Innovative heat-seal grape punnet optimises value chain

With the goal of reducing the post-harvest cooling period and eliminating moisture and condensation that results in product spoilage, Mpact Versapak, a division of the Mpact Group, recently redesigned its 100% post-consumer rPET grape punnet to optimise the entire value chain.

The fruit industry is vitally important to South Africa as a foreign currency earner and a large provider of stable employment.

According to a report from the South African Journal of Plant and Soil, during the past 25 years there has been a tremendous amount of positive change in the post-harvest handling of fruits in the country. This is primarily due to the adoption of a number ofnew technologies developed in response to changes in the industry.

The grape industry uses rapid cooling and packaging to protect grapes from desiccation and decay. Numerous packaging methods and combinations are used in the industry with each having their own advantages and disadvantages.

“This innovation provides a solution to a number of value specific time and environmental challenges posed by value chain members, and highlights the importance of recycling,” says Wessel Oelofse, general manager of Versapak.

“Our in-house research, design and development team redesigned the heat seal grape punnet to include ten additional edge slots on the bottom rim and four base holes,” explains Oelofse. “This led to improved airflow and drainage of ‘free moisture’ that results in a shorter cooling time, and eliminates the risk of freezer damage, especially for punnets located furthest from the cooling fan.”

According to Oelofse the innovative solution resulted in a 43% reduction in cooling times when compared to the existing design, andby 49% when compared to the leading international punnet.

This means that the product offers substantial environmental benefits. These include lower product spoilage (that often has a higher carbon footprint compared to the packaging itself), time saving in the cooling process, energy and carbon footprint saving and a reduced need to increase future storage facilities for this rapidly growing market.

“Although the international market specifies a median product weight, our specialist team also managed to produce the punnet 7.5% lighter than the international specification,” explains Oelofse. “Its export rate means that not only is our post-consumer waste reduced, but that within international recycling streams, this light-weighted punnet can enjoy the full recycling status of being 100% recycled and recyclable.”

“We are pleased to report that 288,000 kilograms of PET has been removed from South African landfills between October 2021 to January 2022,” he continues. “Its predecessor, the conventional grape punnet, has contributed to removing 832,000 kilograms of PET from landfill during the period of January to December 2021.”

Organisations across the value chain benefitting from this innovation include farmers, cooling and storage facilities, transporting contractors, and ultimately, the consumer who receives good quality and fresher produce.

“Our redesigned grape punnet enjoyed a 100% export rate to Europe, United Kingdom, Middle East, Canada, South East Asia, Africa and Russia,” says Oelofse. “The grape harvesting season is in full swing between October 2021 to April 2022, so this newly launched product has not reached its full potential as yet.

“Expansion of this design into other fresh produce categories are underway, which will result in further environmental benefits,” concludes Oelofse.

About Mpact Versapak

Mpact Versapak is a division of the Mpact Group, the largest paper and plastics packaging manufacturer and recycling business in southern Africa. Mpact Versapak offers a wide range of branded packaging, including PET and polystyrene trays, expanded polystyrene packaging and cling film for both the local and international FMCG, fast food, fresh food, beverage and agricultural sectors.

It operates from the Western Cape and Gauteng and distributes its products through an extensive countrywide network. In-house design functions allows Versapak to rapidly respond to customer needs, market trends and new product developments, and the latest technology is used to improve the performance of its packaging.

All its packaging is manufactured to stringent health and safety standards. BRC accreditation ensures that Versapak is committed and regulated to only use accredited raw materials that are safe for direct food contact.

The circular economy

A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative by intention and design. It is a model of production and consumption, which involves the sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling of existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.

This is a departure from the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a take-make-consume-throw-away pattern and relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy. There is overwhelming evidence that such a model is not sustainable.

Mpact is leading the way in developing a circular economy within the manufacturing industry in South Africa. For Mpact’s products and manufacturing processes, this means that what cannot be reused should be collected, recycled and made into new products. It is good business that benefits the environment, communities, the economy and the world.



‘We need composting, but compostable packaging is still single-use’

Compostable packaging is popularly seen as an answer to plastic pollution, but while it has a role to play in a circular economy, it is not a silver bullet. Any time a piece of packaging is used once – no matter how it is disposed of – it is single-use. Preventing waste in the first place should be a top priority, says Laura Collacott, freelance editor at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

n 2018, Collins Dictionary named ‘single-use’ as its word of the year as the world woke up to the plastic pollution crisis. Single-use plastics have come to epitomise our take-make-waste linear economy, and as global awareness has grown, ‘no excuse for single-use’ has become a common refrain.

