Removal of excess pack air necessary step toward packaging sector sustainability

Cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s plan to remove excess air from cereal packs is a positive step towards minimising waste, reducing costs and preventing contamination, according to a leading packaging machinery expert.

With the move set to cut 700 tonnes of carbon from Kellogg’s operations annually, Ed Williams, sales director for ULMA Packaging UK, expressed hope that these actions could be replicated in packaging lines across other food sectors. However, he also underlined the need to consider packaging technology that made these benefits possible without logistical and operational challenges that could compromise product integrity.

“The news from Kellogg’s is a big step in the right direction when it comes to meeting waste reduction targets around the globe,” says Williams. “One of the largest concerns in packaging is excess air, as this can lead to excess financial and material costs. Decreases in the volume of packages using certain packaging machinery, for example, increases the number of packs per pallets by approximately 20%, which could save companies up to 25% on fuel miles when getting packs to retailers.

“It is therefore clear that exploring the technology available to achieve this is critical to improving sustainability. However, the mechanical ‘pushing’ motion used by some packaging machinery to remove air may damage product sealing, while perforation techniques could reduce product quality. So, while it is clear food manufacturers stand to make significant gains by following Kellogg’s lead and extracting air during the packaging process, innovative solutions are required to avoid other potential pitfalls around vacuum packaging.”

Removal of excess pack air necessary step toward packaging sector sustainability

Having been at the forefront of technology innovation for a number of years, ULMA’s investigative report: Food Packaging: Air, The Hidden Cost, published in 2019, explains how newer technologies, such as vertical form fill sealing (VFFS) and air extraction (Tight Bag) methods, can help to reduce the problem of excess air.

The Tight Bag air extraction packaging solution works by pulling air from the individual bags in a precise (programmable) and controlled way, with no speed reduction, using a patented jaw arrangement in the cross-seal area. Packaged vertically, the bag is sealed while air is drawn out.

Williams concludes: “While traditional forms of air removal have served production lines for many years, the challenges around product damage and contamination risk can be overcome by using newer air extraction technologies, such as Tight Bag. This technology reduces packaging waste and lessens the risk of product damage in transit, due to significant reduction in product movements, meaning both logistical and sustainability benefits can be realised. For ‘bag in box’ applications which are prevalent in cereal packaging, TightBag, for example, eases the insertion of the filled bag into an outer carton.

“The automatic sealing means that full seal integrity is maintained and the risk of content contamination is also significantly reduced, negating another common issue in this arena. Innovations like these show it is very much possible for food manufacturers, regardless of size, to make changes that can hugely improve the sustainability of their operations in the same manner as Kellogg’s.”

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