Canned drinks: The sustainable solution

By Russell Wiseman, Head of Global Beverage Solutions at Domino Printing (Domino)

With the rise of the eco-conscious consumer, the thirst for canned drinks is stronger. Industry reports continue to indicate the sustained growth across the beverage canning sector and the pressure is on for companies to take action and meet the demand for sustainable packaging.

Aluminium has become a favoured packaging material amongst manufacturers and retailers alike as a plastic alternative. From canned water and iced coffees to wine and craft beer, canned drinks have been hitting the shelves at a rapid pace. As a material which holds durability and reusability, the popularity is only surging, and because of this, the insidious popularity for plastic is on its way out.

With the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package (CEP) having set a packaging recycling target of 75% by 2030, However, despite its infinite recyclability and versatility, the canning industry continues to present its own set of challenges for manufacturers.

Russell Wiseman Head of Global Beverage Solutions at Domino Printing (Domino), looks at how companies seeking to meet sustainable demand, can overcome the challenges of coding and marking on aluminium and secure their products on the ever-expanding modern-shelf.

The need for traceability

Consumers are increasingly looking to access targeted and accurate information concerning the products they purchase. Traceability on cans, through a unique identifier in the form of human and machine-readable code, allows the origin to be located by both retailers and consumers. Not only does this empower the customer, but it enables companies to identify, recall or withdraw faulty products. With the opportunity of identification significantly important to the packaging, perfecting the coding process is vital.

The problem

Canning lines operate rapidly, at speeds of 2,000 cans a minute, 24/7. Due to this, the coding solution must keep up the pace in order to avoid downtime due to lack of code quality.

Furthermore, when it comes to the can itself; from the metal finish to whether there is a curved surface, the printing process differs from that of printing an illegible code on a plastic bottle. The majority of codes are printed on the bottom of cans, where the surface is concave and therefore uneven, this challenge is exacerbated by the speed of the production line. And for the cans which are light weighted further to reduce carbon footprint, the material thickness may also prove a barrier to coding.

The solution

A growing number of companies are committed to their social responsibility and prefer to invest in technologies that advance their environmental credentials. Coding and marking technologies can be energy-intensive, as well as consume volatile organic chemicals. A coding system that minimises energy consumption and waste will, therefore, be the preferred choice. Therefore, fibre laser technology presents itself as a sustainable solution for can coding; reproduce high-resolution fonts and graphics.

With the ability to code on bare aluminium, as well as coated or anodised aluminium, fibre laser coding can significantly increase the marking speed while also resulting in a high-resolution mark, even on the most challenging surfaces, such as the concave surface of the can.

Switching to aluminium cans is the next step to achieving sustainability but brands and manufacturers need to work closely with a coding and marking team to identify and implement the optimal solution.

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