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Demand for pure, sustainable packaging continues to put spotlight on glass

Post Time:Mar 13,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:388

In 2008, consumer demand for “pure,” “green,” and “sustainable” food and beverage packaging became more powerful than ever. As reports on chemicals associated with alternative packaging materials raised questions about the purity, health, and environmental consequences of certain food and beverage packaging, the spotlight turned back to glass, a packaging material that remains as pure today as it was 4,000 years ago. Glass containers are still the only packaging container the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has “generally recognized as safe.”

In response to consumer demand, leading food and beverage companies such as Coca-Cola began to again package Coke in glass containers for mainstream retailers, not just for limited releases. And, O-I’s Charlotte, Michigan manufacturing plant resumed the production of glass baby bottles after a 20-year hiatus.

“Glass has a 400-year legacy in the U.S. When it comes to delivering a superior container to protect the integrity of a food or beverage, nothing can provide that sense of security in packaging better than glass.”
— Joe Cattaneo, GPI President

Research within the industry continues to push for glass containers that are stronger and lighter than ever before, and innovative recycling efforts across the nation are helping to increase the amount of quality cullet collected for making new glass containers at manufacturing plants.

In 2009, the glass container industry will look to the future with an emphasis on more sustainable manufacturing and packaging processes, increasing the amount of quality cullet for closed loop glass container recycling, and educating consumers about the environmental and health benefits of choosing glass containers. Member companies of GPI will continue working towards the aggressive goal of using at least 50% recycled glass in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars by 2013.

"Glass has a 400-year legacy in the U.S. When it comes to delivering a superior container to protect the integrity of a food or beverage, nothing can provide that sense of security in packaging better than glass," said Joe Cattaneo, GPI President. "In 2009 and beyond we will continue to look at new ways to enhance the sustainability and quality of the packaging our member companies make.”

Industry Overview

The North American glass container industry production was at near capacity for the majority of 2008. GPI member companies Owens-Illinois, Inc., Saint Gobain Containers, Inc., and Vitro Packaging continue to receive an increasing amount of inquiries from food and beverage companies about making the move to glass in response to concerns about alternative packaging materials. This trend is expected to continue in 2009.

Glass Shipments and Production

Glass container shipments were down 1.9% from November 2008 (222,149) through November 2007 (226,524), according to the Department of Commerce of the U.S. Census Bureau (Glass container shipments and production are reported in thousands gross. One thousand gross = 144,000.). Production of glass containers increased 2.7% from November 2008 (231,438) through November 2007 (225,080).

Consumer Trends

In 2008, as health and wellness concerns continued to gain momentum, consumers began to make conscious decisions about purchasing pure and recyclable packaging. A survey conducted by Opinion Research for GPI found a majority of Americans (54%) believe packaging materials that cannot be recycled an unlimited number of times are not “recyclable.” In contrast, 41% of Americans believe a package is “recyclable” if it can be repackaged from one form into another. The poll of 1,000 respondents was conducted April 18-21 by Opinion Research for GPI and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

“We believe these poll results show that Americans want stringent guidelines for recycling and do not want those standards to be ‘watered down’,” said Cattaneo. “In recent years there have been efforts within the packaging industry to change the definition of the term ‘recyclable’ to include materials that are really ‘downcycled,’ changed from one form into another. It is important that the FTC understand that most Americans know the difference and don’t want to see the standards loosened further.”

Consumer Education

Demands for “green” packaging led the glass container industry to focus on educating consumers about the “pure” and “recyclable” advantages of glass containers.

GPI initiated a new ad campaign in late 2008 highlighting the “PURE” benefits of glass containers for consumer health and the health of the environment. GPI also launched the first ever Recycle Glass Day on December 10, 2008, which will become an annual event to help build national awareness about the benefits of glass container recycling to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and better the environment.

“We hope this awareness event will result in higher levels of glass collected for recycling and create positive attitudes about recycling overall,” says Cattaneo. “Recycling is an integral part of the cradle-to-cradle process of glass container manufacturing.”

Packaging Trends

Consumer demand for pure and sustainable packaging has influenced start-up companies such as Pangea Organics, True Artesian Water, and the Straus Family Creamery to choose 100% recyclable glass over competing packaging materials for its purity and inert properties.

Pangea Organics—an organic personal-care product company that uses sustainable manufacturing processes to produce, distribute and market its products—is busy setting trends, and the bar, for sustainable business practices for the cosmetics industry. The company was the first in the world to introduce 100% biodegradable, compostable and plantable packaging in its field, and also has chosen glass for several of its products for environmental and purity reasons.

Vitro Packaging, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company teamed up to develop new 12 oz. resealable glass bottles with the iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle shape for the brand’s beverages, which became available at the largest U.S. retailer in late 2008.

Glass continues to be the best choice for socially-responsible manufacturers and their customers—and differentiates their product in a competitive market. With the continued increase in natural and organic products getting retail shelf space, glass allows consumers to see inside the package, conveys a premium image, and ensures recyclability. Glass delivers unparalleled shelf impact, which can be enhanced by creative shapes and decorative treatments.