From straws and plastic bags to disposable coffee cups and takeaway cartons, retailers and their customers have been looking for ways to reduce consumption of disposable plastics.

A shift to compostable packaging – products made from biodegradable materials that can, if handled properly, be returned to the earth after use – appears to be an intuitive solution, particularly for the food industry.

And a popular one. Vegware, a UK-based supplier of plant-based, compostable packaging, saw its sales increase by 53% in 2019 and a further 43% in 2020. In Canada, fast-food chain KFC has committed to make all its consumer-facing packaging home compostable by 2025.

These trends are echoed in Europe, North America, and Asia and look set to continue. Research by Future Market Insights suggests that global sales of compostable foodservice packaging will reach USD 19.9 billion in 2022 and USD 28.8 billion by 2029, with the Asia-Pacific region the fastest growth area thanks to government policies to stem the tide of plastic pollution.

However, compostable packaging is not a cure-all.

The term compostable is often confused with the terms biodegradable and bio-based. This can lead to some solutions being mishandled and their environmental impacts miscommunicated. These terms can be distinguished as follows:

Biodegradable materials can be broken down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass by the natural action of microorganisms over an unspecified length of time and in undefined conditions.

Compostable materials are able to be broken down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass within a specific time frame under specific conditions. This can mean either home-compostable (at ambient temperatures and with a natural microbial community) or industrially compostable (under increased temperatures, humidity, and specifically formulated microbial conditions).

Compostable materials can be made from either bio-based or petrochemical inputs. Compostable packaging is subject to certification standards in North America, Japan, and Europe.

Bio-based plastics refer to where the material comes from rather than what happens to it after use. Conventional plastics are largely oil-based. Bio-based plastics are made – either wholly or partly – from polymers drawn from organic sources such as plants, microorganisms, and greenhouse gases (examples include cornalgaeyeast and CO2).

Compostable packaging: a good idea in principle

First and foremost, single-use products, regardless of the material used, tend to consume more energy and produce more emissions than recycled or reused alternatives. Once used, most compostable packaging can only currently be broken down effectively in industrial composting facilities, ideally in-vessel composting, an energy intensive process that requires heat and oxygen inputs over several weeks.

Although data is patchy, some life cycle assessments (LCAs) found compostable materials can have higher environmental impacts than non-compostable alternatives. While LCAs don’t take into account the long-term impacts of a system that only uses non-compostable packaging nor the potential for more efficient energy use as compostables reach scale, they do highlight the challenges in simply swapping conventional packaging for compostable alternatives.

Then there are the problems of collection, sorting, and processing.

Specialist industrial composting facilities are not currently widespread. For example, although the UK has invested heavily in anaerobic digestion facilities to process food waste, industrial composting infrastructure is not yet sufficient to process compostable packaging at scale. In the US, there are fewer than 100 plants capable of processing certified packaging. Transporting materials to the right plant increases their carbon footprint.

Poor waste sorting systems mean that compostables often well-meaningly find their way into the wrong streams, contaminating full batches of recycling and condemning them to landfill. That’s if products are effectively collected and sorted in the first place.

The vast majority are not. In the UK, only 1 in 400 takeaway coffee cups, compostable or otherwise, currently make it an appropriate processing facility. The rest are binned or leaked into the environment. Once in landfill, compostable packaging can take years to biodegrade, and can release the same harmful methane emissions as food waste in the process, while products that end up in the natural environment may not biodegrade at all.

Prevention is better than cure

In a circular economy, the more intact a material can stay while being circulated the better, as it preserves not only the material, but also the embedded labour and energy. As a rule of thumb, retaining the shape of the packaging (e.g. through reuse) is more desirable than grinding up the packaging (e.g. through mechanical recycling) which, in turn, is more desirable than breaking the packaging down into basic chemical components.

Composting is the biological equivalent of recycling. In the face of our current environmental challenges, recycling won’t be enough to overcome the sheer amount of waste we produce. “In a properly built circular economy, one should rather focus on avoiding the recycling stage at all costs,” states the World Economic Forum. “It may sound straightforward, but preventing waste from being created in the first place is the only realistic strategy.”

