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You might not think of a printing method for craft beer, or new canned beverages like hard seltzer or cannabis drinks, as green or eco-friendly, but there’s one method that is: mass production digital Direct-to-Shape (DTS). Not only does high-speed digital direct-to-shape printing for necked beverage cans eliminate the need for plastic sleeves or labels, it reduces the environmental footprint across the entire decoration process and beyond. As more cans are used for beer, hard seltzer, hard cider, cocktails and water, this becomes increasingly important.
As more governments add regulations restricting single-use plastics, finding new beverage can printing methods will become imperative. Canada, for example, intends to begin banning single-use plastics like shrink sleeves and can labels at some point. U.S. Congress has a introduced various bills – like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 – to ban single-use plastics, while making items like metal cans more easily recyclable.
So, how can industrial direct-to-shape digital printing solutions help reduce plastics use and improve sustainability? At the top of the list, DTS digital decoration makes shrink sleeves or labels for necked beverage cans obsolete. This is good for the environment because it eliminates not only the labels themselves but also label liners and adhesives, and it reduces shrink sleeve and label production waste. Using digital DTS printing technology running at up to 500 container per minute reduces inventory storage of sleeves and labels. The storage alone creates its own environmental issues since shrink sleeves and labels must be stored in temperature-controlled rooms, which increases energy use. In addition, shrink sleeves require hot-air tunnels – even more energy consumption – to apply them to the necked beverage cans. In the direct-to-shape digital process, on the other hand, less equipment is needed throughout the decoration process, which lowers overall energy consumption.
Without labels or shrink sleeves, aluminum cans are also more recyclable after use by the consumer. Necked beverage cans with sleeves, for example, increases the number of cans rejected at recycling facilities and may mean they end up in landfill.
Lastly, a shift to print on demand, enabled by a solution like the Velox IDS-NC series, reduces beverage can overproduction, shipping, inventory storage and risk of obsolescence. Brands can print any quantity runs at mass production speeds of up to 500 cpm (containers per minute), gaining operational flexibility that is attainable only with digital decoration technology.
For the first time, there is a solution that saves on storage, reduces energy consumption and plastic use, and increases recyclability of aluminum beverage cans. We invite you to read more about the Velox inks, technology and solution here.
Just one more thing: In addition to sustainability and operational flexibility, the Velox solutions deliver high-quality printing, such as photorealistic images, extremely wide color gamut, accurate color matching, selectively applied highly opaque digital white as well as matte, gloss and tactile embossing embellishments. The Velox technology also allows end-to-end decoration with seamless 360° printing with no slit or overlap, as well as on-chime, on-neck printing so brands can stand out on the shelf. The solution is green and produces stunning designs on beverage cans!