RadTech 2022 Panel Examines Sustainability and UV/EB

By David Savastano, Editor | 05.11.22

UV and EB technologies offer numerous advantages in terms of sustainability for packaging.

Sustainability is a critical topic in the world of business today, and the energy-curing sector is no exception. Virtually every segment that uses UV and EB is concerned about sustainability, including packaging.

With that in mind, RadTech 2022 pulled together a panel on sustainability, featuring a brand owner (Pepsico), two packaging printers (Printpack and GOpak Flexibles), and two ink manufacturers (Sun Chemical and INX International Ink Co.)

The panel, “Is UV+EB Sustainable? Join Us on the Road to the Circular Economy,” looked at many of the key issues surrounding sustainability, as well as the benefits UV and EB technology offer.

Todd Fayne, associate director, global snacks R&D for Pepsico, served as moderator of the panel, which included Nikola Juhasz, global technical director, sustainability, Sun Chemical; Jonathan Graunke, VP, UV/EB technology, assistant R&D director, INX International Ink Co.; Andrew Mitchell, senior research engineer, Printpack; and AJ Buran, president, GOpak Flexibles.

The first question the panel dealt with was how they defined sustainability. 

“We look at sustainability as a combination of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, natural resource use, and keeping waste out of waterways and the ocean,” Juhasz said.

“Sustainability is more of a lifestyle – we try to make the world a better place that we found it,” Graunke said. “We look at what we can do to be ethical, how to reduce our emissions, how we can help our customers use our technologies.”

“Sustainability is any activity that helps to preserve the planet, whether it is measuring and trying to reduce water consumption, emissions, energy use, or developing new technologies for our customers,” Mitchell said.

“Sustainability is using less, being smarter with what we use, trying to have a closed loop, trying to use common sense,” Buran concluded. “Essentially, it’s trying to do what is right.”

When asked about the need to balance performance and sustainability, Fayne observed that once you get past the low-hanging fruit, it becomes more challenging.

“Everything has a trade-off,” Fayne noted. “Everything costs more money, such as adding more recyclable material in our bottles. When we add more recycled polyester tomour bottles, they become less clear. Thirty years ago, we had 12 types of barrier films, and have consolidated it down to one barrier film because you save a lot of money on inventory, but that means the film has to do everything.”

Mitchell noted that there are a lack of options in terms of compostable packaging.

“In our world, food packaging is mostly cellophane and cellulose type films,” Mitchell said. “We are giving up some performance characteristics.”

Juhasz said that Sun Chemical tries to avoid balancing performance with sustainability.

“Our guiding principle is that we don’t do that. It even goes to point of cost – we have to offer these products at cost neutrality. Often, we are restricted because the materials we need are not available,” added Juhasz. “I think it’s clear it is getting to be a smaller and smaller selection of raw materials that we can use. Some workhorse monomers are being legislated out.”

As for the main sustainability benefits for UV and EB, Mitchell and Buran pointed to the elimination of lamination layers.

“We are doing some studies to understand the impact of UV and EB inks and OPVs,” Mitchell said. “We see the main driver being mono-web films and surface printing.”

“The benefits are speed to market, the ability to cure instantly, and eliminating the lamination step,” Buran added.

“Number one for me is ability to surface print,” Fayne noted. “UV/EB provides extra insurance that the packaging looks exactly the same as it should be. We can go to mono-web or reduce plastics through other methods.”

“The advantage of UV/EB is that there is less waste, less wash up, and VOC reporting becomes much easier,’ said Graunke. “With UV LED, a printer can save 60% of energy cost compared to a traditional UV system. We can demonstrate that if UV/EB produces 3% of waste reduction a year, that helps our customer’s sustainability story.”