By Katherine Feser – Houston Chronicle
Published 11:59 am CDT, Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Accredo Packaging will expand its Sugar Land campus at 12682 Cardinal Meadow Drive by more than 200,000 square feet of warehouse and manufacturing space. KDW, a Houston-based design/build firm, is handling the project.

Accredo Packaging, a supplier of plastic film for the prepackaged food and consumer products markets, will expand its Sugar Land headquarters by nearly 60 percent. The expansion will bring 175 new jobs to the campus by next year.

The company, which opened the 32-acre campus at 12682 Cardinal Meadow Drive in 2009, has hired Houston-based design/build firm KDW to build more than 200,000 square feet of warehouse and manufacturing space for the latest expansion.

When complete in 2019, the facility will total nearly 550,000 square feet. A 175,000-square-foot expansion was completed 5 years ago.

“With the quality of the local work force in the area and proximity to major plastic resin suppliers, it made sense to expand our existing facility rather than invest in another part of the country,” Accredo executive vice president Rex Varn said in an announcement.

The expansion will enable the company to boost annual production of flexible film from 1.5 billion feet to 2 billion feet. Its products are used in snack foods, confectionery items, frozen foods and pet treats, paper towels and shrink wrap in bottled-water packaging.

Accredo will be positioned to meet a growing demand for flexible packaging, which extends the shelf life of products and costs less than rigid packaging such as glass bottles and cans, Varn said.

With the expansion, Accredo North America will employ about 525 workers.

“This expansion project is an example of strong development activity the city of Sugar Land is experiencing in all sectors, including industrial, commercial, and residential,” Mayor Joe Zimmerman said in the statement.

“We’ve achieved a sustainable, strong economy through an aggressive, focused economic development program that creates opportunities for new business investment and jobs,” Zimmerman said.

Accredo Packaging is part of the API group of companies, a family-owned and operated enterprise established in 1986.

November 29, 2017

Ground Breaking Southeast Asia
Related entity identifies major growth opportunities in Southeast Asia in the value-added flexible packaging market.

Privately-owned, Texas-based Accredo Packaging, Inc., a fully integrated flexible packaging manufacturer primarily supplying the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) markets in North America, is pleased to recognize the ground breaking of an affiliate plant in Bình Dương Province, outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The groundbreaking ceremony for Accredo Asia Co. Ltd., d/b/a Accredo Asia Packaging, took place on September 21st, 2017, and featured company founders, local government and business leaders, and the general contractor.

Accredo Packaging Inc. and Accredo Asia Packaging are part of the API Group of Companies, a leader in the flexible packaging industry. The API Group was founded over thirty years ago in 1986.

Executive Vice President of Accredo Packaging, Inc., Rex Varn, said that “A growing number of multinational CPG corporations have located their manufacturing base in Southeast Asia and source their packaging needs locally. Through its investment in cutting-edge technology, Accredo Asia is well positioned to participate in the incredible ongoing growth of the flexible packaging industry in Southeast Asia. Our world-class converting capabilities incorporate all aspects of packaging production, from design and materials R&D to extrusion, printing, lamination and pouch manufacturing.”

Vietnam is viewed as an ideal location in view of its burgeoning economy and highly skilled labor force, and is considered favorably located to service supply-chain routes in and around Southeast Asia.

With its new MDO blown film technologies, Accredo Asia will be equipped to produce and supply technologically advanced flexible packaging for the pre-packaged and consumer product markets in the region.

Accredo Asia’s offerings will include not only flexible packaging products but also specialized products such as breathable films for end uses such as diapers, feminine hygiene products, drapes and gowns for medical use, as well as industrial protective apparel and other applications. “Accredo Asia’s production lines will incorporate the latest blown film extrusion technologies coupled with inline stretching [MDO] capabilities”, said Varn. Branded AccredoFlex® Breathe-Lite™, these breathable films provide lower weight per square foot, lower raw material usage, and improved mechanical properties over cast film extrusion.

Accredo Asia will differentiate itself not only with state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, but also through product quality and customer service, a critical component to the company’s underlying success in the United States.
Phase 1 construction of the 236,000 ft.2 Accredo Asia plant, designed for compliance with LEED® standards, is targeted to be complete Q2-2018, with full plant commercialization in Q4-2018.

