Emmerson Packaging, a flexible packaging printer that helps companies build their brands across North America, is a family run company in its third generation, with more than 300 employees across two plants in Nova Scotia and Ontario, Canada. The company says it has focused on sustainability since the early 2000s.
“We have long believed in the importance of environmental stewardship and in paving a better future for upcoming generations, as they will inherit a world that is shaped by the actions and decisions we make today,” says Dawn MacDonald, research and development manager at Emmerson Packaging.
Now, its efforts are being recognized. The company has earned an Honorable Mention for Innovations in Sustainability in the 2020 FTA Sustainability Excellence Awards competition for its recyclable Nature’s Touch Dark Sweet Cherries pouch. The pouch is a recyclable #2, laminated PE/PE pre-made and is part of Emmerson Packaging’s Smart-Lam range of products.
Like many of Emmerson Packaging’s customers, Nature’s Touch, a health food company, noticed increased consumer interest in recyclable material and wanted to explore its options for pre-made pouches. The existing Nature’s Touch pouch was in PET/PE #7 film structure and needed to maintain its processability, robustness and aesthetics, but in a recyclable format.
In order for the PE/PE format to be a success, Emmerson Packaging had to change its traditional process model to allow for the differences in the material it was going to use. Moving from PET/PE to PE/PE meant reducing the temperatures and changing settings on the converting line to ensure no distorting of the package.
Conditions had to be amended to ensure minimal heat exposure and limited stresses. The company had to limit the potential of distorted or stretched film, and developing a polyethylene film that was stiff, heat resistant and able to run well on a pouch line required numerous iterations to ensure optimum performance. The PE/PE film was highly engineered to replicate the processability and function of a non-recyclable, conventional pouch made with a PET/PE.
Additionally, Emmerson Packaging worked with its resin partners, in particular Nova Plastics, which brought expertise in resins and film structures. Emmerson Packaging wanted to ensure it had an offering it could back up with samples, showing that recyclable options that are aesthetically pleasing are available, and that it could help companies meet their sustainability goals.
Previously, Emmerson Packaging was purchasing PET from overseas. Now, the films used for the Dark Sweet Cherries recyclable package are manufactured on site, which also helps to reduce environmental impact.
“It has all the features you would expect from a typical standup pouch,” MacDonald adds. “It allows consumers to prevent materials from going to waste, by recycling them into the appropriate streams, or by dropping them off at stores through How2Recycle and Terracycle initiatives.”
Emmerson Packaging also holds training sessions for employees across the business to demonstrate what innovations it’s working on, the products it’s establishing and how each department is contributing to the success. The company says this drives motivation across the business so employees are not only proud to work there, but understand the impact they make in their day-to-day jobs, which helps strengthen the project.
Making a Difference
Sustainability Excellence Award judges said the package design is innovative and its design process was well thought out.
“Emmerson Packaging was unique in the sense that they are producing their own film, reducing their environmental footprint instead of sourcing,” comments Sustainability Excellence Award judge Jason Alcaraz of Flint Group, who also singled out the company’s move from PET/PE to PE/PE. “The manufacturing process of reducing the heat helped sustainability as well.”
To date, Emmerson Packaging has produced more than 250,000 of the pouches.
“We hope this encourages other flexible packaging manufacturers to keep working hard on their sustainable packaging initiatives,” says MacDonald. “We truly believe that together we can make a difference.”