Confectioners open to new PET sources as plastic firm switches from OPS

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Packaging and labeling, Packaging, Sustainable packaging

Responding to increasing calls from consumers and food processors alike for environmentally-friendly and sustainable packaging, US firm Inline Plastics announced this week that it will start replacing oriented polystyrene (OPS) with polyethylene terephtalate (PET) in its container production.

The firm anticipates that its entire product line will be converted to PET by early 2009.

With regards to costs, Shelton-based Inline Plastics claims the switch should bring packaging savings to food processors.

"Due to the unprecedented increase in polystyrene (PS) resin prices this year, PET resin is now very price competitive with PS, which will enable existing and new customers to realise the benefits of PET containers at comparable costs to OPS containers,"​ the firm said in a statement.

PET continues to enjoy strong growth as a packaging material across global markets and in diverse applications, including wide use in the confectionery industry.

"Its replacement of glass, metal, and other plastics has been quite remarkable – no other rigid plastics packaging sector has matched the growth rate of PET bottles over the last 20 years,"​ state David Brooks and Geoff A. Giles in their book PET Packaging Technology​.

Indeed, according to the authors PET is now a commodity polymer "competing directly with polyolefins and styrenics"​ in the markets for food and beverage packaging.

Parallel to PET growth are sustainability issues that are driving innovation in packaging design and materials. Inline Plastics claim their move to PET will further help food processors by "providing their customers who desire sustainability in their packages with a PET container, which is the most widely recycled."

In a sign of these times of increasing awareness of sustainability, manufacturer DuPont, who holds annual awards to reward packaging innovation, said last month that it will "place special emphasis on innovations that provide more sustainable packaging solutions" ​for the upcoming 2009 awards, as it did in 2008.

In 2008, Marks & Spencer's renewably sourced, compostable confectionary package inserts clinched an award.

The UK retailer replaced traditional confectionery packaging inserts with a biodegradable version made from renewable resources for its Swiss Chocolate Assortment. The food-grade insert, produced by Australia's Plantic Technologies, uses a plant-based plastic sheet material. The packaging lists disposal information on the outer box, which is also recyclable.

Running in parallel to the growing demand for sustainable, environmentally-sound packaging products is the soaring cost of plastics packaging in recent months that is forcing food processors to reassess their options.

However, sister site FoodProductionDaily.com reported on Monday that costs could ease for food makers reliant on plastics packaging as crude oil futures in New York plummeted on Friday to their lowest levels since October 2007.

In afternoon trading in New York, crude oil fell to below $78 a barrel, a figure that contrasts sharply with the soaring $150 a barrel reached this summer.

A steep fall in price for oil – also a key factor in energy costs – is set to make savings for confectioners affected by spiralling raw material costs over the past twelve months.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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