About Accredo Packaging, Inc.
LEED Silver certified Accredo Packaging, Inc. is a fully integrated converting company producing flexible packaging with an emphasis on sustainability, with best in class production processes, primarily targeting the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) markets in North America. A Certified Minority Business Enterprise, Accredo utilizes electricity generated via wind power. It attributes its growing success to investment in leading edge technologies, including state-of-the-art extrusion, HD flexographic printing, adhesive lamination, pouch and bag making in terms of reduced environmental impact, high quality, and world-class productivity.

“A few days into Tropical Storm Harvey and all has gone as expected,” announced Rex Varn, Executive Vice President of Accredo Packaging. “Our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility was built to withstand the hurricane force winds. From a plant standpoint there has been virtually no damage and we remained operational, although on a limited scale, throughout the entire event.”
The deadly Tropical Storm Harvey continues to ravage much of Houston and surrounding areas. Heavy rain is forecasted to continue and thousands of citizens have been displaced.

Contingency plans have been implemented and the factory is operational although manufacturing has been scaled back to facilitate production people to take care of their own immediate personal needs. “The staff has been remarkable,” says Varn. “Those who are able to safely get to the plant have demonstrated their commitment to ensure our customers’ needs are met”. However, Varn advocates employees “Listen to local authorities in their jurisdiction and follow the warnings and direction from them. We do not want employees putting themselves in harm’s way navigating flooded areas.”

Accredo Fully Operational after Harvey

The bigger issue now remains trucking. With many access roads to the plant temporarily closed as a result of flooding, dispatches have slowed. “Some orders will be impacted, but I don’t expect delays to be significant,” says Varn. “We hope to begin dispatching goods hopefully as soon as tomorrow, Thursday, August 31st, latest.”

Customers seeking updated information on service availability should call their respective Customer Services Representatives. Updates on service availability will be provided periodically as systems are remediated.

June 15, 2016

First-of-its-Kind RecycleReady™ Technology Helps Create Recyclable Flexible Stand-Up Pouches Consumers Demand; Can Incorporate Barrier Film Technology

MIDLAND, Mich.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) is introducing a new member of the recently launched RecycleReady™ Technology, which enables the recyclability of polyethylene-based barrier packaging as part of existing grocery store drop-off recycling programs.

Created through collaboration with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and other industry members, Dow’s RecycleReady™ Technology helps converters create barrier pouches that answer consumer demand for more recyclable packaging options. The new advanced barrier RecycleReady Technology is a major advancement that enables the recycling of packaging for products like granola and nuts, which was not possible before in flexible packaging.

“Working together with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and our value chain collaborators was crucial to achieving our breakthrough RecycleReady Technology, which incorporates RETAIN™ polymer modifiers, a key enabler for the recyclability of the packages,” said Stacy Fields, North America director, Packaging Solutions for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics.

The stand-up pouch made with RETAIN™ polymer modifiers is the first package of its kind with barrier film that can be recycled in a polyethylene recycling stream. When combined with other polyethylene resins, the RETAIN™ compatibilizer offers a recyclable solution with enhanced barrier characteristics.

Before this innovation, flexible barrier packaging posed unique recycling challenges due to the variety of materials generally used as part of its makeup.

With the introduction of RecycleReady™ Technology, converters will now have the ability to produce recyclable packaging with ingredients that ensure barrier protection, along with stiffness, toughness and sealability of the package. These recyclable flexible pouches incorporate multiple layers, but use only polyethylene as the basic raw material.

RecycleReady™ Technology in North America has been approved by the SPC’s How2Recycle program to use the Store Drop-Off label. Plastic film, wrap, and bags carrying the Store Drop-Off label can be recycled at participating local retail and grocery stores.

“This technology is a breakthrough in packaging design for recyclability. It possesses the properties of a multi-layer pouch, but behaves like a pure polyethylene bag in the recycling stream. We are very excited,” said Kelly Cramer, Sustainable Packaging Coalition project manager.

The technology aims to divert packaging waste from landfill or incineration, increase post-consumer recycling yields and aid the creation of a circular economy for plastics packaging.

“RecycleReady Technology is a great example of how we can bring breakthrough chemistry and process technology together to meet the needs of converters, brand owners, retailers and consumers,” said Fields. “We’ll advance RecycleReady Technology capabilities through continued collaboration.”

