The recycling myth: Collection versus reuse rates

When it comes to environmental science and supply chain issues, if you don’t know Jack, here’s your opportunity to learn a thing or two about the truth of low recycling rates in the United States.


On Earth Day this year, media brand Fusion published the article “Happy Earth Day! America officially sucks at recycling.” The headline certainly captured my attention and I tweeted the link, adding the comment “Blunt & hard 2 argue.”

Jack Buffington agreed. He’s a supply chain executive at MillerCoors, the second largest beer manufacturer in the U.S., and a post-doctoral researcher in the fields of environmental science and supply chain for the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

He’s also the author of “The Recycling Myth: Disruptive Innovation to Improve the Environment,” so he knows a thing or two about this subject that most people might not.

After seeing my tweet, he sent me this email:

You probably know that it is true that America is about 18th in recycling, but what you may not know is that nations that are “good at recycling” have essentially the same reuse rates as the U.S. (e.g., plastic bottles). I know this to be true because not only have I been a leader in the U.S. consumer products industry, I am also a Ph.D. researcher in Sweden, often known as the most successful recycler. So I know a lot about what happens in nations that “don’t suck.”  

The belief that “if we collect more, it will be easier for companies to reuse materials” is just not true for most materials (it’s true for aluminum), based on science and economics, not opinion. Given the chemical and economic properties of a plastic polymer, it has a cost equilibrium point at approximately 10%; in Europe, where there are higher mandated collection rates/subsidies, the average recycled content in a PET bottle is only 11.7%, per the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP). A lot of packaging waste is incinerated as “waste to energy,” and this refutes the conventional argument that collecting more will solve the problem. The truth of low recycling rates of plastic bottles is related to its polymer design not for recycle and the petrochemical supply chain. Unfortunately, efforts continue to focus on collecting more rather than redesigning the bottle and supply chain process.

To prove my case, I’m working with scientists to reverse engineer the supply chain system of a PET bottle to achieve a 100% reuse system in five years. We think we can do it, including agreement with the consumer product industry. I just published a book titled, “The Recycling Myth: Disruptive Innovation to Improve the Environment” that ties to this approach of transformation, and I have yet to have a scientist or economist dispute my findings.

Although I have support from chemists, economists and even environmental organizations, I have offered to have a debate with many of the well-known recycling organizations, and none of them have accepted my offer. This is because there remains a conventional belief, even after 40 years of trying, that we can collect our way from out of this problem, which is refuted based on economics and science. 

I have long wondered how the recycling collection rates jive with the amount of actual recycled material.

So I asked Jack, “Do you have any ‘reuse’ numbers in other countries? I have to admit that I don’t know who monitors reuse numbers in the U.S. All I’ve ever seen are collection numbers or percentages of materials available for collection.”

He was, again, fast and passionate with his response, sending me a presentation he delivered in March 2016 at the Congreso Internacional de Sustentabilidad Ibero in Mexico—along with this message:

You hit the nail on the head in your question! Yes, not much data on reuse rates, and how to define “reuse,” but a lot on recycling. [See his slide above on recycling facts for the U.S., Sweden and Mexico.]

For example, I consider “reuse” to be “bottle to bottle,” or even “can to car” (upcycling). But in some nations, a “zero waste” moniker is earned if reuse comes in the form of incineration via waste to energy!! So if one nation incinerates 50% of its waste while the other landfills 50%, it’s clear that they both share poor reuse rates in a closed loop model, right?

And in Europe, there’s a new EU [European Union] directive requiring nations to achieve a real 75% recycling rate by 2030 that won’t be possible because they focus on eliminating packaging waste through “waste to energy.”  That’s not environmental success to me!!

To Jack, environmental success means a revolution in new materials development, including materials that are 100% recyclable, reusable or that can be thrown away and reused by nature. For example, let’s convert monomer to polymer and back using bio-materials with the potential to be a true reusable plastic.

He’s a proponent of the circular economy method and thinks technology (not regulation) will help increase recycling rates and recycled-content use.

