Create a sustainable future for packaging
On November 30, 2022, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a European regulation on packaging and packaging waste, which makes people feel that the European regulatory environment is connecting the European green agreement, the circular economy plan, the waste regulations and the carbon issue, in order to create a more consistent and clear agenda than before, and the proposal also sends a clear signal about business opportunities and risks.
Undoubtedly, enterprises are facing a series of more specific and urgent requirements, not only the recyclability of packaging (which will be subject to more regulatory standards) and the minimum plastic recycling content of plastic packaging, but also more regulatory intervention in the field of recyclability and refilling.
As Mattia Pellegrini (head of the European Commission's Environment Agency) shared at the Sustainable Packaging Summit held in Lisbon in September last year, mandatory reuse targets will be introduced and may continue to be upgraded from now to 2040. Reuse targets will be set according to the primary, secondary and tertiary packaging and each department.
These all represent a change in the environmental expectations of European consumers for packaging products. With the progress of the United Nations plastic pollution treaty in global regulation, we should regard it as a blueprint for global progress.
How to overcome the obstacles faced by reuse or refilling? How to accelerate the progress and investment of recycled materials? How can all stakeholders cooperate more effectively to optimize sustainable transformation? These will be the basic problems that the packaging industry will face in 2023.
This will also be our core mission, running through all initiatives and discussions to help guide the value chain towards a sustainable future of packaging and the next Sustainable Packaging Summit (held in Amsterdam in November 2023).
Alternative packaging materials
The packaging industry has been looking for alternatives to fossil fuel materials.
In order to solve the problem of competition between plants and food production, the bioplastics industry is studying the use of non-food crops, such as cellulose and seaweed. The focus of innovative technology is also the non-edible by-products in the production of food crops. So far, the development scale of such materials is still relatively small, but in 2022, we see the trend of scale expansion.
At the Innovation Horizon conference in Amsterdam, we heard some interesting cases - for example, a start-up company dedicated to the development of red algae, and another company extracting natural biopolymers from agricultural waste.
This industry is full of passion and momentum, and its development momentum is expected to accelerate in 2023.
The start-up company Notpla recently cooperated with the packaging manufacturer Coveris to launch seaweed coated carton packaging with oil and water resistant properties. Such cooperation can continuously promote the expansion of the scale of this industry, so it is expected to see more development in 2023.
It is worth noting that AB InBev and Sustainable Fiber Technology have cooperated to provide secondary packaging solutions for Corona beer with the remaining barley straw.
In addition, in the field of fiber-based packaging, the Ukrainian start-up Release Paper has developed a process that can convert cellulose from fallen leaves into paper packaging products. The company has received 2.5 million euros from the EIC Accelerator 2022 program of the European Commission. It is expected that the technology will be vigorously promoted in 2023.
Although we will not see the complete replacement of plastic by fiber-based packaging soon, we can expect that large and small brands will continue to gradually turn to paper-based packaging solutions in some applications. Some large companies such as Nestl é, Mars Wrigley and Ritter Sport have launched their own paper production lines.
In 2023, we are sure to hear more news from the field of paper bottle packaging. A noteworthy example is the solution of paper bottle manufacturer Paboco, which has been tried by Carlsberg, Coca-Cola and Absolute vodka. This year, Paboco will also launch the next generation prototype of its paper bottle, which will also use the paper bottle cap of Blue Ocean Closures.
There are other innovators in the field of paper bottle packaging. With the development of paper ketchup bottles in cooperation with Kraft Heinz, the paper bottle solutions of Pulpex and Stora Enso will be further commercialized in 2023.
The development of paper packaging barrier solutions that are more effective and easier to recycle is also under way, and more examples in this field will certainly be seen in 2023. Disperse coatings for polymer coated panels used to replace the paper barrier layer is a field worthy of attention, and companies such as Walki and Kemira are in a leading position in this field.
In addition to enhancing material properties, processability is also a major challenge for paper packaging companies. In this regard, we hope to see more cooperation between machinery suppliers and packaging manufacturers to make it easier for brands to turn to new paper solutions without affecting performance or cost.
Apart from innovation, there are still some problems and disputes in the industry that must be resolved in the future. For example, is a product like the paper bottle still a niche product, and can it really replace plastic on a large scale?
