Sustainability report 2019/20

Issues of sustainability in packaging development

Consumer protection, health and environmental friendliness

KHS supports its customers with numerous systems that ensure consumer health and safety for safe enjoyment of beverages and liquid food. Packaging does much more than just this, however: it also has to meet current demands for convenience and satisfy consumers’ growing expectations regarding environmental friendliness.  

Consumer protection/health

Ensuring consumer safety is the key task of any form of beverage packaging. It must protect the contents so well that the consumer can safely enjoy a product of consistently high quality. From the point of view of safety (see chapter Product responsibility - Filling and packaging systems) KHS filling and packaging systems satisfy the requirement that a beverage can be filled and packaged in compliance with the strictest food regulations. We offer a wide range of systems and solutions to this end, among them process engineering filter systems that provide reliable protection against microplastic particles in beverages, stretch blow molders that manufacture light, unbreakable containers and filling and capping systems for safe, low-germ and low-oxygen processing. Further stages in the packaging process protect the beverage container from external influences and make it safe to transport to retailers and consumers.

Further developments as regards consumer protection are selective and specifically focus on certain components, especially those of plastic beverage bottles. PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the primary material used here, has become the specific target of public criticism in conjunction with the debate on single-use plastics in our environment, their fossil sources and possible risks to health in particular. As a supplier of machines for the manufacture of plastic containers and partner to the beverage industry, we have shouldered our responsibility and been optimizing containers through attractive and sustainable design for over 40 years. With our developments we wish to continue to help devise systems and solutions that keep plastic packaging viable for the future. To this end, we channel our efforts towards product and environmental protection in equal measure and make increasing use of secondary raw materials. In doing so, we lay the foundations for sustainable systems that recycle non-returnable packaging.

Example further developments in the reporting period

Recyclate

The trend for the use of recyclate in PET applications continues to grow. More and more beverage producers are increasing the percentage of what is known as rPET – the recycled material – in their PET bottles. This promotes the circular economy and significantly reduces the packaging’s carbon footprint. In the PET recycling process foreign substances are removed by cleaning and decontamination. This ensures that NIAS (non-intentionally added substances) later migrate from the recycled PET into the product.

Furthermore, coatings applied to the insides of the PET bottle can act as a functional barrier against the migration of NIAS.

With FreshSafe PET KHS has therefore developed a unique barrier system for PET containers that protects sensitive beverages such as juice or highly carbonated soft drinks against oxygen pickup or the loss of carbon dioxide and flavor. Unlike conventional barriers that also have these protective properties and contain composite materials, FreshSafe PET consists of a wafer-thin coating of glass that is deposited on the inside of the PET container in a technical process. As opposed to many other barriers, FreshSafe PET can be fully bottle-to-bottle recycled. It can also extend the shelf life of the product by up to a factor of ten. This prevents food waste and extends the radius of product supply, especially in regions with a weak infrastructure.

Microplastic/dust

Microplastics are the smallest particles of plastic generated by the wear on car tires or in the disposal of waste in particular. As a supplier of filling and packaging systems KHS has also been closely examining its machinery and processes from this angle for many years now. KHS helps beverage bottlers to keep any microparticles out of the production process. In process technology filter systems can be used that also filter out ultra-fine plastic particles measuring just 0.2 µm. In PET processing foreign objects – including PET dust – are removed during bottle manufacture from the preform surface by our preform dedusting unit before the bottles are stretch blow molded. An integrated exhaust removes all of the particles prior to the filling process.

Environmental friendliness 

KHS’ key area of expertise in packaging lies in its holistic approach. Besides PET beverage packaging, we also provide advice on container optimization for glass bottles and beverage cans. Moreover, we develop new secondary packaging systems for packs of cans and PET and glass bottles. There is also a noticeable trend here towards lighter containers and a greater use of recycled and recyclable materials made of renewable raw materials.

Example further developments in the reporting period

Recyclable barrier

With its Beyond Juice container concept KHS has developed a PET bottle made of 100% recyclate with a recyclable Plasmax barrier that is officially recognized by the EPBP and APR. It is especially suitable for sensitive beverages such as juice that require special protection against oxygen pickup. Beyond Juice protects both the product and the environment in equal measure. Using 100% recycled PET improves the PET bottle’s carbon footprint by up to 60%. With its Made for Recycling seal recycling specialist Interseroh has confirmed the recyclability of the bottle, including select criteria such as the label and glue. In the test and verification process prior to the granting of the seal the bottle scored a full 20 out of 20 – an absolute first in the segment for PET bottles with barriers.
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Recycling/weight reduction

The development of a light, fully recyclable, returnable one-liter PET bottle in cooperation with ALPLA illustrates that we regularly work with well-known market partners on the optimization of existing container systems. Together we successfully realized a concept study into how the environmental friendliness of PET packaging could also be further improved for returnable containers. Adopting a completely new design approach, we devised a container that comprises 35% recyclate and is ten grams lighter than a standard returnable PET bottle. The result is a type of packaging that has a greatly improved carbon footprint – not just thanks to the amount of recyclate it contains but also during transportation, where the lighter bottle also significantly cuts emissions. This bottle can also easily cope with the high circulation periods usual for returnable bottles. This system is primarily aimed at mineral water bottling plants but is also suitable for every other beverage segment.
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Material savings

We are also constantly striving to further minimize the amount of material used in secondary packaging, such as film. In addition, we develop alternative packaging systems that use paper or cardboard or do away with secondary packaging entirely, such as our Nature MultiPack. Ideally, where used our secondary packaging consists of as much recycled material as possible. KHS is building up its expertise in this field by strengthening its cooperation with customers and packaging specialists in order to quickly and specifically further develop designated systems. One result of this is the paper wrapper that turns beverage cans into packs of 12 or 24 wrapped in paper instead of film.
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Safe transportation of secondary packaging

We also advise our customers on the safe transportation – for both personnel and the product – to the point of sale of palletized packs that use alternative or less secondary packaging. To avoid unnecessary waste, the packaged products must also continue to reach the consumer undamaged. This means that the various palletizing stages must also be exactly matched to all new forms of packaging. Packs are thus safely and efficiently stacked onto pallets with the help of special layer patterns. Grouping and palletizing robots ensure that this process is both reliable and gentle on the products. One example of this is the film-free Nature MultiPack, for which we have tailored a number of individual palletizing steps to suit its specific requirements, meaning that it can be transported in a way that is safe, free from dust and gentle on resources.