Achieving better climate protection through more sustainable use of resources is a global challenge, but food manufacturers have a special responsibility here. Packaging made of plastic protects the product against spoilage throughout its entire shelf life, as well as against damage during storage and transport, thus ensuring safer and longer-lasting food. The downside: according to the European Commission, citizens in Europe produce 25 million tonnes of plastic waste each year. The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy by the European Commission intends to lay the foundation for a new and sustainable plastics industry. One of the aims of this strategy is to change the way plastic packaging is handled within the European Union. However, there are a number of food applications for which there currently is no suitable alternative to plastic. Especially in the segment of delicacies, for example when packaging products such as salads, antipasti, seafood, cheese or meat, often only plastic packaging can provide the required product safety. The challenge for manufacturers lies in finding functional, yet at the same time more sustainable packaging systems that combine ecological and economic aspects.
In case of deli products, trays with reclosable lids are a common sight. This packaging system allows for convenient handling, safe storage of opened packs and excellent protection of the product against premature deterioration. Such trays are often supplied with a snap-on lid, in addition to the top film that provides the hermetic seal. “This third component, however, clearly contradicts with the general pursuit for plastic reduction”, as Marcel Veenstra, Marketing & Communications Manager at Sealpac International, explains. SEALPAC, a leading global supplier of traysealers and thermoformers, as well as innovator in packaging technologies, sees itself as a pioneer. “For some time now, our research and development activities have been focused on the optimization of conventional packaging systems towards more sustainable alternatives, leading to innovative solutions such as FlatSkin® and eTray®. Our developments always follow the same premise: they must be technically feasible, but also economically viable.”
EasyLid® – savings across the entire chain
SEALPAC successfully introduced a whole new packaging system several years ago, which is now receiving increased attention due to the discussion about plastic waste: EasyLid®. The concept, developed together with Naber Plastics, a well-known injection-moulding company in the Netherlands, is suitable for modified atmosphere packaging, making it ideal for delicacies. In short, EasyLid® is a tray-sealing technology that enables sealing and lidding in one single step, hence creating maximum efficiency in the packaging process. The system requires special, patented trays that, next to the common sealing edge, have an additional perforated ring. A peelable seal is applied to the regular sealing edge, whereas the additional ring is hermetically sealed in the same process. Upon opening the tray for the first time, the lid function is automatically activated. This allows the consumer to reclose the tray and keep its contents fresh during its entire shelf life.
By eliminating the common snap-on lid, EasyLid® is significantly more cost efficient and resource saving than comparable packaging. This stems from a series of benefits. For food manufacturers, the investment costs are reduced by not requiring a lidding system. Furthermore, the ground-breaking concept saves on time and space in their valuable production area, reduces the need for storage capacity and minimizes packaging waste. In other words, the EasyLid® concept contributes to greater sustainability and efficiency in the packaging process: a true innovation from every perspective. Recognized for its impact on the environment, the EasyLid® system has already been awarded with various international packaging prizes.
Improved recyclability, attractive looks
To produce the EasyLid® trays, Naber Plastics uses 100 percent polypropylene (PP). “In doing so, we are following the European guidelines on packaging materials for protein products, as well as the changing requirements of major retailers, who are demanding mono materials for improved recyclability“, as Marcel Veenstra explains. “However, a resource-saving use of materials and better recyclability of the plastic do not have to go at the expense of attractiveness.”
EasyLid® trays are perfectly suited for in-mould labelling (IML). In that case, as part of the manufacturing process of the tray, a label is included that enhances its design possibilities, but also provides a higher barrier. As the label is fully integrated into the polypropylene, it is resistant to moist. This is particularly beneficial to chilled deli foods, as the label will not detach from the tray and a high-quality appearance is guaranteed. By using the same material for the lidding film, tray and in-mould label, in this case mono PP, easy recycling is made possible, as recommended by the various packaging guidelines in food production.
The EasyLid® solution runs on all of SEALPAC’s fully automated A-series traysealers. Depending on the application, outputs of up to 160 packs per minute are achieved. “EasyLid® is already celebrating success across Europe. With hundreds of millions of trays produced so far, it is an established concept that proved itself even before the industry made resource-saving production methods a priority. As a result of the latest market trends, it is now in even greater demand, which makes us very happy. Because nothing is as powerful as coming up with a clever innovation at the right time“, Marcel Veenstra concludes.