Green Packaging, not Greenwashing

At the end of March, the German trade magazine Packaging Journal invited readers to a round table discussion in cyberspace. The invited guests were Optima experts Dominik Broellochs and Ulrich Burkart (both Group Sustainability Managers), packaging consultant Carolina Schweig, and from the packaging industry Timothy Glaz, Head of Corporate Affairs at Werner & Mertz with the well-known Frosch brand.

Sustainability is a future-oriented issue. The way forward is being set today, and it requires interdisciplinary strategies. Dominik Broellochs pointed out that when it comes to sustainability projects, recycling technology providers should ideally also have a seat at the table. Optima recently entered into a strategic partnership with Voith, the leading supplier of paper machines and paper recycling systems. The aim of the collaboration is to develop sustainable paper packaging solutions. Right from the outset, it is being evaluating how and whether the newly designed packaging can be recycled in the paper stream. In the meantime, Optima is working on packaging development, and has already been able to present the first sustainable packaging solutions.

Today, mechanical engineering no longer works the way it used to, added Ulrich Burkart. “Particularly in terms of sustainable solutions, we are now addressing this issue collectively and at a much earlier stage, from the packaging material to the machine to the entire life cycle of the machine.” This is now only possible by working as a network. As a result, project runtimes are massively shortened, risks minimized and results improved.

Monomaterial for the cycle

There was extensive discussion and support for the use of monomaterials for packaging, because they can be recycled in an optimal way. Using diaper packaging as an example, Dominik Broellochs presented a solution that satisfies both marketing and ecology considerations. Here, in a fully automated process, a paper sleeve is inserted with the diapers into transparent PE mono-material bags. Only the paper is printed to attract attention. The bag and its contents look tightly packed and of high quality. Adhesive dots are not used, which means that the materials are mono-materials. When consumers dispose of them, they split into their constituent parts virtually on their own. If the consumer does not separate the packaging, due to the absence of material bonding it can be separated by existing sorting technologies.

It was also made clear that plastics today can achieve a quality via single-variety recycling that matches the quality of the original material. “We take the view here that no single packaging material is more eco-friendly than another,” said Broellochs. “It makes no sense to basically switch everything over to paper. Nevertheless, the use of paper means there is a lot of more sustainable packaging,” explains Broellochs. Optima and its partners offer GreenLution, a sustainable capsule system. It features a single-material capsule with recyclable lid film and a compatible packaging system. This development means that the partner companies are promoting a sustainable closed-loop system from production and use, through to recycling of the packaging.

Ulrich Burkart brought up an interesting approach for certain product groups with concentrates. “Concentrates in solid or liquid form are being used in the food, cosmetics, chemical and pharmaceutical industries to reduce the transportation volume of certain products,” Burkart said. Here, the water component is largely dispensed as a product ingredient, and the consumer mixes up their ready-to-use product at home. As an example, he presented a package that was smaller than a fist and contained the fragrance for about seven liters of water. Other examples include liquid laundry detergent, powdered milk and instant coffee. These products can be stored for longer in concentrated form and are easier to handle as they fit into smaller packaging. This reduces packaging materials, transport volume and consequently CO2 emissions. It also saves storage space. When filling highly concentrated products, it is imperative to reduce product losses to a minimum. To do this, Optima offers high-precision filling technology. It is also possible with concentrates to effectively reduce the footprint of manufacturing and filling systems. This is highly significant in many sectors.

Last but not least, the participants emphasized that it is enormously important to bring the consumer along when it comes to sustainability. At present, they are more likely to be confused than informed by greenwashing.

The entire round table discussion can be followed here:

There’s more on the issue of sustainability at Optima here:

Written by Kevin Gambrill

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