Stora Enso and packaging technology company Pulpex join forces to industrialize the production of eco-friendly paper bottles and containers made from wood fiber pulp. These renewable products will offer an alternative to PET plastics and glass. The exclusive partnership leverages Stora Enso’s formed fiber technologies and ability to convert end-products at an industrial scale.
Early this month, the ALDI supermarkets in Australia joined other international arms of the Germany-based supermarket chain (including ALDI US) to commit to a zero-waste future. According to the commitment, which was announced as part of their Vision 2030 plan, all ALDI-made food packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Zero-waste grocery stores have seen an uptick in popularity in recent years as consumers have become more cognizant of the wasteful packaging that so often comes with grocery store goods. In 2019, fellow Australian grocery chain Woolworth’s already pledged to send zero food waste to landfill by 2025.
ALDI’s promises and what they mean
To be clear, ALDI does not have plans to become the type of zero-waste grocery store where products are sold in bulk and consumers are expected to bring their own receptacles. Instead, the chain has promised that all store-brand food packaging (which makes up more than 90 percent of the products on ALDI’s shelves) will be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
ALDI Australia also will reduce the total packaging used by 15 percent, even when it is reusable, recyclable or compostable. Diverting packaging from ending up at the landfill is certainly beneficial, but reducing the amount of packaging is even better, because less land and energy is used to produce it.
Other grocery store chains and their commitments to zero-waste
The zero-waste grocery store concept began in Europe and has spread quickly to all corners of the world. Small zero-packaging food retailers, where consumers bring their own containers from home and self-serve bulk food from open vessels, have begun to emerge. In these retail establishments, food is paid for by weight. But eliminating packaging altogether is not a cure-all. Without packaging of any kind, food will spoil much faster, and not all people have the ability to go to the grocery store to purchase fresh, packageless food for consumption every day. So, packaging helps individual consumers save time and money, and lack of packaging can contribute to food waste on the retail level.
ALDI is not the only grocery chain pursuing zero-waste packaging. Kroger, an American grocery chain with locations in the South and Midwest, created the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation in 2018 to simultaneously tackle the issues of food waste and food insecurity. The foundation connects organizations fighting hunger and food waste with philanthropists who can support them financially. It is not a commitment to zero-waste by Kroger stores, but it goes hand-in-hand with the chain’s 2020 Sustainability Goals, which include ensuring that 100 percent of the packaging for their private-label products (items sold with Kroger’s brand name attached) is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
Many other grocery store chains provide little or no transparency to the public concerning food and packaging waste. The 2019 report Slow Road to Zero ranked the commitment of major grocery chains to a zero-waste future. In the report, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Publix all earned “F” scores. These chains have not made any public commitment to reducing food waste, do not publicly report any food waste data, and do not publicly share any information about waste-prevention programs that might exist.
Zero-waste packaging has also moved into the food service sector, with Starbucks US launching the trial Borrow a Cup Program in a handful of locations in March 2021.If successful, the program could help the company achieve its goal to reduce their waste by 50 percent by 2025. Single-use coffee cups, while most frequently made of paper, are usually not recyclable because they often have a thin coating of plastic on the interior.
Where does government policy fit in?
Policymakers have plenty of room to limit the use of wasteful food packaging. For example, policies that ban single-use plastic bags, such as New York’s Bag Waste Reduction Law, are growing in popularity. Similar bans exist in seven other states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont. In Europe and Canada, legislation against single-use plastic goes beyond bags. Members of the European Parliament support a ban on single use plastic plates and cutlery, as well as expanded polystyrene (colloquially, though incorrectly, known as Styrofoam) containers. Canada’s ban includes other food-related single-use plastics, such as straws and beverage six-pack rings.
Maryland and Vermont banned expanded polystyrene containers for food service, effective in the summer of 2020. Maryland’s law includes a ban on expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates, and take-out containers that primarily come from food service establishments such as restaurants. Vermont’s law is a bit more strict, as it also includes a ban on certain expanded polystyrene packaging used in grocery stores, such as egg cartons and produce trays. A similar law has been passed in New York to become effective in 2022.
