Canadian Plastics

ABB and Zume partner on new sustainable packaging application

ABB is providing robots that will enable Zume’s production of bio-based packaging on a global scale, helping to reduce reliance on single-use plastics.

November 22, 2021   Canadian Plastics

ABB robots will automate production, enabling the scale and speed required to make Zume’s packaging a cost-effective alternative to single-use. Photo Credit: ABB

Swiss automation manufacturer ABB Robotics is collaborating with California-based compostable packaging maker Zume to supply robotic cells that will enable Zume’s production of sustainable packaging on a global scale, helping to reduce reliance on single-use plastics.

ABB will integrate and install more than 1,000 molded fibre manufacturing cells (MFC) – including up to 2,000 robots at Zume customer’s sites worldwide over the next five years. Zume expects that ABB will equip its factories with up to 100 robotic cells each.

“Manufacturers face increasing pressure from consumers and policymakers to find alternatives to single-use plastic packaging,” ABB officials said in a Nov. 17 news release. “New packaging needs to be sustainable, while being easy to mold and as cost effective as plastic.”

According to ABB, Zume’s packaging material is made from sustainably harvested plant material left over from agricultural production, including bamboo, wheat and straw. “Plant material uses significantly less water and energy and reduces CO₂ emissions when compared to the production and disposal of plastic packaging,” ABB said. “Unlike plastic, plant-based material is 100 percent biodegradable and simply breaks down after use.”

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“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. Our collaboration showcases what is possible when organizations that are committed to pursuing a low-carbon society work together.”

ABB says that Zume has developed and patented an innovative manufacturing process to make compostable packaging for anything from food and groceries to cosmetics and consumer goods. “Containers are molded from the plant material by Zume’s molded fibre cells integrated with two ABB IRB 6700 robots, with each cell processing up to two tons of agriculture material every day, creating 80,000 pieces of sustainable packaging,” ABB said. “With the automation, speed and scalability provided by the MFC, each site would have the potential to process 71,000 tons of agriculture material annually, potentially producing up to two billion pieces of packaging each year.”

A pilot project has been installed by Zume and ABB at Satia Industries Ltd., said to be one of India’s largest wood and agro-based paper manufacturers, creating a facility of 10 manufacturing cells that will process 20 tons of wheat straw daily creating 100 per cent 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 per cent renewable energy powered compostable packaging factory, located in Lufkin, Texas.


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