Aerosol cans: eco-friendly innovation and design

We asked some of the leading manufacturers in the aerosol cans market to tell us about their latest innovations in packaging. Not surprisingly, pro-environmental practices continue to feature high on the list.

Energy and resource efficiency, with the demand for post-consumer recycled (PCR) material outweighing supply, remain some of the high-priority themes for businesses in providing innovative and eye-catching packaging and can designs. The increasing need for digital technology and automation is added to the mix.

Karin Swain, assistant to managing director/PR at Tubex Aerosol Cans

All companies need to monitor what they can do to use less energy and resources. Also, the European Commission (EC) has adopted the European Green Deal 2050, which focuses on the circular economy and sets a framework for achieving climate neutrality.

Sustainability has a long tradition with aluminium aerosol can manufacturer Tubex. But our sustainability strategy is slightly different to other packaging manufacturers. A challenge for the packaging industry – as for all other industries – is to secure enough PCR material for the production of aerosol cans. The demand for recycled aluminium is seven times higher than that on offer which means recycled material is scarce.

In search for a secure supply of recycled aluminium, Tubex has partnered exclusively with PreZero Pyral, a German-based recycling household waste specialist. With its state-of-the-art, patented machines and innovative processes like pyrolysis, aluminium is sorted at the site based on quality. PreZero’s complex and sophisticated sorting process ensures that high-grade aluminium isn’t mixed with lower quality of aluminium. In fact, this solution allows a closed-loop system at its best.

As the composition of alloy is very complex and aerosol cans must meet safety regulations – Neucan 3.1 was developed and patented. It’s designed to hold up to 60% of real PCR material, with further development underway to enable more than 60% of real PCR to be used in the future. Tubex, PreZero Pyral and Neuman have set up a functioning cycle of recycling aluminium material from household waste and already meet the European Green Deal’s goal of circular economy, with plans to intensify their work.

Our sustainability strategy doesn’t stop here. It covers printing ink and lacquers, with various options to choose from. So, what’s on offer? Neucan 3.1 is already introduced – that the aluminium aerosol can is lighter than a can made with 99.5% aluminium is a known fact. Alloys are harder than 99.5% aluminium, so the walls and base can be thinner and still meet the specification of an aerosol can.

Internal powder coating has no volatile organic compounds (VOC) and therefore has a sustainable advantage to a standard internal lacquer. Tubex substituted lacquers containing N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP) over five years ago when very first discussions came up. Also substitutes for lacquers containing bisphenol A (BPA) are available to meet the sustainability strategy of the brands. The research in lacquers will continue steadily.

A sustainable decoration is available with natural inks – so far exclusive for Tubex aluminium cans. These inks are made up of renewable resources and are completely free of mineral oil-based ingredients – but also free of palm-coconut and soybean oil. Currently a water-based over varnish completes the sustainable possibility for aerosol cans.

The next logical step in natural inks is to develop a natural over varnish. Tubex and partner PURe work on an over varnish based on natural and biodegradable ingredients. It looks promising – but many more trials and tests are ahead until commercial production. As a side note, a developer at PURe actually ate a very small portion (fingertip) of the over varnish. While the taste still needs to be improved, he had no health issues at all. In fact, most of the ingredients of this over varnish have food grade.

A current development in decoration is the Foil2can aerosol can. This is the first can that displays inline-FOILING (which is based on cold foil) combined with matt and high gloss design elements. An advantage of the inline-FOILING is that it can be easily overprinted with silkscreen and matt spot decoration in one machine pass. The development of this new printing technique opens new opportunities in design possibilities. Tubex has partnered with ISIMAT GmbH Siebdruckmaschinen to develop this revolutionary new decoration for aerosol cans, which offers new design opportunities not feasible before. Besides the challenge of volatile energy prices there are many exciting opportunities in 2023.

Mark Gojkovich, graphics manager at Crown Midwest Graphics

With over 16 billion aerosol cans being produced globally each year, one of the core elements of focus for our customers is how best to stand out from competitors across the retail spectrum. Appealing to consumers at point of purchase is fundamental. Whether a brand is reimagining the look of an existing product or launching something new to the market, it’s vital to engage with an expert design partner that understands the possibilities of the packaging substrate.

