Refill Pouches Sustainability Spotlight

by guest contributor and FPA member Ken Brunnbauer at Glenroy, Inc.

Choosing premade spouted pouches can be a natural choice for many brands because they offer multiple sustainability benefits, the cost of entry is affordable, product scrap waste is lower, and more pouch features are available. Also, premade spouted pouches are manufactured by experts in flexible packaging — many of whom are continually investing in new materials and pouching technology — and they can guide brands through the process from concept to commercialization.

 

Benefits of drawing brands to refillable spouted pouches include:

  • Completing the circle – Not only do refillable pouches reduce plastic use (up to 60% less plastic vs. comparable rigid plastic bottles), but they can also be made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) content. This reduces plastic use even further and establishes the circularity in the circular economy, providing another stream for recycled plastic.
  • Better carbon footprint – The lighter weight of a refill spouted pouch drives reduced fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas emissions. 1 truckload of unfilled pouches can be the same as up to 26 trucks of unfilled rigid bottles. To learn more about the environmental benefits of spouted pouches as compared to rigid plastic visit the sustainability resources page from the Flexible Packaging Association.
  • eCommerce friendly – refill spouted pouches are tested and constructed in a way that they can stand up to the rigors of the transportation requirements of eCommerce, thus reducing product waste and returns.
  • Spouted pouches offer a contemporary look and work well with design-forward graphic treatments for on-shelf and online brand building.

 

Brands such as Harry’s, Puracy, Kiehl’s, Ouai, and Oribe are leading the charge for the refillable spouted pouch movement. Each has an offering for refill spouted pouches that help them engage with consumers through a new packaging format, is supporting their focus on delivering sustainable packaging, and is a channel to help energize sales through eCommerce. Some of the behind-the-scenes options to ensure quality and consistency include:

 

  • Pouch engineering, sizing, and prototyping – determining pouch dimensions and configurations based on the brand image, product type, and volume.
  • Product/package compatibility testing – testing how the key ingredients in the product interact with various flexible packaging materials. This determines the flexible packaging materials that are resistant to chemical degradation or physical change during interaction with the product inside.
  • Compression testing – subjecting pouches to various air pressure forces for varying lengths of time.
  • Seal testing – testing for fusion seals that bond the plastics together on a molecular level, the same way that the plastics in a rigid container are formed.
  • Puncture resistance testing – using testing standards to analyze how much pressure is required to puncture the flexible packaging material.
  • Tensile testing – sealing the flexible packaging film to itself and testing the amount of force required for the seal to break.
  • Vacuum testing – submitting pouches to the equivalent of 1 atmosphere of external vacuum pressure to ensure that they are hermetically sealed.
  • Burst testing – exposing pouches to internal pressure until they burst to verify the strength of the seals.
  • Drop testing – testing the height from which the pouch can be dropped without failing.

 

These quality control elements allow brands to customize their refill pouch to meet various requirements such as overall sustainability and quality goals, consumer needs, filling machine and/or copacker requirements, distribution methods, desired shelf life, and regulatory requirements.

 

As the recycling infrastructure becomes modernized to accept more and more flexible packaging, refill pouch usage will only increase. In addition, recyclable formats of refill spouted pouches are continually being expanded to include PCR or store drop-off recyclability. Additional investment in recycling facilities is needed by all participants in the flexible packaging industry and municipalities to continually upgrade our system. As brands continue to expand the availability of eco-friendly refill spouted pouches, the momentum of the refill spouted pouch will become the driving force.

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