On the panel: meet Stuart Roberts, Zotefoams Centenary Awards judge

We’re delighted that technical foam industry veteran Stuart Roberts has agreed to join the judging panel for the inaugural Zotefoams Centenary Awards, which will recognise innovative applications of any Zotefoams products. Currently Chairman of the International Safe Transit Association (Europe), Stuart spent 45 years with Sealed Air Corporation. Here he shares his thoughts about the high-technology foam industry in general and the Zotefoams Awards in particular.

What are the major trends you see in the industry at present?

Taking packaging applications first, sustainability is the big topic, of course. At Sealed Air my mantra was “minimum packaging, maximum protection”, and the same thinking applies to foam. You don’t just cover products with foam, you custom-design solutions for maximum protection using the minimum of materials. That’s what Zotefoams is known for – solutions.

Do you think there’s a misconception among consumers – and brand owners – about foam’s environmental credentials?

I do, but foam’s sustainability story is becoming stronger. For a start, it can be reused, and there are also major advances in processes such as chemical recycling. In the not-too-distant future I expect it will be possible to recycle crosslinked foams back into oil, resin and foam.

A key factor in the stronger story is the reduction in foam density. When I started in packaging, 35kg foam was the most common. Now it’s down to 18kg or 20kg, and Zotefoams even produces a 15kg foam. So we’re seeing lower densities but vastly improved performance.

What do you think the Zotefoams Awards will demonstrate?

First, let me say what a great idea the Centenary Awards are. It’s about time that foam had its own platform to show off innovation, separate from the traditional packaging and plastics awards. And I’ve no doubt the Awards will provide dramatic evidence of how widely foam is used now. It’s everywhere, from aviation to sports footwear, and amazingly versatile. On one hand you’ve got foam insulation protecting and preserving COVID vaccination doses in transit, and on the other you’ve got lightweight shinpads for sports like hockey and football.

I also think that it’s highly appropriate that Zotefoams is taking the lead in this, because the company is recognised as the Rolls-Royce of foam. No other manufacturer comes close in the technology, or the variety of products, applications and industries served. If you asked people what Zotefoams does, most would say “Foam”, but the reality is so much more exciting. The Centenary Awards will show this, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the industry comes up with.

For more information on the Zotefoams Centenary Awards and to enter, visit https://zotefoams100.com/awards