Greenpeace USA cautioned against solutions that simply substitute single-use items for other disposables in a report published in 2019: “There is no way the planet can sustain additional demand from companies attempting to substitute their single-use plastic packaging; companies must commit to overall reduction of packaging and shift to alternative delivery systems like reuse and refill.”

A circular economy instead prioritises upstream solutions that address problems right at the source by eliminating unnecessary packaging and circulating the packaging that is needed. For example, deposit-return systems for reusable coffee cups eliminate the need for disposables altogether, and laser-marking the skin of some fruit and vegetables removes the need for plastic wraps and stickers. Reuse is another upstream solution. Jute bags, for example, can be reused a number of times and are ultimately compostable at the end of their useful lives.

When composting is an effective solution

Exceptions, however, prove the rule. There are instances where well thought through, compostable solutions are the best fit for a circular economy – particularly where they return nutrients to the soil and contribute to regenerating soils and building a healthy food system. Switching to compostable fruit stickers or using seaweed sachets for sauce servings, for example, can prevent contamination of organic materials and ensure more of them can be safely returned to the soil.

Closed-loop systems are ideal applications. Take a festival or sports event: using compostable packaging means uneaten food and scraps can be thrown in a single bin for processing, preserving food nutrients without contaminating the waste stream. Similarly, collection services where companies both supply and collect compostable packaging reduces contamination and leakage, and ensures that materials are circulated at their highest value.

For example, Biopak’s Compost Club supplies and later collects used packaging from businesses for its own compost service, and has diverted more than 1,500 tonnes of compostable packaging and food scraps from landfill in Australia and New Zealand since launching in 2017. In Milan, municipal authorities have tripled the collection of separated food waste by providing vented bins and compostable bags to residents, enabling the production of good quality compost for farmers.

Overall, compostables could be an appropriate substitute for up to 20% of plastic flexibles – the fastest-growing plastic-packaging category – while the Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) estimates that compostable materials could substitute around 5-8% of current plastic packaging”.

Building compostable packaging into the circular economy

Compostable packaging is one of multiple solutions needed to prevent waste, circulate materials, and regenerate nature. It is best suited to certain scenarios, notably food and drink applications where it can help increase the proportion of organic waste collected, treated and recycled, which at the moment stands at only 13%. To increase this rate, industrial facilities need to be scaled globally over the coming years to capture and circulate organic materials, some of which will be collected alongside compostable food packaging.

For this to be effective, we need global investment in collection and processing infrastructure to ensure both the logistics and economics work. Italy’s compostable packaging EPR scheme is an example of a mechanism for raising funds.

Concurrently, businesses and policymakers need to develop and roll out labelling systems and collection streams that effectively separate and sort compostable materials. Technological advances such as digital watermarks are making this increasingly feasible and affordable.

But before turning to compostable solutions, even if the right treatment facilities are available, businesses should ask themselves first and foremost if elimination or reuse would be better solutions. After all, what we really need to tackle is our throw-away economy.



Can advanced recycling support flexible packaging’s quest for circularity?

Sreeparna Das spoke to Bob Powell, CEO of Brightmark, to understand the role advanced recycling – also known as chemical recycling – can play in supporting the demands of the flexible packaging sector, the key growth areas, and the existing challenges to scaling up advanced recycling.

As demand for more recycled content, commitment to meet environmental objectives and consumer expectations converge, significant increases in recycling capacities are needed. Advanced recycling is a pathway receiving significant capital investment and seeing numerous high-profile partnerships emerge.

Brightmark has signed a memorandum of understanding with bp to jointly evaluate opportunities to develop next generation plastics renewal plants in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands; and recently become ISCC+ certified and active in CEFLEX to work more closely across the whole flexible packaging value chain.

SD: Can you shed some light on recycling choices and the possible pathways to a circular economy?

BP: There are a number of steps on a mission to reimagine waste and hopefully, in the end, create a world without waste. Thinking of this as ‘it takes a village’ is really important here. Reduction in use is one of the important solutions and we advocate the reduction of plastic waste by lowering consumption. And before post-consumer plastic products get to us, there need to be the right incentives and the ecosystem in place to avoid plastics entering the environment.