In 2015, collaboration between Dow, the SPC and packaging converter Accredo Packaging produced the Seventh Generation brand’s first recyclable Dishwasher Pods packaging. The innovation was developed in response to customer comments that the product’s previous packaging was not recyclable.

“We are thrilled to be able offer this breakthrough barrier technology to our customers,” said Fields. “This has never been done before, and it will provide new options for brand owners and retailers to offer recyclable packaging for many products that consumers enjoy.”

Dow has a long track record of innovative technologies that help customers develop more sustainable, higher performing packaging that consistently exceeds expectations. As a founding member of the SPC, Dow is committed to sustainable innovation to meet consumer demand for more recyclable options. For more information, visit

Packaging Digest

Four winners earned a 2016 Trashies Award for their sustainability achievements in packaging.

Four winners earned a 2016 Trashies Award for their sustainability achievements in packaging.

Seventh Generation, McDonald’s, 3M and BillerudKorsnäs—it’s fitting on Earth Day 2016 to recognize the winners in the second annual Trashies Awards competition. These sustainable packaging visionaries received accolades April 11 during the opening reception of the SustPack 2016 conference, sponsored by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Smithers Pira and Packaging Digest.

The competition awards sustainable successes in five categories: Package; Partnership; Person; Process/Production Method; and Public Message/Service/Ad Campaign. This year, we have four winners and one honorable mention. There does not have to be a winner in each category, just recognition of an outstanding contribution to sustainable packaging. Points were awarded based on sustainable merit; technical merit; supporting materials; and contribution to the industry. One point was also possible for judge’s discretion.

Judges again this year were Steve Mahler, design manager and sustainable package development manager at Caraustar Industries (who also designed and hand-makes each award); Kim Carswell, senior manager, packaging, Target; Victor Bell, president, Environmental Packaging Intl.; Liz Shoch, assistant director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition; and me, Lisa Pierce, executive editor of Packaging Digest.

Accepting Awards: Derrick Lawrence (second from left), director of packaging development, Seventh Generation; Malcolm Cohn (third from left), director of sustainability, Accredo Packaging; and Stacy Fields (second from right), North American director, Dow Chemical

Winner: Seventh Generation / Accredo Packaging / Dow Chemical
Category: Partnership

Accepting Awards: Derrick Lawrence (second from left), director of packaging development, Seventh Generation; Malcolm Cohn (third from left), director of sustainability, Accredo Packaging; and Stacy Fields (second from right), North American director, Dow Chemical [photographed along with Jon Pyper (far left), North American director of sustainability, Dow; Lamy Chopin (third from right), product development leader, Dow; and Han Zhang (far right), sustainability and advocacy manager, Packaging & Specialty Plastics, Dow]

With zero waste a target by 2020, Seventh Generation partnered with Accredo and Dow to develop a new package for its dishwasher detergent pods. Using existing pouch manufacturing technology, resin and RecycleReady technology from Dow, Accredo produced a multi-layer polyethylene pouch that is 100% recyclable. An added bonus is the use of the How2Recycle logo used in the graphics to help consumers recycle it properly.

Plastics Technology

There are three things constant in the world: death, taxes and the…stand-up pouch. The stand-up pouch continues to grow in popularity showcasing that it does not yet have an expiration date, but it’s not all good news—issues with recyclability have been a consistent challenge.

Hoping to jump-start a new trend in the pouch market is Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., which has created a fully recyclable stand-up pouch. I recently talked with reps from Dow, as well as the brand Seventh Generation, Burlington, VT, and the converter Accredo Packaging, Sugar Land TX, on Seventh Generation’s first recyclable Dishwasher Pods packaging.

Derrick Lawrence, director of packaging development for Seventh Generation, said that the brand uses the pouch packaging format for its various products, but an issue is that the pouches are not recyclable. Consumers took note of this and asked the company to provide a recycling option.

Dow developed the resins for the recyclable polyethylene stand-up pouch. Stacy Fields, North American director of packaging solutions for Dow, said that the final package is still a multi-layer structure, but it’s all in the PE family. The result is a 100% recyclable package.

