The demand for more sustainable packaging solutions is rapidly increasing. Greater functionality, more environmentally-friendly and recyclable while providing optimal protection for the packaged products are the main requirements. Likewise, the packaging process must be fast and reliable and work with alternative packaging materials.
Together with Sappi, a market leader in innovative barrier and sealable papers for packaging, GEA is working to help manufacturers better understand their options in using greener packaging materials like paper, while ensuring that it runs efficiently on their packaging machines.
The challenges with paper packaging
Paper itself has no barrier or seal functionality. These functionalities must be added to the material. Sappi began developing functional papers more than ten years ago. All Sappi products are recyclable in the paper waste stream. This is a real value to end-users as this paper-based packaging can simply be placed in their own paper recycling bins.
The benefits of using paper in packaging
The sustainably managed forests and plantations from which Sappi sources wood fiber are essential to a healthy environment, sustaining vital plants and wildlife, filtering water and air, and reducing greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Functional papers of Sappi contain a high amount of these renewable resources. They are designed to directly enter the paper recycling stream, which in most areas is quite well established, given that paper waste collection is common. The fact that the fibers can be recycled many times is another significant advantage. This supports Sappi’s aim of achieving a closed loop in the paper recycling stream which also meets consumer expectations when it comes to reducing their own footprint.
“Sappi is proud giving brand owners and converters an alternative packaging material solution. Therefore, we need to ensure it can run on their packaging machines. That’s why it’s so important for us to have experienced partners like GEA. We work closely together to bring these intelligent and innovative solutions to the market.”Kerstin Dallmann, Sappi Market Manager Packaging Solutions
Finding the right solution for each application
Starting from the product and it’s specific barrier requirements, Sappi develops the appropriate paper packaging solution. “Our vision is to offer customers a toolbox from which they can choose a functional paper grade suitable to their individual application and needs. We’re seeing a lot of behavioral change in the market, with more and more brand owners and retailers coming to us asking for an alternative packaging solution,” states Dallmann.
Once the correct functional paper is identified, then we monitor its use on the packaging machines. To ensure smooth runnability of the paper on packaging machines, Sappi established a close collaboration with GEA in 2017. The open mind and the hands-on approach on both sides allowed the teams to work quickly. Sappi used the opportunity to test several functional paper grades at a GEA test center in the Netherlands. These test runs and observations delivered several learnings for improvements on both paper and machine. For example, GEA produced paper bags made from “Sappi Seal Silk,” a paper-based packaging solution with a high percentage of the material coming from renewable sources to replace heat-sealing laminates. This innovative paper includes a dispersion on the reverse side, which delivers good heat-sealing results. It is suitable for multi-packs and for foodstuffs that do not require significant barrier protection (e.g., single packed sweets or oat flakes).
The Sappi Seal Silk functional paper was tested on a GEA SmartPacker TwinTube, a continuous motion, high-speed vertical packaging machine, supporting pillow bag styles for packing confectionery, including soft and hard candy, small cookies, savory snacks, dried fruit and nuts.
“The new machine is fast, reliable and has a modular design. Packaging is always changing, so you can use the same machine for different applications simply by changing a module. That way it’s future proof.” Martijn van Mortel, GEA Product Manager Vertical Packaging
No compromising on machine speed
The SmartPacker TwinTube produces 360 bags per minute with labeling, which is the same speed achieved when using OPP film. “This is incredible, given paper behaves very differently than film. Paper itself is less flexible than film, however this is an important feature for forming on a vertical application. Paper also tears more easily, which is convenient for the consumer to facilitate the easy opening of the bags, however this attribute proved a challenge on the production line. But we were able to solve this issue. Another advantage of paper is that the seal profile does not disform if it is dropped onto another surface, as is sometimes the case with plastic film if the seal is still hot. And finally, the paper bag simply looks good,” says Jacques Timmermans, GEA Application Specialist Packaging.
Future in focus
The GEA SmartPacker TwinTube is an extremely flexible concept, therefore additional tests are already planned in the near future. Sappi is testing additional barrier papers, offering for example water vapor barrier, mineral oil barrier or grease barrier. Other high barrier solutions will follow. Alliances and reliable partnerships are the key to success in packaging. Both Sappi and GEA are now able to consult and support brand owners and advise them about paper products and their suitability for use with their packaging machines.
"It’s a real advantage to have a complete solution so that our customers don’t have to work on all individual challenges on their own.” Kerstin Dallmann, Sappi Market Manager Packaging Solutions
Are you interested in paper-based packaging technology and want to see what our packaging machines can do for you? Get in touch with us via the 'Contact us' button below.