Developing caps and closures for dairy products that integrate seamlessly into recycling streams has always been a challenge for the industry. However, new innovations are making that possible, thus bolstering sustainability efforts.
David Watson, category director for food closures at BERICAP, Burlington, Ont., said requests for 100% package recyclability as well as 100% construction from post-consumer material are driving innovation in dairy caps and closures. Customers are requesting this level of recyclability in order to help create circular packaging programs, he said.
“BERICAP is supporting these trends by launching closures that meet these expectations and coincide with a movement toward more PET bottle packaging,” Watson said. “These new-generation designs support an excellent bottle-to-closure interface and barrier opportunity, extended shelf life for non-refrigerated programs in warehouses as well as in trade, and the union with PET creates packaging that is truly 100% recyclable and valuable to the recovery stream.”
Watson said BERICAP’s closures enhance the needs of new dairy products in trade as well as support the arrival of products with globally standardized neck finishes for aseptic and extended shelf-life dairy applications. He said the company’s products feature one- and two-piece designs that support standardized screw-top applications for PET and HDPE containers as well as specialized dispensing closures for dairy products that are designed to pour in controlled portions.
To bolster their sustainability efforts, BERICAP has reduced overall closure and neck finish weight by about 35% since 2002. At the same time, it has developed a one-piece HDPE construction that supports the ease of manufacturing and integration into the recycling stream. Watson said the company has also added post-consumer and recycled materials to enhance polymer material supply-chain options and developed closure-to-bottle tethering to keep the cap with the bottle throughout its entire market life.
Watson said BERICAP’s current and future innovations in dairy closures will exceed these sustainability requirements, and the company anticipates using more designs based on lightweight and post-consumer materials as these options continue to increase in availability over the next three to five years.
Melanie Montplaisir, marketing manager for Montreal-based TC Transcontinental, said the challenge in flexible packaging is to simplify structures and move toward mono-material packaging. She said when designing packaging that includes caps and closures, the company needs to make sure materials are used from similar or identical polymer grades so the entire package can be recycled together.
To that end, she said TC Transcontinental has developed a task force of sustainability experts that work with labs and technologies to identify opportunities in sustainable solutions and design optimized packaging for performance and cost. She said the many tests, instruments and technology available to their team have provided enhanced product development and knowledge through the entire process of flexible packaging design. In turn, this has resulted in the development of innovative films for sustainability or e-commerce.
According to Montplaisir, the main challenge the company is experiencing in that process is how the package will perform on the customer’s equipment, and to help the company has four different labs they use to analyze and simulate real-life use of packaging, perform production-scale customer prototypes, and complete in-house recyclability and composability assessment.
Improving form and function
In another innovation, Indianapolis-based Closures Systems International (CSI) has introduced the 38D-KF closure this past year that includes a half-moon style foil liner, which allows for dual tamper evidence and a reinforced seal on shelves. It is designed to work with HDPE and PET bottles and is commercially available for applications in liquid dairy and non-carbonated markets, including milks and juices.
These closures also can incorporate PolyCycle, CSI’s post-consumer recycled HDPE resin that is sourced from recycled milk and beverage containers, allowing the cap to be sourced with up to 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE resin.
“Our teams apply innovation and…lean manufacturing to help customers maximize profits by enhancing the marketability of their brands while optimizing total cost of operations,” said Clint Rush, marketing director for CSI. “In part, those approaches include optimizing closure design, minimizing closure weight, increased machine output, shared efficiency gains, reduced waste and improved recyclability.”
Another innovation from CSI is a twist-and-flip tethered closure, which is designed to meet the needs of evolving legislation in the beverage industry while also delivering both the brand owner and the consumer value, Rush said. The closure increases recyclability by allowing it to stay attached to the bottle throughout the product’s lifecycle, and this helps keep plastics in the circular economy and out of the waste stream. These tethered closures are also dimensionally interchangeable with existing closures as a drop-in replacement, and they are commercially available through CSI in a range of product or pack requirements.
When it comes to other forms of closures, Ben Davis, product manager for pouches and bags for Cincinnati-based ProAmpac, said spouted pouches offer a reduced package-to-product ratio compared with similar rigid packages.
“This benefit from reduced package weight motivates brands to convert from rigid to flexible packaging,” Davis said.
Davis said mono-material spouted pouches are being developed to progress toward recyclable options. Designing the spout and flexible package to interact optimally is an important enabler of this technology. He noted current recycling streams for flexible packaging often require clean and dry packages, and advancements are needed in order to accept more packaging from various dairy applications. Adding post-consumer recycled content in the pouch or spout is another consideration, Davis suggested. ProAmpac has designed two spouted pouches for the dairy industry with the latest innovation being a flip-top spouted pouch that can be opened, dispensed and reclosed with one hand. These spouts may need to be pre-inserted into the pouch for fill-through-spout or fill-through-pouch applications, Davis said. He also said the pouch could be formed in-line during the filling process with sealing the spout being the final step to close the package.
“Spouted pouches offer a nice billboard for branding and enhanced shelf presence,” Davis said. “Reclose functionality gives consumers confidence that extra product can be safely preserved for future use. Smaller portions in spouted pouches can create convenience and new use occasions as well.”
Whether through the use of post-consumer recycled content or weight reduction, companies are exploring multiple avenues to ensure caps and closures for dairy packaging are included in recycling streams and deliver on standards for sustainability while maintaining high standards of function.