And he wants your help in figuring all this out.

I welcome any conversations and debates on the topic. I actually went to Sweden to get my Ph.D. expecting to bring back an approach that works, but I found that the problem lies in beverage container design and its supply chain, not recycling rates. And I’m focusing research to fix this problem in five years. Unfortunately, too many are locked into this conventional solution that doesn’t and can’t work.

Jack shared many of these thoughts recently on Radio Ecoshock, the largest “dark green” environmental podcast/radio program, which (he tells me) has more than 94 subscribing stations in North America. “Getting into a dialogue beyond ideology is important to solving the problem, and when a dark green environmentalist reads my book and then wants to talk means that we’re heading in the right direction,” Jack says.

Reach him via LinkedIn at明-张杰-7042034, Twitter at @jbuffi1 or leave your comments below.

Jack Buffington


See a host of new ideas in sustainable packaging at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City.

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Labels or direct package printing? Which side are you on?

How do you decorate your packaging for the best possible impact with consumers? Do you know all the options available to you today? Packaging design experts will discuss “The Future of Labeling and the Emergence of Direct-to-Package Printing” at the upcoming EastPack 2016 show (June 14-16; New York City).

This thought-provoking, educational and entertaining conversation will explore:

• How consumer trends direct today’s branding and marketing.

• How new decorating options are expanding the packaging designer’s toolbox.

• How pressure-sensitive labeling has progressed over the years and where that market is going.

• How the growth of flexible packaging is making an impact on graphic designs.

• How sustainability guides design decisions…and more.

Our packaging design experts are Timothy Bohlke (left in photo), marketing innovation manager for the materials group of Avery Dennison (who admits he might be a tad biased for labeling!), and Jim Warner, creative and strategic leader of JW3D LLC, who admits that, when it comes to packaging decorations, “it doesn’t mean that shrink or pressure-sensitive labeling are bad and are going away,” says Warner. “It just means that there might be room, in certain conditions, for other types.”

Sounds like the makings of a lively debate.

“The Future of Labeling and the Emergence of Direct-to-Package Printing” session takes place Tues., June 14, from 1:40 to 2:20 p.m., as part of the Packaging for Food & Beverage conference at EastPack. Join us for a full day of sessions on Tuesday in room 1E12 and also hear insights from packaging execs from Coca-Cola, The Schwan Food Co. and more on hot topics such as personalization and ecommerce.

Additionally, we’ve got two other market-specific conference programs jammed with packaging experts you’ll want to hear and meet:

Packaging Design for Health & Beauty—with presentations from Avon, The Clorox Co. and some of the best packaging designers in the world.

Packaging for Pharmaceutical & Medical—with leaders from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and more talking about drug-delivery devices, labeling, regulations and more.

Register today and use the promo code NY16PD to get free expo admission and 20% off conference passes for EastPack 2016.

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Packaging engineer’s star potential realized at Coty

Damen Soriente, Millennial, Rutgers packaging engineering Rising Star and 2015 graduate, talks about what his career looks like working in packaging for Coty’s Sally Hansen brand.


First there was our Rising Star series of notable packaging students—see below—and now we’re launching a spinoff, so to speak: We follow up with those star students and other Millennials working within the wide world of packaging in a new series.

Kicking things off is Damen Soriente, a 2015 Packaging Engineering graduate who had been recognized by Rutgers University as a Rising Star. When we reached out to him to see how things were going, we found out that Soriente had landed a position at Coty shortly after our article was published last spring (see Engineered for packaging by Rutgers University).

“I accepted a job as a developer for the packaging concept development team at Coty,” Soriente says. “To my good fortune, I have been able to utilize a great deal of the information and techniques that I learned while at Rutgers to support me on my projects and tasks.”

Soriente responds to our questions about his work in packaging in this Q&A:


What do you do in that positon?

Soriente: I work on the development of the packaging primary and secondary from the conception phase through the execution phase for the Sally Hansen brand. I work cross-functionally with multiple departments as well as outside sources in order to deliver a product that is imagined by the marketing and creative teams. I also work on prototyping of new designs with CAD drawings using Solidworks and other available resources.


