Can better marking and coding technology deliver more sustainable packaging?

Whether a business has just been established or has been operating for many years, there is a growing need for organisations to be adjusting their operating methods to deliver better sustainability.

Retailers, manufacturers, and service providers are expected to be committed to higher standards of environmental stewardship, and are facing increasing pressure from customers, clients, and regulators alike to deliver on this front.

If your business is involved in the production of physical products and goods, providing more sustainable packaging is one of the most important steps you can take to achieve this goal. A 2021 report from Trivium Packaging has shown that 67% of consumers desire recyclable packaging for their products, with 54% saying this affects their purchasing decisions, and 70% saying they are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging.

As such, it is vital for businesses of all sizes – from start-ups to multinationals – to embrace all of the technological innovations that can help to deliver more sustainable packaging. This includes:

  • Providing recyclable or reusable packaging, using biodegradable, compostable and recycled materials
  • Ensuring that packaging can be easily recycled through standard channels, avoiding complex multi-material packaging where possible
  • Using lighter, more flexible materials to make packaging easier and less energy-intensive to produce and transport, or eliminating unnecessary packaging whenever possible

All of these interventions are making a big difference in delivering better sustainability outcomes, but your business should not overlook the benefits of changing your marking, coding, and labelling systems to enhance the green credentials of your packaging.

Every business that creates packaging and labelling for its products relies on printers and marking technology to encode vital product data and information, including barcodes, batch numbers, production details, sell-by dates or tracking ID numbers to provide essential safety, traceability, and compliance data. Because this process is so essential, manufacturers should look at ways to make the printing process as efficient and sustainable as possible.

Here, we will look at some of the key technological advances that can help make your printing processes more sustainable:

More sustainable ink

In the past, many of the inks used in product marking and coding were created from mineral oils, including those derived from petroleum, as well as methylethylketone (MEK). Not only are there a number of associated environmental impacts associated with the production and evaporation of these mineral and MEK-based inks, but there are also various health issues that can arise from using this type of ink in food packaging.

With the European Union having recently issued an official recommendation that mineral oil-based inks should be removed from packaging production, many modern systems are embracing alternative eco-friendly options. Water or vegetable oil-based inks allow you to achieve the same printing results without the same environmental risks.

Direct printing for reduced waste

Modern marking and coding equipment is able to print directly onto materials and packaging types that would typically present a challenge for older printers. Contact-free printing allows you to print barcodes and essential data on substrates such as plastic and metal with no difficulty, or directly onto curved or irregularly-shaped items such as bottles.

This helps your business to reduce packaging waste by eliminating the need for physical paper or plastic labels, while also making it easier to switch to thinner, lighter packaging, as modern systems are optimised to print on even the most fragile surfaces.

More economical and efficient printing

Investing in better marking technology delivers numerous performance refinements and improvements to increase overall efficiency across the lifetime of the system. This technology is highly automated, allowing your production line to run reliably without manual errors, and with no need for regular stoppages or reactive maintenance.

Moreover, these modern systems incorporate features such as longer-lasting print heads that require less regular replacement, reduced energy usage, and economical cartridge designs that use every single drop of ink to eliminate unnecessary waste. All of these improvements help to ensure a smoother and more efficient production process for packaging, while unlocking benefits in terms of energy savings, carbon footprint and lower costs.

The trend towards more sustainable packaging is only going to accelerate in the next few years, so your business should look for all possible opportunities to make environmental process improvements throughout your supply chain. By fully embracing the sustainability benefits offered by the newest marking and coding systems, your business will enhance its green credentials, helping you to meet the expectations of customers, staff, and regulators alike.