Another tool that lawmakers can consider to reduce food packaging waste is mandatory recycling. For example, San Francisco’s Mandatory Recycling & Composting Ordinance requires that the entire city separate all trash, recyclable materials and compostable materials to ensure that no recyclable or compostable refuse is sent to a landfill. Refuse collectors will note any commercial or residential refuse that is placed in the incorrect bin (e.g. recyclables in the trash bin) and property owners can be fined. Mandatory recycling has been in the public conversation since at least the 1980s, and it is not an unrealistic goal for a municipality such as New York City.
Mondi’s new recycled containerboard machine in Slovakia delivers a win-win solution for environmentally-conscious customers
- Mondi’s PM19 paper machine at Ružomberok in Slovakia has begun delivering Kraft Top White, an innovative and sustainable new containerboard grade, to customers in Europe
- Kraft Top White offers a win-win solution with the strength, printability and on-shelf appeal of a white fresh fibre top layer, and a recycled fibre bottom layer
- The new machine, with a production capacity of 300,000 tonnes per annum, is part of Mondi’s €370 million investment to upgrade the mill and further reduce its environmental footprint
- The use of more than 200,000 tonnes of paper for rec
Created for Irish farm potato business Meade Farm Group, the packaging has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The packaging is the result of close collaboration between the three companies over a period of two years.
It uses Mondi’s speciality kraft paper and biodegradable Sustainex coating, water-based ink and corn starch-based netting.
The bag is designed to maintain strength when handling while providing barrier properties to keep the produce fresh. It has so far been launched in Ireland, Poland, France and Germany.
Mondi Poland extrusion solutions and speciality kraft paper sales manager Jan Murzyn said: “The bags need to withstand very heavy weights while providing a solution that is kinder to the planet.
“Our EcoSolutions approach means we work very closely with our customers to reach their sustainability goals and create a bespoke solution that represents the best possible option for the customer, the consumer and the environment.”
SILBO business development manager Marcin Śpiewok said: “The hybrid solution combines the excellent strength of speciality kraft paper and the tailor-made barrier and heat-sealing properties of compostable materials.
“Mondi’s speciality kraft paper in combination with our net, water-based print and unique technology was a long-sought solution in the food industry and allowed us to substitute the conventional combination of plastic and mesh.
“We created the worldwide first compostable form-fill-and-seal potato bag with net window to deliver strong, durable, breathable, eco-friendly packaging for Meade.”
The solution will enable Meade to replace hard-to-recycle plastic with paper in line with its sustainability targets.
The company aims to make its product packaging reusable, recyclable, renewable or compostable wherever possible.
Meade sustainability manager Jeni Meade said: “This new potato bag is an excellent example and was integral in our winning the Best Sustainable Packaging Strategy at the Green Food and Beverage Awards.
“By changing from the previous plastic pillow pack to this bag, we completely eliminated hard-to-recycle plastic.
“In addition, when compared to a traditional block bottom paper bag of similar size, our compostable paper pillow pack reduces the paper usage by 34%.
“As a food producer, our company focuses on supplying the best-tasting potatoes to our customers, and as a packaging user, we are committed to reducing the climate impact of our packaging for the wellbeing of the planet.”
In January, Mondi developed sustainable packaging for Norwegian branded consumer goods company Orkla.
The packaging solutions were for the Swedish launch of Orkla’s Frankful Tex Mex range of plant-based tortilla wraps, tortilla crisps and taco spices.
To start its "green" initiative, Miami-based Burger King, a subsidiary of Restaurant Brands International (NYSE: QSR), will switch up the materials used for its forks, spoons, knives, straws, drink lids, french fry pods, Whopper wrappers and napkins.
For example, fry pods will be made with renewable unbleached virgin paperboard. Cutlery will be made with the plant-based plastic cPLA. Napkins will be made with 100% recyclable fiber, according to a statement from Burger King.
The local pilot program will allow employees to gauge customer feedback for its nationwide rollout of sustainable packaging, planned within the next year.
Burger King recently partnered with Canada-based Loop to reduce its footprint of disposables. The fast-food chain already intends to introduce Loop packaging in New York, Portland and Tokyo, and the company is looking to extend that program to Paris and London, too.
A Burger King spokesperson would not comment on the cost differences of sustainable packaging for franchisees.
The company had just over 18,600 Burger King locations by the end of 2020, according to Restaurant Brands International's 2020 annual report. The majority of Burger King locations are owned and managed by franchisees.