What do you like the most about your job?

Soriente: The team I work with and the open environment. There is such a wealth of knowledge of the packaging industry and technologies through the leader and directors in my department. I have had the opportunity to pick the brains of each of the people I work with and learn new information. They are always nearby to answer any questions that I may have, or help me through something I have never done before.

Also, the company has put a great deal of investment into me through different trainings and classes that I have taken. With the popular mindset that work is terrible, I would say I am lucky enough to enjoy what I do every day.

Coty brands and packaging on display.


What’s it like to be a Millennial in packaging working for a major brand owner?

Soriente: It has been an incredible experience so far. Being such a large company there is such an abundance of information to take in. Coty has such a diverse employee base in both age and culture, which allows the company to explore an enormous customer base. It is really rewarding that I can walk into a store and see items on the shelf that I had a hand in working on and developing.


What has been the biggest work-world surprise?

Soriente: That is being able to make such an immediate impact. Since the day I started, the ideas that I have come up with have been taken into serious consideration, which pushes me to better myself and create an even larger impact in the company. It’s also incredible how well that “it’s a small world”, applies to the packaging industry. At almost every industry event that I have attended, colleagues of mine have known a ton of people at the event from either working with them in the past or them working for Coty in the past.


What’s been your most rewarding or stimulating project?

Soriente: Working on blue sky development, which is designing something that has never been done before. With the resources I have available I can design something and prototype it the same day. The stimulating part of these projects is getting to watch the potential customers test out the prototypes during panel testing and give immediate feedback on the designs.


What’s your next challenge?

Soriente: I look forward to receiving more project roles and responsibilities as we move forward. There is always something new to learn and challenges that arise because Coty covers so many different types of products in the beauty industry. Going forward, I hope to receive new types of projects that will expand my knowledge of different types of materials and packaging methods and to really test what I know and have learned.


Our virtual reunion, Rising Stars shine a light on packaging education, features our first six Rising Stars.



Interested in continuing your professional education in packaging? Join like-minded professionals at EastPack in New York City June 14 to 16 in New York City.



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Are you ready for changes to the USP Packaging Chapters?

If you are using a particular plastic packaging system for a drug already on the market, its use is most likely USP compliant under the recently finalized USP Chapter <661> Containers-Plastics. But when will you need to subject that same plastic packaging system to new tests when using it for a new drug?

We plan to address this question and others on June 16 during the Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging conference. USP <661> Containers-Plastics is only one of the USP packaging chapters changing—Chapter <381> Elastomeric Closures is up next for revision, and there’s talk of a new chapter that will cover packaging systems and components made of metal. Are you ready for all these changes, with more to come?

To help you understand how these changes might impact packaging development and testing, we’ve invited Desmond G. Hunt, PhD, USP’s Senior Scientific Liaison, to speak June 16 at EastPack in “Materials Qualification & Performance: How Will Changes to USP Chapters Impact Packaging Professionals & Drug-Delivery Device Design?”

In this session, learn:

•   The history of <661> Containers Plastic and rationale for revising.

•   The focus of <661.1>, the testing the materials of construction and <661.2>, the testing of drug products in their final packaging system.

•   Testing requirements outlined in the chapters and the impact on “low-risk and “high-risk dosage forms.

•   Applicability of the chapter to current products, products in development, and situations in-between.

•   Impact of revisions to <87> Biological Reactivity, In Vitro and <88> Biological Reactivity, In Vivo.

•   Plans for developing a new packaging chapter that will focus on packaging systems and components made of metal.

•   Direction of a new Expert Panel that will further modernize <381> Elastomeric Closures.

Following his presentation, Hunt will join the panel discussion: “Putting the Changing USP Packaging Chapters to Work” moderated by Dwain L. Sparks, Strategic Advisor & Expert Consultant, YourEncore (Eli Lilly & Co. Retiree). They’ll be joined by Dan Malinowski, Senior Director of Package Technology & Innovation, Pfizer; and Brandon Zurawlow, Associate Director of Container Qualification & CCIT, Whitehouse Laboratories, a division of AMRI.

