The metals packaging sector and certain specific areas of this sector – such as beverage cans – have been booming as of late. Metal as a material for packaging is often wrongfully overlooked, but its significance, versatility, and durability make it a great option for sustainability and innovation in this field.
Every year, nearly 100 billion units of metal packaging are produced for food, beverage, health, beauty, household, and industrial products. With the growing popularity of aluminum beverage cans, the way the pandemic influenced behaviors to purchase more metal canned food, and the desire from consumers for more recyclable, ‘greener’ packaging in general, we can expect to see continued growth from this sector over the next few years.
The recyclable nature of aluminum has led to its preference over plastic for packaging purposes. Its low carbon footprint and ability to act as a barrier against air, light, liquid, and microorganisms can bode well for the market. Manufacturers have expanded its use by lacquering it in jars and bottles to prevent their products from corrosion. Aluminum eco-packaging can be customized as per the shape of the container. It can retain the properties of foods and isolate the product from environmental factors. For instance, Montebello Packaging has various clients that are making the shift to aluminium from metal and plastic to reduce their environmental impact. The changing attitudes of customers with respect to their packaging as well as advantages of being multi-functional and sustainable can shape the market’s approaches. Successful products contain foil packaging to appear glamorous and enticing to prospective customers.
Metal and steel are inherently circular, but they currently face similar problems to other forms of packaging, such as glass, which is also permanently recyclable. Aluminium is 100% recyclable and doesn’t lose quality over time, like steel and copper. The problem is that current recycling initiatives are relatively inefficient across the globe, leading to unnecessary waste. Much of this comes from a lack of awareness when it comes to segregating and getting rid of metal waste appropriately. Furthermore, current sorting technology at metal processing plants needs improvement.
Lastly, with the increasing buildup of e-waste – waste produced from the fast development and turnover of electronics, such as computers and smartphones – metal processing plants need to build more advanced facilities to accommodate new types of metal waste.
On the manufacturing side, there are a number of businesses taking the initiative to reinvent their products for the modern world, making them more sustainable and consumer-friendly:
The metal packaging giant Canpack broke ground on a state-of-the-art aluminium beverage can manufacturing plant earlier this year in Indiana. The plant is expected to produce over 3.5 billion cans per year. The company has a history of environmental and sustainability awards under its belt and continues to innovate. Their metal cans are permanently recyclable without losing quality and they are lightweight, reducing the production of excess raw material and saving on greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 2017, Canpack has been expanding its growth at a rate of approximately two factories per year, planting roots in places undergoing cultural renaissances, such as Scranton, Pennsylvania. This helps boost the local economy of such locations by creating hundreds of jobs from entry-level to senior and executive-level management.
The metal packaging unit of Ardagh saw strong demand and solid growth over the last few months. In response to the increased demand for sustainable metal packaging, the company is committing to strategic new growth initiatives. Their materials are already 100% recyclable, but they are continuously evolving their production technologies to ensure that they conserve as much energy as possible and can explore all possibilities in metal packaging. The company focuses heavily on efficiency throughout their manufacturing processes, most notably through lightweighting. Ardagh continues to try and make their beverage cans as light as possible without compromising on quality, lowering their overall material and energy use.
Ardagh also invests significantly into their R&D sectors to maintain their position as a leader in the global packaging market. This allows them to continually experiment with new ventures in design, shape, and texture. Ultimately, this leads to the creation of new, innovative products for consumers and high acclaim for the company itself. The company’s focus on innovation doesn’t stop with R&D either, but incorporates teams from a number of sectors, including regional design centres, technical services, and operational excellence.
This article is part of our series about developments in the paper and packaging sector:
- What does the future look like?
- The power of paper: innovation within packaging
- Totally transparent: Glass packaging and the road to sustainability
- Tackling the recycling problem in plastic packaging
- Metal: a sustainable solution to packaging problems
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