Blown away by glass1 February 2012
With production volumes on the rise, the container glass sector is confidently defending its pitch against alternative forms of packaging, as David Longfield reports
The weight of glass packaging is often cited by retailers as a reason for switching to plastics options, as a means of reducing carbon emissions from transportation and warehousing costs. But in January, British Glass head of container affairs Rebecca Cocking said: “We believe a more comprehensive, whole process approach that takes into account everything from raw material extraction to end disposal is required to truly understand the true environmental relative impact of packaging materials.”
She added: “All new glass manufactured in the UK uses on average 36% recycled cullet, so less raw material and less energy are required.”
If production volumes are an indicator of the industry’s success, then glass is heading in the right direction, according to a report released by the European Container Glass Federation, FEVE, in December. Building on increased production already recorded in 2010, in the first six months of 2011 the European industry (including Switzerland and Turkey) produced 10.6 million tonnes of glass compared wth 10.2 million in the first half of 2010, the organisation stated. FEVE president Niall Wall was sufficiently confident to state: “The industry has generally seen a recovery from the crisis.”
The report followed the May 2011publication of the findings of a Europe-wide FEVE survey, conducted in December 2010 by InSites Consulting of Belgium. The survey asked some 9,000 consumers in 17 countries about their perception of packaging materials, and results indicated: “74% of consumers would recommend glass as a better packaging option”.
In addition, 54% of those surveyed thought that glass packaging is best for preserving the taste of its contents; 48% preferred glass to other materials for health and safety reasons; and 43% because it is environment friendly.
Whereas the issue of lightweighting has become the focus of much coverage of developments in the container glass sector, particularly for beverages, Paul McLavin, UK sales manager for the world’s largest glass packaging producer O-I (Owens-Illinois), maintains that premiumisation and individualisation are the driving forces behind the greater penetration of market sectors for glass. “The Scotch whisky sector has seen significant global growth while the development of UK bottling of wine from the New World to reduce carbon footprint has created a massive opportunity for local glass production,” he says. “Regional ales and ciders are also expanding in glass as customers across Europe look for well-made, local beers with taste and character.”
O-I innovations such as its Black Glass and internal embossing are gaining in importance as customers seek new design features, he says.
On the issue of sustainability more broadly, McLavin says: “It’s important not to get obsessed with lightweighting, which is just one measure of sustainability.”
O-I’s own life cycle assessment work has shown that a single-use, recyclable glass bottle has no greater carbon footprint than PET packaging, taking into account the extraction and processing of raw materials.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a “significant reduction” in the environmental impact of glass packaging, McLavin adds: “Every 10% of recycled glass used in production results in a reduction in carbon emissions of around 5% and energy savings of about 3%. O-I is researching how to increase cullet content in Europe from an average of 47% to 60%.”
The company’s Lean+Green range of lightweight wine bottles embodies the concept of “rightweighting”, says McLavin – achieving the optimum balance between a light weight and ensuring a high quality, high performance package.
O-I’s Vortex is one of the first examples of O-I’s proprietary internal embossing technology, which enables specially designed grooves and other styling to be applied inside the bottle, rather than on the outside. “Glass bottles in innovative designs are key to creating successful drinks brands, attracting consumer attention and setting new trends,” says McLavin. And in Poland, O-I provided the packaging for a new premium water brand, Cisowianka, using lightweight green and blue bottles produced with NNPB (narrow neck press and blow) technology.
Lightweighting is still in high demand within the packaging industry though, according to UK-based Beatson Clark sales and marketing director Lynn Sidebottom: “Using lightweighting techniques during the design process has a beneficial effect on both energy and CO2 reduction, in addition to reducing emissions caused by transportation.”
Among several projects being developed by Beatson Clark, the one offering the biggest weight loss is a new standard 500ml ale bottle, which is now in the process of being re-designed and lightweighted further to 285g – potentially giving a 29% reduction in glass – having previously been reduced from 403g to 320g. “All of this can be accomplished while retaining the quality feel that glass provides,” says Sidebottom.
With a tapered look, the appearance of the new lighter weight 500ml bottle will be changed, but final decisions on full production are subject to sampling planned for the end of January. “We have initially shown it only to the brewing industry, and the reaction has been positive,” says marketing manager Charlotte Taylor.
Outside the beverages sector, one area in which lightweighting can be less of a priority is cosmetics. Austria’s Stölzle Flaconnage produces glass bottles for prestige spirits, perfumery and personal care. Sales director, Mark Devonald Smith, says that at the luxury end of the market, the branding imperative means there is a requirement for high quality containers to suit high quality products.
“Stölzle is finding that more and more companies in its area are moving towards the use of glass for all the traditional reasons: quality image, inert material, impermeability, longevity, tactile benefits,” he says. “As far as Stölzle is concerned, the one area where an optimum weight can be asked for is on some skincare lines.”
Stölzle recently produced the Marcel bottle for a new men’s fragrance by Oriflame. The company describes the intricate, multi-faceted square 50ml bottle as ‘a triumph of glass moulding’, evoking a ‘chaotically’ cut diamond. The base offers more facets together with the designer’s emblem rendered as a de-bossed ‘M’.
“With this bottle, the distribution of glass in the mould is critical,” says Smith. “The shallowness of the bottle intensifies the difficulty provided by the facets, and base moulding adds another tricky feature.
“In Stölzle’s market, companies interested in ecological concerns tend to concentrate on reducing their carbon imprint, which means sourcing locally rather than abroad.”
However one of Europe’s largest glass packaging manufacturers, Ardagh Glass, says lightweighting is still an area of substantial interest and concern to most customers. Emphasising that lightweighting is now part of everyday design, UK product and mould design manager Tony Baker says: “I analysed the full list of new containers issued for production at Ardagh during the past 12 months.
“This shows conclusively that lighter weights are now the norm. Opportunities are always taken at redesign to replace old designs with a lightweight version.”
Ardagh has set industry standards with developments such as the world’s lightest beer bottle, at 155g for a 330ml container, and the first 70cl spirits bottle under 300g. In July 2011, Kraft Foods relaunched its Kenco coffee brand with a new glass pack design by Ardagh. This delivered weight savings of 20g on the 100g pack, to 245g, and 54g on the 200g pack, to 434g. In total, this represents an annual weight saving equivalent to 1,034 tonnes of glass.
“Sustainability is an important and growing consideration for most consumers now, and we work hard to convince designers, brand owners and retailers that the modern glass container, which is 100% and infinitely recyclable, is in the leading categories of sustainable packaging,” says Baker.
Ardagh promotion for its lightweight spirits bottles Ardagh Lightweight wine and beer bottles from Ardagh Ardagh 2 Beatson Clarkâ€™s new 500ml ale bottle Lightweight wine and beer bottles from Ardagh will weigh in at 285g Beatson Clark The new Cisowianka water, packaged in O-I glass, won a prominent design award in Poland Cisowianka O-Iâ€™s Vortex bottle was used for DB Breweriesâ€™ Tui Blond lager Vortex O-Iâ€™s Lean+Green Bordeaux wine bottles Bordeaux