We are working on a few questions for the panel discussion already, in addition to the one above, such as:

•  What if new USP <661.1/661.2> testing has not been completed for the originally approved drug?

•  Should suppliers pre-certify their materials that have passed <661.1> testing? If precertification is allowed, would material suppliers need to provide data to pharmaceutical companies for inclusion in their application, or would a statement of certification be sufficient? 

•  For packaging systems with multiple layers or components, such as a blister (3-layer film (PVDC, PE, PVC) and lidding foil (aluminum and lacquer)), what are the materials of construction (MOC) that should be tested according to <661.1>?

•  Does <661.1> testing happen at every stage of a material’s life, such as raw material; converted/formed into film, blister, bottle, tube, vial, syringe, etc.; combined with other materials (homopolymer to copolymer) or used with additives; or after sterilization, aging, or processing? 

•  How will the new requirements in <661.1> impact the introduction of new materials of construction?

•  If a pharma company can simply do 661.2 testing, why should an MOC company do <661.1> testing?

•  Does <661> testing adequately address the testing needed to evaluate a change from a glass container to a plastic container?

•  Are there any changes or updates planned for USP <671> or are all users happy with it the way it is?  Is there any evidence that users are using alternate methods and submitting them in their application, as allowed for in <671>?

•  What is the status of resolving the use of “tight container” in Monograph storage statements and the definition of “tight container” that still exists in <671>?  

Please join us June 16 for the Pharmaceutical and Medical Packaging conference, which in addition to including the USP Chapters session also covers FDA’s new electronic Drug Master File system, the PROTECT dosing safety initiatives, and emerging packaging and drug-delivery technologies. Use promo code NY16PMPN to get 20% off the Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging conference on June 16th.  

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Sustainable packaging and the bathtub-shaped curve

Eco-Insights expert Robert M. Lilienfeld points out the invaluable lesson learned from a bathtub-shaped curve and what it means for sustainable packaging.


A bathtub shaped curve indicates that both too little and too much of something can be bad: Too little water causes dehydration. Too much causes drowning. As the old saying goes, the dose makes the poison.

What does this have to do with sustainability for packaging?

Consider PET bottles. For marketing and production efficiency reasons, some contain more plastic than is needed to safely protect the liquid within. Obviously, too much plastic is wasteful when it’s not actually needed.

On the other hand, in an effort to reduce waste through source reduction, some PET bottles have been light-weighted to the point that they burst when being warehoused, spilling the far more valuable products contained within.

The same situation exists for recycling. Example: Paperboard that does not contain high levels of recycled fiber is considered less sustainable, as virgin fibers have a larger environmental footprint. Yet, cartons made of too much recycled (and thus shorter, weaker) fiber may not effectively protect what’s inside, once again increasing the potential for far more costly damage to the product itself.

For all materials and packages, there comes a point of marginal utility where too much (or too little) of a good thing actually becomes a bad thing. At that point, the goal is no longer to do more with less, or less with more, but to use innovation to create new, more efficient product delivery systems and paradigms.

I doubt that I’m telling you anything you don’t already know.

The problem is, well-meaning consumers and policymakers who call for less virgin material and/or more recycled content don’t know what we know.  They probably think we’re always on the downhill slope of the bathtub curve.  Thus, as they work to pass laws requiring 100% recycled content, 100% compostability, 100% bio-polymers, etc., they are also putting in motion the laws of unintended consequences.

Ironically (and sadly), while our deep subject knowledge puts us in a good position to know where to draw the line, our dependence on the materials and packages in question makes our expertise suspect: We are accused of trying to protect our existing businesses, rather than working to protect the environment

How do we overcome this situation? What similar material or packaging examples are out there? How do we educate policymakers, the media, and consumers about the bathtub shaped curve? Most importantly, how do we convince them that we actually have the knowledge and experience to help achieve the goals in question?

