to separate and recycle.
The role of FFS Technology
Form-Fill-Seal (FFS) technology took center stage in this conversation. Gobrili explained that FFS machines offer a unique advantage by minimizing human touch during packaging, ensuring hygiene, and reducing the risk of contamination. Moreover, these machines cater to various materials, making them adaptable to different packaging needs, whether Polypropylene (PP) or PET.
ILPRA's FFS (Form-Fill-Seal) segment represents a cutting-edge approach to packaging solutions and is building the next-generation FFS machines. This segment offers state-of-the-art machinery and technologies for packaging applications, catering to various industries. ILPRA's FFS segment provides customizable and efficient packaging solutions, ensuring businesses meet their needs and achieve optimal packaging efficiency. With a commitment to innovation and sustainability, the FFS segment plays a crucial role in shaping the packaging industry's future.
When asked about how the company distinguishes itself from competitors, Gobrili points out its focus on sustainability and commitment to customer satisfaction. Having subsidiaries worldwide, like in INDIA, where the VERIPACK ILPRA Group office ensures the best scope of supply, hence the right machine, identifying the best vital sustainable packaging material for the machines, timely after-sales service, spare parts, and technical support. The Group has decades of long history, and presence on the Milan Stock Exchange underscores their dedication to providing top-quality solutions.
Andrea Brogin, area manager, added, "When discussing packaging and what is vital for VERIPACK ILPRA Group to distinguish itself in the market, it all boils down to delivering the end results that our customers desire. Unlike many of our competitors who offer standardized solutions, we take a customer-oriented approach. When a customer approaches us with an idea or a need, we initiate a solution that aligns perfectly with their specific packaging requirements. Not everyone possesses this capability."
The future of FFS technology
Looking ahead, Gobrili predicts that FFS technology will continue to evolve, especially in terms of sustainable materials. The future lies in educating consumers about the benefits of sustainable packaging. He believes the packaging material is just as crucial as the technology itself, and consumers must be aware of their choices' environmental impact. Awareness campaigns and education on sustainable packaging options are crucial for the industry's progress.
Balancing sustainability and affordability
In response to concerns about the affordability of sustainable packaging, Gobrili acknowledges that a balance needs to be maintained. While sustainable materials may initially seem more expensive, they lead to long-term benefits for both the environment and businesses. By optimizing production and adopting FFS technology, companies can reduce costs and make sustainable packaging accessible.
The discussion concludes with insights into the future market prospects for India's flexible FFS machines. "The market is expected to grow in tandem with the consumption patterns of various products. Factors like affordability, local material availability, and sustainable packaging practices will influence the market's trajectory," Gobrili said.
As consumer awareness grows, companies must adapt by offering eco-friendly solutions. FFS technology is not only a practical choice for packaging but also a step toward a greener future. The packaging industry must continue innovating and educating consumers, ensuring sustainability becomes a top priority. With the right balance of affordability and environmental consciousness, the future of packaging looks promising!