On 5 June 2021, this year’s world environment day, the DS Group headquartered in Noida in the Delhi NCR, introduced its rPET jar using a combination of virgin and recycled PET granules for its popular Pulse candy or confectionery packaging. Recycled PET in common industry parlance is called rPET and is environmentally favored and has a much lower carbon footprint than the exclusive use of virgin PET.
The added and most important benefit of this step by a leading Indian brand is that it moves both the consumer product and packaging industries toward a circular and more sustainable use of materials. Circularity comes from collecting previously used containers and processing them into suitable polymer granules, which can be used laterally for products of equal value. And in this case, have the qualities of transparency and food contact compliances needed for the DS confectionary product.
Pulse, with its localized flavors, is, according to market researchers, the leading hard-boiled candy in the Indian market for the past several years. The DS Group chose to start its more sustainable packaging on World Environment Day last month with this competitively priced mass-market product. The rPET jar for its candies is generally a wholesale jar that often sits on the counter-top of a store, but many consumers also buy an entire jar at a time. Pet jars are the main display packaging for the confectionary trade.
Each Pulse candy is in a printed wrapper made from a 100% recylable monomaterial film. The 1800 ml jar is made from a combination of virgin PET and rPET based on locally recycled PET. The rPET is created by recycling plastics used as packaging materials and then collected, sorted, cleaned, shredded, and then transformed into rPET pellets suitable for new packaging. In this case, the rPET polymer is produced by a breakthrough filtration technology to provide the purity of virgin polymers. The polymers produced by this process have received the USFDA’s no objection letter for food contact applications under Conditions of Use B to H. (The entire list of conditions is from A to J). The material is also Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified.
Additionally, comparing the Life Cycle Analysis of virgin PET and rPET on several parameters can quantify the environmental benefits of using increasing proportions of rPET. The LCA parameters include total energy demand, process and transport energy, water consumed, solid waste generated, global warming potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential, and photochemical smog formation potential. In a more simplified way, the LCA shows that rPET compared to virgin PET uses 75% less total energy with 40% less transport (expended) energy and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 60%. However, this depends on the proportion of rPET used in combination with virgin PET.
Used PET has sufficient value in India and is handy enough to collect to enter an appropriate recycling stream to create a closed-loop or circular economy that by producing rPET minimizes the use of resources and the generation of waste and pollution. This is in contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ model, where packaging winds up in landfills.
DS Group’s sustainability initiative –
one brand owner at a time
The DS Group, which manufactures food and confectionery products, also has in-house packaging capability. However, since it uses every type of material, from paper to plastic and metal, it outsources much of its packaging. We first became aware of the group’s commitment to sustainability in February 2020 when it organized a one-day seminar or workshop on sustainable materials.
At this seminal event, each of its suppliers made presentations on the way forward, whether from compostable, biodegradable, and recyclable films to water-based coatings and recyclable metal packaging to its converter suppliers to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable packaging in the future. The meeting, which was organized by the company’s vice-president for packaging Sanjay Gupta was remarkable for several reasons, which we commented on.
Firstly, the meeting was structured with every type of supplier present and included the entire responsible group of company managers and its top management. The top management essentially reiterated Gupta’s formulation that, “The DS Group is committed to the mission of Green enabling by Social, Structural and Economic transformation that will drive sustainability in its business. As a committed corporate citizen, the Group aims to create a closed-loop system that minimizes the use of resources, creation of waste, pollution and carbon emission.”
On the occasion of the Pulse rPET packaging, Gupta explains, “The packaging sector is a large user of plastic, and the increasing environmental pressure on the economic system requires a reconsideration of our economic paradigm. It is imperative that it consciously shifts its consumption preferences to recycled and reusable material. The planet is heading towards an ‘ecological credit crunch.’ It is under severe ecological debt as we are over-utilizing its natural resources without replenishing them. This crisis is far worse than all the financial and health crises humankind has ever faced. The situation urges societies and corporates worldwide to increase the efficiency of natural resource use and reduce the overall environmental impact. Reusable, recycled packaging has been suggested as an option to reduce environmental impacts significantly.”
At the time of the February 2020 meeting, we commented in our review that it represented progress for the industry, which had to be one company or brand owner at a time. In this case, we saw an entire company with full backing from the top acting in a concerted and planned way to take on the challenging task – all of the hundred or so participants remained till the end of the meeting, which allowed for detailed questions and answers.
Sustainability – one product at a time
We wondered what the outcome would be – which products lead within the company. It is clear from the Pulse jar and wrapper announcement and implementation on 4 June 2021 that the outcomes will come one product at a time – but the company’s green mission cannot be stopped. For one, it has committed leadership and resources for the difficult task of re-imagining and re-designing its packaging and searching for better materials and processes.
The DS Group, it turns out, has several other products and green missions as well, but as far as packaging, its team led by Sanjay Gupta has executed and delivered the first in what it calls a small step towards environmental sustainability and circular economy. The most cited obstacle is cost, and here is an acutely cost-conscious brand owner improving the packaging of a mass consumer product.
Too often, it is thought that the global brands will lead in making their packaging more sustainable in our market. However, the DS Group’s new rPET Pulse packaging (and several other initiatives by local brands) demonstrate that it is the Indian brands that can be more nimble in absorbing new technology and are, ultimately, more passionate about our environment.