Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste Agenda: R.A Jones discusses crucial role of packaging machinery
01 Nov 2023 — As Canada strives to achieve its goal of zero plastic waste by 2030, the nation’s consumer-packaged goods (CPGs) industry is undergoing a transformative shift toward more sustainable packaging solutions.
One of the key challenges for CPG manufacturers during this transition is finding innovative packaging technology to replace existing plastic packaging machinery. In particular, companies need equipment similar in size, speed and versatility to their current machines.
This requirement led to solutions like the R.A Jones Wraptor SHW-250, a packaging machine that enables manufacturers to transition from plastic rings and shrink-wrap to more sustainable materials like cardboard or paperboard. We speak to Jason Stover, marketing communications director at Coesia North America CMS Division and R.A Jones to learn more about Canada’s packaging industry shifts.
How does Canada’s commitment to achieving zero plastic waste by 2030 impact the CPG industry?
Stover: Canada’s transition to zero plastic waste impacts the CPGs industry in numerous ways. For years, CPG companies have utilized plastic packaging because it is typically cheaper than other packaging materials, lowering upfront costs for consumers. However, with sustainability becoming a top concern for people and local governing bodies, CPGs will have to transition away from single-use plastic packaging materials to continue catering to the domestic market.
In efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastics and decrease overall pollution, the Canadian government has developed a comprehensive agenda to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030. Consisting of two phases, the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste (nicknamed “the Strategy”) outlines how the country will mitigate the role of plastics and work to promote a circular economy.
One priority action within Phase I explains how many single-use, disposable plastic products can be avoided entirely by replacing them with materials designed to be readily recyclable. This means the Canadian government could continue to identify single-use plastic products that need to be replaced, causing CPGs to be flexible to accommodate future changes.
What legislative measures has Canada established to eliminate single-use plastic packaging?
Stover: According to research from Deloitte, it is estimated that only 9% of all plastic waste in Canada is recycled, including plastics from packaging, clothing, and more. In contrast, single-use plastic products and packaging account for almost half of the plastic waste generated in Canada every year.
As mentioned, a crucial part of Phase I considers a ban on harmful single-use plastic items where there is evidence that they have readily available alternatives and are often not recycled, leading them to be found in the environment.
Succeeding this original proposition, the Canadian government implemented a ban in 2022 on six single-use plastic products — ring carriers, plastic checkout bags, cutlery, takeout containers, straws and stir-sticks. This ban prohibits the manufacture, import and sale of these six items, with exports to be banned starting in December 2025.
Can you elaborate on the role of packaging machinery in helping brand manufacturers comply with these forthcoming regulations?
Stover: Manufacturers that need to switch from single-use plastic packaging to more sustainable materials, like cardboard or paper board, are met with the challenge of sourcing innovative packaging technology to replace their current machinery. Ideally, CPGs would prefer to find equipment of similar size, that can run at a similar speed, and that can package products in similar configurations as their current machine installed on the production line. However, if manufacturers cannot find comparable machinery, they risk having to invest significantly more time and money upstream and downstream of their equipment to compensate for the differences.
Are there incentives provided by the Canadian government to encourage businesses to transition away from plastic packaging and adopt more sustainable alternatives?
Stover: Plastic pollution has become a global issue, affecting the environment and the economy. In fact, it has been found that nearly 90% of Canada’s plastic waste is not recycled or recovered, which represents an economic loss of CA$7.8 billion.
The Government of Canada introduced the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge on Sustainable Alternatives to Plastic Packaging. Sponsored by Environment and Climate Change Canada as part of the Innovative Solutions Canada program, the challenge encourages small and medium-sized businesses to develop innovative ideas and technologies to move Canada toward zero plastic waste.
To date, Innovative Solutions Canada has launched 15 Plastics Challenges, with the most recent project awarding a company in Ontario up to CA$1 million to develop a prototype of its proposed sustainable alternative to plastic packaging, aiming to replace single-use plastic products like grocery bags.
How does the Wraptor SHW-250 enable brand manufacturers to align their production processes with Canada’s sustainability goals?
Stover: If we look at an example of a Canadian manufacturer that was packaging cans or bottled beverages in plastic rings, they are no longer permitted to sell that type of packaging domestically. The manufacturer must now find a more sustainable alternative, which requires purchasing new equipment.
The R.A Jones Wraptor SHW-250 utilizes paperboard wrap, a more sustainable and acceptable alternative to plastic rings, to package cans and bottles of beverages. For brand manufacturers looking for low to mid-speed packaging equipment, the Wraptor is comparable in size and speed to their current plastic ring machines and offers the flexibility to package products in various pack configurations (one pack through 12 pack). Replacing a plastic ring packaging machine with a Wraptor SHW-250 with similar features incurs less risk for the brand manufacturer. It helps prevent expensive upstream and downstream changes in their production line.
The Wraptor SHW-250 has the potential to help expedite Canada’s Zero Plastic Waste Agenda by removing the need for CPGs to use plastic shrink wrap and plastic rings to package cans, bottles, and cupped products.
What is the process for recycling or disposing of the paperboard used in the Wraptor SHW-250 machine?
Stover: The majority of paperboard used today as a material to wrap and package products is accepted by all recycling facilities. This aligns with Canada’s aspirational goals to decrease Canada’s waste by 50% by 2040 and the overall goal to achieve zero plastic waste. Additionally, paperboard provides consumers with the choice to recycle the packaging instead of sending it to a landfill, promoting a shift to the circular economy, which focuses on recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.
How does R.A Jones ensure that its Wraptor machines are environmentally sustainable throughout their lifecycle?
Stover: Like all packaging machinery that R.A Jones manufactures, the Wraptor is built and engineered to operate in demanding production environments. It has also been engineered to be modernized for future packaging needs unknown to the manufacturer. The robustness and flexibility of this design mean it does not need to be replaced as frequently as other original equipment manufacturers’ equipment, which are built only to serve one need for a shorter period of time.
Another unique feature of the Wraptor is the “glue-less” version of the machine. This version relies on a self-locking carton design that does not require glue to hold the carton wrap together. This eliminates the need for energy to heat and power a glue tank, as well as removes the potential for adhesive materials to find their way into the environment and landfills.
By Radhika Sikaria
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