“Yes, you should judge a can by its cover”

Marvin Foreman questions why craft brewers are still using plastic shrink sleeves

We all know that single use plastics are bad for the environment, and most of us know that aluminium cans are the world’s most recyclable packaging, so why are so many craft brewers still using plastic shrink sleeves to decorate aluminium cans?

As the push for more sustainable packaging alternatives gets stronger, companies like Tonejet are leading the way for craft beer producers.

Craft beer, by its very nature, is not produced in the huge volumes the beverage can manufacturing industry has been built around, and for most craft brewers, ordering traditionally printed cans at the minimum order quantities of 100,000+ was never an affordable option.

However, with the aluminium can quickly becoming the environmentally conscious packaging container of choice, it’s easy to see why so many craft brewers are keen to use them and are actively seeking a solution to the minimum order problem.

One popular method being used by craft brewers to decorate these cans, is to use shrink sleeve or pressure sensitive labels. However, these alternatives are almost exclusively made with single use plastic materials which are challenging to recycle and as volumes grow will become even more so.  

And although these sleeved cans provide an adequate decorative effect, the plastic exterior means their perceived value to consumers is low, and they do not provide the premium feel that craft brewers desire for their high-quality products.  

In a world where we have such a focus on being more sustainable, to wrap aluminium (a material that can be recycled indefinitely) in any kind of plastic feels wrong. But there is another option for craft brewers wanting a greener approach to canning – and that’s digital direct-to-can decoration. Using the same materials as traditionally printed cans, without reducing the recyclability of the can and at a lower cost per can that you might think, digital printing systems manufacturer Tonejet has one such solution.

The Tonejet Cyclone direct-to-can digital system is a complete end to end printing line, starting with a pallet of empty blank cans, and finishing with a pallet of digitally decorated printed cans ready for filling.

Partnering with suppliers of palletising equipment, Tonejet has designed a can printing system that allows craft brewers to cost-effectively package their beer in premium looking cans. And with the use of the same external over varnish that is used in all can manufacturing plants worldwide, the digitally printed cans produced by Tonejet are 100% recyclable and have the same look and feel as traditionally printed cans.

Tonejet’s first North American customer, Solucan (a craft beer packaging supplier located in Quebec Canada) started delivering production can orders to local and not so local craft brewers in February of this year. 

The ability to purchase cans using an environmentally friendly direct printing technology has even driven some US West Coast brewers to switch suppliers and dump the plastic sleeve in favour of this new cutting-edge technology.

With the eradication of unsustainable plastics, not only does the Tonejet system offer environmental benefits in terms of can recyclability, but it also offers much lower running costs than those associated with other methods – and all of this without compromising on print quality.

The move away from plastics in canning, committing to greener packaging and embracing pioneering technologies such as the Tonejet Cyclone, is much more than a marketing strategy. For many craft brewers direct-to-can printing is quickly becoming integral to their business strategy, company ethics and product story.

For more information on a greener approach to can printing contact marvin.foreman@tonejet.com

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