Even the most advanced paper solutions at present will still leave some residues of aluminum or plastic layers. Can these ongoing innovations really meet the huge challenge of realizing full recyclability of paper waste logistics? Let's wait and see.
The European Union issued a directive on packaging and packaging waste
At the end of November 2022, the long-awaited EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWR) was finally announced. What does this mean for the packaging industry and what will happen to the packaging industry in 2023?
The Directive is the cornerstone of the EU to promote the sustainable development of packaging. It sets out many goals and requirements. Its purpose is to deal with packaging waste, and at the same time to eliminate the obstacles in the internal market caused by the different rules adopted by member countries for packaging design.
The recently issued revised version of the Directive shows that the EU hopes to further achieve its goal of making all packages on the EU market reusable or recyclable in an "economically feasible way" by 2030.
The key is to set a new target: to reduce the per capita packaging waste of each member country by 15% by 2040 compared with 2018. The European Commission said that compared with other ways, this would lead to a 37% reduction in overall waste.
The focus of the revision also includes the complete prohibition of certain forms, the further implementation of DRS, and the mandatory recovery rate.
In addition, the company may have to provide consumers with a certain proportion of reusable or refillable packaging products, although according to the industry's response to the leaked draft proposal, this proportion is considered to be lower than the initial estimate.
So, what should we do in 2023? It is worth noting that, at least for now, these amendments are not final and binding. This year, these proposals will be submitted to the European Parliament, the European Council and all 27 member states. In this process, they may also change.
Accessibility and interactivity
Last year, barrier-free packaging and interactive design played an important role in products, and were also part of a broad dialogue around packaging design and packaging inclusiveness.
In a critical article, Howard Wright, executive director of creativity and strategy in the UK, IE and Australia of Equitor Design, stressed that brands should seek feedback from users, quote color theory and fonts for people with color blindness and dyslexia, and also consider users with learning disabilities or visual impairment.
Lewis Moberly and Tropic Skincare developed the "Susie" font for consumers with dyslexia and neurodiversity, and applied it to the packaging and website of Tropic Skincare; Coca-Cola UK became the first beverage brand to try Navilens technology to help blind and amblyopic consumers; Mimica and UNITED CAPS jointly created a hat to help people with "visual and cognitive impairment".
However, Liz Jackson, the founding member of the "disabled list", stressed that the "inclusive" packaging often focuses on the ability to move and blindness, and the disabled may be wiped out because the product does not use the word "disabled", or the price is too expensive, or has not been released commercially. Jackson added that when designing barrier-free packaging, the company needs to consider the way in which the disabled "crack their own solutions for generations".
It is hoped that in 2023, we can see more innovation in this field, as well as innovation for more types of disabilities and conditions.
In the discussion and practice in 2022, advanced recycling has always been a hot topic. In Europe and the United States, some advanced recycling facilities are under planning and investment; Although according to the data of ecoprog, at the beginning of 2022, there are more than 90 plastic-oriented projects in the world, recently Dow and its partners have added several new facilities.
In 2023, as the construction of new advanced recycling plants continues or begins, it is expected that more companies will follow suit. The packaging and packaging waste directive of the European Union was criticized because its revision obviously did not solve the problem of degrading food-grade waste to non-food-grade applications, and mechanical recycling could not produce food safety materials in accordance with European standards - manufacturers with sustainable development awareness might do it themselves to achieve a complete cycle of packaging.
After all, as Dr. Geoff Brighty of Mura Technology emphasized, plastics is a global challenge in recycling. In addition to generally reducing consumption, more effective recycling methods are crucial. Dr. Geoff Brighty admitted that Mura was still looking for a way to recover the process gas from the low-pressure boiler used to heat its HydroPRS system. Nevertheless, the industry's current interest in chemical solutions is unquestionable.
The rapid expansion of such processes may open the door for further discussion of their long-term sustainability. Papers, reports and LCAs that question their true benefits have been published - for example, WWF is concerned that they may lead to higher carbon emissions and pose a potential threat to human health, and they have no additional benefits compared with mechanical equipment.
More recycling plants will generate more data to address these concerns. However, unless they are proved reasonable, the rise of advanced recycling is likely to continue into the future.
Contact Person: Mr. Fan