VOLUME 15.6 – 2020
THE RECYCLABILITY / CARBON CONUNDRUM TESCO INTERVIEW – AIPIA – PHARMA COUNTERFEITING – REUSABLES – PACKAGING MACHINERY • DRONES
Elisabeth Skoda Libby Munford
Production Manager Rob Czerwinski
Senior Sales Executive Sales Executives Alain Rizk Alex Cheung
Advertising Coordinator Senior Audience Kayleigh Harvey Development Executive IT Support Syed Hassan
VOLUME 15..6 – 2020
Audience Development Executive Dominy Jones
Packaging Europe Ltd Part of the Rapid News Communications Group 9 Norwich Business Park, Whiting Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 6DJ, UK Registered Office: Carlton House, Sandpiper Way, Chester Business Park, Chester, CH4 9QE. Company No: 10531302. Registered in England. VAT Registration No. GB 265 4148 96 Telephone: +44 (0)1603 885000 Editorial: firstname.lastname@example.org Studio: email@example.com Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: packagingeurope.com Facebook: facebook.com/PackagingEurope Twitter: twitter.com/PackagingEurope LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/company/packaging-europe YouTube: youtube.com/PackagingEurope © Packaging Europe Ltd 2020 No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form for any purpose, other than short sections for the purpose of review, without prior consent of the publisher. ISSN 2516-0133 (Print) ISSN 02516-0141 (Online)
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Editorial Victoria Hattersley AIPIA A virtual look at smart packaging Tesco interview A reuse laboratory Pharma counterfeiting The fight against pharma counterfeiting in the time of coronavirus Podcast The future of drones and packaging Bockatech A ‘new reuse mindset’ for coffee cups? SPS Preview Join us in Lisbon cyberspace HolyGrail What’s next for Sustainability Awards 2019 winner? Amcor Tackling the carbon emission challenge Avery Dennison Sustainability in FMCG: Boosting transparency and accountability VDMA How does the German packaging machinery Industry face up to the challenges of 2020? Coveris Flexible innovation The Wider View BBC Cellpack: Time to make the switch to paper? On second thoughts... Just going ‘mono’ won’t make plastic packaging circular
Packaging Europe Towers (or, more accurately, in our respective kitchen and bedroom offices) we’ve been busily preparing for our very first online Sustainable Packaging Summit. While this was certainly not what we’d envisaged last year, we’re very pleased to have the chance to address the crucial environmental issues we’d planned to – none of which have lessened in importance since the coming of Covid-19 has forced us to rethink the way we address our audience. This issue will bring you a taster of the agenda for the season of virtual events, in which we’ll be discussing the overarching strategic questions, the concrete challenges, and emerging areas of innovation that can drive us forward. But putting the Summit aside for a moment, what else do we have for you? Following the announcement that the Loop zero waste shopping platform will be partnering with Tesco in the UK, Tim Sykes spoke to representatives from the retail giant to find out how this partnership will unfold and how it fits into its wider packaging and sustainability strategies. Elisabeth Skoda takes a closer look at the recently opened Coveris Pack Innovation Centre and its quest to boost innovative packaging solutions and improve the recyclability of flexibles. She also speaks to VDMA to find out how the German packaging machinery industry has been coping with a challenging year. On top of all this, she found time to visit the AIPIA congress, which this year was an entirely virtual event, and reports on the latest smart packaging developments she discovered there. (Yes, it’s been a busy month for Elisabeth.)
Victoria Hattersley Editor
Fin Slater has been burrowing into the world of pharma counterfeiting; he spoke to Pete Smallwood of Eltronis to learn about the threat Covid-related counterfeiting poses to society and how the packaging industry can address this. And for anyone wanting to know more about the impact the development of drone technology can have on supply chain efficiency, look no further than Libby White’s conversation with Robert Garbett, founder and chief executive of The Drone Major Group. As usual, we also sound out some of the biggest voices in the packaging industry to get their perspectives on the many environmental challenges it faces. This time we hear from Amcor’s Gerald Rebitzer and Avery Dennison’s Hassan Rmaile. Meanwhile, our regular ‘On second thoughts...’ slot is given to APK’s Klaus Wohnig, who tells us why multi-layer flexible packaging should not be written out of the circularity equation just yet. In the next edition we’ll bring you the inside story of the Sustainability Awards 2020 winners. In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us for n the Sustainable Packaging Summit.
Victoria Hattersley Victoria Hattersley email@example.com @PackEuropeVicky
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A VIRTUAL LOOK AT SMART PACKAGING
In recent years, Packaging Europe has been a regular visitor at AIPIA’s Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association’s congresses in Amsterdam. As a physical event was not possible this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, AIPIA decided to run their 2020 World Congress in Amsterdam as a virtual event. The digital event was set up to match the physical event as closely as possible, and, like the physical events in previous years, offered a mix of keynotes, presentations on new and tried and tested technology innovations, brand challenges and virtual exhibition stands. Elisabeth Skoda explores just a few of the major talking points at the conference. Smart packaging outlook In a keynote, Raghu Das, CEO at IDTechEx, took a closer look at the state of the active and intelligent packaging industry now as well as trends and likely future trends. He identified some of the ‘classic’ use cases for smart packaging, such as improving logistics and safety, traceability, verifying authenticity and reducing crime, but he also highlighted other areas of use where growth was likely. “Smart packaging can be used to remove tedious processes. For example, in Japan with its aging population, there are less and less people of working age. The government don’t want capable people tied up in menial tasks such as scanning barcodes at supermarkets, so the aim is to eliminate supermarket tills and instead implement hundreds of billions of RFID codes as early as 2025.”
Beyond its functional use, smart packaging has the potential to excite people and make them engage with a brand. As supermarket own brands are gaining more traction, the use of smart packaging can work as a differentiator for established brands. Smart packaging comes in a variety of different technologies and offers a wide range of uses, and Mr Das listed just some of the technologies currently available: RFID for wireless item identification; electronic articles surveillance for theft protection; QR codes for identification; data loggers for the monitoring of temperature, vibration or shock; interactive smart packaging that offers features for consumer appeal, such as illumination, sound, or measure; chemical indicators that show a pack’s temperature at a glance; internal active packaging that interacts with the contents to keep Packaging Europe | 5 |
it fresher for longer; and external active packaging, where the package releases aromas to entice the consumer. IDTechEx expects the global demand for electronic smart packaging to reach a value of $1.8 billion in 2029, but there are challenges yet to be addressed, including the cost versus the value of tagging products, sustainable profitable applications beyond one-off projects, the environmental impact and unmet needs including the lack of integrators and complete product designers. “Electronic systems need a power source, logic and output. Often there are many enabling technologies, but it is not quite clear what the solution might be,” Mr Das said. Stephane Pique from Industry X Lead Switzerland looked at the business aspects of smart packaging. He highlighted that smart packaging should not be a solution looking for a problem, but a problem looking for a solution. “On the supply chain side, smart packaging can offer brand protection, transparency and ensure compliance. On the product side, it is important to think about how to interact with a client, what data can be collected, how can the pack be customized and be made attractive for a specific group, for example by offering connectivity and augmentation. Agility is key especially when responding to situations that came out of the blue, like the Covid-19 pandemic.” He also identifies a silo mentality and price of smart packaging as barriers to wider adoption. “It is important for companies to have a top-down approach and an overall vision. A major barrier to serialization in consumer products is the complexity of the system, and the infrastructure behind it. Different systems need to be connected and that works best when there is cooperation within departments.”
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Addressing price challenges in RFID tags Cost is an important barrier to the wider adoption of RFID tags on packaging. In order to address this challenge, IoT eco-system provider Talkin’ Things presented an RFID tag that costs only $0.03 a piece, with the aim of making implementation of the technology into mass market FMCG goods a reality.
“Smart packaging can be used to remove tedious processes. For example, in Japan with its aging population, the government don’t want capable people tied up in menial tasks such as scanning barcodes at supermarkets, so the aim is to eliminate supermarket tills and instead implement hundreds of billions of RFID codes as early as 2025.” The new tag has been enabled by an optimization of all tag production processes, including the use of the company’s own new production facility, incorporating modern bonding and converting machines to ensure quality and high yield. Talkin’ Things now offers 23 x 17mm ISO 14443 HF NFC smart labels at $0.03 and ISO 15693 at $0.04. The company’s UHF RFID tags are now available for $0.027.
“With this offer we are making a huge step towards bringing smart packaging to millions of everyday products. We have strong confidence to continue this journey to achieve our $0.01/tag goal in 2025,” said Marcin Pilarz, CEO of Talkin’ Things. “With our new production facility located in Warsaw, we are able to offer a cost advantage and competitive lead times, by minimizing transport distances within Europe and globally, which has been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Product launch: MagID marking technology This year’s AIPIA congress saw the launch of Inspectron’s MagID patented marking technology, which the company says provides advanced brand protection abilities by enabling magnetic ink codes to be printed on or inside packaging. The innovation is a result of Inspectron’s 40-year heritage in developing document identity and verification features for global financial institutions, governments and brands, combined with state-of-the-art magnetic sensor technology. Using MagID technology, high-volume covert markings can be applied on the inside of packaging or under labels. By scanning an item with a MagID reader, brand owners can gain real-time data on a product’s progress through the supply chain and authenticate items. The barcode is read by swiping a reader over the pack that communicates with Inspectron’s platform to retrieve the data associated with the number. Dr Nathalie Muller, head of Innovation at Inspectron, describes the benefits of MagID as follows: “It features environmentally friendly codes, a self-serve, cloud-based platform which is flexible for different markets or requirements, and is lowcost to implement, so it’s attractive to SMEs needing brand protection, and it’s also secure, as all data is owned and controlled by brand owner.”
Keeping food safe from pathogens Smart packaging can play an important role in keeping food safe. The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has moved solutions that reduce exposure to pathogens even more into the limelight.
