ACMA Teabag Packers Support Sustainability - STiR Coffee and Tea Magazine | Global Business Insight on Coffee and Tea

2023-02-22 18:56:03 By : Mr. sam cheung

This is part of a periodic series of articles featuring equipment manufacturers in the coffee and tea industries.

Growing consumer demand motivates tea companies to continually look for new and better ways to deliver sustainable teabags. In order to do that, product development throughout the industry must continue to evolve.

That evolution starts with the creation of materials that allow teabags to be compostable. Then, those materials must be both functional and cost-effective.

Packaging equipment manufacturers are integral in this process because the machines they design must be able to operate using the new materials. ACMA, a leading manufacturer of packaging machines for consumer goods, is working to stay ahead of the engineering curve. “Interest today [in compostable materials] is overwhelming,” an ACMA spokesperson told STiR during a recent visit to its manufacturing facility in Bologna, Italy. “Everybody is looking for, [sustainable products].”

ACMA, part of the larger Coesia industrial and packaging solutions group, has developed the capability of using compostable materials in its single-chamber teabag packer machines.

Some elements commonplace in teabags for years became problematic when seeking compostability. Synthetic string, for one, had to be eliminated. No more metal staples to keep bags closed, either. In working toward this goal, ACMA replaced the synthetic thread with natural fibers. Staples to hold the string to the bags were substituted with double knots.

The filter paper was not compostable and had to be replaced as well. The solution was polylactic acid — commonly called PLA — a thermoplastic polyester made of plant starch from sources such as corn or sugarcane. Using PLA delivered by third-party suppliers, ACMA has been able to create a variety of bag styles on its packing machines.

“We already succeeded with the single-chamber [bag] so our goal is to replicate such success into the double-chamber high-speed [machines],” the spokesperson said, adding that “double chamber bags should be ready by this year.”

ACMA’s development of PLA-compatible filling machines was arduous. Care was taken, for example, to make sure the delicate plant-based material efficiency flowed through the high-speed injection of tea leaves.

“[Teabags] used to be crimped and stitched with metal staples. Now we use a double knot. That is now the standard,” he said. The PLA fibers also are heated to glue and seal each bag.

There’s another advantage in using PLA. Traditional filter paper can sometimes contain chemicals such as bleach. PLA materials eliminate chemicals and still deliver a quality cup of tea. “A good tea tester can taste the paper when drinking a cup of tea,” the spokesperson said. “That is one of the advantages of PLA. It is more neutral in terms of taste.”

In addition to using PLA for teabags, ACMA incorporates the material as an alternative in secondary packaging from envelopes to carton boxes. Carton closures, for example, are tamper-proof. No cellophane wrapping is needed.

“Our work is all related to sustainability and flexibility in terms of packaging,” he said.

While ACMA makes sure PLA materials perform well with its packing machines, the cost of sustainable packaging falls on the tea companies that must acquire the materials from third-party sources. Compostable materials can cost as much as 20-30% more than traditional, non-sustainable products.

Efforts to bring sustainability to the tea industry are not new to ACMA. The company hosted a May 2019 event, “Tea Days,” to discuss sustainable solutions and technology for primary and secondary packaging. The event also marked the company’s 95th anniversary.

Third-party vendors including Terranova and Glatfelter (filter paper manufacturing and processing), Interfil and Zwirnerei (teabag thread), Polypack (tags and envelopes), and Rockwell Automation (machine technology), joined a conversation focusing on green solutions for the tea supply chain.

The key partners of ACMA discussed solutions to meet the needs of their shared customers. Partnerships with companies in the materials sector are important as ACMA refines its sustainability principles, the company said in a statement. These principles aim to save costs for customers and ensure respect for the environment by offering solutions with as little environmental impact as possible.

ACMA’s line of machines is led by the TD 300, a high-speed, double-chamber packer. After four years of sales, the company considers the TD 300 a strong seller. “We started with some machines at lower speeds and then we went to higher speeds,” the spokesperson said. “The TD 300 is now the standard.”

As the product name indicates, this machine packs 300 teabags per minute.

It double-knots the thread to avoid using metal staples, and it also operates without heat-sealable filter paper, resulting in an eco-friendly teabag.

The hard tag on each teabag is positioned over the string for better brand visibility.

Precision video cameras are used during operation to monitor production. Any faulty piece is automatically rejected before reaching the stacking and boxing processes.

See a video demonstration of the TD 300 here:

ACMA claims its TM 320 is the fastest single-chamber teabag packer on the market using thread and tags. High-speed production, completing 320 bags per minute, provides a continuous operational cycle up to the cutting of the teabags.

The TM 320 is available in several bag sizes to accommodate different infusion products. The system works with a variety of fast and flexible end-of-line solutions. The TM 320 can use compostable PLA materials to provide an eco-friendly system without filter paper.

ACMA calls the TE 500 double-chamber teabag packer (500 bags per minute with sealed filter paper, envelope, and cartoner) a state-of-the-art machine for the high-speed continuous motion tea machines. It ensures rapid production and maximum flexibility using a variety of packaging configurations.

No adhesive labels are used to attach strings and tags, and that results in reduced production costs. A unique pouch solution packs up to 150 tea bags at a time, saving both materials and time. 

The free STiR newsletter is sent twice each month with news updates, important information and upcoming events.

© 2015-2022 October Multimedia Co., Ltd - STiR is the international tea and coffee industry bi-monthly magazine and website reports on news around the world. Read about local and global industry news, equipment, machinery, supplies, services, market, intelligence, raw, product, retail and services.