Aluminium is environmentally-friendly
Aluminium is an agreeable and sustainable material on all levels and is therefore unique as a packaging material. Due to its flexible attribute, it’s easy to process and can easily be shaped into different sizes. This is one of the reasons why it is extremely suitable for packaging foodstuffs.
However, there are many more advantages. The material itself protects the contents completely and contributes to the sustainability of the entire product. One of the characteristics of aluminium, no matter how thin the material, is its impenetrable barrier, which prevents the penetration of light, gases, moisture and bacteria, and offers perfect conservation of products, including its aroma and taste. Foodstuffs can be stored better and for longer, without losing its quality. This is already a direct contribution to sustainability, by preventing food wastage in a world where 30% of all foodstuffs are wasted. Aluminium therefore also contributes to a healthier environment.
Aluminium can save energy in various ways. It has good heat-conducting attributes. While used as food packaging, the contents can be easily and efficiently heated. No other packaging has better heat-conducting characteristics. In addition, the same packaging can be used from a frozen state to completely heated. Energy is thus utilized efficiently, in terms of storage and heating of food.
An innovative way to ensure sustainability, which we introduced at Danpak, is weight reduction. By using specific techniques to shape the packaging, we have managed to successfully create lighter trays and dishes, without compromising the quality. Since less raw material is used, less wastage ensues. Compared to other packaging materials, aluminium is relatively lightweight. This means that less fuel is needed to transport it, and therefore less CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. During the production of trays and dishes, the waste material is collected immediately as scrap. Since this is unused, clean material, it can be easily recycled. The resale value of aluminium is high compared to other packaging materials, so it’s very popular as recyclable material and can be used for a broad range of new aluminium products and applications.
Once aluminium has been collected and properly disposed of, it can be recycled infinitely, without any loss of quality. In addition, almost no loss of its specific attributes ensures that it is basically 100% recyclable and can be applied to new products. The recycling process uses 95% less energy than the production of primary aluminium made from bauxite. The reduction in the emission of CO2 is a direct result of this saving. A large amount, around 75%, of aluminium that’s ever been used, is still productive for producing new products. Aluminium scrap is a valuable material.
It’s really easy for consumers to recycle residual aluminium waste. This takes place through the normal waste disposal process. To dispose of aluminium in the usual waste disposal system takes no extra effort, and the consumer recycles it without even knowing it. After waste is burnt in waste treatment facilities, the metals stay behind. Metals can be removed from the ashes with magnets and re-used as raw material for new packaging and other products.
A comparison with other packaging
Not all raw materials retain their original attributes, quality and value. Plastic, for example, cannot be used for the same application after it’s been recycled. Since aluminium trays and containers can be fitted snugly into each other, they are more compact, using space more efficiently than plastic or glass. Due to this, the process is much more efficient, as a consequence of lighter transportation loads.
One European study by the Institute of Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU), gleaned clear and positive results (assessed by Carbotech AG) for the prevention of wastage when comparing flexible packaging with non-flexible packaging. Due to its light weight and low waste advantages, even without recycling, flexible packaging can save up to 26 million tons of packaging material, 42 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and 276 million m3 water, when compared to non-flexible packaging with 100% recyclability.
The fact that aluminium is the most sustainable and recyclable packaging material is shown by the tables 1 and 2 below.