In her presentation, Christa Biggs, business development manager at Aptar Food + Beverage, explored how active packaging technology can be custom formulated to address a wide range of food safety concerns. Aptar’s InvisiShield™ platform technology is an anti-pathogenic packaging solution integrated into sealed packages to protect fresh cut produce from harmful pathogens like bacteria, fungi and viruses. InvisiShield™ leverages 3-Phase Activ-Polymer™ technology, which is activated within sealed packages to release a specially formulated amount of an anti-pathogenic agent into the fresh cut produce’s packaging environment that is undetectable to the consumer and dissipates from the package within 24–48 hours of activation. This mechanism significantly reduces pathogens that may have been introduced during the supply chain without coming into contact with the product itself. The result is a final intervention step that also reduces cross-contamination within the sealed package. “Third-party validated studies demonstrated InvisiShield™ technology to be up to 99.9% effective against the most common food-borne pathogens: Pathogenic E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Human norovirus, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Campylobacter jejuni, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica, Vibrio vulnificus, Geotrichum candidum, Feline calcivirus and Rotavirus,” Ms Biggs said. As a food safety assurance device, InvisiShield™ meets a need for heightened defence against food-borne illnesses. The Generally Recog-
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nized as Safe (GRAS) solution offers outbreak mitigation without negatively impacting product organoleptics. “In a triangle sensory test conducted at Emory Hospital System, professional chefs evaluated the product and were statistically unable to identify a difference in the colour, aroma, flavour or texture of tomatoes packaged in a standard method versus those packaged with InvisiShield™ technology,” she added.
Matching brand owners with innovations A traditional fixture at the AIPIA congress is the brand owner challenge, where smart packaging companies have three minutes to pitch their solution to brand owners, who then select their favourite innovations to work with further.
“With this offer we are making a huge step towards bringing smart packaging to millions of everyday products. We have strong confidence to continue this journey to achieve our $0.01/tag goal in 2025.” This year, pharmaceutical expert Takeda and international food giant Kraft Heinz were listening to the different pitches from over 20 companies. In the end, each brand chose their top four favourites. “Takeda recognizes that with the rapid developments in digital technology, packaging is uniquely positioned to enable accurate and consistent administration of medications for life-threatening conditions, as well as provide an | 8 | Packaging Europe
informative and engaging product experience for the user. Furthermore, advances in materials innovation enable active packaging solutions to protect product integrity by preventing and slowing undesirable changes in quality during processing, storage and distribution,” says Sriman Banerjee, head of packaging development at Takeda. Takeda chose Aptar’s Active Packaging Solution, described above, offering a three-phase material for moisture and microbial control, scavenging, emitters and odour removal; NeuroTags, which provides every item with a unique, secure and traceable identity, allowing the user to digitally engage patients throughout the medication life cycle without an app; and Accenture’s Design Affairs, providing end-to-end embedded communication across packages and enabling circular and responsible product lifecycles. Finally, Wiliot’s battery-free bluetooth connected packaging for tamper and temperature sensing, consumer engagement and regimen adherence was also selected. On the food side, Kraft Heinz chose Adrich’s Growing Brands, which offers post purchase consumer insights using IoT and AI; SystechOne’s smart packaging solution for enhancing brand equity from a starting point of verified product authenticity using existing barcodes on the packaging; and Jones Healthcare’s solution to create an engaging experience by reimagining the in-pack toy with a fun, displayable object with a home play value that incentivises recurring remote engagement. The final company in the list of winners was ITENE’s biopolymer-based compostable multilayered packaging materials with tailor-made reinforcements and additives to achieve specific properties for different food applications. This is just a quick snapshot on what was on offer at the congress. While a virtual congress cannot replace a physical event of course, it was nonetheless a very informative event. The Packaging Europe team is looking forward n to attending the real thing again next year.
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A REUSE LABORATORY
This summer the Loop zero waste shopping platform expanded to another geography, partnering with Tesco to launch a pilot e-commerce programme in the UK. Tim Sykes spoke to the retail giant’s James Bull (head of packaging) and Giles Bolton (responsible sourcing director) to understand their aspirations for the collaboration and how it fits in Tesco’s broader packaging and collaboration strategies.
ollowing initial trials in the New York and Paris metro areas, TerraCycle’s widely discussed Loop concept has launched throughout Great Britain in partnership with Tesco. Via a dedicated website, consumers across the UK will be able to order branded goods packaged in reusable packaging for which they pay a deposit. The goods will be delivered, and then the empty containers will be collected for washing and reuse. As well as leveraging its extensive home delivery resources to facilitate the online shopping partnership, Tesco is looking at Loop with a broader, omnichannel curiosity. “The standalone e-commerce pilot will generate a lot of understanding for the participating brands about consumer enthusiasm for the Loop concept across the UK,” Giles Bolton remarked. “However, we’re also going to be running an in-store trial, which will be even more interesting in terms of the learning opportunities for us. We’ll find out how our customers interact with Loop products, alongside with regular product offerings. Especially interesting will be insights into how we could make this model work – and
how we could scale it up. We want to understand things like how we’d handle the logistics of customer returns, and ensuring customer transparency around how much they are paying for the product itself versus how much as deposit for the container.” This trial will effectively turn a handful of stores in one region, served by a single logistics centre, into a living laboratory studying customer interaction with reusable systems. Tesco has deliberately designed the experiment on a relatively small scale, limiting the volume demands on manufacturers, with the objective of learning quickly.
‘Radical and old-fashioned’ The embrace of Loop fits under one pillar of Tesco’s ‘4Rs’ sustainable packaging strategy. The retailer has pledged to eliminate unnecessary packaging (‘Remove’), such as rigid lids on cream pots, and has committed to eliminate a billion pieces of plastic by the end of 2020; it is also looking to optimise the amount of packaging used (‘Reduce’). Packaging Europe | 13 |
Tesco has introduced flexible packaging made from chemically recycled packaging waste
The third pillar is of course ‘Reuse’. “With the exception of the packaging materials you can eliminate altogether, reuse offers the best potential in terms of environmental returns,” observed Giles. “However, if you survey the market, some of the versions of reuse you see are really quite hard to envisage working at scale. For us it’s very important to make all our products sustainable and affordable, so solutions need to work across every element of our offering. I find the Loop proposition very interesting – it’s at once radical and old fashioned. Loop is a radical reimagining of how an old logistical supply chain (the traditional ‘milk bottle’ model) can work in today’s world.” In common with the strategies of many of the world’s leading retailers and brand owners, Tesco’s 4Rs represent a readiness to embrace more than one vision of a waste free future. As such, the business is pouring resources into the fourth pillar ‘Recycle’ in parallel with exploring the possibilities of reuse. “We need to be aware of overall consequences of decisions,” Giles Bolton commented. “The marine plastic problem is horrendous, and it’s clearly something that the whole industry has to address, by ensuring that eventually all the packaging we use exists within a loop. More specifically, we are working towards making all of our packaging materials recyclable, while also increasing the amount of recycled material used.” As far as progress towards those respective targets in concerned, inevitably the former is within closer reach than the latter, given reliance on suppliers
upstream in the value chain to increase PCR content in available packaging solutions. This touches upon a wider point, that there is only so much a single stakeholder (even as sizeable as Tesco) can achieve in isolation. “We are also working hard on getting our packaging actually gets recycled at end of life,” Giles continued. “A while ago Tesco pioneered a system where bags could be returned to the store for recycling. We’re currently doing exciting trials on soft plastic recycling. We have to do our part – but we’re also dependent on the wider recycling infrastructure, which as everyone knows is incredibly fragmented. As such, we act in coalition with key suppliers, not only to fulfil our responsibilities through the 4Rs, but to work with government to help achieve a more consistent ecosystem of collection and recycling. We’re supportive of EPR. However, it’s very important the money raised is invested back into recycling.” While the 4Rs don’t explicitly address the challenge of decarbonization, climate crisis also informs Tesco’s packaging strategy. A particularly significant initiative in this context is the retailer’s partnership with WWF, which aims to halve environmental impact of food, by helping consumers eat more sustainably through the elimination of food and packaging waste. As with Loop, this partnership, which began in 2018, is a sustainability experiment with an emphasis on learning. It resulted a year later in the development of the Tesco-WWF Sustainable Basket Metric, which aims to better understand the food value chain by creating an innovative industry measure of the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket. WWF has taken 20 Packaging Europe | 15 |
of the most popular products sold at Tesco and used the Metric to track key sustainability criteria across production, transportation and packaging right through to consumption. It will be fascinating to survey the findings – and to consider the implications for packaging. As for the Loop model, there are (sometimes contested) claims of potentially significant carbon footprint reductions compared, to single-use packaging. “There’s no perfect system for comparing diverse sustainability metrics, and a lot depends on the distances travelled, which vary enormously, so it’s hard to measure relative footprints,” remarked head of packaging, James Bull. “With a switch to renewable energy, we can envisage further improvements in carbon. However, our starting point is that Loop as a system will work, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be scalable.”
interesting to see when the tipping point will come. Having said that, the philosophy of Loop – approaching packaging as asset rather than a cost – opens up interesting possibilities in terms of adding value, functionality and consumer interaction. There are some impressive examples in the initial Loop offering, and I’m looking forward to seeing how brands develop their products based on their experiences.” We can only speculate whether Tesco will add its own private label products to the Loop platform: once again using experimental collaborations to gain insights, the retailer will scrutinize the learnings of from its n in-store trials before considering such possibilities.