Restaurant Brands International also owns Miami-based Popeyes and Toronto-based Tim Hortons.
The K3 thermoformed cup uses up to 33 per cent less PP than a conventional direct-printed, thermoformed cup of the same size, claims Greiner. To enable separation for recycling, the cup is wrapped with a removable cardboard outer layer, which can be produced with virgin or recycled board produced from sustainably managed forests.
“The next step, which will make separation for recycling even easier, will be the implementation of our new, improved tear-tab, which will be introduced very soon,” said Greiner Packaging’s sales director, Josef Zicha.
“We began working on reducing the weight of Olma’s packaging two years ago and the project is ongoing,” he continued. “The challenge is to find optimal weight reduction for cups, while ensuring that they remain stable in the production and filling process and during transport to retailers, and then into consumer’s homes across Czechia, Slovakia and Poland.”
Nowadays, those who shop for food in discount stores will almost always be buying plastic packaging as well. The vast majority of sausage, cheese, meat and fish is pre-packed. Fresh fruit, salad and vegetables too often come in plastic packaging. This method is hygienic and protects the food on its journey to the home. However, mineral oil-based plastics are contributing to the growing waste mountain.
In Germany, a total of 38.5 kilograms of plastic packaging waste per capita was generated in 2017 alone. This plastic waste floats on the oceans or is exported to Asian or African countries for disposal. Exposed to environmental factors, these large plastic items break down into microplastics, which eventually make their way into the food chain. Reducing plastic packaging in the food sector as well, then, is a matter of necessity.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV and the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB have now presented an innovative and sustainable solution for food packaging. Just as with conventional packaging, it keeps the food fresher for longer. The new packaging, though, involves no plastic whatsoever. After use, it can be recycled without a problem.
Proteins, waxes and antioxidants extend the shelf life of the food
In the “BioActiveMaterials” project, the researchers use paper as the base material for producing typical and functional packaging materials: resealable bags or wrapping paper. The paper is provided with a special coating using standard processes. The researchers make this coating from proteins and waxes with biobased additives. The special formulation of this coating, which offers long-term stability, performs several functions at the same time.
“First, the proteins act as an oxygen barrier layer while the waxes form a water vapor barrier, preventing fruit, for example, from drying out quickly. Second, the biobased additives have an antioxidative and antimicrobial effect. This stops meat and fish spoiling as quickly. Overall, the food has a much longer shelf life,” explains Dr. Michaela Müller, Head of the Functional Surfaces and Materials Innovation Field at Fraunhofer IGB.
The proteins in the coating also play specific roles. They prevent mineral oil permeation from the paper to the food. Recovered paper in particular contains residues of mineral oil-containing printer’s ink.
The coated papers developed as part of the “BioActiveMaterials” project are an alternative to the packaging currently used for all kinds of food, no matter whether fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, cheese or even confectionery. Consumers can store and handle the paper-packed foods in exactly the same way as the food packed in plastic today.
“Our paper-based packaging is also suitable for goods that have to be chilled, meat for example. The anti-oxidant function remains,” adds Müller. This packaging can even be used for frozen foods. “After use, the packaging is placed in the waste paper recycling bin, the coating is biodegradable and does not impede the recycling process,” says Dr. Cornelia Stramm, Head of Department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV.
The Fraunhofer Institutes have pressed ahead with the project in close-knit teams. While the scientists at Fraunhofer IGB have taken care of the complex formulation and production of the coating, the researchers at Fraunhofer IVV were testing how well the coating works in practice.
“We have tested, for example, how effectively the coating protects the food against external influences such as water vapor, oxygen and mineral oil”, explains Stramm.
The team at Fraunhofer IVV also made sure the coating was capable of being applied to the paper using roll-to-roll technology. This is done using a machine on which the paper is guided over rolls. The coating is applied as an aqueous dispersion.
Proteins from waste materials, waxes from Brazil and North Mexico
When selecting the raw materials for the “BioActiveMaterials” project, the team chose natural substances approved for use in the food industry. For the protein element, for example, they experimented with rapeseed, lupins, whey or sunflowers. In practice, agricultural operations could deliver unused waste materials from production to the packaging industry. Turning to the waxes, the researchers went for beeswax and wax produced from the candelilla bush native to northern Mexico and from the Brazilian carnauba palm.