Specific to mechanical or advanced recycling pathways, an important aspect is to determine how much of the post-use waste stream can each technology process in the most efficient way. There is a high value in mechanical recycling of plastic waste streams like water bottles – and in reference to the one to seven plastic categories – the ones, some of the twos, and some of the fours.

Over time, the products that mechanical recycling produces, however, will break down and it won’t be possible to continuously recycle plastics via mechanical recycling, at least as well as we’re aware now. That’s where a technology like advanced recycling comes in. At Brightmark, our patented plastics renewal technology can recycle every single one of the plastics, one through seven. We don’t target the waste streams where mechanical recycling produces a higher value but we can definitely take the rest. And so I think the complementary nature of mechanical and advanced recycling of plastics is very powerful.

SD: What according to you are the main barriers to scaling up advanced recycling?

BP: With 385 million tonnes of plastics used a year and only 9% of those plastics recycled today, I believe that advanced recycling has the power to change the equation globally. But there are a couple of barriers. The first thing is to understand where we are in the lifecycle of this solution.

Right now, we’re in the early days and it is necessary to find a way to scale the technologies that work as quickly as possible. We need both community and governmental involvement. And we also need involvement from the waste management communities and the producers of plastics. Those of us like Brightmark that are in the advanced recycling area need to show the world that it’s working. Our first facility, which is located in northeast Indiana, United States, is nearing completion and thus can demonstrate the ability to sell our liquids to remake plastics and other products.

It is also really important to engage with a lot of NGOs and different groups that are very concerned about plastic waste but are sceptical about what we’re doing. You may notice that I didn’t use the word ‘chemical’ when I say advanced recycling because people grab onto certain words without deeply understanding and listening, which makes them say ‘I don’t want anything to do with chemicals’. I think it’s really important to listen to their concerns, be thoughtful about them, and not dismiss the potential problems.

One of the concerns that the groups have, and that we at Brightmark are attuned to, is about environmental justice. So when creating solutions, we must ensure that we are not disadvantaging some communities that have historically been disadvantaged. Similarly, regarding the environmental impacts of advanced recycling technologies, it is important that we draw in independent parties to ensure clear and credible communication. In that vein, we commissioned a lifecycle analysis at our first facility in Ashley, Indiana from an independent university and consulting firm.


BP: There is a clear trend requiring an increased percentage of recycled content in flexible packaging. A lot of it has to do with consumer trends as there’s greater awareness of the post-use plastics issue amongst consumers, who are demanding that the products they buy have higher recycled content. So there’s that whole downstream pull, starting from the actual users of the products. And what I anticipate is until we are up at scale, there will be a lot of stress involved in that process because we will not be scaling as fast as the flexible packaging community wants. What we need is tremendous amounts of capital to be invested in order to move faster and scale quicker.

This supply-demand mismatch is quite interesting because when we designed our first facility in Ashley, Indiana, the demand that we see today wasn’t there. The world has changed really quickly as producers commit to environmental goals and respond to regulatory pressures. So it requires us that are upstream to scale quicker and create an ecosystem to get to the required volume of supply. We’ll need a lot of partnerships evolving within the ecosystem, i.e. waste management companies, advanced and mechanical recyclers, and the flexible packaging community.

Also, plastics generally have not been treated as a waste stream that needed to be preserved and reused. So we’ve got the mixing in of organic material and many other things with plastics. And even though our technology is very flexible and can process plastic types one through seven, we need to create the capability of separating mixed waste so we don’t get a lot of organic material. We’ve seen that with the right economic incentives, it is possible to do so because instead of a cost, there is now an income stream associated with it. To create sustainable solutions that really drive change, the projects must also be economically sustainable as well.

SD: Can you help us identify the future growth areas?

BP: I’m a big believer that one needs to go and tackle the biggest problems first – the Pareto principle. Making sure we tackle it in areas where we have the waste problem is definitely one of the key trends. And in terms of where the waste is produced, certainly, the industrialized world is a big area. I would also include parts of the world that may not be as industrialized but are facing different sets of issues with regard to waste management. Eight of the top ten rivers in the world that bring plastics to the ocean are located in the Asia Pacific region. So if, at Brightmark, we have a mission to reimagine waste, then doing it just in the States or just in some particular areas is probably not going to drive the greatest impact. I think what you would see is us at Brightmark and probably others being very geographically focused. Last year we announced plans to build one of our facilities in South Korea, and earlier this year, we announced a project in Australia to do the same. Also on our radar are Mumbai and other places throughout the world.