The year of e-commerce The Loop-Tesco platform has launched in a year when online shopping has surged for reasons none of us predicted in January. Indeed, Tesco has doubled its volumes of online delivery since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. For years the industry has anticipated a point at which this home-delivery channel will change the design and purpose of primary packaging. Is that a trend that Tesco can already detect? “In the future it’s likely that products delivered to the door will look very different to the ones bought in a store,” said James. “At the moment though we’re still primarily focusing on using packaging that works well in both contexts: in the store and for home delivery. However, it’s going to be very | 16 | Packaging Europe
THE FIGHT AGAINST PHARMA COUNTERFEITING IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS The direct health implications of the Covid-19 pandemic are clear â€“ it has caused a million deaths and over 34 million infections worldwide. However, above and beyond these immediate threats to health, EUROPOL and EUPIO are reporting a troubling uptick in cases of pharmaceutical counterfeiting. And, just as it always has been, the packaging industry is on the frontline of this battle. We spoke with Pete Smallwood, business development manager at speciality security printer and IHMA member Eltronis, to unpack the threat that Covid-related counterfeiting poses to society, as well as the steps that the industry is taking to combat the trend. Packaging Europe | 17 |
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PE: Has the Covid-19 pandemic led to a rise in pharma counterfeiting? PS: Yes, we have seen a 20% increase in enquiries for brand protection and track and trace solutions since the outbreak of coronavirus. The majority of these new enquiries have come from the pharmaceutical sector, reflecting the rise in public demand for immunity and health protection against the virus. The significant growth in enquiries we received followed the recent warning about counterfeit goods from Europol and EUIPO, particularly regarding the international trade in fake pharmaceuticals, which is estimated to be worth in excess of $4bn.
PE: What has driven this rise? Has the shift to e-commerce channels affected it in any way?
PS: While online sales and e-commerce do allow easy access to the supply chain for counterfeiters and the distribution of goods direct to consumers, these are not the only channels and reason for growth. We
have also seen requests from companies where their medicines have experienced counterfeit through traditional distribution channels. Indeed, it has meant that, in some markets, medical professionals have stopped prescribing certain medications due to the risk of counterfeits and their inability to ensure that their patients will receive genuine products.
PE: What are some of the dangers associated with pharma counterfeiting â€“ both from a health and a business perspective?
PS: Obviously, no one wants to deliberately source counterfeit drugs; at best they are a poor imitation of the real thing, at worst they have ingredients that are harmful and in certain circumstances can be fatal. While the financial figure is widely reported and its consequent impact on pharma revenue is easy to understand, what we do not often get to appreciate from the media is the human cost of counterfeit medication. The consequences range from unique medications being withdrawn from use due to the loss of trust in the brand, to patients not recovering from otherwise easily treatPackaging Europe | 19 |
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able conditions. In short, it is easy to put a number on the volume and cost to the bottom line from counterfeits, but the impact to the end patient is often far greater and much more difficult to place a value on.
PE: What techniques/tactics are counterfeiters using? PS: These vary and it is difficult to define in general as counterfeiters will look at different routes to try and identify the security technologies in use by brand owners on their products. Often, they will only look at the techniques that enable them to ‘pass-off’ their counterfeit goods as genuine after a quick check. Therefore, having a variety of overt, covert, forensic and online technologies is often the best approach from brands looking to add depth to their validation of genuine products.
PE: How has the industry reacting to this rise – what techniques/tactics are companies putting in place?
PS: As an example, Eltronis use holograms as part of a layered approach to the security offered to customers. They offer a highly visual and sophisticated security technology that can be integrated into a wide variety of label and packaging applications for identifying genuine products. What is clear however is that a range of technologies and measures are often best for brand protection strategies. These technologies should of course link to the specific issues faced by a brand. For example, the
tampering and replacement of genuine products will require very different solutions to an issue of dealing with grey imports, however once the problem has been clearly identified, building a holistic and defined approach will provide the most impact.
“Having a variety of overt, covert, forensic and online technologies is often the best approach from brands looking to add depth to their validation of genuine products.” Increasingly we are also seeing the integration of online technologies such as our in-house track and trace system. This works hand-in-hand with the physical security and allows consumers to use a standard smartphone to deliver authentication and product security, alongside delivering consumer engagement to brand owners.
PE: Could the industry be doing more to combat this trend? PS: Yes, the use of improved security features incorporated into effective closure systems that are also easy to open and tamper evident is a good example of an integrated product that delivers multiple security benefits to a brand. Packaging Europe | 21 |
PE: Looking ahead, what learnings can the industry take from its experiences in the past year?
PS: Globalization and the continued growth in internet sales mean the challenge of counterfeit goods will remain long after the end of this year and the pandemic. The need for multi-layered protection technologies that can be easily and effectively integrated into packaging will become increasingly important as a means of securing pharmaceutical brands and their reputations. In addition, the pharma industry needs to actively engage the end customer more in product authentication. By helping the public validate genuine products more easily, using both physical and online tools, we can better fight the evern increasing rise in fakes over the next few years.
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â€œIn some markets, medical professionals have stopped prescribing certain medications due to the risk of counterfeits and their inability to ensure that their patients will receive genuine products.â€?
THE FUTURE OF DRONES AND PACKAGING Libby Munford speaks with Robert Garbett, founder LM: First things first, I’d like to ask you a very simple question: what is a drone? and chief executive of The Drone Major Group, an independent drone advisory service, about the RG: A drone is any unmanned system that is autonomously or remotely future of the drone industry. controlled in any environment, be it on the earth’s surface, underwater, in the air, or in space. So it’s a very wide spectrum, and you have to encompass all of those spaces if you want to solve a problem effectively – the answer isn’t always a little flying drone.
LM: Can you tell me more about the Drone Major Group? RG: We were founded in 2017 with the initial drive to unite all the stakeholders in the industry, across all the areas we cover. Within three to six months, it became clear to us that there really was a need for advisory Packaging Europe | 23 |
services, so we set up our consultancy in 2018 and, since then, have been advising companies around the world on how they can adopt autonomously or remotely controlled systems. Essentially, we’re trying to help them solve a problem. This is usually either where an activity is currently being carried out by humans, or when a company would like to get something done but can’t with the technology they currently have. So, we provide strategic guidance on what is possible. We then help them build the implementation plan around that strategic guidance, and we also have the largest network of suppliers in the drone industry in the world to help with implementation.
LM: I’ve read that you come from a military background – did this spark your interest in drones?
RG: I was an aeronautical engineer in the military but, due to injury, I got into policy. After this, I set up a company that invested in companies that needed technology. One of the organizations I invested in was called SUAS – the Society for Unmanned Air Systems, that I supported for several years with technology, guidance, and marketing.
After that, I was introduced to the British Standards Institution (BSI), because we were looking at developing a kitemark for UK drone operators, and it became clear very quickly that all eyes were on activity at the International Standardization Organization, which was then writing the standards for safety and quality for all unmanned air systems. BSI asked if I wanted to represent the UK, which I did, so I helped form and shape those standards and I now sit on every committee at that level. I also now chair the BSI committee. This journey has taught me so much about the civilian industry, to add to my military background.
LM: Am I right in thinking that this is still a relatively new industry to be pioneering? RG: It is – it’s an incredibly fast-moving industry, and I think it suffers from problems associated with that. There’s very little knowledge from the user community regarding what is possible, and there are also lots of companies out there who are selling their wares. Sometimes, the selling gets in the way of the problem solving, so it became obvious that we needed to exist to bridge that gap. Packaging Europe | 25 |
LM: This year has obviously been a bit of a curveball with the coronavirus pandemic. I’m interested to hear what kind of impact this has had on the drone industry. RG: Plenty of companies went quiet during Covid-19 – us included. Overall, while many companies have suffered, I think that the drone industry as a whole will benefit. What it has brought to light is the great utility these systems bring in terms of pharmaceutical logistics – an area that we are very interested in. It makes sense because, if you don’t have humans involved in the delivery, you can assist with communities and individuals that are isolating. There are also other capabilities that could benefit law enforcement or medical services in the long term.
“I think the hype that has been brought about by companies like Amazon has led people to think that they are going to have parcels delivered to their doorstep.” LM: Aside from the pandemic, I’m sure there’s been some cases of charitable ways of getting essential items to people through the use of drones – is that something that you can talk about? RG: A number of projects have been launched during the pandemic to assist with delivering medical supplies using fixed-wing systems from airport to airport. The sort of projects that we are looking at in this space deal with the delivery of treatments where certain compounds have a very short shelf-life, and delivery is very expensive using just-in-time couriers. We’re
looking at the possibility of using air drone systems to speed this process up and make it cheaper. On top of this, you’ve also got the mid-mile, which is the depot-to-depot delivery of supplies, but we’re not typically interested in last-mile delivery unless it’s for particular locations like hospitals or clinics. If we’re looking at anti-viral serums, for example, most locations have a limited ability to store many of these, especially if they’re stored in syringes. If you can automate a regular supply of these serums to hospitals or clinics on a regular basis, throughout the day, then you remove the problem of them running out of stock. In the future, things like the medical delivery of casualties could become a possibility. A vehicle could land on-site, collect the casualty, and take them straight to hospital. The list of applications goes on and on.
LM: Throughout the pandemic, what has Drone Major been focused on? RG: In the last few months, we’ve been very much focused on a project that we’re working with one of our clients on. Unfortunately, I can’t name the client, but they are a very large European logistics company. We’re working on creating a test and development area for mid-mile delivery. This goes back to the recommendations that came out from the Drone Delivery Group, which I founded back in November 2018, to deliver a white paper to the government that outlines the ways in which we want them to commercialize the industry. All of the things that we learn from the test and development area project will be fed back to the regulators and standard makers. Aside from the delivery of the project itself, we’re also working on the security, cybersecurity, insurance, and PR. LM: Looking more specifically at the packaging industry, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how drones can be used to deliver products and make logistics more efficient. Packaging Europe | 27 |
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RG: The natural progression of this particular application is to start big. I think the hype that has been brought about by companies like Amazon has led people to think that they are going to have parcels delivered to their doorstep. As time goes on, I think last-mile delivery will become a reality, but not in the ways that people think. It’s more likely that we will see freight delivered by an autonomous vehicle with someone in it. Mid-mile, hub-to-hub delivery is more realistic. This takes ‘white vans’ off the road, and starts to move some parcels by air, autonomously. This will change the industry entirely, as we will have to adapt to this system. I’d be very interested to talk to anyone in the packaging industry regarding the use of autonomous vehicles of any kind, and perhaps even about involving them in the projects we are running at the moment, because it’s really important that we get the whole development process right. LM: What are the possibilities for the next five to ten years?
