Sustainability report 2021/22

Issues of sustainability in packaging development

Consumer protection, health and environmental friendliness

We develop packaging that is not only as environmentally-friendly as possible but also primarily enables consumers to enjoy beverages and liquid food products safely at all times.

As an expert supplier of packaging systems and solutions for the food and beverage industries, we clearly meet the growing demand from the public, politicians and consumers for packaging that is recyclable, safe and uses fewer resources. In essence, here we address the question of how we can help our customers to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint with their packaging system while providing optimum consumer safety and convenience. KHS develops its products further on the basis of these parameters.

Responsibility for consumer health and safety

Our filling and packaging systems satisfy all aspects of safety (see “Filling and packaging systems“, tab “Safety”) so that our customers can fill and package their beverages in compliance with the strictest food regulations. Even before the actual filling process, through our process engineering we can guarantee a high degree of reliable protection against any microplastic particles for beverages. When using [r]PET containers to fill all kinds of different beverage, with over 40 years of expertise under our belt we have now further developed our stretch blow molder so that it can also process very light, unbreakable containers extremely well. These then pass through a safe, low-germ and low-oxygen filling process on our beverage container filling and capping machines. They are thus safely transported to retailers and consumers, well protected against all external influences.

Example further developments under the aspect of sustainability

The focus of all of our further developments is the protection of the consumer. Moreover, each new or further developed packaging system must be recyclable and satisfy increased demands regarding environmental friendliness. Our plastic containers made of up to 100% [r]PET thus already meet fundamental recycling requirements. Where suitable recovery systems are in place on the market, they can be fed back into the packaging loop in the long term and, in an ideal scenario, used to make new rPET containers.

Besides recyclability, energy efficiency also plays an important role. Another system that has been specially developed is our low-pressure [r]PET bottle base for carbonated beverages. This allows up to 15% less blowing pressure to be used and thus improves energy consumption during bottle manufacture.

At the moment, PET recyclate is a good and pragmatic solution which we carefully compare with alternatives made of renewable raw materials on a regular basis. There are already a number of promising approaches here that still have to be subjected to further testing, however. We examine all approaches with future potential in this field together with our partners in the packaging industry.

Holistic consulting and environmental friendliness

KHS’ key area of expertise in packaging lies in its holistic consultancy service. This means that we not only advise our customers on [r]PET beverage packaging but also on container optimization for glass bottles and beverage cans. There continues to be a growing general trend towards light containers and thus material savings. The challenges here lie in the physical limits of developing containers that are light yet stable – and also safe and environmentally friendly. This is precisely where our Bottles & Shapes consultancy program comes in that bundles all of these aspects together in one sustainable container design.

In this context, KHS recently developed a new, lightweight 0.5-liter [r]PET bottle for carbonated soft drinks. For large containers holding liquid detergent, for instance, a new PET-based integral grip system ensures full container circularity.

In secondary packaging, film made of PCR or post-consumer recycled plastic is being put to increasing use. This material is made from packaging recycled by private consumers and is primarily used to substitute virgin film. Plastic-free packaging systems made of paper or even those that do not use any secondary packaging at all are also becoming more prominent. With its Nature MultiPack, since 2015 KHS has offered an extremely minimalist style of packaging that turns [r]PET containers or cans into packs using dots of adhesive only. The customer can also opt for a system that applies a recyclable pack handle made of 100% PE. With just 4.4 grams of CO2 equivalents for a pack of six 330-milliliter containers, Nature MultiPack makes it one of the most sustainable types of KHS secondary packaging systems on the market to date. The aim is to constantly improve the ecobalance for all KHS packaging equipment.

Ecobalance calculator for secondary packaging

KHS’ Secondary Packaging Competence Center has developed a calculator tool that in the future will be able to compute the ecological footprint for all types of KHS secondary packaging. This gives customers the chance to select the best packaging system for their requirements. Customers have long been familiar with this consultancy service offered by the KHS [r]PET experts. Now they can also apply this to secondary packaging to improve their decision-making processes. Current market developments show that lots of customers believe that in particular the packaging itself holds great potential for cutting carbon emissions within their value creation process.

IFU, a software company specialized in sustainability consultancy, among other topics, with its many products independently validates the various parameters here. It also already supports our [r]PET experts.

Calculations of the product-specific greenhouse gas balance for the packaging are certified according to DIN EN ISO 14067 in CO2 equivalents (CO2e) in grams. This takes the different global warming potential or GWP of the greenhouse gases into account.

Example further developments in the reporting period

[r]PET packaging systems

Circularity/weight reduction: fully recyclable new lightweight container concept KHS Loop LITE

Our new KHS Loop LITE [r]PET packaging concept combines numerous ecological and economic benefits in a single bottle. The container consists entirely of rPET and is completely circular. A high degree of product protection is provided by a special barrier coating of ultra-thin glass that is the only recyclable barrier recognized by the EPBP (see info box). We have been able to practically double the shelf life of beverages filled into the KHS Loop LITE compared to the standard brand bottles currently in circulation. 

The new container design has also reduced the weight of the 0.5-liter bottle by up to 25% in comparison with the current market standard.

With this development we have cut the packaging’s carbon footprint by around 60% compared to similar packaging systems made of new, uncoated PET.

Integral grip systems made of [r]PET promote circularity

A new and stable grip system makes products extremely convenient for customers to handle. Food and home care products are now also supplied in large, round and oval [r]PET containers with an integral clip-in or glued-in handle that gives consumers especially ergonomic bottle handling, saves on material and is extremely stable. As this system only uses a single material (the handle is also made of [r]PET), it scores extra points for circularity. Using [r]PET is also a major prerequisite for the container being returned to the closed recycling loop after use.

Secondary packaging systems

Pack made of 100% recycled film

Customers can also use film made of 100% recycled material on all KHS Kisters shrink packers. This cuts the carbon footprint by up to 65% in production compared to virgin film.

This alternative is safe, clean and meets all quality packaging requirements. In most cases it is possible to switch over to recycled film immediately; this can then be used directly without the need for any conversion.