Lawrence said there was a “tremendous” amount of work done to to optimize the material to get it to a point where most consumers wouldn’t know the difference between the old pack structure and the new one. For instance, as PE structures are typically cloudier than PET, it was important to have clarity in the material.
The new packaging features SPC’s How2Recycle label, which encourages consumers to take flexible plastic bags, films and wraps to local grocery or retail stores for recycling. The pouches can be recycled at more than 18,000 store drop-off locations throughout North America, which is definitely positive news on the recycling front for pouches.
Seventh Generation Recycle Ready Stand-Up Pouch 72 dpi_0
“It’s great getting the recyclable portion out there and consumers want to participate, but the challenge is they don’t understand what can be recycled,” Lawrence said. “The How2Recycle label makes it very clear. With the same pack being launched in this recyclable structure with the How2Reccycle label…that’s huge. What in the past went to the landfill is now going to be recycled.”

“When you add in the growth of the pouch market, as well as the growth of pouches with multiple materials, it is going to result in more plastic packaging in the landfill if something doesn’t change,” said Malcolm Cohn, director of sustainability, Accredo Packaging. “We believe the all-PE stand-up is an industry changer.”

(Sugar Land, Texas) – The API Group of Companies (API) celebrates 30 years as a driving force in the highly competitive flexible packaging industry. The family owned and operated enterprise began in 1986 with the inception of its first entity, Advance Polybag, Inc., now a leading producer in the plastic bag industry.

Accredo Packaging, Inc., an internationally-recognized manufacturer offering state-of-the-art sustainable flexible packaging options, became part of the API Group of Companies when it was established in 2009.

Founder Hank D. Nguyen set out with a vision to utilize the latest manufacturing technologies coupled with innovative designs, including the adaption of new materials to enhance value and performance in its packaging offerings.  Over the course of the last 30 years, the API companies made that vision a reality, pioneering many new innovations including several industry firsts, including:

  • The first co-extruded Grocery Bag offered in the U.S.;
  • The proprietary Touch ‘N Go® Self-Opening Bag Dispensing System;
  • The first company globally to manufacture a zippered stand-up pouch made from components certified compostable in accordance with ASTM 6400 standards;
  • Pioneer of USDA approved renewably-sourced stand-up pouches;
  • Developer of highly renewably-sourced film for Towel & Tissue overwrap and CO₂LLATION® shrink bundling film;
  • The first reverse printed 2-ply recyclable PE laminated stand-up pouch, branded as AccredoFlex® RPTM;
  • Global leader in Expanded Color Gamut process printing technology.

“From humble beginnings, our companies have become a driving force in the industry with over 1,000 employees and, because of our philosophy of continued product evolution with a focus on sustainability, we are privileged to serve some of the most recognized companies in the world” says Hank Nguyen, Chairman & CEO.

Chinh Nguyen, President & COO, attributes API’s continuing success to its investment in leading edge technologies, including high-tech plant operations, a dedicated workforce, and careful attention to its customers’ needs.

The API Group of Companies is headquartered in Sugar Land, Texas, with manufacturing facilities across the U.S. as well as overseas, and continues to enjoy phenomenal growth.

For further information, contact Malcolm Cohn, Director of Sustainability at 713-580-4872, or see our websites:

Advance Polybag Homepage:
Accredo Packaging Homepage:

Flexible Packaging
Accredo Packaging sustainable packaging solutions

With a mission to manufacture and supply sustainable flexible packaging for the pre-packaged food and consumer products markets, Sugar Land, Texas-based Accredo Packaging is no stranger to viable, eco-friendly practices.

Since opening six years ago, Accredo has established itself as the largest purchaser of 100 percent wind generated energy in the U.S. flexible packaging market, the first company in the U.S. to extrude resin from renewable resources and the only flexible packaging company believed to be certified to LEED Silver certification standards.

Plus, as a vertically integrated company that supplies throughout North and Central America, Accredo is responsible for extruding and printing, laminating, pouch making, roll stocks, etc. all within its own facilities.

“We really are proud to be a newcomer on the block in this very competitive market against the companies that have been around for all these years,” says Malcom Cohn, director of sustainability at Accredo. “To break through to the customers has been difficult, and we believe that what has been able to get us across to these major brand owners is our sustainability story. Because of our belief in sustainability, and the way that the market is going for sustainability, it has opened up companies to meet with us and discuss these alternatives.”