“Everything that you’ve been hoping will come at some point is now possible and, with the right advice and guidance, this technology can bring great benefits.”
The UK has always been at the forefront of the thinking in this industry, certainly our involvement has been crucial in the development of international standards. I believe that we have the knowledge now and would like the government to take some bold steps to take the initiative and drive it forward. I want to see full commercialization within the next five to seven years. Passenger carrying systems are going to take a little bit longer as the safety requirements are huge, so this could happen withing the next ten years.
LM: Do you have a final message for anyone in the packaging industry that is interested in this emerging technology? RG: There’s a great white paper on the Drone Delivery website that I would recommend people read. Beyond that, I would ask people to get involved! Everything that you’ve been hoping will come at some point is now possible and, with the right advice and guidance, this technology can n bring great benefits.
RG: From our perspective, we want to have a significant number of test and development areas set up in the UK in the next five years. We’re looking at utility – not thousands of drones flying around. Isolated sites would be used, as opposed to individual households, because the infrastructure just isn’t there to enable that, especially in cities. There’s a lot of this activity going on around the world – China has always been very active in manufacturing and applications. Japan is also very active, especially in the field of unmanned traffic management systems. Packaging Europe | 29 |
A ‘NEW REUSE MINDSET’ FOR COFFEE CUPS? The march towards reusables continues – and UK-based start-up Bockatech has been working on a reuse model for coffee cups around its patented EcoCore® plastics manufacturing technology. Victoria Hattersley spoke to company founder Chris Bocking and Director Martin Blacher to find out what makes their approach to reusables different.
ive years ago UK-based start-up Bockatech was established with the purpose of bringing its patented technology, EcoCore, to market. EcoCore is a new technology that produces injection-moulded packaging – for food service, FMCG, industrial and healthcare – with PP skin-foamskin walls ‘almost instantly’. The company has ongoing partnerships with global polyolefins producer Borealis and in-mould labels expert Verstraete, among others, to bring this technology to the market. The sustainability challenges faced by the packaging industry are many and varied, as we all know only too well, and Bockatech believes EcoCore can address several of these with its light weight, insulation, durability and recyclability. But right now, one mammoth problem the company is focusing on is the mountain of waste resulting from our reliance on takeaway single-use paper beverage cups. And to do this, it favours a reuse and recycle approach.
‘A new area of reuse’
Courtesy of Borealis
It’s all very well, of course, talking about reuse and recycle but what does this mean in practice? According to Chris Bocking, firstly the EcoCore coffee cups have been designed with light-weighting in mind but, “Because of the process we use to expand the material the structure is very strong so we can offer this more traditional light-weighting without sacrificing strength.” Packaging Europe | 31 |
Secondly, and more strategically, is the reuse. Bockatech chose to develop the first application for its technology as a low cost insulated reusable coffee cup because of the lack of recycling of PE-lined paper cups. The cup consists of skins either side of very low-density foams. The foam core allows the thickness of the walls to be increased while using the same amount of material – hence the lighter weight. This skin-foam-skin structure, according to Bockatech, also has practical benefits for the consumer in that it can keep the contents of the cup hot or cold for longer, can protect the hands from being burned and is more robust for reuse. “As for producers, the key element to this – what drives down the cost – is the foaming that creates a very stiff structure,” says Martin Blacher. “People are looking for an alternative to single-use paper at a price point that’s similar. We’re pretty much there – injection moulding is all about cutting weight and cycle times to drive costs down, and we have got short cycling and increasingly lighter weights so we’re approaching parity with paper.” It’s also worth taking a look here at the environmental savings Bockatech is claiming for EcoCore’s production. The LCA Centre in the Netherlands compared EcoCore reusables against popular single-use dual wall lined PE and
PLA compostable paper cups and the results showed a 20–30% reduction in CO2eq after just two uses. After 30 uses the reduction in CO2eq increases to 80–85%. In addition, reusing a cup just twice halves the risk of land and sea litter pollution whilst thirty uses would see this figure cut to 1/30th. Then there is the recyclability aspect. “Obviously mono-PP cups like ours are widely recyclable. This means, alongside the reuse, our model has closed loop potential. We are seeing some move towards the use of our tech in place of foamed PS as well as PE-lined paper” says Chris. But as with all PP products, the barrier to a truly closed loop system is the lack of food-safe recycled PP similar to what has been achieved with PET. At the moment EcoCore packaging for food service is produced using virgin materials so recaptured plastic will be used in anything from coat hangers to card underbody parts. But when plastic manufacturers are able to supply food-grade PP recyclate at quantity, the CO2 savings would of course filter down to Bockatech and its partners. When this happens it’s going to be big news for everyone. In Europe EcoCore cups are now manufactured by Miko Pac and have been trialled successfully. The town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, UK, has imple-
Chris Bocking, company founder (left) and Martin Blacher (right) Packaging Europe | 33 |
WEBINAR HOSTED BY PACKAGING EUROPE
MULTI-LAYER FLEXIBLE PACKAGING: HOW TO COMBINE PERFORMANCE, FOOD SAFETY AND SUSTAINABILITY Latest polyurethane (PU) adhesives and evolution towards recyclability Flexible packaging ensures great food preservation and safety, allows the most packaging weight reduction and permits attractive content information and promotion. These key functionalities are possible by the association of various web layers which have the drawback of limited recyclability. Recycling multi-layer packaging therefore represents a challenge which currently mobilizes the whole industry, and adhesives play a central role in this question.
During this webinar, you will discover how to select the right PU adhesives – solvent-based or solvent-free – for your applications, and learn about Bostik’s ongoing actions to increase the recyclability of flexible packaging while guaranteeing performance and total food safety.
Learning Objectives: • How to select the optimal PU lamination adhesive for your application • Learn how to assess the recyclability of your flexible packaging • Discover how to cooperate within the flexible packaging value chain on development projects for circular economy
WLADIMIR MORAES Global Market Manager - Flexible Packaging Bostik
CYRILLE BILLOUARD EMEA Market Manager - Flexible Packaging Terphane
Bostik, an Arkema Company, is a global leader in bonding solutions, present in 45 countries and employing over 6,000 people, with four major Smart Technological Centers in USA, France, China and Japan. Bostik’s Advanced Packaging global business unit offers a comprehensive portfolio of bonding solutions to the packaging industry including lamination adhesives, heat and cold sealing, reclosing solutions for lidding films, adhesives for tapes & labels as well as hot melt adhesives for case and carton sealing. We are proud of being customers’ supplier of choice and fostering collaboration for innovation.
ELISABETH SKODA Editor Packaging Europe Working across print, digital and live media, Packaging Europe is the leading intelligence resource for European packaging professionals. Our mission is to connect forward thinkers across the value chain with the latest developments in packaging technology and materials, making sense of innovation in the context of the core business challenges packaging is required to meet.
mented a scheme to make reusable takeaway cups using the technology available at the point of sale in cafes with a £1 refundable deposit. When returned, the cups are washed for reuse. A local supermarket in Shrewsbury carried out tests which showed they could still be used after 1000 cycles in a commercial dishwasher. Chris says this has already drawn interest from other towns looking for new ways to tackle the problem of packaging waste. NHS Scotland and Paardekooper Group have also successfully run reusable schemes using the technology and cups can be found in many Little Waitrose stores.
Reuse is a ‘continuum’ The above examples show that EcoCore can work for reuse in real-world settings, but these are individual cases and it will naturally be a bigger challenge to ensure its adoption on a larger scale. Arguably, one of the stumbling blocks to a wider adoption of reuse models is the perceived lack of convenience as compared to single-use. Of course, there will always be the more ecoconscious consumers who are prepared to go the extra mile, but we have to be realistic and accept that not all consumers – as yet – have bought into the concept of reuse. This is why, says Martin Blacher, it’s time to think differently about what reuse really means in practice. Rather than being an all-or-nothing, he suggests we think of it as a ‘continuum’ – a spectrum on which there are different degrees of reuse models – with those that can be used tens or even hundreds of times, to those that may only even be used twice. “People traditionally think either single-use or reusable. But reusable systems aren’t necessarily for reuse thousands of times. We can also make very
lightweight cups that will only be reused, say, 10 times. And consider this: even if you reuse an EcoCore cup once you are cutting CO2 by 20 – 30% and halving the risk of a container leaking into the environment, as long as it’s recyclable. That’s a huge difference.” With the very lightweight EcoCore model, Chris and Martin say the reuse would typically be between 2 – 30 times. The strategic purpose behind this is to make reuse convenient for consumers to the point where suppliers can provide reusables in place of single-use with little to no financial impact. What is needed is to capture the majority – not preach to the converted. “We’re trying to make it both environmentally and economically viable to make the default path reuse.”