Another important trend to note here is the ESG investing area, which can drive growth. The financial community is increasing its focus on social causes and environmental issues. Much more capital is now being directed towards economic solutions that drive environmental solutions and have a positive social impact.

SD: Concerning value chain collaborations, how can converters, brands, and recyclers work together to achieve the best impact?

BP: In order for us to solve the problem, we have to start with the dream and then get very specific about reality. The first step is to look at the participants along the entire value chain and break down each one of their specific areas. These include advanced recyclers, waste management companies, picking communities, producers, financial institutions, and governments, and then talk very specifically about the economics and the support systems.

Getting the required regulatory support will aid this process and governments can play an important role with initiatives such as tax credit assistance, which have shown good results, for example, with renewable energy across the world. I think it’s also important that legislation supporting our industry also ensures that we’re very transparent about the environmental impacts. I fully endorse the need for advanced recyclers to also be held to a standard and we’re open to feedback and criticism because, at the end of the day, we’re all trying to resolve the environmental issues.


News & Updates Sustainability

Scientists develop starch-based biopolymer coating with antimicrobial properties for food packaging

Scientists at Rutgers University, New Jersey, have developed a starch-based, degradable biopolymer coating with naturally occurring antimicrobial ingredients, which can reportedly be sprayed onto food to protect against contamination, spoilage, and transportation damage.

Conducted in collaboration with scientists at Harvard University and funded by the Harvard-Nanyang Technological University/Singapore Sustainable Nanotechnology Initiative, the Rutgers research on the bio-based, antimicrobial packaging technology was published in Nature Food this month.

The researchers explain that the starch-based biopolymer forms a stringy material that can be spun from a heating device that resembles a hairdryer and shrink-wrapped over foods of various shapes and sizes, ranging from avocados to a sirloin steak. The biopolymer is produced by a process called focus rotary jet spinning, as described by the research paper.

According to the researchers, the bio-based coating can be laced with naturally occurring antimicrobial ingredients such as thyme oil, citric acid, and nisin. The coating is reportedly strong enough to protect against bruising while also inhibiting pathogenic microorganisms such as E. coli and listeria.

The researchers add that they can programme these ‘smart materials’ to act as sensors, activating and destroying bacterial strains on food, which can potentially reduce the transmission of food-borne illnesses and lower the risk of spoilage. For example, the research cites a quantitative assessment apparently showing that the coating extended the shelf life of avocados by 50%.

In addition, the coating can be rinsed off with water and degrades in soil within three days, according to the study. The researchers consider the biopolymer coating to be a scalable, cost-effective solution for both protecting human health and reducing the use of fossil-based plastic food packaging.

Philip Demokritou, director of the Nanoscience and Advanced Materials Research Center, and the Henry Rutgers Chair in Nanoscience and Environmental Bioengineering at the Rutgers School of Public Health and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, comments: “We knew we needed to get rid of the petroleum-based food packaging that is out there and replace it with something more sustainable, biodegradable and nontoxic.

“And we asked ourselves at the same time, ‘Can we design food packaging with a functionality to extend shelf life and reduce food waste while enhancing food safety?’

“What we have come up with is a scalable technology, which enables us to turn biopolymers, which can be derived as part of a circular economy from food waste, into smart fibres that can wrap food directly. This is part of new generation, ‘smart’ and ‘green’ food packaging.”

Research on antimicrobial food packaging films appears to be expanding globally. Earlier this year, a team of scientists fromNanyang Technological University, Singapore and Harvard University developed waterproof packaging made from a type of corn protein, zein, along with starch, other naturally derived biopolymers, and antimicrobial compounds. The packaging reportedly kills harmful microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi, while extending the shelf life of fresh fruit by two to three days.


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UPM launches fibre-based high-barrier packaging solution

UPM Speciality Papers has unveiled UPM Solide Lucent, a recyclable speciality kraft paper that the company says can be used as a coating base or for single-packs, bags, and wraps, with higher basis weights offered for a range of properties and applications.

According to UPM, UPM Solide Lucent is a kraft paper that is repulpable and designed to be recycled in existing fibre recycling streams. The company claims that the kraft paper is made from virgin cellulose fibres from responsibly grown forests, with FSC and PEFC certification available, and has a fibre content of over 95%.

