ALUMINIUM 2018 INSIGHTS
Modern aluminium packaging protects food
Food still spoils because it’s insufficiently packaged; in Europe alone, this amounts to approximately 60 million tonnes each year. Compared to other packaging materials, aluminium stands out for its excellent barrier function. Starting at a thickness of just 6 µm, aluminium is considered a functional barrier against light, oxygen and hydrogen. Thanks to these properties, al-uminium packaging, by preventing product spoilage and losses, preserves more resources than it consumes.
Among the packaging materials available today, aluminium is distinguished by its unsurpassed barrier protection. This isn’t true just for cans, tubes and trays – even the thinnest aluminium foils in composite bags deliver absolute protection against light, gas, microorganisms, dehydration, moisture and outside odours. The aluminium barrier layer ensures that UHT milk won’t perish for months in drink cartons, carbonated beverages keep their fizz in cans, and mayonnaise and mustard stay fresh and appetizing in tubes even without preservatives. Meat packaged in a protective atmosphere on aluminium trays can be put directly into the oven for roast-ing.
Aluminium foil protects foods, pharmaceuticals and personal care products
Thanks to the absolute barrier protection it provides, aluminium foil is perfect for packaging sensitive therapeutic products and pharmaceuticals such as pills, creams, powders and liquids as well as cosmetics and personal care products like skin creams, ointments and towelettes, which they protect from drying out. Aluminium foil can fulfil these tasks as a standalone material or as a composite partner in conjunction with other packaging materials. Countless packaging formats and sizes are available, including blister and strip packs, sachets and bags, heat sealing membranes and lids, meal trays, capsule foils and many more.
In light of changing consumer habits and profound societal change – a rise in the number of singles households, an ageing society and changing lifestyles, to name but a few – more packaging is likely to be demanded in future, especially custom-ised varieties. These will make a key contribution to sustainability in production and consumption, because packaging protects significantly more resources from spoiling or being wasted than are required to manufacture it.
Counterfeit medications can be life-threatening if they’re contaminated or don’t contain an active ingredient. The number of drug counterfeiting cases increases every year. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers mark their products with tamper protection on the packaging.
Aluminium often plays an important role in the protection against counterfeiting through processes that take advantage of the reflective surface of the metallic foil, which are based on surface effects or specially coloured layers that cause colour shifts when light is reflected from the surface of the aluminium foil. These techniques are most often deployed in aluminium blister packs – a practical, easy-to-use packaging format for coated pills and tablets.
The biggest reasons for the market success of aluminium packaging besides their original product protection function are its convenience attributes. Aluminium aerosol cans, for example, are lightweight and, thanks to integrated dispensing sys-tems, facilitate convenient dosing and administration. Pasty contents can be dispensed from aluminium tubes in an easy, hygienic, well-measured and almost complete way. Thin aluminium lids are used to seal a vast range of dairy products, and even vegetable cans increasingly feature easy-to-peel aluminium foil instead of the conventional ring-pull lid with sharp edges. A remarkable variety of aluminium trays are available – smooth-walled, ribbed, round, square, flat or deep – for foods like meat and poultry and even for premium pet food. Single-compartment or multi-compartment trays for ready-to-eat meals are oven- and microwave-safe. More and more, coffee lovers rely on single-portion stick packs or aluminium capsules – and the list could easily be expanded.
Light in weight, resource-efficient and easy to recycle
The careful use of raw materials and energy resources and the closing of materials cycles are some additional essential requirements called for today in modern, environmentally compatible and climate-friendly packaging.
The lightweight among packaging materials, aluminium makes a significantly contribution to sustainable, resource-efficient consumption. Demand for aluminium as a packing material is growing steadily, even though the material is rolled out thin-ner and thinner for the same product applications. Over the course of decades, aluminium beverage cans have lost about 40 per cent of their weight in this way, while aerosol cans and coffee foil slimmed down by approximately 30 per cent; alumini-um yogurt lids are about 15 per cent lighter.
Recycling, too, plays a central role when it comes to resource efficiency – but it must be “real” recycling, which is focused on recycling materials from post-consumer products and optimising recycling processes instead of superficially advertising high percentages of recycled materials in products.
Robert V Neher Award at ALUMINIUM 2018
The Robert V Neher Award is an academic competition designed to seek out and reward the very best in innovative packaging and technical applications in context with aluminium foil and closures. The award ceremony and the winner's presentation will be held on 9th October 2018 from 5 pm in the ALUMINIUM Forum.