IAPRI’s 2021 Conference: a lightning preview

You can see the full conference schedule here: https://iapri.org/program.php
You can register here: https://www.memberleap.com/members/evr/regmenu2.php?orgcode=IAPR&rows=3

Easing IAPRI members into the main event with Working Group meetings on Monday 14 June, the Conference proper powers up on the Tuesday with a welcome address from IAPRI President Jay Singh and a keynote speech, before launching into three parallel streams of papers.
In all, those registered for the Conference can select from 45 different live-streamed presentations, including three ‘poster’ presentations. It would be impossible to give even a flavour of each one of those papers here, but we will be returning to particular topics over subsequent newsletters to look at Conference papers in those areas in more detail. In the meantime, the main link to the event will also provide access to the Conference programme, with abstracts and speaker details.
What this preview article is able to do is paint the broader picture of what the audience can expect from each stream, in terms of the range of research being presented, common themes and some examples – without providing too much, at this stage, in the way of detail.
Packaging Materials and Distribution
Close to half of the papers fit into the two well-subscribed streams of Packaging Materials (12 papers) and Distribution Packaging (10 papers). The majority of the Packaging Materials papers concern themselves with plastics of one sort or another – but the range is extensive: from the barrier properties of EVOH to the melt-processing parameters of PHA; and from the optimization of stretch-film for freight to the seal strength in LDPE food packaging.
Attention also focuses on the ways in which polymers can be adapted in order to provide additional strength, barrier or other properties. One paper looks at high-speed plasma treatments for PET film, while another examines cellulose reinforcement for elastomer packaging materials. The role of biochar as a filler in plastics is explored in a third presentation.
Other, more traditional materials, also feature in the Packaging Materials stream, with one speaker presenting results on crush resistance in corrugated board and another tackling the all-too-common problems associated with lacquer failure in metal packaging.
When it comes to Distribution Packaging, the challenges around unit-load stability loom large, from real-world investigations into horizontal acceleration, and field data collection for lab simulation, to the risk of tilt and toppling with pallet loads and the effects of inertia forces.
In some cases, there is a focus on specific types of transport or delivery, including inflight vibration effects and vertical vibration in parcel delivery.
Some presentations address specific materials, such as EPS for shock absorption. Another plots the history of safety as a priority in distribution packaging since 9/11. A further paper strikes out in a new direction, analysing consumer feedback on packaging from social media using Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Design, logistics and sustainability
The pandemic has fuelled a global boom in the home delivery channel – and in the packaging it requires. At least one paper, in the popular Packaging Design & Ergonomics stream, examines the thinking behind ‘express packaging’. But the coronavirus surfaces in other, more unexpected ways. It  emerges, in the same stream, with a presentation looking at alternative methods of qualitative consumer food-waste research when face-to-face contact between households and researchers is impossible.
Other papers in the Design-focused stream tackle design-for-recycling in plastics packaging and moulded pulp packaging. Some have a specific health-related focus, from improvements to over-the-counter (OTC) pharmaceuticals labelling for older consumers to 3D design and openability issues for rheumatoid-arthritis sufferers.
Sustainability, it could be argued, is an ‘invisible’ theme running through far more of the papers than those appearing specifically in the Packaging Sustainability stream. Substrate choices in materials research and light-weighting or materials optimization in distribution packaging are often driven by environmental concerns.
But in this specific Conference stream, too, there is a topical focus on e-commerce packaging, looking in particular at its environmental impacts. There are explorations of alternative materials, from kombucha scoby to paper manufactured from agricultural waste.
Elsewhere, there are assessments of sustainability’s role in packaging strategy and how it relates to communication and innovation, and a welcome update on sustainable packaging policies in China.
The theme of e-commerce and sustainability also arises in the Logistics & Supply Chain stream. Other papers here look at different approaches to planning, from aggregate planning for reusable packaging to the decision support model for labelling and packaging postponement. There are assessments of more closely-defined supply-chain features, too, with papers addressing the effects of forklift truck vibration and the challenges of pallet deflection when stacking plastic pails.
From chocaholics to paperonics
It is important to note that IAPRI has maintained its tradition of including a peer-review stream as well as general-stream papers in the 2021 Conference, and the program also includes slightly shorter poster presentations. One of these, slotting into the Packaging for Food & Agriculture stream, investigates the relationship between the choice of formulation and packaging in chocolate and its rheological properties.
Also looking at packaging in relation to an individual food is a paper focused on cantaloupe melon – an increasingly popular fruit for export. The research studies the effects of temperature and packaging permeability on product quality.
The third presentation in this stream explores the evaluation and optimization of peel performance on heat-seal lidding for chilled foods.
This year, there are just three presentations grouped in the Active & Intelligent Packaging stream. One of these provides an insight into the multi-partner PAPERONICS research project, and explains the role of high-frequency radio-frequency identification (RFID) in combination with paper packaging.
The remaining two are ‘poster’ presentations, and both concern bioactive compounds. One explores the immobilization of bioactive agents in packaging, while the other looks specifically at bioactive EVOH with ferulic acid.
Flying the flag for Hazardous & Dangerous Goods Packaging is the one paper in this stream, investigating the mysterious phenomenon of powdery or granular products being released from  theoretically sealed, sift-proof dangerous goods bags.
There may be no gala dinners timetabled as a part of this rich online program, but a break in each Conference day will take the form of a networking half-hour, billed as a chance to ‘meet’ old friends and make new ones.
Each of the main sponsors – Safe Load Testing Technologies, Specright, ISTA, NVC Netherlands Packaging Centre and Lansmont Corporation – will have a half-hour ‘spotlight’ session at the end of one of the Conference days.
All-in-all, IAPRI’s 2021 Online Conference promises to provide smooth member access to a wealth of exciting science. The organizers look forward to welcoming you on 14 June for the Working Group meetings and 15 June for the start of the Conference proper.

You can register here: https://www.memberleap.com/members/evr/regmenu2.php?orgcode=IAPR&rows=3