This apparently leaves room for additional coatings while allowing the final packaging product to be recyclable in current fibre recycling streams. The company notes that UPM Solide Lucent is also compostable in accordance with the EN13432 standard.

UPM adds that Solide Lucent offers high strength, density, and folding properties that help to ensure the mechanical integrity and barrier performance of the packaging during converting and throughout the value chain. The company says the kraft paper also offers “excellent” print results with both flexo and rotogravure printing.

In addition to UPM Solide Lucent’s existing basis weights (45 g/m² and 62 g/m²), UPM says that it has added three new, higher basis weights: 72, 78, and 90 g/m². Lower basis weights have the flexibility for smaller pack sizes and higher basis weights offer rigidity and sturdiness where needed, according to the company.

Tommi Heinonen, head of sales at UPM Specialty Papers, explains: “We are always listening to our customers’ wishes, and there has been a strong demand for higher basis weights of UPM Solide Lucent.

“Brand owners choose materials with the functional properties, economics and consumer behaviour in mind. Basis weight requirements depend on end uses, functional needs, and market messages.

“Thanks to its outstanding sustainability credentials, this paper is a safe and smart choice for converters and brand owners looking to co-create new products with us.

“The target is also to reduce value chain recycling fees in the long run.”

Mika Uusikartano, senior manager of product portfolio management at UPM Specialty Papers, concludes: “Together with customers and partners, we can develop truly sustainable medium and high barrier packaging solutions, matching customer needs in a wide range of food and non-food applications.”

Last year, UPM Speciality Papers expanded its selection of recyclable packaging papers with the launch of a new two-sided coated barrier paper, UPM Asendo Pro, which apparently offers advanced grease resistance, moisture resistance, and a mineral oil barrier to help protect dry, greasy, or frozen food products.


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Carlsberg Likes PEF Barrier Paper Bottle

A formalized agreement commits the beer company to use PEF made from Avantium’s FDCA Flagship Plant starting in 2024.

Carlsberg Group expects that the future of the paper bottle for its iconic beer is through a barrier made of polyethylene furanoate, better known as PEF.

The company along with the renewable chemistry specialists of Avantium have agreed to take the next step in the commercialization of polyethylene furanoate (PEF) for their mutual benefit. The Group signed a conditional offtake agreement with Avantium to secure a fixed volume of the 100% plant-based, recyclable, and high-performance polymer PEF from Avantium’s FDCA Flagship Plant, which Avantium aims to start-up in 2024.

FDCA is furandicarboxylic acid, a monomer, that’s a building block for manufacturing PEF.

Carlsberg will use the PEF resin for various packaging applications, including its “Fibre Bottle” aka paper bottle, a bio-based and fully recyclable beer bottle.

Carlsberg launched a trial of its latest Fibre Bottle, which contains an inner layer of PEF produced in Avantium’s current Pilot Plant. Carlsberg will sample the Fibre Bottle to 8,000 consumers and other selected stakeholders in eight pilot markets in Western Europe.

Avantium and Carlsberg have been partners since 2019 as the companies worked together with Paboco (Paper Bottle Company) and the Paper Bottle Community. Paboco, Avantium and Carlsberg developed the Fibre Bottle, a barrier solution, and a pioneering packaging solution for Carlsberg beer.

Image courtesy of Carlsberg GroupAvantium-Carlsberg-PEF-289px.png

PEF’s superior performance qualities.

Today, the packaging consists of a wood fiber outer shell and a plant-based, recyclable PEF polymer liner. Beyond the sustainable packaging benefits, Avantium’s PEF has superior barrier properties, protecting the taste and fizziness of the beer and leading to a longer shelf life.

PEF also has higher mechanical strength than conventional plastics, enabling thinner packaging and thereby reducing the amount of material required.

In 2021, Avantium and Carlsberg signed a Joint Development Agreement to develop several PEF packaging applications, including the Fibre Bottle. With the test results of PEF in the Fibre Bottle proving successful, Carlsberg has decided to sign a conditional offtake agreement with Avantium to purchase PEF resin coming from its Flagship Plant, currently under construction in The Netherlands, for its Fibre Bottle and for the development of other beer packaging applications.

