FIBC and IBC manufacturers are taking steps to demonstrate their sustainability credentials.
Numerous industrial packaging manufacturers have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon.
The industry is susceptible to scrutiny on a number of fronts, principally because it consumes large amounts of plastic products, and production is often based in low wage countries. Therefore, the challenge is to demonstrate sustainability credentials in areas such as recycling and corporate social responsibility (CSR) towards employees.
At this year’s Interpack exhibition in Düsseldorf, Dutch FIBC producer LC Packaging highlighted three key ingredients that it believes constitute a sustainable business: innovative packaging solutions, planet-friendly production and long-term partnerships.
Based in Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, LC Packaging says a product can only be of high quality when it is sustainable and produced with consideration for people and planet. On the company’s stand, visitors could watch a 360-deg virtual tour through LC’s SA8000 certified FIBC production facility in Bangladesh. The factory, DutchBangla Pack Ltd (DBPL), was SA8000 certified in 2012, and is one of only four companies in Bangladesh accredited with this global
standard for CSR.
SA8000 is a social certification standard for factories and organisations with provisions relating to child labour, forced labour, health and safety, discrimination, working hours and remuneration, among others. Almost all LC Packaging’s FIBC production partners are certified in this way. Last year, the manufacturer also launched a Global Supplier Code of Conduct, based on the SA8000 standards and the UN principles on business and human rights.
The company also used the trade fair to reintroduce its WorldBag FIBC reconditioning service. WorldBag is LC Packaging’s sustainable subsidiary, specialised in reconditioning and recycling of ‘big bags’. The firm believes the market for sustainable solutions will grow, allowing quality packaging products to be given a new lease of life, thus reducing their environmental impact.
WorldBag collects used big bags from all over Europe, then cleans and repairs them ready for reuse. The bags are then delivered to customers in pristine condition. Some bags can be reconditioned up to six times, while the reconditioning process ensures the right balance between a long life span and low costs, says the company.
In many ways, WorldBag echoes initiatives in the rigid IBC market. Two of the world’s biggest IBC manufacturers, German companies Schütz and Mauser, have run IBC reconditioning services for a number of years.
With more than 45 production and service sites across the globe, and over 4,000 employees, Schütz is the world’s largest producer of IBCs. The company gained experience with reconditioning IBCs as early as 1976. Four years later, Schütz was the first IBC producer to guarantee the collection of empty packaging, a service that was eventually rebranded the Schütz Ticket Service.
From this basis, Schütz developed Recobulk containers, using selected partner firms to supply reconditioned units that are guaranteed to have the same safety performance as a new Ecobulk, Schütz’s standard IBC range.
Most recently, Schütz appointed Witt & Co as a Recobulk partner. Schütz has worked with Hamburg-based Witt since 1979, and is one of Schütz’s oldest retail partners. Over the past decades, this business relationship has been continually extended and expanded.
“We share a common understanding regarding safety, quality and resource conservation. The great trust that has grown on both sides is now being underscored with the Recobulk cooperation agreement,” said Stephan Witt, CEO of Witt & Co.
As a partner, Witt will produce Recobulk containers to the same quality standards as Schütz, with the original UN approvals. Schütz provides the Hamburg company with the necessary production equipment and original spare parts.
In return, the partner company agrees to adopt and apply uniform processstandards, which are regularly audited by Schütz. This ensures that customers can use a Recobulk regardless of whether it has come from Schütz or Witt & Co.
To mitigate potential risks from the parallel use of new and used packaging, Recobulk offers exactly the same safety as a new container. The Schütz standard guarantees a globally uniform reconditioning process that complies with high environmental, safety and quality management standards.
The production of each reconditioned IBC saves around 100 kg of CO2 emissions compared with a new IBC.
Mauser Group, which was sold earlier this year by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice to US group Stone Canyon Industries for US$2.3B in cash, founded a used IBC collection business – National Container Group (NCG) – in 1988. Over the years, NCG has grown organically and through acquisition into a major reconditioning service, with most of its operations in the Americas and Europe.
This year, NCG expanded its North American operations with the acquisition of Total Container Group (TCG) and Advantage IBC. TCG was formed in 2014 by combining two established industrial container companies, KP McNamara and RnR Industrial Services. CMO Enterprises, another industrial packaging company, joined the group in 2015.
