SUSTAINABILITY IN THE PRINT AND PACKAGING INDUSTRY
The print and packaging industry has been grappling with how to address sustainability for many decades. Climate change, waste reduction, and more environmentally conscious systems and processes are all highly complicated topics that have left manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers alike confused and frustrated. However, continuous progress is being made in terms of material research, public education, and legislation around sustainable topics.
Brands and consumers are becoming more conscious of the ways the packaging and goods they purchase are affecting the environment, and the industry is making significant strides in meeting these changing expectations. As a supplier of mostly plastic-based products, Nobelus is aware that we have a prime opportunity to take part in these sustainability efforts.
THE ROLE OF PLASTIC IN PACKAGING
Before we look at what sustainability means to Nobelus, it is important to acknowledge that, while new, more eco-conscious materials are being developed and will hopefully become more common in the future, plastic laminates and films currently play a vital role in the market, and their strengths and positive impact must be balanced with the environmental risks they pose.
Plastic packaging can reduce product waste by ensuring packaged goods are not damaged, help protect consumers from ingesting spoiled food by extending the shelf life of edible goods, and prevent medical supplies from being contaminated in storage. Simply removing plastic from these applications without a viable alternative could unintentionally increase our negative impact on the environment and harm people’s health.
Additionally, plastic packaging can produce fewer emissions than alternative packaging materials in single-use applications, which means it can play an important role in sustainability efforts when implemented strategically. (To learn more about the complexities of plastic usage in packaging, read our post, Sustainability in the Flexible Packaging Industry.) For these reasons, it is important that Nobelus continues to provide high-quality products and solutions to the market even as we strive to adopt more sustainable practices.
While we are in many ways just beginning our sustainability journey, our internal sustainability team has spent many hours considering how we can maximize the things we already do well while challenging ourselves to improve in other areas. It is our responsibility as a leading distributor in the print finishing industry to reduce our impact on the environment and our local communities wherever we can and put forth effort to introduce more sustainable practices where feasible. Like the print and packaging industry at large, we are far from perfect, but we strive to maintain transparency and an aspirational outlook as we seek out more comprehensive solutions to help our customers achieve their own goals, as well.
THE NOBELUS PILLARS OF SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability is about more than selling eco-friendly products and equipment, although that is certainly a priority. As a distributor, we have an obligation to partner with our customers to better understand their needs and help them find finishing solutions that serve them best, and this includes matters of sustainability. This process also enables us to learn from customers in different areas of the industry to gain a more holistic understanding of big-picture issues.
We prioritize three key areas of focus regarding sustainability discussions. We hope these pillars serve as a strong starting point for our sustainability journey and enable us to more effectively serve our customers who have made sustainability a priority or are concerned about meeting stricter standards from legislative bodies, industry organizations, and concerned consumers.
Every year, new, more sustainable materials are being developed by dedicated groups in the print and packaging industry. The research and development team at Nobelus is actively taking strides to stay informed about these emerging technologies and materials so we can identify products that could be useful to our customers. Due to our position as a distributor, we can be flexible in sourcing products and partnering with vendors who want to make environmental health a priority.
In addition to researching and developing more sustainable products, the Nobelus team also includes many solutions experts who have years of experience in application engineering. Our customers and their brands can always request a consultation to find ways to reduce their environmental impact, minimize food waste, and meet their sustainability goals in how they design their prints and packaging. At the same time, we are aware that there is always more to learn on these topics. To ensure we can continue providing thought leadership in the industry, we are involved and engaged in active learning through trade shows, sustainability conferences, research on new regulations, and consulting subject matter experts in recyclability, plastic reduction, and other relevant topics.
At this time, Nobelus offers a line of more sustainable products for our customers called EcoElement™ CLS. These products are available in gloss or matte as a thermal laminate (which reduces plastic usage but still contains an EVA adhesive layer) or as a completely plastic-free unsupported film for use in prime labels and flexible packaging applications. All iterations of this film have a base layer composed of cellulose, which is made from wood pulp sourced from PEFC-managed forests. EcoElement CLS Films have no adhesive layer for use with wet lamination, including solventless and solvent-based methods, and are home compostable, allowing brands to create compostable packaging so long as other layers in the package are also certified compostable.
Because Nobelus does not own its office spaces, warehouses, or production facilities, taking steps to reduce our daily impact on the environment can be challenging. We are aware that the production of waste and emissions is an unavoidable reality of our business, and we try to make environmentally conscious decisions where possible. While we do not have complete control over many aspects of our business, such as transportation and freight, energy sources, and the internal practices of our vendors, we do prioritize choosing the most responsible option whenever possible, such as partnering with domestic vendors and reducing the waste produced in our facilities.
We have replaced many of our gas-powered forklifts with electric vehicles to reduce emissions in our warehouses, and our offices utilize automated timers on overhead lights and automated hand dryers in each restroom to discourage paper waste. Our management and administration teams consistently look for ways we can be more sustainable on a departmental basis, such as strategically planning travel and reducing our reliance on physical resources in favor of digitization.
Nobelus is also committed to building a sustainable workforce made up of employees who feel empowered to contribute not only to the company but also to our surrounding communities. Each Nobelus employee receives 16 hours of volunteer time off each year, a policy that we hope will encourage our team members to become more engaged with their area’s community initiatives and outreach organizations.
We strictly follow all federal and state guidelines regarding labor regulations and equality in the workplace to ensure each employee has the same benefits and support regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, education, religious beliefs, or physical ability. Additionally, each employee is invited to engage in regular performance discussions and set personalized goals each year to help them develop their personal and professional skills.
LEARN MORE ABOUT NOBELUS SOLUTIONS
If you are interested in the sustainable products Nobelus currently offers, please don’t hesitate to reach out through phone or email. Our sales representatives and solutions experts can help you understand our products and decide if they are right for you. If you are a current Nobelus customer who would like to open up a dialogue about sustainability, our team is always eager to share our knowledge and learn more about how different operators are approaching this complex topic. We would love to engage in more discussions about concerns and issues our customers are facing regarding sustainability so we can make progress towards solutions.