There was plenty of packaging where plastic was to the fore at the Packaging Innovations show at Olympia last week, despite debates and seminar presentations about the need to remove plastic from the packaging supply chain.
It underlined the dichotomy that the packaging industry faces: it runs on plastic, but needs to break this addiction to satisfy a growing number or retailers wanting to reduce or eliminate plastic from their supply chain. As speakers stressed, having used plastic for a multiplicity of reasons, including the environmental benefit of light weighting packaging, it is not going to be easy to switch.
The enormity of that challenge was underlined by a supermarket aisle with shelves filled by products using paper, glass and other recyclable products. It would not have been out of place in a corner shop let alone a branch of one of the major food retailers.
However, the plastics issue and need for sustainability spilled into the exhibition space where a number of carton printers present stressed how their products could substitute for flexible packaging made from single-use plastics. And in the presentations and debates played to an attentive audience of younger designers, brand managers and marketers, the message was hammered home: plastics must be used responsibly if at all. There were far more carton producers in the hall then there were flexible packaging producers.
Alongside Alexir, Curtis Packaging, Simply Cartons and Delga, there were a number of label printers including Denny Bros. But these were outplayed, in terms of simple presence by substrate suppliers: Iggesund, GF Smith, Favini, Fedrigoni were all on hand to push the application of their materials to achieve the luxury packaging look and feel that fits with the co-hosted Luxury Packaging exhibition.
The amount of technology on show was down on the equivalent 2017 show, but designers could be introduced to the use of inkjet for creating initial mock ups, to CGS for generating colour consistency for proofing to Baldwin Vision for joining up colour management from proof to press and providing verifiable feedback from its DeltaCam and inline inspection equipment to prove the integrity of printed packaging.
“It’s about positioning Baldwin Vision as a ‘packaging powerhouse’,” says regional sales manager Steve Matthews. In the past year Baldwin has grafted QuadTech’s press and colour controls to PC Industries’ and Web Printing Controls press control systems with links to the drying technology under Baldwin Spectral.
The supermarket aisle free from plastic packaging was also free from the sorts of brands and goods that consumers are familiar with. It was a stark illustration that plastic free packaging is possible and that there is not a lot of it about.