By Piet Degen
As a Food Packaging & Design lecturer at the HAS University of Applied Sciences, it is a privilege to teach students about the packaging industry. My personal preference is for food packaging to be made from metal, either iron or aluminium. This includes both two- and three-piece canning/beverage cans.
In terms of sustainability, cans are made from materials that are relatively easy to separate from the waste stream. Another main advantage is that the materials are almost infinitely recyclable without loss of quality. Of the 5 largest steel producers, in India and the US, between 50-70% use the Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) process, which requires electricity to melt steel. This process also uses 100% scrap metal. China, Japan, and Europe, with EAF rates of 12%, 25% and 43% respectively, are lagging behind (Insight-ABN-AMRO).
Ervaz North America's first plant is located in the US and runs largely on solar energy. This leads to a reduction of 433,770 tons of CO2 (Bighorn-Solar project). The aluminium industry is currently working on a CO2-free production process. The goal is to start the first commercial Elysis production process in 2023. This would enable a reduction of 7 million tons of CO2 (Elysis.com).
A recent example of the use of canned goods comes from Williamcocktials: a luxury gift box containing 6 different cocktails, nuts, olives and Seasogood’s fish-free tuna. In the promotional packaging industry, we can now also see a shift from plastic to metal, in addition to an increased focus on packaging’s "second" life.
Alternative design and easy opening
John West is an excellent example of development concerning alternative designs. The brand has shown how the contents of metal packaging can still be visible. There have also been various developments when it comes to easy opening, for example the luncheon meat packaging in a rectangular tin, with easy opening instead of a lip.
Incidentally, The Box also offers a number of these tins with easy opening, such as silver ones.
In terms of printing, there is a wide variety of possibilities, especially for the beverage cans. For example, from high quality printing to thermally reactive inks.
Extended shelf life
Another advantage of opting for canned packaging is that the packaged product has a relatively long shelf life, one to five years is quite common. This could have a positive effect on reducing food waste as the consumer gets to decide when to consume the product within a lengthy space of time. An additional advantage is that the vitamin C content of vegetables can be equal to or higher than fresh vegetables from the supermarket for the same nutritional value (Foodwatch.org). A side note to this is that the salt content would have to be reduced to make the product even more appealing to consumers. YouTube shows videos of people opening cans varying from 30 to even 90 years past the expiration date that are still reasonably acceptable, read: edible.
However, there is still a big challenge for students and the industry to improve the image of tins and cans, which are still perceived as old-fashioned.
Therefore, looking to the future, I think there are still many unexplored opportunities for metal packaging.
Would you like to know more about the advantages of using metal packaging? Then please feel free to contact the specialists at The Box!
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- Mike Webber
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- Created 25 May 2022
- Modified 15 Jul 2022
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