CosmeticsDesign spoke with Alexander Kwapis, vice president of product design and development at FusionPKG, about the new all-plastic airless pump and its sustainability impact.
Tell me a little bit about the packaging
For a long time now we've been developing polypropylene packages to work towards being more sustainable and recyclable. In July of this year, we launched this all-plastic spring. It’s sort of like a bellow, it uses a flexible spring, but instead of being in the product's path, where you can have compatibility issues, this is outside the product pathway.
It has all the normal airless components and this way, you're going to have a nice premium experience without having any formula interaction. We have flexibility so if there is some issue for some reason, we can go back and forth between metal and plastic.
It's all polyolefin. We did testing with the Association of Plastic Recyclers and it has preferred guidance, which means that it is recyclable. These packages are all polyolefin, which means that if it's the right size and the right color, they can be recycled.
Video by FusionPKG
What brought you to this point of taking all the metal out?
About four years ago, we did a 10,000-piece test in the wild of recycling packages with metal springs because there was this notion that metal springs are now recyclable. We found through our testing at multiple locations that they actually were recyclable.
We started to work with APR and other groups to communicate and share the test. While they felt that it was a very valid test and we showed that it is recyclable, they felt that universally, they want to make sure that every facility across the board does the same thing.
APR, for instance, ruled that metal springs are not recyclable. In congruence with that, we're also working on the new development of an all-plastic pump engine so we can make our packages more mono-material and more easily recyclable.
That's incrementally what we've been working towards. A lot of packages with metal springs were developed 10 years ago. Over the last couple of years, we've been changing our parts to … increase the polypropylene percentage of a package.
The reason why we chose not to use all polypropylene is that the materials are still recyclable with polypropylene.
Were there any challenges in developing this next generation of your airless pump?
Packages use different materials because materials have different characteristics. Finding within a particular class of materials the right solution was difficult. We don't want it to be too hard to press, we don't want it to actuate while it's changing pressure, like during a flight, and then there's compatibility.
We really looked at different parameters of what our consumer is looking for, and made sure that we're making something recyclable, but also highly functional. That's been really difficult.
Is there anything important that you feel we might have missed?
The preferred guidance sets the standard of what is recyclable.
Today, a lot of our parts in the polypropylene realm are mechanically recycled, so we can do 100% PCR. You can lower your footprint up front with all external parts being 100% PCR, and then with the mono-material pump engine, being able to recycle at the back end. That's really trying to think about a circular economy.
Now on top of that, we're in development with a few companies that are making molecularly recycled polypropylene as well. We're applying this not just to bottles, but also to different package types.
We have tube sleeves that are polypropylene as well because we know that eventually, the EPA will want recycled polypropylene tubes. We're basically working towards having this pump engine and all of our packages compliant with that.
What has that been like for your company to build this long-term sustainability plan?
It is a long-term vision that we've had for a long time. It's not something that's new in the last couple of years, it's just all starting to come together now. We transitioned from your typical double-wall AS, PMMA and ABS packages years ago.
We really started focusing on a lot of polypropylene packages, then making our tubes and pistons polypropylene as well. It’s about these incremental changes to get to where we are.