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Article by Nampak 15 August 2014

Nampak – packaging for the better good

Many people are under the impression that packaging is a major contributor to the waste stream in SA. This isn’t the case. In fact, the total waste to landfill is 107 million tons, of which packaging accounts for just 1.82 million tons or 2% (the average for developing nations is 3%, [Status]).
 
According to the Packaging Council of SA (PACSA, [Status]), industry initiatives like Collect-a-Can, PETCO and the Glass Recycling Company to name a few, are major contributors to this positive performance. If initiatives like these weren’t in place, PACSA estimates that packaging waste to landfill would be 6.08 million tons or over 6%.

This is 200% more than current levels and twice the average for a developing nation. It also doesn’t take into account the environmental benefits that are a direct result of the functions of packaging.

For example, packaging protects products and prevents their deterioration. This means less waste. At the same time, it enables easier handling and transportation. This means less carbon emissions and congestion. As a marketing tool, it offers a platform to communicate key messages regarding the need to reuse, recycle and recover.

Appropriately, the new waste management act prioritises the four Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. At Nampak, Africa’s largest packaging company, these principles have been the cornerstone of our environmental strategy since as far back as 1995, when we pioneered the development of the first single piece PET bottle, which was both energy-efficient and recyclable.

Together with our research and development department, we have made significant progress in a number of areas, particularly light-weighting and recycling. Among the highlights are the following:
 
Glass
In 2012, one billion glass bottles were recovered for recycling, which is approximately 2.8 million a day. Currently, SA’s glass recycling rate stands at 40.6%, which is better than the US, at 36.9%. Over 80% of beer in SA is sold in returnable glass bottles. We’re a founding member of the Glass Recycling Company and participate in socio-economic programmes, such as:
• Placing 2 800 glass banks
• Assisting more than 1 600 entrepreneurs
•Creating opportunities for over 35 000 informal collectors.

In terms of our business, we operate a state-of-the-art cullet processing plant, which purchases over 80 000 tons of waste glass from over 4 000 SMME suppliers. Our glass containers have at least 55% cullet and, as a result, this has cut our carbon emissions and energy consumption by 6.5%. With our third furnace about to come online later this year, this figure is set to improve even further. Lastly, eight out of every 10 new product launches in glass are lighter.

Metals 
Over 72% of beverage cans in Southern Africa, are recycled. This makes cans the most recycled primary packaging in SA and places the country among the top beverage can recyclers in the world.
Collect-a-Can is a joint venture between Nampak and steel manufacturing giant ArcelorMittal. From 1993 to 2013, our collective investment was R725 million.

Nampak Bevcan is in the process of completing the conversion from steel to aluminium beverage cans. Since aluminium has a higher intrinsic scrap value, the move will increase the recycling rate of metals. It is also 60% lighter than steel and uses 10% less energy in the manufacturing process.
Similarly, Nampak DivFood’s commitment to light-weighting goes back to 1997 when we cut the amount of raw materials used in dust covers for aerosol cans. In addition, our 45 mm and 52 mm food cans are lighter than their predecessors. Our aluminium screw caps are also recyclable.

Paper 
62% of paper in SA is recycled. Nampak is a member of the Paper Manufacturers Association of SA as well as the Paper Recycling Association of SA.
Nampak Recycling collects approximately 19% of the total paper recycled in the country. We use it in our paper mills for a wide range of corrugated cartons and personal hygiene products, such as tissues and toilet paper.
The 10 kg potato bag from Nampak Sacks is 12.5% lighter, while our cement bags are 100% compostable.

Plastics 
In SA, 30% of plastic packaging is recycled. Nampak Flexible is one of the founding members of the multi-layer packaging forum – an industry initiative that falls under the auspices of Plastics|SA. It is focused on developing new channels for recycling and specialist resources have been seconded from Nampak Flexible to ensure adequate capacity for driving the process in the future.

The Flexible Packaging Association reports that flexible packaging reduces waste, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a pouch consumes half the energy and generates 75% fewer emissions than the closest alternatives.

