Choosing the right material matters
How metal can protect your product, promote your brand, and preserve our planet.
The right material for the right purpose

There are many different packaging materials available on the market. While metal can be the optimal material for most packaging types, Trivium believes there is a role to play for most substrates and that what is most important is choosing the right material for the right purpose. In order to make the right choice, both brands and consumers need access to full and accurate information about substrates.

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Protect your product

Metal allows packaging to fulfill its primary function: protecting contents from contamination, spoilage and damage at all stages of the supply chain to deliver the highest quality product. It is one of the most durable packaging materials, offering resilient protection and safeguarding contents from external elements. It provides one of the strongest barriers against UV and oxygen. This strong barrier also enables long shelf life which reduces waste.

When it comes to food specifically, the convenience that metal cans deliver to consumers is often cited as their key strength, but cans also lock in essential nutrients and preserve food freshness. In fact, canning is one of the most effective ways to maintain food quality at its peak.

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Protect, Promote, and Preserve
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Promote your brand

Successful brands find effective ways of promoting their products and connecting with customers. Packaging can help. Prominent prints and labels that speak to what people are looking for in a product can make brands pop on the shelf – be it wine, water, perfume or paint.

Metal packaging provides greater and more sustainable opportunities for brands looking to differentiate their product. Our 2021 Buying Green Report indicates that consumers naturally associate metal packaging with a “premium” look and feel relative to other materials.

Metal packaging vs plastic and glass

Brands can make use of advanced graphics and prominent colours on their metal cans without sacrificing packaging functionality and/or recyclability. That’s not always the case for other materials. Plastic packaging is a case in point. Relative to clear or white plastic, dyed and pigmented plastic packaging is significantly challenging to recycle. Because of its pigmentation, coloured plastic can only be recycled into darker shades of the original dye (or black), which limits its recycling potential (references: Szaky, T., 2015, The Many Challenges of Plastic Recycling/Sustainable Brands and Stephenson, W., 2018, Why plastic recycling is so confusing/BBC).

Packaging can be a strong communications tool, yet not all packaging is fit to meet this challenge. Displaying more information on glass jars, for example, obstructs consumers’ ability to preview their contents, thus undermining the main reason why glass is selected to pack food in the first place. Similarly, several types of plastic packaging do not support direct printing, leading to the incorporation of product information on printed sleeves and labels. Though sleeves can be enlarged to fit additional information or visual elements when needed, doing so severely undermines their recyclability (Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging (KIDV). KIDV Recycle Checks).

Communicate with consumers – directly on the can

Decoration on metal packaging can communicate important information to the end consumer, like the logo indicating that metal recycles forever, and does not impact the packaging’s recyclability. Direct, full-body printing creates a beautiful billboard for brands to share their messages. This process eliminates the need for secondary materials like labels and retains the can’s inherent recyclability.

In effect, metal cans provide you with a 360° canvas on which to display attention-grabbing graphics and communicate key product information that drives sales.

You can also feature a ‘metal recycles forever’ logo to advertise your brand’s eco-friendly credentials.

2022 Green Buying Report
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Preserve our planet

Metal recycles forever. That matters. There are big differences between the number of times different materials can be recycled. Some, like plastics, can only be recycled a limited number of times before they degrade and have to be permanently discarded.

Some types of packaging, like brick or liquid cartons, are composites made up of different types of materials. Even though each component can technically be recycled, it is virtually impossible or not economically viable to separate and recycle the individual components. Read our Protect, Promote, and Preserve white paper to find out more.

\When a material can be recycled forever, like metal, it enables a circular economy by remaining in the loop and eventually eliminating the need for virgin material. Metal also has one of the highest recycling rates when compared to other materials. High recyclability and high recycling rates are both needed for circularity.

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Circular Life Cycle approach

In order to more accurately calculate the environmental impact of different substrates, it is critical to use a Circular Life Cycle approach which accounts for the true circularity of certain materials like metals. A Cradle to Grave Life Cycle Assessment measures the impact from resource extraction (cradle) to the use and disposal phases (grave). A Circular Life Cycle Assessment goes further as the end-of-life disposal step for the product is a recycling process back to new products. Metal is a permanent material; therefore, the life cycle assessments for these materials are best captured with a Circular Life Cycle Assessment, which fully appreciates the energy footprint of packaging products made of metal.

For example, processing recycled aluminium only requires 5% of the energy required to process virgin aluminium. That means steel and aluminium perform on par or better than other substrates when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Simply put, metal has a lower carbon footprint when taking the life cycle into account. Read our Building on Life Cycle Assessments white paper.

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Building on life cycle assessments
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Some key stats about Metal

Find out why metal is the obvious choice!

*References at the bottom of the page

How feasible is it for each type of packaging to be recycled?

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What percentage of these materials actually gets recycled?

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How does packaging material affect shelf life (of course, the type of product inside will also have an impact)?

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Consumers seek sustainable packaging

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References
  1. Steel & Aluminum:
    https://www.metalrecyclesforever.eu/

    https://www.cancentral.com/recycling-sustainability/metal-recycles-forever

    Glass: https://www.gpi.org/glass-recycling-facts

    Plastics: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2018/04/04/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-plastic-and-recycling/#:~:text=RECYCLING%20PLASTIC%20DOWNGRADES%20ITS%20QUALITY.&text=Every%20time%20plastic%20is%20recycled,can%20no%20longer%20be%20used.

    Liquid carton: https://zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/zero_waste_europe_report_-beverage-carton_en.pd
  2. Steel:The GlobalMetal Recycling Market – GLOBAL RECYCLING (global-recycling.info)

    Alu: Methods for Aluminium Recycling | EcoMENA

    Glass: Glass recycling – Current market trends - recovery (recovery-worldwide.com)

    Plastic: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

    Liquid cartons or Aseptic beverage cartons  recycling rate calculated based on (18%in US + 51% in EU ) *0.75% (the % of paper in the construction = 26% Source: Recycling of Aseptic Beverage Cartons: A Review

    Gordon L. Robertson, Robertson, G.L. Recycling of Aseptic Beverage Cartons: A Review. Recycling 2021, 6, 20. https://doi.org/10.3390/recycling6010020, Received: 16 February 2021. Accepted: 9 March 2021 Published: 11 March 2021 Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Copyright: © 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons. Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). School of Agriculture & Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia; g.robertson@uq.edu.au

  3. Liquid carton: https://tandobeverage.com/juice-packaging/

    Plastic* depending on the type of plastic 

    Packaging and the Shelf Life of Orange Juice, Antonio López-Gómez, María Ros-Chumillas, and Yulissa Y. Belisario-Sánchez. Food Engineering and Agricultural Equipment Department. Technical University of Cartagena Cartagena, Spain

    Steel alu and glass; https://extension.usu.edu/preserve-the-harvest/research/storing-canned-goods

  4. Source: NYU Stern CSB Sustainable Market Share Index 2021

    2022 Buying Green report conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (n=15,000+)