10 years ago, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. introduced the Sustainable Packaging Scorecard (SPS) to enhance product sustainability throughout its supply chain. The Scorecard targeted packaging improvements using Key Performance Indicators to judge suppliers on their products. Choosing packaging as an area for improvement was a smart choice; every item bought inside their stores is packaged in some shape or form. As the United States' largest company, this first massive overhaul of unsustainable practices has had long lasting ripples throughout the consumer goods sector.
The SPS was the first sustainability metric implemented across Wal-Mart's supply chain. The company has since moved on and rolled out a Sustainability Index (SI). Their SI requires suppliers to report on everything; beginning with where they get their raw materials all the way through to the finished product.
Also included in the SI is a new and improved Sustainable Packaging Playbook (SPP) that was formed as a culmination of improvements and findings from the past. Packaging plays a huge part in a product's sustainability and the newly released SPP has three main priorities that reflect that:
1. Source Sustainably
- Maximize and increase the use of recycled and sustainably sourced renewable content, such as post-consumer recycled materials.
- Enhance material health through identifying and reducing the use of priority chemicals, such as a carcinogen, mutagen, or reproductive toxicant.
2. Support Recycling
- Design for recycling with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Association of Plastic Recyclers guidelines. 30% of PET packaging that was recycled by the consumer was unable to be completely recycled because of labels and adhesives.
- Communicate with the consumer how to recycle the product appropriately.
3. Optimize Design
- Protect the product using the International Safe Transit Authority guidelines.
- Reduce materials through eliminating unnecessary packaging or layers and design for minimum space needed.
Improve Your Score with Electron Beam
To meet Wal-Mart's packaging standards as well as improve the overall quality of your packaging, electron beam technology is a go-to option for multi-national corporations and small businesses alike. The EB curing process is environmentally friendly with consumer safe finishing while enhancing rub resistance and visual quality.
Electron beam crosslinking uses no solvents or VOCs throughout the process, ensuring carcinogens sometimes found in VOCs do not make their way into your product. Wal-Mart's SPP states that priority chemicals within packaging should be removed, reduced, or restricted. Besides carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxicants, the Playbook identifies chemicals that are "persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic" as a priority. Lastly "any chemical for which there is scientific evidence of probable serious effects to human health or the environment", should be treated is a priority chemical and efforts should be made to eradicate them from your packaging. A VOC and solvent free crosslinking process ensures there are no harmful chemicals attached to your product in the coating and finishing stages.
Electron beam technology is also energy efficient and does not require a photoinitiator like its UV counterpart. Using recycled content and EB processing to make a product's complete packaging reduces the amount of energy required in the creation process. This will save you money as well as aid in improving your Sustainability Index.
The sustainability of a product's packaging will continue to be a requirement and an ever-growing focus in years to come. Using Wal-Mart's SPP will help set the baseline for an eco-friendly item, and EB processing will ensure that printing is safe and positively affects an SPP score. Ready to try out electron beam technology for yourself? Click the button below to schedule an assessment with one of our experts.