For aerosol containers metal remains the preferred material. Its durability and infinite recyclability make it perfect to deliver both functionality and sustainability. Whether a customer selects a straight wall or a necked-in can, they have a 360-degree canvas to work with to deliver impactful designs and messaging to their target audience.

Personal care remains a core driver in the market globally, and we recently helped to develop an award-winning design in this segment using Crown’s 3.4oz Body Spray can. Spirit Spritzer is a new product conceptualised by 18.21 Man Made. Our Midwest Graphics team, based in Illinois, US, worked directly with the co-founder to help them achieve the exact look they wanted with creative design ideas, printing an oversize coat tinplate for a metallic premium look.

Crown successfully guided the customer’s graphics journey from concept to a detail printed metallic finished can. Through our print production process, we were able to hold the fine detail such as the banner seals, and the solid background with screened design imagery, creating a standout appearance. The finished product was recognised with a Bronze Award in the Aerosols category at the recent Canmaker Awards.

Awards aside, and we always appreciate them of course, Crown measures success by the individualised service and attention we give each of our customers, and the quality of the final product. We take pride in what we can achieve for customers looking for an aerosol can, promotional tin, or cap with a standout design, and through working a modern digital facility with the latest software, equipment, and technology available in the pre-press industry for graphics and print production, we look forward to maintaining that ethos in 2023 and beyond.

João Filipe Abreu, commercial & marketing director, Colep Packaging

Colep Packaging, a RAR Group company, is one of the most important players in the European aerosol market and the Iberian leader in general line packaging. With over 50 years of experience in metal and plastic packaging it’s positioned as a global partner in the development, production and trading of packaging solutions.

The Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine and further supply chain disruptions have created new paradigms and companies are expected to move and adapt fast, while meeting the needs and concerns of customers and other stakeholders. Colep Packaging is committed to ensuring a high level of service and reliability towards its partners despite these disruptions. In the near future, we believe that the following macro trends will be fundamental for the industry: environmental concerns, material consumption reduction and automation.

Environmental concerns

Environment will be at the core of brand owners’ focus and consumer choices, who are more and more selective in which products they buy, influenced by tax incentives, with impacts the types of packaging used. At Colep Packaging, we know that packaging plays an important role in reinforcing sustainability, and our strategy and activities consider an approach respecting the planet and caring for people. This enables us to prepare the future of our business, focusing our attention on what matters most.

Our roadmap towards a more sustainable business starts at the design phase, embedding sustainability at the core of our product development, as we believe this is the stage where solutions have the greatest business potential as well as environmental and social impact. Improving and optimising existing products, processes, equipment and infrastructure is top of mind for our company, especially when it comes to carbon footprint and energy consumption. With sustainability being such a complex and global challenge, a systemic approach is needed to respond to it. Our roadmap fosters the interaction with the outside world, considering all stakeholders.

Material consumption reduction

We’re always concerned with optimising material consumption to make it recyclable and reusable, ensuring it’s a better fit for the future. Along with its positive financial impact, it’s critical to become less dependent on raw materials while achieving sustainability goals.

The scarcity of materials is a global concern and Colep Packaging is addressing it with the implementation of significant changes to our products, including our material reduction programme “Light Weight Can” (LWC): packaging solutions with optimised material utilisation, resulting in a weight reduction of up to 39% in aerosol cans. With this development, less material is used, logistics processes are more efficient, and the carbon footprint is reduced by up to 17%.

Also, the new RL closing system – a sustainable and user-friendly solution – reflects our concern with both sustainability topics as well as with customer and consumer’s needs. This solution aims to have a better environmental performance by eliminating what’s not needed and doesn’t add value leading to a material consumption reduction and, consequently, cutting carbon emissions by up 11%.


Automation is one of the strategic topics on Colep Packaging’s agenda, as it will be increasingly critical to grow our business, especially when the industry is facing labour shortages. We believe that automation improves employee productivity and efficiency and plays a key role when it comes to remaining competitive without sacrificing customer satisfaction. With this in mind, Colep Packaging’s vision is to work towards automation and digitalisation aimed at increasing production output. With the confidence that our company plays an important role in pursuing solutions that benefit people and planet, we’re fully committed to finding new and more sustainable packaging solutions and overcoming the challenges the world is facing. Because we believe that the world can be more sustainable with packaging than without it.

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