Breaking the Mold

Liquid-pouch packaging, which takes the place of rigid plastic bottles, is one example of source reduction whose time has arrived.

While its popularity has grown in Europe and Canada during the past few years, the flexible-pouch concept was first patented in France in the early 1960s. It is now being used for the first time in the United States in packaging for S.C. Johnson & Son’s Agree Plus combination shampoo and conditioner.

The new package, called an Enviro-Pouch by the company, uses 80 percent less plastic than conventional shampoo bottles. It also is completely collapsible, resulting in 92 percent less waste being sent to landfills.

“It looks like a ‘space age’ type of package today, but within a few years, it will be commonplace,” said Tom Benson, environmental action manager for S.C. Johnson. “This is the future of packaging.”

An entire 10-ounce Enviro-Pouch package contains no more plastic than the cap of a typical shampoo bottle, he said. Collapsed, the pouch slides easily into a standard business envelope.

Agree Plus in the the new pouch is now being test marketed in three U.S. cities, but will be launched nationwide next spring, Benson said. The company also is testing pouches made from recycled plastic for use in 1993.

Additionally, to boost its environmental effort, S.C. Johnson will contribute one percent of all Agree Plus sales revenues to established environmental groups.

In customer surveys, nearly 70 percent of the people who have used Agree Plus say they prefer using the Enviro-Pouch over a conventional bottle, Benson said.

Pouch technology is currently used primarily in Europe, Canada and the Middle East. In Germany, refill pouches for concentrates are in heavy demand.

Milk is sold in pouches in Canada. Dupont’s pouch system in that country already has captured 55 percent of the Canadian milk packaging market and has reduced rigid container waste from 56 million pounds to 22 million pounds per year.

According to a report on the environmental advantages of plastic pouch packaging by the consulting firm, Mastio & Company, “Liquid pouches are lighter in weight, require less storage space, dramatically reduce shipping costs, consume less energy, and cost less to produce, fill and distribute.”

Because source reduction — using the minimum amount of materials needed in packaging — is so important in solving this country’s landfill crisis, liquid-pouch packaging may be one of the key elements in the success of this effort.

(Tip/Stat — The Environmental Protection Agency has set a goal for the United States of a 25 percent reduction in municipal solid waste by the end of 1992.)

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