Thanks to modern glass container manufacturing techniques, glass packaging is the ideal combination of form and function. Today, glass packaging is up to 40% lighter than it was 20 years ago, and considerably stronger, making it more versatile than ever before. Glass bottles can be shaped, etched, enameled, colored, and decorated in infinite number of ways to appeal to key market segments.

Emerging Market Segments

The demand for environmentally superior packaging will likely continue to affect the glass industry more than any other factor. This challenges the industry to do more to reduce its carbon footprint and develop sustainable business models to have a greater positive effect on employees and the environments where factories are located, while simultaneously increasing its market share.

The consumer demand for “healthy” packaging will also be a viable market for glass in 2009. Health conscious consumers will continue to turn to glass packaging to ensure the purity and integrity of products. This is especially important for organic foods, which accounts for 2.8% of the total food market (according to Consumer Insight and Global Information, Inc.).

The wine segment will continue to be viable to glass, as consumption of wine is up 3.9% and the U.S. market is positioned to become the largest wine market by 2010 (Source: TTB, WBM, Adams Handbook). According to some reports, sales of wine in terms of volume are expected to increase 10.6% from 2007 to 2012. The US introduced 114 brands of wine in 2007 out of 307 worldwide.

Consumers will continue to turn to packaging they can feel good about, including minimal outer packaging and packaging that makes use of recycled and recyclable materials. Future packaging for foods and beverages needs to be re-sealable, microwavable, able to maintain the freshness and aroma of foods and beverages, and most importantly, be reusable. Glass containers meet all these criteria.

Amidst the current economic downturn, consumers will also look for ways to indulge in affordable luxuries and seek ways to reward themselves. Although consumers may save in basic categories, they are splurging on brand-name foods and beverages. Glass packaging connotes the quality image manufacturers are looking for, communicating a premium-quality feel that goes hand in hand with their product. Glass can make everything from water to milk to spirits an “indulgent” product.

Glass Container Recycling

According to the United States EPA, in 2007, 28.1% of all glass containers were recycled, up three percentage points from 2006. For glass beer and soft drink bottles, the rate was 34.5%, up from 30.7% in 2006, and 15% for wine and liquor bottles. This does not reflect the high level of glass recycling in states with bottle deposit laws and other legislation. For example, the glass container recycling rate in California continues to hover around 70% each year.

In North Carolina, glass recycling has also increased following a law requiring Alcohol Beverage Control permit holders to recycle all beverage containers starting January 1, 2008. Reports compiled by the N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance indicate that an additional 33,750 tons of containers will be collected for recycling through the program in 2008. Of the 8,500 ABC permit holders in the state, mostly bars and restaurants, 7,478 report they are in compliance with the law. Glass processors have also noticed an increase in the quality of the recovered glass.

At the curb, single stream collection of recyclables, where paper, bottles, and cans are all collected in the same container, continues to increase. According to a recent survey, single-stream recycling has grown to service 50% of the population in 2007 compared to 29% in 2005. This trend impacts the quality of glass containers recovered for recycling from residences, and compromises the use of this material for manufacture of new glass bottles.

In fact, a 2008 study in Colorado on best practices for glass recycling found that the glass capture rates for single-stream recycling may only reach 30%. It’s almost 100% for drop-off collection programs. To counter this, there has been an increase in optical sorting equipment at both glass processing facilities and material recovery facilities to remove contaminants from the recovered glass containers and to sort glass by color.

Recycling of glass and other containers in public spaces and at public events is also on the rise. Container recycling in New York City and Washington, DC is the start of a trend to recycle more on city streets. And in Monterey, CA, the city is collecting glass and other containers at over 75 annual public events. At their August 2008 Wine Makers Festival, for example, they collected over 5,000 wine bottles and 1,400 deposit containers.

Overall, the demand for recycled glass to reduce energy costs and meet enhanced regulatory standards for air emissions at glass manufacturing plants is fueling competition for high quality cullet from all industry sectors—container glass, fiber glass and flat glass. The squeeze for both more and higher-quality cullet across North America is likely to continue into the future.

Federal Legislation

The Recycling Investment Saves Energy (RISE) Act was signed into law by President Bush as part of the overall Senate financial rescue plan. It provides a special depreciation allowance equal to 50% for qualified reuse and recycling property, including any machinery and equipment (excluding buildings and real estate) which is used exclusively to collect, distribute, or recycle qualified reuse and recyclable materials, including software. The RISE Act also statutorily defines the terms recyclable material and recycling for the first time.

It is anticipated that this legislation will lead to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for glass and other types of packaging, as well as lowered energy usage as recycled materials are more readily available and utilized.

State Legislation

State legislators actively introduced bottle bill deposit programs in 2008. Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Oregon and Vermont each introduced expansion legislation for their respective bottle deposit programs.

While the focus of these expansions was primarily plastic water bottles, non-carbonated beverages, such as tea and juice bottles packaged in glass, were also included in several of the bills. Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia also introduced bottle bill legislation that would include glass containers.

In addition to expansion legislation, some state legislators have proposed studies and analyses of existing programs, to help determine the viability of consumer deposit legislation for their states.

Source: Glass Packaging InstituteAuthor: shangyi

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