“We decided on these waxes because they are biodegradable, approved for food contact and readily available on the market,” explains Müller.
Conventional laboratory techniques, such as crushing, heating, agitating and mixing, are employed in production.
“The skill is in the mixing ratio and the sequence in which the individual substances are added. The flexibility with the ratio when mixing the different substances also allows us to optimize the coating for specific applications,” says Müller.
Packaging for meat, for example, containing more antioxidants, could have a particularly strong antimicrobial and antioxidative effect, whereas a wax coating protects salad packed in a pouch especially well against drying out.
Advantages for producers, retailers and consumers
The researchers have even thought of the very practical aspects. The bioactive coating can be used for cardboard as well as paper. And printing on the packaging is no problem either. A producer could print on their logo or the nutrition information required under food law. Discount stores and food retailers will also benefit from the Fraunhofer packaging. Because consumers are following the trend towards resource-efficient, biodegradable and plastic-free packaging.
The project partners at Fraunhofer IVV and Fraunhofer IGB are already experimenting with concepts for applying the coating directly to foods such as fruit or vegetables, thereby extending their shelf life. Edible coatings are harmless to health by their very nature.
The investment will replace the complete press section of the PM2 paper machine with new state-of-the-art technology, increasing the overall efficiency of the manufacturing process. The PM2 is a 7.5 meters wide paper machine, producing both testliner and fluting packaging paper. Production speed will increase to 1250 m/min and upon completion, this world class machine will further strengthen the industrial efficiency of Smurfit Kappa Group's containerboard system. It is expected to be operational from the first quarter of 2023.
Saverio Mayer, CEO, Smurfit Kappa Europe said: “This investment will be the final and significant phase of a programme of sustained investment at our Hoya Mill which commenced over a decade ago. Today’s announcement underlines Smurfit Kappa’s continued commitment to developments in leading edge technology and our operations in Germany.”
The investment means that CO2 emissions will be reduced by 5,500 tons per annum.
Also commenting on the investment, Andreas Noss, Managing Director of the Smurfit Kappa Hoya Mill, said: “This investment will make the PM2 a state-of-the-art light weight paper machine that enables us to meet the changing needs of our customers. It will increase production speed and produce light weight paper in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.”
The Hoya site in Germany has been in operation for over 50 years and is a major regional employer, with over 300 people working at the facility.
The inner layer of the sustainable bottle is 100 percent virgin high density polyethylene (HDPE), while the external layer is primarily made from PCR with an overall balance of 50% virgin PE and 50% PCR. The virgin HDPE inner layer and accurate selection of PCR assure product integrity and the visibility of the filled product level. Additionally, all external components such as corner protectors, plastic feet or plastic pallets are produced with recycled polyethylene.
The PCR is generated from the collection of empty IBCs which are then treated by reconditioning and recycling partner facility in Russia.
“This was a very rewarding project for the Greif Russia team, and we are pleased that this product is now commercially available in our region,” commented Konstantin Chetverikov, quality and technology manager for IBCs Greif Russia. “Being able to generate our own source of PCR from IBC bottles that might otherwise end up in landfill, means we can support customers in achieving their sustainability goals by decreasing raw material consumption and reducing CO2 emission into the atmosphere. It is also a significant step towards ad vancing our own circular economy principles.”
The GCUBE PCR bottle is an extension of Greif’s EcoBalance product line which includes drums and other containers made using PCR. The EcoBalance product line helps support many of Greif’s customers with their sustainability goals including reducing carbon emissions, energy consumption and diverting waste from landfills.
GCube EcoBalance is already available in Italy and Russia while being implemented in Germany and Spain. Further expansions will follow in the coming months with the target to produce this sustainable product in most of our GCUBE facilities including APAC and North America.
If you would like to find out more about the GCUBE EcoBalance with a PCR bottle please contact your local account manager.
Since people today want to live greener lives, they look for choices that can make the world a better place. That’s why we supplied the following Stora Enso materials for the contestants to use in their designs:
• CKB Nude brown kraft board
• Cupforma Natura food service board
• Natura Life brown liquid packaging board
• Tambrite / Tamfold carton boards