Over the next year, I’ll be exploring these issues. I invite you to explore them with me and help discover other examples of the “too much of a good thing” syndrome, along with ways to prevent the syndrome from occurring.

AMERIPEN and its Technical Advisory Group (TAG) are analyzing examples of this “all or nothing” thinking in order to develop better “design for sustainability” strategies, and to communicate to policymakers the benefits of these innovative new ideas.

Please join us. We’ll all benefit if you do.


What do you think? Please comment below.


Robert (Bob) M. Lilienfeld has been involved with sustainable packaging for more than 20 years. He is currently editor of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a marketing and communications consultant to AMERIPEN and other organizations, and is a professional photographer.



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Helping users dial the right dose

Caregivers may not always have two hands available when administering pharmaceutical liquids, so delivering accurate doses could be challenging. When it comes to syrups and suspensions for pediatric applications in particular, “we’ve heard the call for a device for administering them effectively,” reports Alfredo Paredes, marketing manager for Balda C. Brewer. The company, known for its expertise in medical plastics injection molding and contract manufacturing, has just introduced its solution, the Dial-the-Dose liquid medicine dispenser that caregivers can use to deliver an accurate dose with one hand.

Dial-the-Dose can dispense a liquid in volumes ranging from 0.5 mL to 3.0 mL in 0.5-mL increments, all from the same device. “Users draw the syrup into the dispenser and then dial to the appropriate volume,” explains Paredes. “There’s a hard stop when users pull on the plunger. The accuracy tolerance is within +/-10%, whereas the requirement is +/-20%.” 

The device can be used multiple times for the same product, but cannot be disassembled for cleaning for use with different products, says Paredes. “This is a plus when you are promoting the integrity and accuracy for a given product,” he says.

The plunger of the device could be modified to support preloaded doses, but according to Paredes, this would not be considered a prefilled device. “A bolus could be loaded into the dispenser, 5 mL for instance, and then each turn could give another 1 mL, as indicated with a click,” he says. “We could supply these devices in bulk to pharmaceutical customers for preloading. Prefilled devices [face] a more rigorous set of regulatory requirements, and we could help customers go for a prefilled device.”

Dial-the-Dose can also be customized. “We are offering it as a platform that can be modified to suit the needs of a particular product,” he says. “We can also come up with a design from the ground up. There’s also the possibility of interfacing with smart devices, which could be worked on with a partner or customer.”

The device may also find utility in other markets. “Although our Dial-the-Dose product is initially developed for the pharma industry, it demonstrates Balda’s vision and capabilities to provide innovative, custom solutions for the pharma, diagnostic, and medical device industries,” explained Christoph Klaus, Balda’s CEO for U.S. operations, in a statement.

Balda has launched other dosing aids. At CPhI Worldwide last year, the company introduced the Smart Pill Dispenser, which employs Bluetooth technology for interfacing with iPhone 6 platforms through texts to caregivers. It also launched the Mini-Tablet Dispenser for tablets as small as 2 mm in height.

Innovations in glass ampules, vials, and cartridges may also be forthcoming, given Balda’s recent acquisition by Stevanato Group. “We have a history of working with pharma on plastic dispensers, and now we have the component of glass. The impact will be favorable,” says Paredes. “We’re going to bring a new set of service offerings to the pharma market.”

Paredes will present a case study about drug-delivery devices at the Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging conference at EastPack on June 16th, and Klaus will take part in the panel discussion immediately following entitled “Macro Trends in Digital Technology + Human Factors: Combination Sensors, Apps, & Behavioral Science to Design for Emerging Markets,” which also features FDA’s Connected Health expert Bakul Patel, Eric Dessertenne of Biocorp, and Patty Britton of Thin Film Electronics ASA.

