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German association of paper sack manufacturers GemPSI highlights importance of sustainable packaging for building materials

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German association of paper sack manufacturers GemPSI highlights importance of sustainable packaging for building materials

October 31, 2018 - 07:24
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WIESBADEN, Germany, Oct. 17, 2018 (Press Release) -Whether it be for cement, mortar or plaster – efficient and sustainable packing materials are playing an increasingly important role in the packaging of building materials. Paper sacks offer convincing solutions because of their environmental compatibility and efficiency. Thanks to continuous development by paper sack producers, manufacturers of building materials profit from increased efficiency in product protection, material usage and interesting marketing opportunities.

According to statements of GemPSI members, building materials customers pay most attention to filling speed when it comes to choosing packaging. Experience shows that they rate this aspect with a value of 1.6 on a scale of 1 (extremely important) to 10 (extremely unimportant). Just behind it are high-quality product protection such as dust-free packaging (2.3) and storage ability (3.5). Sustainability, at 3.6, is also a highly valued characteristic of packaging. "One reason for this is surely the increasing pressure by end customers demanding sustainable products and packaging", GemPSI member Jean-Francois Barberin speculates. "Also, taxes on plastic packaging could be levied when the EU plastics strategy is implemented, so that sustainable alternatives are preferred."

Sustainable arguments

With regards to sustainability, paper sacks have much to offer. The kraft paper used to manufacture paper sacks is made exclusively from renewable resources acquired from sustainably-managed forests. Beyond this, the paper sack industry pays close attention to environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient manufacturing over the complete production cycle from "cradle to gate". The CO2 emissions of an average paper sack for cement is only 71g CO2 equivalents (CDE). In comparison: an average form-fill seal polyethylene (FFS PE) sack uses 192g, or 2.5 times more CDE. The natural, long cellulose fibres used in their manufacture not only mean that paper sacks are biodegradable but are also recyclable and very tear-resistant. Paper fibres can be recycled up to eight times - and not only in theory. Many years ago, GemPSI built up recycling processes and infrastructure so that paper sack recycling could also be put into practice. With the help of the recycling systems founded by paper sack manufacturers, around a half million tons of emptied paper sacks were recycled in Germany over the past 25 years. The Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT calculated in a study that the recycling of paper sacks saved 0.24 t CO2 equivalents (CDE) per ton of paper sacks. This corresponds to an annual savings equivalent of ca. 17 million km of car travel or the CO2 absorption of 300 ha of forest . In this way, paper sacks make a contribution to climate protection. Also, the average paper sack weighs about 25 per cent less today than it did 15 years ago. The reason for this is the considerable optimisation of paper strength, which saves materials and costs.

Efficiency is the key

"The productivity of packaging is still the most important factor for our customers," says Barberin. "With modern filling technology, paper sacks can be filled at a rate of 4000-6000 sacks per hour and machine. Other requirements to be fulfilled very much depend on the product. Building materials that easily absorb moisture from the air require special protection against moisture." The German paper sack industry answers the needs and requests of its customers with continual product developments.

Paper sack as high-tech product

So paper sacks, which would seem to be a simple product, have become an ambitious and customer-specifically manufactured high-tech article that perform several other tasks in addition their storage and transport functions. A typical paper sack for building materials is composed of two layers of paper with a barrier layer between them. Different sack structures can increase product protection considerably. The barrier layer can be adjusted to the individual requirements of the product. Beyond this, special coatings can ensure higher moisture protection or longer shelf life. A thermal valve is used to keep sacks absolutely dust free. The valve is tightly sealed during the filling process, either thermally or via ultrasound.

Paper sack as marketing instrument

"In the past few years, interest in innovative packing solutions has increased greatly", Barberin explains. "Customers are always weighing the cost and use of a product, and marketing considerations also play a role in product use". Manufacturers especially see the packaging and its design for homogenous products like cement as distinguishing features, which can influence the decision to buy. Paper sacks can be printed in high quality and in very different colour combinations. Also, they are used by the manufacturers of building materials to communicate with their customers or to inform them of the use of the product, for example by printing images or photos on the sacks. Helpful elements such as carrier and opening aids give added value to the end customer and also serve as a marketing tool. "The sustainability of paper sacks is naturally also helpful to marketing by underscoring the environmentally-friendly image of the company or the product. Thus paper sacks are especially suited to packaging sustainable building materials", Barberin says. "These marketing considerations will surely become even more important in future as the environmental consciousness of the populace increases."