Taking on a ‘service role’ However, it’s important to remember that it’s not just consumers who can be resistant to change – some elements of the industry may also be guilty of this, too. A supplier of single-use plastics, for example, may have understandable reasons for keeping their supply chain the way it is. And on one level, of course recycling is highly important, but if we focus solely on this it only sustains the existing supply chain and leaves no room for new modes of thinking – like reuse. This is where being a start-up, with a fresh outlook on the market, can help to blaze a trail. “If you’re not part of that game you can look at things in a different sense and consider what is best for the environment. You can go back to the start and really make reuse economically viable. Being small, we get to envisage a new future and create products for that.” Packaging Europe | 35 |
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Courtesy of Borealis
To do this, the supply chain needs to adapt. “You see it with all disruption: unless companies adapt they are not economically viable anymore, but a lot are still viewing it through defensive eyes rather than seeing it as an opportunity to move into new areas. For example, suppliers can alter their model to take on more of a service role – carrying out the collection, washing, etc. – than a linear one. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimate converting just 20% of plastic packaging into reuse models is a USD 10 billion business opportunity” It is those companies that can display this agility, he argues, that will survive.
‘An approach that works for today’ What’s fundamental about reuse / recycle models like Bockatech’s is that, while they are certainly forward-thinking and require something of a change of mindset, they do still work within current market realities. While many compostable packaging materials – to give just one example of an alternative – undoubtedly have huge potential for the future, we don’t yet have the large-scale infrastructure in place for more sustainable use. And while this may happen in time, Chris and Martin would argue that what is needed is an approach that works for today. “It’s important that reuse and recycling doesn’t require large-scale change to be effective,” explains Chris. “With, say, PLA or compostables if you look at the LCA of these it’s still really high: PLA lined cups are coming out with a higher impact than PE cups because they go to curbside waste and only a small percentage are actually composted so the rest are going to landfill or being burned. For this to work, there would need to be huge, systemic changes in the waste process across the world.”
Covid – ‘a question over safety?’ Of course, this year has been an anomalous one for all of us, to say the least. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, some have expressed concerns – whether for genuine or for political reasons is of course not for me to say – that reusable packaging may not be the safest option. Given the scope of our conversation thus far, I was of course interested to hear Bockatech’s take on this. Is there any chance the pandemic could hold back the ‘reuse revolution’? “I would say it has been a slight negative but nothing catastrophic,” says Chris. “It’s understandable that there’s a question over safety; is it a pathogen
that can transfer? It’s good to see this concern and to have these kinds of questions being asked and meaningful discussion, but ultimately if the washing process is carried out correctly then you don’t have a problem. And one of the necessities for a good reuse scheme is that the washing of containers is monitored correctly – look at Loop, for example. And then, think about the amount of things we reuse currently – cutlery, to name just one. We’ve been happy with the safety of those so why would we not be happy with the safety of reusable packaging?” It’s a fair question.
‘No single solution’ The global waste problem we face is multifaceted and frankly daunting, so there is of course no single answer; rather, as we have often said, it will require a plethora of solutions. But focusing on individual issues – such as takeaway coffee cups as Bockatech has – seems a valid approach. We can’t point the finger of blame solely at the coffee chains for this growing mountain of waste: we’re all culpable: users and producers, and it falls on everyone to do their part. And to give them their due, many of the biggest high street coffee chains, as we have seen, have indeed recognised their responsibility and are beginning to explore various models – reuse, biodedgradable and so on – to address it. Making reuse convenient for consumers would be a good step forward. To do this, the industry may indeed turn to companies like Bockatech – small, agile start-ups with no vested interest in the established supply chain. “We’ve got a very interesting technology that can massively assist both light-weighting and supporting the transition to reuse in a way that not many reusable systems can offer,” says Chris. “But it’s important to note we’re not manufacturers. Our business model is to partner with the converters and brand-owners. We would then license the people with the right market access who know the product requirements and we marry our tech with their systems to come up with a new range of products that use EcoCore. “What we need is converters to approach us to deploy products to serve their markets.” Will we see this applied on a wider – even a global – scale? What I believe EcoCore has in its favour is the potential scalability – it is, after all, using the already-installed global injection moulding and recycling infrastructure. It’s an interesting approach to reuse and we’ll be keeping an eye on the company in n the coming months to see how well this takes off. Packaging Europe | 37 |
JOIN US IN LISBON CYBERSPACE We didn’t envisage the Sustainable Packaging Summit 2020 like this. We were supposed to be bringing the leaders of the packaging industry together in a charming Lisbon palace this month, conversations about how to drive sustainability forward overlooking the river Tagus and the Ponte 25 de Abril. Sadly, that kind of interaction isn’t possible this year.
we’ve taken the opportunity to re-imagine the Summit as a virtual event. And we quickly discovered that it is indeed an opportunity. For a start, we have no space restrictions and no travel burden on our audience. Secondly, without our own venue and travel costs, we are able to offer participation for free this year. We can therefore look forward to welcoming a much larger and more global audience than would have been possible in lovely Lisbon. The other difference is that human beings don’t interact with digital content in the same way as physical events. Whereas we’re happy to spend two days in a conference centre, punctuated by coffee breaks, chance conversations and buffet lunches, no one wants to spend two days sitting in front of a webinar. Therefore, the Sustainable Packaging Summit this year is going to be a season of virtual events, stretching from late October to early December. | 38 | Packaging Europe
Sign up to our dedicated platform (there’s no cost – another advantage of going virtual) and you can join the live sessions you’re most interested in, network with the speakers and other attendees, and watch previous sessions on demand. As planned in the original programme for Lisbon, we will be presenting a range of talks, discussions, workshops and networking sessions ranging from the fundamental objectives and definitions of sustainability to the strategic challenges we need to circumvent, to the new ideas and cuttingedge technologies that can accelerate progress. Join us and some of the world’s leading thinkers and innovators in sustainability and packaging, join the conversation – in our virtual Lisbon.
Sustainability Awards ceremony
Defining sustainability: visions of circularity in an age of climate crisis
02-Nov 13:00 PUMA workshop 03-Nov 13:00 Reuse 05-Nov
Bringing together design for recycling & end of life in flexibles
10-Nov 12:00 Ocean plastics 12-Nov
Building a coherent circular economy: regulation, harmonisation & collaboration
E-commerce and sustainability
19-Nov 12:00 Renewables 24-Nov
Exploring disruptive innovation: Holy Grail 2.0 & Plastic Bank
Sustainable innovation: demands, strategies and expectations for 2021
End of life technology perspectives
07-Dec Start-ups week Additional panels and networking sessions to be announced
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HOLYGRAIL: WHAT’S NEXT FOR LAST YEAR’S WINNER? We’re all eager to find out the overall winner of the Sustainability Awards 2020. Before we do, we wanted to catch up with last year’s overall winner, HolyGrail, to find out what they have been up to since they scooped the award.
he overall winner of last year’s Sustainability Awards was the pioneering HolyGrail project. Under the auspices of AIM, HolyGrail comprises over 80 members who have come together to develop and scale a solution to help with the efficient sorting of packaging. Effective sorting of waste is a big barrier to wider recycling of packaging materials, and currently there simply aren’t the collecting and sorting systems needed to create a truly circular economy. The first phase of HolyGrail concluded in May 2019, but that was just the beginning. To give a brief recap on this, the initial goal of the first phase of the project was to investigate ways to radically improve sorting technology through digital watermarking. Digital watermarks are imperceptible codes, the size of a postage stamp, covering the surface of a consumer goods pack. They can carry a wide range of attributes such as manufacturer, SKU, type of plastics used and composition for multilayer objects, food vs. non-food usage, etc. “Innovation, sustainability and digital are the three key ingredients we are combining with smart packaging through digital watermarks to achieve the objective of the Green Deal towards a clean, circular and climate neutral economy,” said AIM’s director general Michelle Gibbons. During the course of the project, significant progress was made with ‘invisible codes’ being integrated into both printed materials and directly into a mould. This successful first phase of the project was capped off with its being named the Overall Winner award at the Sustainability Awards 2020.
the potential to make life easier for consumers to recycle their packaging by solving some of the system-wide challenges that exist around the sorting of packaging in waste management facilities.” After all, he adds: “The vast majority of people have the best intentions to recycle, but we don’t always have the time to think about which bin to put our used packaging in. This digital watermark means that consumers won’t have to worry about which plastic polymer is which and for waste processers n it could mean a larger volume of high-quality material recycled.”
Where are they now? One year later, we wanted to catch up with our winners to find out what stage the project is at now, and its plans for the months ahead. Phase two of the project will see it being put into practice on a much wider scale, including the launch of an industrial pilot to prove the viability of digital watermark technologies for more accurate sorting of packaging and higher-quality recycling. It also hopes to prove the business case at large scale in the process. “Holy Grail 2.0 is the next phase of the initiative which we are looking to expand to a much greater scale through the piloting and testing of this new digital watermark technology,” said Gareth Callan, HolyGrail project lead at PepsiCo, one of the brands involved in the project. “As a result of this in 2021, PepsiCo and other companies will trial invisible watermarks on the surface of some of our product packaging. The new technology has
“Innovation, sustainability and digital are the three key ingredients.” Packaging Europe | 43 |
TACKLING THE CARBON EMISSION CHALLENGE
Gerald Rebitzer, sustainability director at Amcor, explores how the climate crisis and the pressing need for carbon reduction should take a front seat in FMCG packaging sustainability strategies.
recent years, we have seen a strong industry focus on circularity and packaging waste, which has somewhat eclipsed the climate crisis. Despite repeated political declarations, there was a gap between the cited goals and reality. But carbon is again moving to the forefront of the debate. The European Commission set the goal to be carbon neutral by 2050, and even China announced that it would cut its net carbon emissions to zero within 40 years.
Short-term investment, long-term gains The EU’s announcement of the New Green Deal had a positive impact, as it started competition in the positive sense. Addressing the climate crisis requires some short-term infrastructure investment. But investment in carbon reduction
can give companies a competitive edge in the long term, similar to what happened with Tesla’s electric cars. They didn’t make a profit for a long time, but now the technology is really catching on and other manufacturers have to play catch-up. There is a growing realization that we need to act now on the climate crisis, and I expect this to balance out the discussions about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ packaging materials. The real key is to improve packaging efficiency. Functionality is important. If weight can be reduced while maintaining functionality, that is even better; weight is even more important than what type of material the packaging is made from. Bearing in mind that one-third of food produced is wasted, it becomes clear what savings could be made in that area. Reducing food waste is crucial. Packaging should be part of a solution, Packaging Europe | 45 |
and should be fed back into the circle, whether it is reused or recycled. Of course, we should furthermore avoid other negative impacts such as littering and ocean waste.