Balda C. Brewer will be exhibiting in Booth #1257 at the co-located MD&M East 2016 show June 14-16

Use promo code NY16PMPN to register to get your free expo pass. With that code you’ll also get 20% off the co-located conference Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging conference on June 16th

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Testing and sterilization support, integrated

Plans for a “broader array” of testing services from Nelson Laboratories LLC are in the works, reports Jeffery Nelson, President. Recently acquired by contract sterilization company Sterigenics International LLC, Nelson Labs is integrating Sterigenics’s existing microbiological and analytical testing and consultancy SteriPro Labs, with all labs now operating under the Nelson Labs name.

“This is a reverse integration, combining SteriPro labs and consultancy into Nelson Labs,” Nelson tells PMP News. “For customers trying to get a sterile medical device to market, our availability to customers will now be greater. Prior to the acquisition, Nelson Labs’s operations were only in Salt Lake City, and now combined, we have 10 lab facilities worldwide. Sterigenics also has an additional 48 sterilization facilities in 13 countries across the globe.” The result could be what the two companies describe as “the largest fully integrated global sterilization and lab services firm in the world.”

Nelson Labs currently performs more than 400 microbiological and analytical tests, and SteriPro has been offering ten microbiological and analytical tests as well as consulting with customers on developing and optimizing sterilization solutions in the medical devices, tissue/implantable products, and pharmaceuticals and biologics fields.

Nelson says his team is now coordinating with their new partners to learn about the new locations, opportunities, and synergies. “We are working to become a more comprehensive solution provider for our customers,” says Nelson. “It will take us about 90 days to finalize our integration plans, but I’m already excited by the early prospects and opportunities that we are recognizing. The two companies have highly complementary values, and we are working to build an offering that can be a difference maker for our customers into the future. It’s gratifying for me to be a part of such a capable, global team, and I’m very excited for what we will be able to accomplish together.”

These discussions also include evaluating exactly what services to provide at their different laboratory locations, Nelson says. When asked whether the lab services division would be adding any new services, Nelson says: “I expect that we’ll be doing everything we can to offer more services. In addition to new geographies, we’ll continue to add complementary services to meet the full range of our customers’ needs.

“Sterigenics will be a great partner and will provide the global access and ongoing investment necessary to ensure long-term growth of the lab services business,” he says.

Adds Michael Mulhern, CEO of Sterigenics International: “This is a significant strategic acquisition to help build out Sterigenics’s lab testing and service capabilities on a global scale, enabling us to better serve our multinational customers. We will continue to explore additional expansion opportunities for our lab services to meet our customers’ growing needs. We are incredibly impressed with Nelson Labs’s leadership, culture, customer oriented service, and commitment to quality.”

Nelson will continue its work on the DuPont Medical Packaging Transition Project for DuPont Tyvek out of its Salt Lake City location. “We’re honored to be involved with this project,” says Nelson. “It’s going very well, with DuPont having received confirmation from FDA that their new Tyvek is functionally equivalent to the prior version.  It is really quite remarkable that DuPont put their customers in a position where most MDMs don’t have to revalidate their packaging. This created real time and dollar savings for our industry.” For more details on the MPTP, please see “DuPont MPTP team shares long-awaited regulatory news during webcast, explains plans for commercialization of Transition Tyvek.” 

For more details on Nelson Labs and Sterigenics, visit Booths #1838 and #1915, respectively, at the upcoming MD&M East 2016 show in New York City June 14-16

Use promo code NY16PMPN to register to get your free expo pass. With that code you’ll also get 20% off the co-located Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging conference on June 16tha full day of presentations and panel discussions covering the latest in packaging standards and regulations as well as emerging packaging and drug-delivery technologies. Hear from FDA, USP, Pfizer, Perrigo, and other experts.

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FreeBox pushes the ecommerce boundary for custom on-demand boxes

Ecommerce packaging options for numerous packaged goods center largely on boxing the products for shipment. System Group in Italy offers a packaging machine that can produce personalized, on-demand boxes including different box sizes in the same cycle. The FreeBox machine not only customizes each box, it can personalize each box with logos and graphics.

