It is one of the most useful and yet annoying forms of packaging we have. Its useful because it works with all sorts of content types, from clothing to soup. But it’s annoying because most people are confused as to whether a particular piece of flexible plastic packaging can be recycled or not. The secret codes and logos plastics carry mean little to the average consumer, so it’s hard to tell the desirable from the undesirable.
We’ve recently been working a lot on ISO 21331, the international standard for assessing the potential deinkability of print. This document is one of several standards under development within ISO to improve the environmental impact and accountability of graphics technology and print.
The job of a package is manifold and yet very simple. A package must protect contents from damage, and provide a barrier between what’s inside and what’s not inside. The contents must stay in the package at all costs and must not become corrupted or otherwise spoiled within it. Ideally the package should extend the shelf life of its contents and maintain its own integrity in terms of structure and appearance over time. The materials from which it is made should also be recyclable or biodegradeable. And it must also be possible to print on packaging surfaces in a way that minimises waste in the supply chain.
At the recent Fespa Asia show in Bangkok, Thailand we learnt more about the Thai Forest Certification Scheme (TFCS). Rungnapa Wattanavichian, manager of the Thailand Forest Certification Council (TFCC) told us that their scheme’s main objective is to protect the forests because “forests give us everything - home, food and different materials that we can use”.
Conventional label printers and sellers of label printing equipment and consumables face yet another existential threat. A new printing technology is being used in various European countries to replace stickers on fruits and vegetables. The technology is a sort of direct to object technique, however this is not a new application of inkjet printing. Laser marking fans are calling it “natural branding” and it works by using a laser to mark foods. Although it has mainly been used for fruits with a robust skin, such as melons, laser marking can work even on soft fruits, like tomatoes. It’s a nonimpact technique that doesn’t affect the food or how long it lasts.