Advantage IBC is an independent reconditioner, distributor and service provider located in the south-eastern US. The transaction reinforces NCG’s presence in Ohio, Texas and Southern California, while expanding its presence
in the south-eastern US.
By the end of 2014, the year for which the most recent figures are available, the number of IBCs reconditioned at NCG facilities had reached 1.85M. This represented a total packaging volume of about 2.1B litres, which NCG claims resulted in the saving (in virgin materials) of 36,100t on HDPE and 41,600t of steel that year.
Barriers to entry
Aside from reusing existing IBCs, there is still plenty of space for innovation in new products. Mauser launched a new barrier technology this year, which the company claims combines the advanced barrier performance of multilayer plastic film technology with the logistical and lifecycle benefits of rigid packaging.
“To date, the integration of flexible liner solutions into rigid industrial packaging, and their separation after use, has been quite cumbersome,” explains Dr Detlev Weyrauch, head of innovation and processing at Mauser. “Especially
when used in combination with rigid composite IBCs (RIBCs), liner geometries do not always fit well into the rigid inner receptacle.”
Today’s solutions are often difficult to install, and often get damaged during the phase of use, Weyrauch adds. But with Mauser’s new skINliner technology, the group says it has managed to overcome these obstacles.
Based on a newly developed welding technology, Mauser claims it has created a “perfect fit” geometry. For example, when placed in an RIBC, the skINliner is applied like an inner skin to the IBC’s inner receptacle. It is semi- permanently fixed to the inside of the rigid bottle, and is therefore no longer subject to any intensive mechanical stress during filling, handling and emptying. The same applies to other packaging types like plastic drums.
The new barrier technology has gained full UN approval for dangerous goods, and enables Mauser to expand its product range. In comparison to known blow-moulded multi-layer EVOH-barrier IBC bottles, the skINliner provides the same functionality with less material, Mauser says. Moreover, it adds barrier functionality to large volume packaging like IBC bottles where it is needed most – closest to the filling on the inside of the container.
“Within the framework of our ECO-Cycle approach, we not only look for the most technically feasible and efficient packaging solution, we also try to manufacture the best and most effective full-lifecycle solution,” states Klaus Peter Schmidt, head of product development and sustainability management. “As part of our reconditioning activities around washing, remanufacturing and recycling of rigid industrial packaging, we have experienced the advantages of modular packaging designs like composite IBCs.”
The skINliner allows customising advanced features like barrier functionality or light protection within standard industrial packaging in the most effective way, claims Mauser. Positioned inside the container and closest to the filling, it not only protects the contained material, but also prevents the migration of substances to the container wall. The liner is easily removed and separated from the IBC bottle, which enables mono-fractional recycling of non-contaminated polyethylene bottle material.
One of the highlights from Schütz at Interpack was the new Ecobulk SX-D. The inner bottle of this 1,000-litre IBC features a conventional steel grid, as well as a full steel coat. Welded to the steel bottom plate, this double wall construction provides additional leak protection, even under extreme conditions, such as fire, the company claims.
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. tested the fire resistance of the container in compliance with the NFPA 30 fire protection directive. The SX-D passed this test, allowing it to be filled with highly flammable liquids and used in Ex-zones 1 and 2.
The SX-D can also be used for hazardous goods or other sensitive filling goods such as toluene diisocyanate (TDI). Until now, these filling products have been packed in smaller containers with a lower volume, such as steel drums, to ensure that less liquid can leak out in the event of an accident. The double wall of the SX-D and the steel coat greatly reduce the risk of hazardous products leaking, according to Schütz.
Werit, another producer headquartered in Germany, used Interpack to show off its recently launched VARIOline and KOMPAKTline IBCs.
The VARIOline can be fitted with up to four internal containers ranging from 240 litres to 490 litres. This makes it possible to ship different products in one container, while also increasing safety by dividing product into the different chambers. The KOMPAKTline has a capacity of just 300 litres, and is targeted at areas where filling media are sensitive and must be processed quickly. Werit says the IBC is characterised by simple handling as well as easy removal and filling. Various filling openings can be selected and existing pump systems can be used.