Unilever research that assesses the environmental impact of moving detergents from a paper carton to a plastic bag has confirmed these findings. A lifecycle analysis from the University of Cape Town and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research showed that plastic bags:
• Have up to 2.5 times less the potential negative effect on ecosystems
• Have up to 1.8 times less the potential contribution to climate change
• Consume up to 1.4 times less non-renewable resources.

To support Nampak Flexible’s objective of zero waste to landfill, a number ofprogrammes have been established. These include the reprocessing of post-industrial waste as furniture for schools and pallets for warehouses.

It takes 615 large empty chip bags or 1 179 small empty chip bags to make a set of one desk and two chairs. Since November 2012, Nampak Flexible and Simba have helped Green Office deliver 700 desks and 1 400 chairs to disadvantaged schools nationwide.

Upcycling is also an important focus area. The Bag4Life project involves Nampak Flexible, the Hillcrest Aids Centre and Unilever. Previously unemployed crafters make a range of gifting and promotional bags from Unilever’s post-industrial waste.

This positivity continues in our rigid plastics packaging businesses of Nampak Megapak, Nampak Liquid & Petpak and Nampak Closures. Nampak Megapak manufactures reusable plastic crates and drums. The crates moulded from 100% recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE, [Status]), are light and strong.

Our new intermediate bulk container (IBC, [Status]) substitutes five drums with a footprint of four drums. This equates to more volume and less packaging in the same space.

In partnership with the National Container Group, used IBCs are collected from customer premises before being cleaned with environmentally friendly processes and products. Thereafter they are inspected, reconditioned and tested before being returned to the customer’s place of business for further filling and shipping. IBCs that cannot be reconditioned are recycled as pellets which are then used in the manufacture of other products, such as irrigation pipes.

Recycled PET is growing in popularity. Among its many direct and indirect benefits are energy savings, lower carbon footprint and less waste to landfill. Bottles made from recycled PET are fully recyclable and don’t contaminate the recycling stream.
 
In a scientific study, Nampak Research and Development has shown that bottle quality and strength aren’t compromised and there is no risk to the consumer.

In addition, Nampak Liquid is optimising internal processes to achieve a closed loop system. In this instance, recycled material is sourced from a local PET recycling company that produces food-grade material. High-profile successes are Unilever’s Sunlight Liquid dishwashing detergent bottle, which contains 25% recycled PET, and Clover’s Tropika bottle, which contains 20% recycled PET.

One of the business’ most significant achievements was the development of SA’s first-ever multi-layer plastic bottle for long-life milk. It is 100% recyclable, including the cap and label. In addition, Nampak has also registered patent on its lightweight Infini plastic milk bottles in the UK (Nampak is the largest producer of plastic milk bottles in the UK, [Status]).

On average, the design offers a 16% weight saving across the range, with some bottle sizes achieving a weight reduction of up to 25%.
Using between 15% and 21% less raw material, the design allows for up to 30% recycled HDPE. The UK is aiming is to increase the recycled component to 50% by 2020.
So far, Nampak has invested over R100 million in the Infini.
 
Nampak Liquid & Petpak also decrease waste-to-landfill by increasing total wasteto- recycling. This is achieved through various initiatives, including gathering nearly 20 000 kg of waste from the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, as well as various coastal clean-ups.
At an industry level, Petpak is a founding member of PETCO, a body focused on increasing public awareness of recycling initiatives in the PET space. 38% of PET is recycled for staple fibres, such as carpeting, clothing, sleeping bags, pillows and duvets, as well as ceiling insulation, geotextiles and packaging for food and non-food products. Nampak executives are active members of Plastics|SA.

Nampak Closures developed the ‘super shorty’ cap for carbonated soft drink PET bottles. At 2.4g, it is 0.8g lighter than its predecessor. As such, it uses less raw materials and energy.
Nampak’s Research and Development team continually strives to seek opportunities aimed at improving the sustainability of our packaging. By adapting the Nampak business model, we have created a demand for recycled content in our manufacturing processes. Back to top ^