Packaging Innovation
Just how sustainable are aerosols
April 6, 2017

Just how sustainable are aerosols? The answer will surprise you!

When someone says ‘sustainable packaging’, aerosols don’t exactly spring to mind. Aerosols, after all, received quite a bad rep some thirty years ago when it turned out CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which were commonly used in aerosol products, deplete the ozone layer. A lot has changed since then, except for … public opinion. To this day, the aerosol industry is still fighting misconceptions concerning sustainability, despite the many changes it has already implemented.

Aerosols no longer contain CFCs

CFCs are compounds that have been used as propellants in aerosol cans and blowing agents in foams since the 1930s. In the late 1980s, research indicated that CFCs cause the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere to deplete. Subsequently, on January 1, 1989, The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was enforced. The aerosol industry promptly responded by replacing CFCs with liquefied gases (and in some cases compressed gas, consisting of air, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and nitrous oxide). Still, the misconception that aerosols cause damage to the ozone layer is still proving a barrier for some consumers.

Ten million bicycles

Another misconception about aerosols is that they are synonymous with wasteful packaging, even though there are plenty of innovative aerosols on the market that concentrate products. Take Unilever’s compressed aerosol can, for instance, which lasts twice as long as a regular aerosol can and even uses 25 percent less gas and is made of 25 percent less aluminum. Alan Palmer, vice-president of R&D at Unilever elaborates:
“This technology could not only change the face of our industry, but help protect the long-term health of our planet too. There are three billion aerosol deodorants sold every year worldwide. If they were all compressed, we could save 21,000 tons of aluminum, enough to build ten million bicycles.”

Innovations in the pipeline

And there’s more. Ball, a global leader in metal packaging, is experimenting with aluminum aerosols made of 25 percent recycled material, which are 15 percent lighter than the standard aerosol can. Other innovations in the pipeline include aerosols that consist of multiple compartments, allowing for a reusable dispensing system for permanent hair dyes. And, finally, it seems consumers are slowly but surely picking up on the benefits of aerosols too …   Inspired by Packaging Gateway