The owners of Accredo came to the United States with a church group in 1975 after the Fall of Saigon, and they worked four jobs a day to provide for their families and fund their education, Cohn says. When plastic grocery bags began reaching new levels of popularity, they had an opportunity to build a factory in New Orleans to manufacture them.

However, anticipating that the market for grocery bags was likely to plateau, the owners eventually decided to also focus their efforts towards high-barrier flexible packaging.

“In a short span of time we have grown (from) no customers to a multi-million dollar company and (are) continuing to grow,” Cohn says. “We’ve made great strides, but there’s still a long way to go.”

The company offers four different sustainable product options: conventional, compostable renewable and recyclable. Most recently, Accredo partnered with Dow to create an all-PE recyclable standup pouch made from certified compostable components.

To create its products, the company uses 9-layer blown film lines with 3-layer and 5-layer extrusion capabilities, a stable of 10-color 67-inch-wide-web press, expanded color gamut process printing, an ink delivery system that facilitates up to 40 percent more productivity and more.

The Climate Change Conference and Sustainable Innovation Forum held last December in Paris drew government leaders, CEOs and senior executives, financiers and investors, and associations and industry experts from all over the world. For Accredo, which has already made sustainability a crucial part of its mission, these events and recent spotlight on sustainability puts the company in a position to continue to do what it does best: eco-friendly packaging solutions.

“You’ve got 130 countries or so participating in this climate change conference in Paris, and how we as a company participate in this program is we are able, through our offerings and our sustainable packaging product options, to offer packaging that takes into consideration the lowering of our (environmental) footprint,” Cohn says.

Moving forward, Accredo plans on expanding its offerings as well as its capabilities.

“(Accredo) was built with expansion in mind,” Cohn says. “Six years ago we started with two pieces of each equipment but now our factory is full. We’ve added extruders, printing presses and new pouch machines, and we are now at the point of actually planning and discussing our next production facility in the United States within two years. I think this has been as a result of our owners and the management and employees of our company being committed to achieving success within our mission.”

Packaging Digest

Seventh Generation Pouches, Recyclable PESeventh Generation is committed to achieving zero waste by 2020, and sustainable packaging is a key element in its strategy. Most recently, the company switched to a packaging design for dishwasher-detergent pods that offers all the functionality of conventional flexible packaging—and is also 100% recyclable.

The new package for Seventh Generation Natural Dishwasher Detergent Packs is a resealable stand-up pouch made entirely from polyethylene. Accredo Packaging Inc. makes the pouches using existing pouch-making equipment and decorates them using reverse-print flexography. Resin and the RecycleReady Technology for the packaging was developed by Dow Chemical Co.

The film for the pouches comprises “multiple layers of polyethylene,” explains Stacy Fields, North American director for packaging solutions at Dow. “There’s a combination of high-density, low-density or linear low.”

By combining HDPE, LDPE or LLDPE in the package structure, Seventh Generation Inc. and its partners achieved the sealability, toughness, stiffness and aesthetics required for the pouch—plus recyclability.

The back of each pouch is printed with the How2Recycle Store Drop-off label from GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). This graphic explains to consumers that clean, dry pouches can be recycled at plastic-bag and -film drop-off locations at supermarkets and other retail stores.

The recyclable pouch, now in national distribution, launched in September 2015 in a 20-count format. A 45-count pouch is rolling out currently.

“Before we launched this pack, about 8% of our consumer complaints were around non-recyclability of the pack, so this addresses a good portion of our consumer complaints” about the product, says Derrick Lawrence, director of packaging development for Seventh Generation. He adds that the old package “was a PET/LLDPE adhesive laminate structure, a more typical stand-up pouch structure.”

Malcolm Cohn, director of sustainability at Accredo, explains, “The significance of that is a polyester/polyethylene lamination, as a co-mingled structure, or a multimaterial structure, cannot be recycled. It has to go to landfill.” In contrast, “the new structures used by Seventh Generation can be recycled through store drop-off.”

And yet, seen from the front, the old and new pouches look nearly identical. Polyethylene is ordinarily hazier than polyester, which could have affected the transparency of the pouch’s window and dulled its print finish.