Recyclability vs energy efficiency – from gas guzzler to electric Changes that are happening in other industries can serve as a model for the packaging industry. As an analogy, when comparing a Ford Thunderbird from the 1970s, which consumed a lot of petrol, with a much more efficient modern hybrid or electric car today, the modern car obviously has a much lower carbon footprint, but it also has some challenges in terms of recyclability, especially when it comes to the battery, for which there is currently no recycling infrastructure available. On the other hand, the Ford Thunderbird is very easy to recycle as it is one big piece of steel, but would you really want to go back to the old car and lose all the efficiency benefits? At the end of the day it is about bringing the circular economy into the modern world in terms of product design and recycling infrastructure. It is indeed possible to develop monomaterial solutions that are as efficient as multimaterial solutions and also have a lower carbon footprint, as flexible monomaterial solutions are based on PE or PP, the polymers with the lowest carbon footprint. By replacing PET or aluminium foil, you already lower your
carbon footprint, and if this is complemented with a suitable recycling infrastructure, the carbon footprint is reduced even further. At Amcor, we are able to manufacture monomaterial solutions for the most demanding mainstream applications, not just niche products. Amcor’s R&D team comprises around 1000 people, and they are hard at work on roadmaps to convert structures into monomaterials that can be recycled
A 1970s Ford Thunderbird was basically a big chunk of steel, which was much more recyclable than a modern hybrid or electric car – but in terms of fuel efficiency and weight it has a much higher carbon footprint. in existing recycling systems and that are also future proof. We innovate to bring products into the market that meet barrier requirements as well as processing and filling requirements in demanding applications that support n both mechanical and chemical recycling. Packaging Europe | 47 |
SUSTAINABILITY IN FMCG: BOOSTING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY Hassan Rmaile, VP / GM at Avery Dennison Label and Graphic Materials EMEA, discusses the role of transparency and accountability when delivering on FMCG sustainability promises as well as the role of the Covid-19 crisis in accelerating this.
is important for brands to be able to hold themselves accountable on their sustainability pledges, and businesses like Avery Dennison, which are upstream in the value chain, can play an important role in facilitating this. Arguably the biggest and most impactful trend in the food and beverage industry is the demand for greater transparency from brands by their customers. Conscious consumers want to know and understand what ingredients are in their food, as well as where it came from and what its environmental footprint is. The need for transparency has been galvanized by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, which showed just how quickly change can be implemented
if the need arises. Surveys say that 70% of people think that trusting a brand is more important now than it was in the past. From sourcing sustainable packaging materials to using labels to list ingredients, recycling guidelines, and using RFID labels to collect data that helps regulate supply chains, materials will be key in unlocking transparency for consumers and brands alike. Transparency brings consumers increased visibility, safety and education, and provides businesses with unprecedented control over their supply chains and environmental footprint. Avery Dennison is enabling brands to be transparent both through providing sustainable labels and packaging materials as well as traceability through RFID technology. Packaging Europe | 49 |
From sourcing sustainable packaging materials to using labels to list ingredients, recycling guidelines, and using RFID labels to collect data that helps regulate supply chains, materials will be key in unlocking transparency for consumers and brands alike.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a global crisis, but has also brought opportunities – it highlighted the clear need across the globe for contactless technology and for traceability and transparency in the supply chain. At Avery Dennison, we combine the intelligent labels part of our business with the packaging part of our business, and combining these two, we can bring a lot of value, unlocking some of the key obstacles towards a fully circular economy.
Collaboration across the value chain
In order to solve the big sustainability challenges the world faces, we feel very strongly that combining all the thought leaders across the value chain is the way forward. Of course it’s important to make sure our own products are sustainable as a standalone, i.e. thinner, more efficient, more environmentally friendly adhesives etc. But we also have big social responsibilities to make sure when we make these solutions, we don’t shift the carbon emissions and negative impact to somebody else in the value chain. This should be a fully circular n discussion across all the partners within the value chain.
At Avery Dennison we are engineering solutions that are themselves sustainable and improve the sustainability of whatever value chain they’re a part of. Our intelligent labels, for example, offer the potential for huge sustainability gains by enabling far more efficient supply chains and better communication with consumers about proper recycling and food waste management. In addition, we are designing our products in a way that takes their entire lifecycle – and that of the products they’re part of – into account, to ensure that our ‘sustainability’ doesn’t come at the expense of the next link in the value chain. We are developing products for a circular economy in which raw materials, once extracted, stay in use and out of our water, air, and soil. And because sustainability is a team sport, we’re reaching out across the vast ecosystem we occupy to collaborate and bring solutions to life at scale and quickly. As a company, we are committed to making every product we develop more sustainable than its predecessor. As part of our disruptive 360 ecosystem, we engage with an extensive ecosystem of venture start-ups, brands, recycling companies, forward thinking suppliers, OEMs, as well as other capability or technology enablers. Hassan Rmaile Packaging Europe | 51 |
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HOW DOES THE GERMAN PACKAGING INDUSTRY FACE UP TO THE CHALLENGES OF 2020? Vera Fritsche, Advisor at the VDMA Food Processing and Packaging Machinery Association, tells Elisabeth Skoda about the challenges and opportunities for the German packaging machinery industry in 2020, looking at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. We also gain insights from two German machinery companies to see how they have been faring in 2020.
he German packaging machinery industry exports its machines and equipment to more than 100 countries worldwide, generating more than 80% of its turnover abroad. In 2019, German manufacturers exported machinery and equipment worth €5,986 million, an increase of 2.3% over the previous year. Of these exports, half went to Europe (2019: €2,993 million, up 4%), 23% to Asia (2019: €1,354 million, up 16%) and 15% to North America (2019: €886 million, up 8%). The coronavirus pandemic poses major challenges for companies. Especially at the beginning of the pandemic, there were massive interruptions in the supply chains. Parts and components that had been ordered from China, for example, could no longer be delivered. In addition, there were also delivery failures from Italy, Austria and within Germany. This led to significant disruptions in the operating process, disruptions in production and in some cases even to production downtime. The disruptions in the supply chains have now decreased, but the order situation is still tense. At the beginning of the pandemic, for example, companies not only booked fewer orders from Europe, but also from Asia and North and Latin America. The decline in orders was particularly sharp in May. As a result, companies were able to book almost a quarter fewer orders than in the same month last year. Orders from euro partner countries fell by more than half and those from non-euro countries by 10%. The situation eased slightly in June and July. In July, however, an otherwise strong month for orders, 6% fewer orders were received than in the same month last year. The VDMA’s 7th Corona Flash Survey of July 2020 shows that almost 80% of companies surveyed in the food processing and packaging machinery sector are reporting noticeable to serious declines in incoming orders. Border closures and quarantine measures continue to prevent companies from sending fitters and technicians to their foreign customers, which Packaging Europe | 53 |
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means that commissioning and final acceptance on site are not possible. Nor can foreign customers travel to their machine suppliers in Germany to test and accept their machines. According to the VDMA Corona survey, travel and residence restrictions represent the greatest challenges for the companies surveyed. This leads to a delay in the acceptance of machines and systems by the customer. Occasionally, packaging machines therefore carry out factory acceptance tests via video live stream, and the commissioning of new systems as well as on-site maintenance tasks are sometimes carried out virtually. But not everything can be done digitally or virtually. Especially in sales, personal discussions are irreplaceable. Just over 30% of all packaging machines manufactured in Germany are purchased by customers worldwide from the food industry and around 20% from the pharmaceutical industry. These industries increased their production during the pandemic and the demand for spare parts increased. In June 2020, German companies delivered 6% more parts for packaging machines (105 million euros) than in the same month last year.
Outlook With the easing of government restrictions, demand for machinery will also recover rapidly. This will be driven in particular by the increasing global demand for hygienically packaged and safe food and pharmaceutical products. However, the weak demand for packaging machinery will still have a noticeable effect on production and thus turnover in the second half of the
year. According to the Corona survey, almost 60% of the companies surveyed expect a decline in turnover of between 0 and 20% in 2020. Provided that the corona pandemic does not lead to renewed, far-reaching disruptions in the supply chain and demand, sales should be back in the plus range in 2021.
2020 beyond coronavirus The often very emotive discussion about plastic packaging moves not only the food and beverage manufacturers, but also the packaging machinery industry, as more than 60% of all food and beverages worldwide are packed or filled in plastic packaging, whether it is bags, films, bottles, trays, cups or other containers. The ‘European strategy for plastics in the circular economy’ is at the heart of the circular economy package adopted by the EU Commission in January 2018. It contains a large number of measures that must be implemented in the coming years with concrete targets in the individual member states. The aim of the strategy is to use plastics according to the criteria ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’. For example, by 2030 all plastic packaging should be reusable or cost-effectively recyclable. Higher recycling rates for plastic packaging and increased use of recyclate in new packaging are also demanded. These demands are already legally anchored in Germany in the Packaging Law, which came into force in 2019. All these are not only topics for the packaging machinery industry, because here the companies which bring packaged products to the market have a duty.
