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National Packaging Covenant

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The newly reinforced National Packaging Covenant offers a challenge to packaging manufacturers, in terms of design, delivery and the bottom line. Matthew Levinson writes for Packaging magazine.

A bolstered National Packaging Covenant (NPC) commits signatories to a national recycling target of 65% for packaging, and no further increases in packaging waste disposed to landfill by the end of 2010.

But it is a challenge that the industry’s top performers are willing to take up, whether signing up as packaging manufacturers and retailers, or supply chain manufacturers such as Heidelberg offering support to signatories.

“We realised the community expected better use of resources and improved re-use of packaging materials,” said Cospak state manager John Upstill, “and that is not just the ‘big end of town’ but also growth companies like ours.”

Since the idea for the Covenant was first pitched almost 10 years ago, the perception of excessive waste in packaging and increased government willingness to regulate (especially at state level) made self-regulation a pragmatic response to the risks of government regulation.

“To continue doing business with major brand owners, we knew we would need to actively help them achieve quality packaging that reduced the impact on the environment and at the same time contained costs,” said Upstill.

“We agreed with NPC participants on a voluntary system with shared responsibility for outcomes between supplier and users, rather than a heavy handed tax or deposit regime that would most likely be more expensive and time consuming.”

Cospak signed the Covenant on 8 May 2003 and has since reduced waste and increased efficiency for customers including the wine and pharmaceutical industries.

By changing manufacturing methods (from ‘blow and blow’ to ‘narrow neck press and blow’) their 200mL bottle has reduced in weight by 33g per bottle, a 20% reduction on the previous design, with no reduction in strength or product integrity.

“For the wine industry our patented interlocking Coslock carton divider offers substantial cost reductions from corrugated dividers through reduced use of paper materials, and also allows a reduction in the size of carton being used.”

For the Covenant to succeed, the entire supply chain must be aware of the benefits and necessity of better design and production processes, safe and environmentally responsible products, and effective waste management strategies, which Upstill said is why Cospak chose to sponsor the Evolution Pharmaceutical Packaging Action Award.

He urges all brand owners and all packaging industry participants to become signatories to the Covenant.

“It is important to signal to the community that our industry takes its responsibilities to the environment seriously. We can't leave it to others, keep our heads down and hope we can avoid responsibility. Sooner or later we have to expect that the National Environment Protection Measures will be enforced uniformly across States.”

Supply chain support

Not only packaging manufacturers and end-users see the NPC’s importance.

Machinery manufacturer Heidelberg was so convinced of the initiative’s value that they decided to sponsor the Evolution Action Challenge Award, even though the company is not covered by the Covenant.

Heidelberg considers their role in managing the life cycle of consumer packaging and paper products vitally important.

They developed and use offset print production equipment, designed to reduce waste, minimise the use of harmful chemicals, and reduce energy consumption and the impact of printing processes on the environment.

Heidelberg product management and marketing general manager Glenn Plummer said his company plans to bring innovations tried and tested in the industrial print sector to the packaging industry, including new products like wide format presses, die-cutters and folding box gluers.

“Achieving saleable quality printed sheets with minimal waste sheets is the goal,” he said, “it begins in the pre-press area with software applications that ensure quality and colour are achieved quickly and easily on the press.”

Heidelberg has pioneered the use of reduced alcohol printing (IPA), they are working to improve the safety of UV printing, and through partnerships with peripheral suppliers, reducing the quantities of wash-up chemicals.

Plummer said this translates into energy reductions and increased safety in the press-room environment, but the payback comes when jobs are completed faster, on time and to the required standard.

“Our head quarters in Germany is well placed to respond to the tough regulatory conditions of the EU and as such Heidelberg technology around the world will evolve with the environment at the forefront of our designs and developments,” Plummer said.

“We are conscious that helping our customers ‘green up’ must be a combination of sound economics and practical technology. After all, business is business and the cost of adopting more sustainable work practices must be a viable business solution and must also be easy to adopt for day-to-day operations.”

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