To overcome that challenge, “Accredo did a lot of work with Dow to get the resin mix right—to get it as bright and shiny as possible so it would be less noticeable to the consumer that we made a change,” Lawrence says.

The next phase of the project, a redesign of the pouch’s graphics, is expected to roll out in March. When that happens, Seventh Generation will add educational information to its website to get consumers up to speed on the pouch’s recyclability. SPC is expected to add consumer-facing info about the package to its site, as well.

Seventh Generation had previously communicated to its consumers the various sustainability benefits of stand-up pouches. But until now, the company could not tout the package’s recyclability. “We spent lots of time educating consumers on why we were in that pack,” Lawrence says. The addition of recyclability “helps us button up the story on the end of life for that pack, as well.”

Packaging World

The new pouch is a multilayer PE structure that provides functional and aesthetic advantages comparable to a mixed-material structure, but solves the recycling challenge.

Plant-based household cleaning products company Seventh Generation of Burlington, VT, has a notable track record for innovation around eco-friendly packaging. In 2010, the company launched a high-density polyethylene bottle for its dish liquid and fabric softener products that featured 96% post-consumer recycled content—a quantum leap over the 25% recycled content typically found in plastic packaging at the time. In 2011, it became the first commercial user of a fully recyclable paper-based bottle for its concentrated liquid laundry detergent. And in late 2015, it began using a 100-oz HDPE laundry detergent bottle that replaces the 20% virgin petroleum-based plastic needed for strength with a plastic resin made from sugarcane.

Today, almost 100% of its HDPE bottles are made entirely from recycled content; all of its PET bottles are 100% rPET; and work is being done to increase the PCR content of its polypropylene caps as well.

These developments have all served to help Seventh Generation move closer to its 2020 sustainability goals around packaging, which include replacing all virgin petroleum-based plastics with recycled or bio-based materials, and making all of its packaging recyclable.

Until recently one packaging format that proved especially challenging from a recycling standpoint was the stand-up pouch used for the company’s Dishwasher Detergent Packs. Made from a mixed-material film laminate, the pouch could not be recycled, meaning 100% of the packages ended up in landfill. But through a partnership with The Dow Chemical Co., Accredo Packaging, Inc., and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Seventh Generation launched into retail a multilayer all-polyethylene SUP in Q4-2015 that is 100% recyclable.

“Our goal was to produce a recyclable package for our dishwasher pods, without sacrificing performance or aesthetics,” says Derrick Lawrence, Director of Packaging Development for Seventh Generation. “Our customers were asking for a more recyclable option, and our collaboration with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Dow, and Accredo Packaging turned that demand into a reality.”

Three companies, one common goal

According to Lawrence, Seventh Generation began its pursuit of a recyclable package for its dishwasher pods in earnest in 2012. While he says that the company “kicked the tires” on options such as recyclable polypropylene tubs, it found the format involved a lot of unnecessary plastic.

“It would have been hard for us to justify going from a stand-up pouch, even though it was not recyclable, to something that used a lot more plastic,” he says. “We like the advantages of the stand-up pouch. It offers a number of environmental and consumer benefits: It ships flat, it is very light, it is resealable, and it is a category-accepted format.”

The existing detergent pouch was constructed of (from the outside) PET/ink/adhesive/linear low-density PE. The reverse-printed PET allowed for a high-gloss finish and protected the print from scuffing—an important factor in ensuring a high-quality look for the premium product. The pouch also provided the moisture barrier needed to guarantee that the dissolvable film covering the pods would not degrade and lead to clumping of the detergent.

In 2013, Seventh Generation met with Dow’s Packaging & Specialty Plastics Group at an SPC conference where it learned about the resin supplier’s RecycleReady™ technology. Explains Dow’s North American Director of Packaging Solutions, Stacy Fields, the RecycleReady concept involves using either all-PE structures or PE plus specialty compatibilizers with non-PE materials that allow the pouches to be incorporated into recycling streams designed for PE recovery.

Dow’s development partner at the time was Accredo, a film converter that had been researching potential recyclable materials that could replace PET as the outer web of a two-ply film structure. “It was a natural fit,” says Accredo Director of Sustainability Malcolm Cohn.

