Tube specialist Impact International won the Sustainability Award for the second time in a row at the National Print Awards.
On Friday, the organiser of the awards – the Print and Visual Communication Association – livestreamed the awards ceremony on its Facebook page due to restrictions on travel and gatherings.
Impact International managing director Aleks Lajovic told PKN the award had more to do with the way the business operates rather than a specific item it makes.
“The award was issued based on the continuous sustainability improvements that we have made at Impact,” he said.
“Examples include the green energy that we generate via our solar farm, a reduction in water usage, how we have substituted raw materials for more sustainable alternatives, and how we are reducing our carbon footprint.”
When PKN visited the Impact site in Smithfield late last year to see the solar farm in situ, Lajovic told us, “On average, we're doing about 1.4 megawatts or 1400 kilowatts of energy per day. And that's equal to reduction in carbon emissions of around 1200 to 1300 kilograms per day.”
Lajovic said that as a result the business is generating around thirty per cent of its own energy requirements.
“Because we are a three-shift operation, working 24 hours a day, five days a week, sometimes even six days a week, we are not energy self-sufficient when the sun goes down.
“Our goal from the outset has been to be completely self-sufficient during the daylight hours on a sunny day,” he added.
The solar installation was a pioneering move by Impact, and a sizeable investment. Commenting on how soon the company will see a return, Lajovic said being a family-owned company means the sense of urgency around delivering a return on investment is lower, and they’re looking at a seven- to eight-year payback period.
In the meantime, the environmental benefits are felt across the business, and flowing on to customers. In fact, some customers have followed Impact’s example, installing their own solar systems. And, of course, using a supplier whose tube production is carbon neutral is a plus for brand owners when it comes to meeting their own sustainable packaging targets.
Another way Impact has reduced its energy consumption, Lajovic told PKN, has been to upgrade equipment to incorporate energy-efficient motors and to streamline processes that are energy intensive. Increased automation between each process has meant less production wastage overall, and in turn, less energy consumption.
Beyond energy savings, the company has also made a concerted effort to reduce water usage, achieving a 50 per cent reduction over the last year across the operations, and on the manufacturing side, which uses 4000 litres a day, it’s now down to 2000.
One of the most significant, and award-winning, initiatives has been Impact’s introduction of its sugar cane derived plastic tube, complementing the existing virgin plastic and recycled plastic options in its portfolio.
“The sugar cane plastic is quite unique and interesting… because sugar cane as a plant captures carbon when it's growing, so when that material leaves the resin manufacturing factory, it’s carbon neutral at that point of getting shipped to process. And we can manufacture tubes using energy from our solar farm. So, we can basically offer a tube with virtually zero carbon footprint,” Lajovic said.
This option has been a key selling point for the company, with brands like Oil Garden signing up.
Lajovic said the company’s recycled material option is important when considering the government’s 2025 packaging targets, one of which is to have all packaging contain 30 per cent recycled content.
“We do get a little bit of pushback or a little bit of frustration from some customers because although the federal government has put this initiative in place, the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Association] is a federal government body and the TGA is not giving a green light to brand owners to include recycled materials in their direct packaging. So while many of our customers would love to use this material, when it gets to the end of regulatory side of the project, they start to find things very complicated. Sunscreen is a case in point.”
Despite continuing to win accolades for its sustainability efforts and packaging innovation, Impact International – which has growing operations in Europe and Asia too – is not resting on its laurels. Looking ahead, Lajovic said the focus will be twofold: continuing with machinery upgrades in the plant to optimise production; and converting customers to more sustainable packaging options.
If the company’s recent track record is anything to go by, there’s no reason the sun will stop shining on Impact any time soon.