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Are Technology Providers Doing Enough to Reduce Packaging’s Environmental Footprint?

Press release from the issuing company

That’s the question asked in drupa Essentials Article No. 12, authored by Lorenzo Villa, with many important issued raised for consideration in the run-up to drupa.

WhatTheyThink, the leading global media organization serving the printing and publishing industries, continues its series promoting drupa Essentials articles to both educate members and encourage attendance at drupa, the world’s largest printing trade show scheduled for May 28 to June 7, 2024, in Düsseldorf, Germany. In this fourth in the series, we summarize drupa Essentials Article 12: Are Technology Providers Doing Enough to Reduce Packaging’s Environmental Footprint?

The author, Lorenzo Villa, Print & Packaging Publisher, Analyst, and co-founder of Density, raises this question in a world where sustainability is increasingly taking center stage and the effects of climate change continue to make themselves known, and organizations work to meet goals set by their boards, championed by consumers, and increasingly demanded by regulatory bodies. The most commonly heard complaint is that these efforts are not moving fast enough. Just consider the outcome of the fossil fuel discussion at COP28 -- starting with phasing out fossil fuels, then moving to the softer language of “phasing down,” and finally the watered down version, “transitioning away from fossil fuels.”

Villa makes a number of observations about the industry’s current state in terms of packaging sustainability and what we might learn at drupa 2024 about new developments in this arena. The full article can be found here, and we encourage you to take the time to read it. Meanwhile, here are a few snippets to tweak your interest and curiosity.

  1. The exponential growth of e-commerce over the past decade has put packaging in the spotlight, not only for positive aspects. While printed boxes and bags are vehicles for memorable unboxing experiences, they represent a critical factor in disposing [of] the massive amount of excess packaging.
  2. While analog presses have become increasingly efficient with less waste, he projects that “digital printing is and will remain the key player at drupa 2024,” especially noting developments in water-based inks from the likes of Landa and the Koenig & Bauer/Durst joint venture.
  3. Beyond actually laying down ink on substrate, there is an increased focus on the entire supply chain, most notably the energy required by many drying and curing systems. He points out Xeikon’s recent introduction of an energy labeling program, similar to that used for household appliances.
  4. He touches on the issues associated with flexible packaging and corrugated, identifying suppliers who have some innovative approaches, which will be front and center in their drupa 2024 exhibits.
  5. He points out that while digital finishing technology dates back 15 years, it is becoming more mainstream, “so much that many converters use it intensively to perform B1-size varnishing and foiling of medium runs, zeroing setup times and waste.”
  6. He also highlights the importance of software in process automation, material optimization, and the reduction of manual operations, errors, remakes, and waste.

Villa notes, “Although the focus at drupa 2024 will be on heavy iron, packaging professionals know that creating more sustainable packaging comes through all components of the value chain, even the less visible ones. Such is the case with papers and substrates, often in the dock for their energy-intensive production methods, their impact on the planet's water and forest resources, and the critical issues in recycling and disposal processes.” He highlights the progress that has been made in the labeling industry that promise to make packaging easier to recycle and thus more sustainable.

WhatTheyThink President Eric Vessels commented, “As we cover the run-up to drupa and the show itself, and with the production of the drupa Daily, we will be paying extensive attention to issues surrounding packaging sustainability, and the efforts suppliers and brands are making -- or not making -- toward improving this important metric. We encourage attendees to pick up and retain their drupa Daily copies, which will contain important information they can share when they get back home -- whether they are brand owners, consumers, packaging converters, or industry pundits. We believe the drupa Daily can play a critical role in providing thought leadership that can contribute to global efforts to mitigate the climate crisis.”

Have you made your drupa plans yet? The time is now. Lodgings are filling up, as are flights, as the industry heads to Dusseldorf for drupa 2024. We hope to see you there; and if you are going, please contact us if you would like to visit with our experts, meet the Cal Poly students we are sponsoring, and/or be interviewed about your drupa experience!

For more information, visit https://whattheythink.com/drupa. For information about sponsorship opportunities before and during the event, view our drupa Opportunities webinarhere.

About WhatTheyThink

WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's go-to information source with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, WhatTheyThink Email Newsletters, and the WhatTheyThink magazine. Our mission is to inform, educate, and inspire the industry. We provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today's printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.

About drupa

As the world’s leading trade fair for printing technologies, drupa stands for inspiration, innovation, top-class knowledge transfer and intensive networking. With the motto “we create the future”, drupa will serve as the global meeting point, presenting the visions of the print and packaging industries along the entire value chain. The 2024 edition will specifically focus on the mega trends sustainability and digitalization, in addition to many more relevant trends in an inspiring setting. The exhibits will be complemented by an extensive ancillary program and five special forums: the drupa cube, drupa next age (dna) as well as touchpoints packaging, textile and sustainability.


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