Significant technical challenges

For Dow and Accredo, many technical hurdles had to be overcome to successfully develop a recyclable multilayer PE film that could replace one made from mixed materials. Among them, according to Cohn, were creating a pouch structure that could be manufactured without compromising machine speeds or increasing waste; would have the necessary gloss, rigidity, scuff-resistance, tensile strength, and barrier properties; and would provide end-user filling and packaging machinability.

One of Seventh Generation’s main concerns was the appearance of the pouch. “From a brand owner perspective, the biggest challenge was achieving a gloss level that was comparable to the existing pouch and having a robust printed surface,” explains Lawrence. “Previous solutions we had tried were surface-printed on the outer layer and would scuff significantly during distribution testing. When we would laminate an outer layer, traditional PE films would not provide the clarity were looking for.”

While specific details of the technology are proprietary, the combination of Dow’s resin expertise and Accredo’s manufacturing technology resulted in a structure made from PE/ink/solventless adhesive/PE that provides all the required functional and aesthetic properties while being recyclable. Though the structure sounds simple, Cohn says it is not as basic as it sounds. “A huge amount of technology has gone into the coextrusions of the various layers of the respective webs,” he explains.

The AccredoFlex® RP™ (Recyclable Pouch) for Seventh Generation’s Dishwash Detergent Packs comes in two sizes—a 20-ct and a 45-ct—for two fragrance varieties, Free & Clear and Lemon. The pouch features a press-to-close PE flange zipper and is reverse-printed using expanded-gamut process printing. A clear window on the front panel of the package gives the consumer a clear view of the chlorine-free, biodegradable detergent pods inside. The graphics for the pouch were not changed.

According to Lawrence, the pouch provided a “like-to-like transition.” It passed all distribution testing and stability requirements, and its cost is at parity with that of the previous pack. “There are only two things we’ve had to deal with,” he says. “The film is a little hazier than PET, so the pouch is slightly less translucent on the outside. But unless we put the two pouches side by side in front of consumers, I don’t think they would even know we made the change, which is what we were going for.

“The other thing is the opening of the pouch. With the PET package, consumers could tear the pouch open. With the new structure, we have a scissors icon to instruct consumers to cut the pouch open, which isn’t ideal, but we’re working to improve that over time.”

Significant recycling potential

While consumers may not recognize a change in the structure of the package, Seventh Generation hopes they will notice the change in the SPC How2Recycle Label on the back of the pouch. The How2Recycle Label is a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public. Seventh Generation was an early adopter of the label in 2012, and now uses it on almost 100% of its packaging.

The company’s previous detergent pod packaging used a “Not Recycled” icon. The new all-PE SUP uses the “Store Drop-Off” icon, which encourages consumers to take flexible PE bags, films, and wraps to local grocery or retail stores for recycling. The pouches can be recycled at more than 18,000 store drop-off locations throughout North America.

According to Lawrence, in a perfect world, if 100% of Seventh Generation’s new pouches were recycled, it would result in 20 tons of material per year being diverted from landfill. But it’s not a perfect world where recycling rates are concerned. “So the question then becomes, what would we expect from our consumers?” Lawrence posits.

“We have some data not specifically around flexibles, but around other packaging types, that indicate our consumers tend to be more attuned to recycling, usually anywhere from 10-percent to 20-percent higher,” he says. “The nice part about recycling of PE flexibles is it’s one of the most widely available programs. One national study found that 91 percent of the U.S. population has access to plastic bag recycling within 10 miles, and 72 percent has access to plastic film recycling within 10 miles.”

Further progress on 2020 goal

Seventh Generation launched the 20-ct pack in August 2015; at presstime the 45-ct was scheduled to roll out in early 2016. Lawrence says the consumer response to the change has been minimal. “This is good from our standpoint—we haven’t received any negative feedback on the new pouch, which is what we were going for,” he says. “In the next couple of weeks, I’ll get a read on consumer complaints, but I expect they will have gone down.” (The non-recyclability of the previous detergent pouch generated 8% of consumer complaints around the product.)

In its 2014 Corporate Consciousness Report, Seventh Generation reported that 69% of its products and packaging were biodegradable or recyclable. With the introduction of the AccredoFlex PR pouch, Seventh Generation will no doubt be able to move that needle closer to its 2020 goal.