Starting with corrugated sheets of about 47 inches square (1200×1200 mm), the machine creates the required box packaging with the option of high-definition printing of the logos, codes or other information in one or more colors. The entire automated process is monitored by a system of internal cameras for total operator control.


It runs single flute B, C and double-flute EB.  The system can also produce trays and lids.


How it’s done is unique


The secret to per-box customization? The box is formed from a base and two end sections that are produced by the machine in two separate areas. The end sections are formed on the left-hand side of the machine, while the base is formed on the right-hand side; these are combined at the center section for gluing and box forming. This arrangement allows one box to be manufactured using blanks of different fluting.

The end-section production magazine supplies blanks of 1200×200, 300 and 400mm, while the base section magazine, equipped with a gluing compartment, supplies blanks of four different widths as selected by the operator.

Boxes produced using Freebox technology have shown BCT test (Box Compression Test) with resistance to 474lb/215 kg. Output is 3 to 7 boxes per minute.


Latest advancements

The company latest improvement to the system is the availability of remote predictive maintenance, which is part of the company’s upgrade of products to Industry 4.0, according to Franco Stefani, president and founder. “Our innovative system for remote data acquisition consists of a software package capable of establishing levels of user rights to perform specic operations and to take control of the machine interface,” he explains. “It does not matter where the customer is located in the world, we can support their activity every day.”

Stefani says FreeBox customers include packaged goods companies and one “internationally known customer” that has used the technology to ship handmade products all over the world.

For more information, visit or contact Francesca Cuoghi, press office supervisor, at

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4 fast-moving trends in food and beverage packaging

Formed around some of the key findings from Mintel’s latest report on global packaging and other industry research, here are some of the evolving trends that are predicted to make a significant impact on brand packaging design and influence how consumers interact with packaging for foods and drinks in 2016 and beyond.


1. Personalization

Personalization is a theme that will permeate through 2016, especially within design. Mintel’s global packaging director David Luttenberger explains that “there’s a parallel path between brands striving to engage customers on a more personal level and consumers’ expectations for packaging to deliver that experience.”

Technological advancements has given rise to the surge of personalization as we have begun witnessing in the last couple of years, with Nutella offering personalized jars, Heinz’ running a competition to win a personalized bottle of HP sauce for Father’s Day and, of course, Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign (see photo above), which brought the trend to the fore of global mainstream and proved to be extremely successful.

Some companies have experimented with interactive ways of personalization, allowing consumers to feel they are putting their mark on a brand to the point where it has entered the realm of co-creation. For example, Spirits brand Whiskey Blender set up a website where people could create their own blends from up to seven variants of the spirit and then design their own label for the bottle. Likewise, Heineken allowed customers to personalize six-packs of its beer in Europe.

Giving consumers the chance to customize products has the potential to create a new source of revenue; interestingly, almost a quarter of Chinese customers said they would pay more for personalized packaging (Mintel), and 61% of US customers feel more positive about a brand when marketing messages are personalized (Forbes).

Taking personalization one step further, we will likely see brands looking at how they can better use big data for personalization within particular target markets such as specific demographics, geographical area and interests.


NEXT: Cleaner and clearer labeling

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Are drones a viable package delivery option?

In February 2016, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos confirmed that the global online retailer will be testing the use of drones for package delivery in Canada, the U.K. and the Netherlands. The goal of Amazon Prime Air is to “get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less” and using drones for the last leg of product delivery might be the most time and cost effective way of doing that.

Other companies have drone package-delivery programs, too. Google expects its Project Wing to be up and flying by 2017. And Walmart has asked the FAA for permission to test drones for package delivery, according to the FlexPort blog.

Some markets seem to have a jump on FAA acceptance. Last summer, the aviation agency approved the first drone drug delivery service in Virginia from a company called Flirtey, according to Pharmacy Times.

We’d like to know what you think about this emerging technology and its viability as a package delivery option, especially as ecommerce shopping continues to grow at astonishing rates.

Please take a few minutes to give us your opinion in this short poll. Thanks.



See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City. Use the promo code NY16PD to get free expo admission and 20% off conference passes.

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