ABB Robotics today announced that it has signed an agreement to collaborate with Zume Inc., a global provider of compostable packaging. ABB said it will supply robotic cells that will enable Zume to produce sustainable packaging on a global scale, helping to reduce reliance on single-use plastics.
Less than 10% of 380 million tons of plastic produced globally every year is recycled, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Plant-based packaging can significantly reduce plastic going into landfills and oceans. Manufacturers are facing increasing pressure from consumers and policymakers to find alternatives to single-use plastic packaging. New packaging needs to be sustainable, while being easy to mold and as cost-effective as plastic, noted the companies.
Zume said its packaging material is made from plant material left over from agricultural harvesting, including bamboo, wheat, and straw. Plant material uses significantly less water and energy and can reduce CO2 emissions in comparison with the production and disposal of plastic packaging, said the company. Unlike plastic, certain plant-based material is 100% biodegradable and simply breaks down after use.
“Automating production of Zume’s sustainable packaging with ABB robots makes this a viable and economic alternative to single-use plastics,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation. “With Zume, we have the potential to remove trillions of pieces of plastic from the global marketplace, preserving scarce resources and supporting a low-carbon world.”
“Today, robotic automation is expanding possibilities, making the world more sustainable through more efficient production that reduces energy use, emissions and production waste,” he added. “Our collaboration showcases what is possible when organizations that are committed to pursuing a low-carbon society work together.”
Robots help scale sustainable production
Founded in 2015, Zume claimed that it has created “the world's most advanced molded-fiber manufacturing system.” The Camarillo, Calif.-based company has developed and patented a process to manufacture compostable packaging for anything from food and groceries to cosmetics and consumer goods.
Containers are molded from plant material by Zume’s molded-fiber cells (MFCs) integrated with two ABB IRB 6700 robots. Each cell can process up to 2 tons of agriculture material every day, creating 80,000 pieces of sustainable packaging.
ABB Robotics plans to integrate and install more than 1,000 MFCs, including up to 2,000 robots, at Zume customer sites worldwide over the next five years.
With more than 130 years of experience, ABB said it will use its program management capabilities and the automation experts in its network of Global Solution Centers to launch the systems. It did not disclose financial details.
Working with ABB, Zume expects to equip factories with up to 100 robotic cells each. With the scale, modularity, and speed of ABB's automation, each site will have the potential to process 71,000 tons of agriculture material annually, potentially producing up to 2 billion pieces of packaging each year, said the partners
“By 2050, we estimate that the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish, so it is critical that we move everyone away from single-use plastics,” said Alex Garden, chairman and CEO of Zume. “Using ABB’s global automation experts to develop and integrate automation solutions for our customers will revolutionize packaging and demonstrate what sustainable manufacturing can look like.”
“The flexibility and scalability of ABB’s robots enables an efficient automated manufacturing process,” he said. “This means we can offer a viable, cost effective, compostable alternative to plastic, and help manufacturers to become more environmentally friendly.”
ABB, Zume install pilot project in India
Zume and ABB installed a pilot project at Satia Industries Ltd., one of India’s largest wood and agriculture-based paper manufacturers. They created 10 manufacturing cells that will process 20 tons of wheat straw daily creating 100% compostable packaging for a range of industries.
“Our work with Zume and ABB enables Satia Industries to meet and exceed the expectations of our clients for high-performing, affordable, and reliable products that are sustainably manufactured and easily composted,” said Dr. Ajay Satia, CMD Satia Industries. “Besides adding significant value to the company, we are able to support the planet by providing sustainable solutions to help our customers transition to more modern, reliable, and customized products compared to those they use today.”
Other planned pilot installations include Parason Group, a leading global pulp and paper machinery supplier, also based in India, and Jefferson Enterprise Energy, the first 100% renewable energy powered compostable packaging factory in The Woodlands, Texas.
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