Dr. Juanita Day is the senior sustainable supply chain manager for HAVI Global Solutions in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa region. She answers Food Engineering’s questions about sustainability in food and beverage packaging.

FE: Sustainability continues to play a role in food and beverage packaging trends, but how important is it for consumers?

Day: There is growing concern among consumers regarding food origin, the food supply chain, food safety and packaging; sustainable packaging plays a key role in each of these. Not surprisingly, there also is growing interest and awareness among consumers about renewable materials, recycling and the recyclability of packaging materials. In a global survey by Tetra Pak, 37 percent of respondents indicated they look for environmental information on food packaging.

High-performance packaging solutions and technologies can preserve food safety by minimizing the sources of contamination and reducing spoilage. Innovative packaging designs also can help consumers buy and use food in portions that match their needs, so less food is left over or wasted.

FE: What are the new innovations for sustainable food/beverage packaging?

Day: Innovations for sustainable food packaging can be categorized into raw material developments, design, manufacturing processes, supply chain efficiencies and end-of-life scenarios.

In terms of raw material developments, there is increased activity in renewable [starch-, sugar-, etc.-based] resins for plastics applications and alternative fiber sources such as bagasse, bamboo and EFB [empty fruit bunches, or the waste that results after palm oil harvesting] for paper and board applications. Developments in design include continued light-weighting, design-for-environment disciplines and material selection. With regard to manufacturing processes, there is a continued focus on improving eco-efficiency and energy generation as well as closed-loop water systems. End-of-life scenarios include an increased interest in the compostability of materials, recycling and recyclability of materials, and energy reclamation. Mixed materials like plastic-coated paper [e.g., milk and juice cartons] pose a particular challenge for recyclers and are attracting more attention.

FE: What is a major trend to watch for in food packaging?

Day: The concept of bioinspiration or biomimicry is a simple one—using biological systems and processes to draw analogies that imitate nature’s design for the purpose of developing creative solutions to human challenges. However, it holds tremendous promise. An example of biomimicry would be a food carton that resembles a bud blossoming into a flower when it is opened [see image]. By increasing efficiency and reducing costs, solutions inspired by nature allow us to both raise standards of living and preserve the environment.

For more information: Lorie Bonham, HAVI Global Solutions, 630-493-7538, lbonham@havigs.com, www.havigs.com.