Can “Cohesive” Packaging be Green Packaging?

09 Dec 2008 Can “Cohesive” Packaging be Green Packaging?

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The world of packaging is changing very rapidly and what was not green a year ago may be very sustainable today. A recent customer project has motivated me to do some research in an effort to update my knowledge base in this rarely used but usually fairly effective and efficient form of packaging.

What is cohesive packaging?

Unlike an adhesive product that is designed to stick to everything, cohesive material will only stick to itself. Most often a product is “sandwiched” between two layers of the cohesive material forming a fairly secure seal around the perimeter of the product but not sticking to the product. Most often this method of packaging is used to ship books, CDs, DVDs and other relatively flat products through the mail stream.

Material variations

The cohesive material used can be plastic film, paper or for heavier applications, single faced corrugated board. There are applications where two different materials such as paper and plastic are used together – perhaps to provide some product visibility on one side of the product – but even if the substrates are not identical, the cohesive surface and composition is always the same. That is a chink in the cohesive packaging’s sustainable suit of armor.

The cohesive material is typically a latex based product so it will dissolve in a moist environment. Theoretically if the cohesive paper or single faced corrugated material ends up in a land fill the material and the cohesive latex layer will degrade over time. How long that will take remains a point of debate and varies greatly on the specific land fill conditions, but both should biodegrade eventually. The standard plastic version, not being biodegradable or oxo-degradable, would of course take many lifetimes to degrade.

Recyclability?

The best information I have found is that all three cohesive material options are indeed recyclable but not in your normal, routine, curb side type recycling program. Too bad because that is usually where the books DVDs and CDs wind up. Most recycling programs do not want these products because the latex based cohesive layer they all feature tends to gum up the equipment designed to process recyclables efficiently.

And the answer is ….

Can cohesive packaging be green? The best answers I can provide are not really and not easily. If you can’t recycle it, and it does not quickly or easily degrade in a land fill, it is probably not the best solution available from a green perspective.

I am sure someone at this very moment is diligently working in a lab to create a more eco friendly, recyclable version of the cohesive coating and of course papers and plastics are turning greener before our very eyes on an almost daily basis so there is always hope but for now, this is indeed a sticky matter.