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HOW TO ACHIEVE RECYCLABILITY WITH RECYCLED CONTENT IN TRANSPARENT FOOD CONTACT PLASTIC PACKAGING Solutions that adapt to packaging equipment equalizing efficiency and conservation of packaged products. All actors in the value chain of the plastic packaging sector are working hard to meet the sustainability objectives of Horizon 2030 and 2050. These are key years in terms of policy on rigid and flexible plastic packaging with regard to recyclability and/ or compostability. As it stands today, only 12% of materials used in the industry comes from recycled plastic, and it is responsible for 20% of emissions in the EU. The European Commission’s Industrial Strategy included in the Green Deal indicates that companies must evolve in terms of circularity in order to reach zero emissions by Horizon 2050*. For this reason, many companies are speeding up the process and adopting strategies to reduce the volume of plastic they use. However, this has been shown to reduce efficiency and increase the
volume of waste. What is really needed is an eco-friendly design of multilayer packaging, to ensure it can be recycled and to create a profitable market for secondary raw materials. In this webinar you will learn how SP GROUP ensures its rigid PET packaging as well as its flexible PE and PP solutions adapt to the different packaging machines used by food manufacturers, while guaranteeing equal efficiency and the optimal preservation of packaged products. The company will also explain the circularity strategies that allow it to incorporate as much recycled material as possible into its PET, as well as other possibilities for polyolefins using chemical recycling. Lastly, SP Group’s compostable solutions and other ways for incorporating bio-based polymers, principally PE, PP and PET, will be presented. * Official website of the European Commission https://ec.europa.eu/
WEBINAR HOSTED BY PACKAGING EUROPE
Learning Objectives: • European Strategy 2030 and Green Deal 2050 - How European policies will affect food packaging. • RPET trays with mechanical recycling. Up to 100% recycled content for food contact applications. • Monomaterial structures for recyclable flexible packaging. How and when to incorporate mechanical, chemical and/or bio-based polyolefins. • Compostable materials for SUP or high added value applications.
VÍCTOR BARRERA Sales Director SP Group – Plastienvase S.L.
MARÍA DE GUÍA BLANCO RAMOS R&D technician SP Group – Plastienvase S.L.
Our business philosophy is to provide our clients with the widest range of custom solutions for industrial packaging. With this in mind, we work closely with them to achieve the common goal of guaranteeing their consumers the best possible experience. Our films are used to produce a wide variety of packaging formats, broadly destined for the large-scale food sector. Among our many products, we can highlight our Sustainable range. This new vision of our work allows us to reduce the waste of materials produced during
ELISABETH SKODA Editor Packaging Europe
extrusion process, reuse post-industrial and post-consumer materials, and prevent them from contaminating nature, minimizing the carbon footprint resulting from the production of packaging. The four printing techniques we currently have available (Offset, Digital, Flexography and Rotogravure) complete our packaging offer. We are in strategic locations for ease of distribution. Two manufacturing plants in Córdoba (Spain), one in France and one in Poland.
They have to take recyclability into account as early as the packaging design and material selection stage, while at the same time meeting the diverse requirements for packaging such as product protection and shelf life. This is where the packaging machine manufacturers come into play. They were already involved in the development of packaging in the past and are even more so today. Innovative packaging solutions are developed together with packaging manufacturers and users so that they can be efficiently processed on the machines. As a result, the packaging machinery industry already has appropriate solutions to meet the requirements of legislation. It offers innovative technologies for all materials and packaging as well as for the most diverse needs. In addition, the companies provide advice on processability and design for recycling. In this way, the industry is helping to reduce packaging waste, recycle more and take sustainability into account in the design of the packaging.
SOMIC’s view – planning and organization is key SOMIC Verpackungsmaschinen GmbH & Co. KG has fared well during the crisis due finding new ways of organising processes, says Stefan Julinek, sales director at SOMIC. “The crisis has shown that new ways of organizing are also possible and work. Within a short time, ‘mobile workplaces’ were implemented at SOMIC, as far as possible, and new communication channels were established. Production processes were also adapted accordingly. Clear rules of conduct and the introduction of shift work in some departments of the company enabled distances to be maintained and possible chains of infection to be prevented. He says that the company made early preparations, which allowed it to maintain production at full capacity. “Due to the good order situation we never had to think about short-time work at any time, and thanks to the above-mentioned measures, we also did not have to deal with any cross-departmental cases of illness and got through the first wave of infection well.” Serving the food industry, SOMC did not experience a significant decline in orders. “We expect that the demand will remain lively and so we look to the future optimistically. In recent weeks we have been able to return to a ‘new normality” in our operations step by step by taking various precautions.”
“Due to the global shortage of medical protective clothing for instance, as a machine manufacturer, we switched a state-of-the-art Reifenhäuser Ultra Stretch Blownfilm pilot line from the production of recyclable All-PE pouches to certified medical protective film. And some of our customers have adapted their production as well. So today, more than ever, we are emphasizing to our customers that flexibility is essential to react to a variety of market requirements – during a crisis but also beyond.” He anticipates that sustainability will come to the forefront of the public debate again. “Sustainability, a topic around which it has become quiet in recent months, will become more important once again. The pandemic made us aware of the necessity of high-quality packaging. One more reason to develop sustainable solutions and to establish a functioning circular economy for the industry. We are trying to push forward sustainability and the circular economy, for example by providing technical solutions for the production of monomaterials or by making recyclable packaging identifiable within the waste sorting process as part of the R-Cycle [link] joint initiative. Making packaging more sustainable will be a priority, especially n when the pandemic is over.”
Reifenhäuser’s view – flexibility and sustainability count Reifenhäuser Group’s CSO Ulrich Reifenhäuser identifies some market uncertainty regarding new investments, but also has noticed sectors with increasing demands. “This is true especially for our nonwovens lines, as they are needed to produce the filter-material for breathing masks. But it is also true for film lines, that produce materials for products related to food and medical safety applications. High performance plastic films make an important contribution to prevent the spread of diseases.” He points out that Reifenhäuser saw the competitive advantage of having flexible production facilities, providing different applications.
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FLEXIBLE INNOVATION Coveris’ Pack Innovation Centre was conceived to be a European hub for technical product development, sustainable innovation and education, and aims to support its customers to ‘innovate’, ‘educate’ and ‘validate’ the flexible packaging of the future. The centre, located in Halle in Germany, officially opened its doors in July 2020. Elisabeth Skoda speaks with Christopher Tuchscherer, the centre’s pack innovation manager, about trends and challenges within the flexible packaging industry and finds out more about the work done at the new centre.
sked about the biggest packaging and raw material trends that will be discussed at the centre, Mr Tuchscherer highlights recyclable monomaterials and films made from recycled materials as top priorities. “Among many discussed trends, the drive towards recyclable monomaterials is at the forefront of discussions, not least here in Germany because of the requirements of the German Packaging Law, as well as intensified use of recycled materials in films and laminates. At the Pack Innovation Centre we test new monofilm solutions and monomaterial laminates, ensuring they meet the growing needs of the packaging market in terms of convenience, quality and protection. We also continue our research on downgauging.” The motto of the Pack Innovation Centre is ‘Innovate’, ‘Educate’ and ‘Validate’. On the ‘Innovate’ side, Coveris works with customers on design, creation and optimization. “The centre offers the possibility to perform feasibility tests on projects even at early stages, to provide engineers and pack scientists with assurance that they are on the right track to finding the best solution,” explains Mr Tuchscherer.
Christopher Tuchscherer | 58 | Packaging Europe
The ‘Validate’ phase includes industrial trials, workshops and training sessions as well as mock-up production. “Our production area is equipped with the latest packaging machinery, including a thermoformer, a tray sealer and form-fill-seal machines. Supported by a laboratory environment and analysis systems, this allows efficient and innovative industrial trials with on-site testing and validation,” Mr Tuchscherer adds. Finally, the ‘Educate’ side of the centre offers expert talks, technical training and the sharing of knowledge about the latest packaging trends, materials and technical innovations. “Coveris’s team of industry experts regularly run training sessions on topics such as the latest packaging and raw material insights or sustainability trends. Bringing in outside experts from across the sector, we share knowledge to inspire and develop the packaging of the future. During the COVID-19 crisis it has not been possible to invite bigger audiences, but we are looking forward to being able to do that once the crisis has subsided,” says Mr Tuchscherer.
Discussing the benefits of flexibles Flexible packaging has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years, and Mr Tuchscherer thinks that this trend is here to stay. “Flexible packaging is still the most effective packaging material due to the superior area to weight ratio, i.e. less material can pack more goods, of polymers in comparison to other materials such as glass, metal or paper, and its properties contribute to fighting food waste. Of course, it is a well-known fact that food waste is a growing issue not only for ethical reasons, but also as a major cause for generating CO2 ‘waste’, i.e. causing unnecessary CO2 that actually need not have been produced.” He also highlights consumer convenience and shelf appeal as a major argument for flexibles. “On top of that, flexible packaging offers greater convenience for end-users, because it allows multiple packaging formats and sizes that fit with their busy lifestyle through features such as see-through windows, carry-on handles, resealable zippers or single-use and multipack formats. On the other hand, it also gives food producers multiple design options that help them stand out on the display.”
Coveris is a member of CEFLEX, and the new centre ties in well with the work done there. “As we are an active member of CEFLEX all our development work supports our input. The materials developed follow the D4ACE guidelines and all new developments can be tested on real-life packaging machines.”
Tackling the recyclability challenge On its quest to develop recyclable flexible packaging, Coveris has recently launched a new range of recyclable flexible packaging materials called MonoFlex. But Mr Tuchscherer is keen to highlight that it’s important not to lose sight of other pressing issues.
“Among many discussed trends, the drive towards recyclable monomaterials is at the forefront of discussions, not least here in Germany because of the requirements of the German Packaging Law.” “A key challenge still is the focus on keeping the current functionality with less engineered or advanced polymers as current customer machinery is set up to run other materials with highest efficiency. The latest Monoflex E and P range (E stands for polyethylene, P stands for polypropylene) addresses this demand as they both run on current machinery with comparable efficiency figures, while barrier levels and efficiency are under constant improvements.”
There certainly is room for improvement with many commonly used packs. He gives an example of standard thermoformed packages for meat and cheese products. “They often have a really thick bottom that is mainly APET laminated with a PE sealing layer, and on top you also have a polyester reverse printed laminate with a barrier PE material. Coveris developed an innovative film that peels just on the mono APET bottom material, so customers have the chance to change from an APET PE non-recyclable structure to a mono APET bottom material which is recyclable and much thinner than a standard film – thus solving two problems in one step.” He highlights two more challenges – the current unclear and constantly changing legal environment for plastics packaging and public perception. “Many countries in Europe do imply national regulations, however there is no harmonized approach across the continent. Furthermore, the current waste problem, which is largely a behavioural issue, is often treated as a ‘plastic problem’, but that is something we hope to be able to help to address by providing information through our centres.” The Pack Innovation Centre complements the Pack Positive Centre in Leeds in the UK. “The Coveris Pack Innovation Centre represents the second building block of the Coveris forward-thinking initiative centres. The Pack Positive Centre is specialized in consumer insights, and now has a partner with the new Pack Innovation Centre that brings technical development, validation, and training to the next level. This way the cooperation between the two tech centres is focused more to complement each other rather than to directly cooperate,” n Mr Tuchscherer concludes. Packaging Europe | 59 |
BBC CELLPACK: TIME TO MAKE THE SWITCH TO PAPER? BBC Cellpack Packaging suggests that paper packaging is ‘the ideal alternative to plastic’. That’s why they’ve been asking the question: Do you dare to paper?
BC Cellpack Packaging – a part of the Swiss BBC Group – isn’t just focused on paper: it offers a range of solutions for the food and nonfood industries, including stand-up pouches, films and cushion pads, all with an eye to building the circular economy. “As a packaging manufacturer, we have a responsibility to produce environmentally friendly packaging to protect our planet and future generations,” says CEO Frank Filipps. “We have developed recyclable product ranges:
“As a packaging manufacturer, we have a responsibility to produce environmentally friendly packaging to protect our planet and future generations.” CEO Frank Filipps
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CELLPouch, our recyclable Stand-Up pouch, CELLRoll, our eco-friendly plastic film range and CELLWax, our eco-designed paper range. We support companies in their circular economy approach to move towards a sustainable ecological transition that is good for the environment, good for the customers, good for the consumers.” But today, in particular, it wants to change the narrative around paper packaging – especially the assumption that paper doesn’t have the required barrier properties for packaging perishable products. While it is certainly the case that we have a way to go before barrier papers can replace plastics for all forms of packaging, today there are far more applications for paper in the FMCG sector than there ever were before.
‘Breaking old habits’ BBC Cellpack has added its own unique solutions to the growing plethora of barrier papers on the market in an attempt to, as it says, ‘break old habits with eco-responsible paper packaging that reflects our commitment to natural materials, new attitudes and new recycling opportunities’. And contrary to what some might believe, it says papers are suitable for wrapping and protecting even highly perishable products such as softripened cheese. One of the company’s processes involves laminating a PP film onto coated paper, creating a wrapper that enables cheese to age alongside it. Once the product has been consumed, the paper and the film can be separated for recycling. Packaging Europe | 61 |
The development of CELLWax can clearly be seen in the context of ‘breaking old habits’. Available as both ‘twists’ and ‘wraps’, CELLWax is a bio-sourced coated paper range, using vegetable wax barrier to ensure it is fully recyclable and food grade inks. “Choosing the paper means going back to origins of packaging,” says Aude Paustian, Head of Product Development. “As a renewable and recyclable material, paper has once again become a trendy raw material offering multiple technical and visual possibilities. At BBC Cellpack Packaging we bring our paper expertise to support our customers’ developments. Paper alternatives to plastic packaging have become our specialty and our trademark. Environmentally friendly sourcing, FSC certified papers, vegetable waxes: our paper solutions are entirely eco-designed.” With this vision in mind, the company has been working with a big market player in confectionery on their new packaging – a concentrate of recyclability and technical innovations. | 62 | Packaging Europe
“Our customer as a leader in the confectionery market is fully focused on its responsibility toward the future of the planet and the necessity to replace plastic packaging where possible. When they launched their new confectionery product it actively looked for a sustainable and recyclable packaging. Cellpack’s 100% certified recyclable and sustainable wax coated twist paper was not only the perfect technical solution but was also an immediately available and proven alternative packaging to plastic twist films.”
‘A better future’ Of course, presenting papers as the ‘ideal alternative’ to plastic is quite a statement, when we consider how reliant our world is on the latter – an undeniably cheap, hygienic material which is also, as many of its proponents would argue, far less resource-intensive to produce than paper. The counter-argument to this would be that responsibly sourced paper, if taken from renewable forests, can be superior in terms of its environmental
“As a renewable and recyclable material, paper has once again become a trendy raw material offering multiple technical and visual possibilities. Environmentally friendly sourcing, FSC certified papers, vegetable waxes: our paper solutions are entirely eco-designed.”
footprint as it uses no fossil fuels in production if biofuel is predominantly employed. What is needed, of course, is for the entire supply chain, governments and NGOs to work together to improve the recycling infrastructure and boost recycling rates across the board – but one could argue this holds true for all materials. So is paper, as BBC Cellpack believes, ‘Packaging for a better future’? Can there be a future without plastics – or at least a future where their use is vastly reduced? We’re not quite there yet but solutions such as those offered by BBC and others besides are certainly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. And even if we can’t completely replace plastics, a healthy
questioning of the perception that plastic is the ‘only’ solution for many perishable applications may, at the very least, help to channel innovation into the development of real alternatives. BBC Cellpack paper packaging solutions: • Product protection • Barrier properties • Food-safe inks • Non-stick • Malleable paper that can be twisted and folded.
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ON SECOND THOUGHTS... JUST GOING ‘MONO’ WON’T MAKE PLASTIC PACKAGING CIRCULAR
Klaus Wohnig is the CEO of APK AG, an innovative plastic recycling company that focuses on high-quality recycling of flexible multilayer packaging waste. Klaus and his team are actively involved in the work being done by the Circular Plastics Alliance.
he growing pressure being placed on the plastics and packaging industries by the European Commission, NGOs, and consumers will lead to long-overdue changes in how plastic packaging is produced and recycled. It is high time for us to wake up and become more circular, and yet, current approaches are too one-sided to be able to create a truly sustainable and long-term path forward for plastics packaging.
Re-design – coming semi-circle The pressure to change has resulted in a strong focus on rethinking the design of plastic products – to make them more reusable and more recyclable. Of course, this is a valid approach, but the underlying debate on ‘what is recyclable’ was not sufficiently resolved before the first major initiatives tried to complete this line of thinking with their initial results. Re-designing plastic products will be a valid approach for some types of packaging. It will also lead to negative results for others. So, where would re-design of plastic packaging be sustainable? Which criteria will we consider? Or, are we just supposed to use ‘monoonly’ design and potentially compromise the performance and resource efficiency of plastic packaging? Is recyclability trumping other criteria, such as performance? Especially in the food packaging sector, this could create a food waste disaster. Two years after launching the EU Plastics Strategy and in the same year as the publication of the Green Deal, this is exactly the right time to take a look at our achievements so far and to realize that they will only bring us ‘semi-circle’ to a circular economy.
Innovation in recycling technology – coming full circle The second aspect that is put on the backburner in most current discussions on plastic packaging and recycling, but which is highly relevant as the missing and complementary link to re-designing certain products, is innovation in recycling technology. A comprehensive overview of technological innovation is badly needed. Design guidelines are set against the average status quo of mechanical recycling. But why take today’s technological average as the guiding principle for future recyclability? Should we not have an overview of established and innovative recycling processes? Should we
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not – based on harmonized definitions – understand the relevance of these technologies both today and in the short- and mid-term in order to know: • what is recyclable packaging? • what level of quality can be produced with which technology? • which of these recyclates can be used in a particular product segment? • what volume of recyclates (of which quality) will be available on an EU secondary raw materials market? • which investments into a resilient future recycling infrastructure make sense? So, here is the good news – from a recycling point of view, multi-layer flexible plastic packaging does not need to be declared dead just yet! When assessing innovative recycling technologies, it quickly becomes apparent that there are advanced physical processes – building on existing mechanical practices – that can handle mixed flexible plastics packaging waste and that can separate the different layers of polymers from each other in the recycling process to produce close to virgin quality recyclates. And no – this does not refer to chemical recycling approaches, but to physical approaches, such as dissolution recycling (in which the molecular chain of the polymer stays intact). Dissolution recycling is currently already available at industrial scale. A clear distinction of the categories physical recycling (e.g. mechanical recycling/dissolution recycling) and chemical recycling (e.g. solvolysis) and an assessment of the corresponding technologies involved is a must for our work on circularity in plastic packaging.
Where do we go from here? Right now, we need to extend our approach from ‘re-design only’ to ‘innovation in design & recycling technology’. Both aspects are intertwined, and we therefore cannot afford to deal first with A, and only then move on to B, as this will lead to incomplete and distorted conclusions. The spring 2020 European Academies Scientific Advisory Council (EASAC) report on plastic packaging and recyclability also suggests a twofold approach, comprising re-design and a focus on advanced technological processes. Let’s get straight on the basics and then move forward n to upcycling.
THE SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING SUMMIT 2020 Presenting a season of world-class panels and networking events from 29th October to December 2020 Bringing together the value chain, from materials science to brand owners, along with regulators, NGOs and recyclers, we’ll be: • • •
Addressing the fundamental sustainability objectives for packaging and packaged goods, such as competing visions of circularity. Confronting the climate crisis and COVID-19 Exploring the core challenges: collaboration, regulation, e-commerce Scouting for the new ideas and technologies that can take us forward
Join us for a series of open-access and exclusive sessions.
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