In its largest trial of the Fibre Bottle to date, today Carlsberg has revealed the latest generation design featuring the PEF lining and will sample 8,000 bottles across eight Western European markets throughout the summer. The bottles will be introduced to local consumers, customers and other stakeholders at selected festivals and flagship events, as well as targeted product sampling. Making the product accessible and gathering consumer feedback at this scale will be key to informing the next generation of design and accelerating Carlsberg’s ambition to make the Fibre Bottle a commercial reality.

Brand sees good test results.

“We are delighted to be bringing our new Fibre Bottle into the hands of consumers, allowing them to experience it for themselves,” says Stephane Munch, VP group development at Carlsberg. “However, this pilot will serve a greater purpose in testing the production, performance, and recycling of this product at scale. Identifying and producing PEF, as a competent functional barrier for beer, has been one of our greatest challenges — so getting good test results, collaborating with suppliers, and seeing the bottles being filled on the line is a great achievement!”

Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium, says “We are pleased to expand our partnership with Carlsberg. It is a truly exciting milestone — for the very first time — consumers can experience a PEF-lined beer bottle. With business partners such as Carlsberg Group, Avantium can further scale and build the PEF value chain, meeting the growing global demand for circular and renewable material solutions. This is what the material transition is about: ensuring that consumers can get access to novel and sustainable products at scale.”


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Walki introduces portfolio of recyclable materials for frozen food segment

Walki, a specialist in packaging and engineering materials, says it is answering to the growing demand for frozen food by expanding its portfolio of recyclable materials.

The global market for frozen food is expected to grow to 322bn by 2026. Although the demand is growing globally across all age groups, it is said to be especially popular among younger consumers.

“Frozen food is an ideal way to prolong shelf life without losing out on the vitamins. It is also an excellent way to combat food waste. This is important as up to 9 % of global carbon emissions can be attributed to food waste, especially fruit and vegetables”, said Dudley Jones, consumer sales at Walki.

Walki is introducing a broad portfolio of different materials, including printed solutions, to suit the needs of the frozen food market with the aim of making the packaging fully recyclable in the paper stream.

“Frozen food places high demands on the packaging. It needs to be both sturdy and puncture-resistant to handle diverse situations like pressures of sealing and mechanical tear during transportation. The packaging also needs to withstand variability in temperatures as some frozen food is defrosted in its packaging”, explained Jones.

WalkiEVO Seal and WalkiOpti Seal are recyclable paper-based packaging intended especially for pillow-pouches for frozen food. WalkiEVO Seal has a dispersion coating as barrier against water vapour and grease while WalkiOpti Seal has an optimised PE-extrusion coating.

“The dispersion coating makes WalkiEVO Seal recyclable in the waste-paper stream without any separation process, while the minimised PE-coating on WalkiOpti Seal makes it suitable to be recycled with paper with an acceptable fibre yield”, said Andreas Rothschink, head of product development at Walki.

Both are suitable for all kind of frozen food: vegetables, seafood, bakery products to name a few.

LamibelMDO-PE is a film-based material for pillow pouches made of reverse printed MDO-film and solvent-free laminated with low sealing LDPE. According to Walki, the film thickness is minimised while performance is maximised by replacing other sorts of materials such as PP- or PET-films, thanks to the MDO technology,.

“This combination of two PE-films makes the packaging fully recyclable in the plastics stream. The stretched film has better optics with high stiffness and mechanical properties than standard PE. The film can also be transparent, allowing the consumer to see the product”, said Rothschink.

LamibelMDO-PE is a suitable material for all type of packaging (doypack, flowpack, pouches, etc.) as well as all kind of frozen food like vegetables, sharp-edges seafood and bakery.

WalkiPack Tray is a board-based tray suitable for frozen ready-made meals, designed to replace aluminium, plastic or plastic-coated trays.

“The tray is easy to fill, transport and store, and is also the convenient choice for the consumer as the fibre-based tray is safe to use in microwaves and in conventional ovens up to 220 degrees for up to 60 minutes,” said Jones.


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Bio-Based Packaging Stars Digitally Printed Nebula

In five months, 20,000 different Nebula Snacks wrappers have been created…and as many unique bars.

Startup Nebula Snacks is reaching for the stars by leveraging the power of packaging to attract health-conscious consumers including vegans and diabetics.

Through the magic of digital printing, every bar wrapper is different, a theme the brand doubled down on by making every bar different, too.

The unusual name originates from the brand’s mission to “create and promote snacks made with better-for-you ingredients with ‘out-of-this-world delicious’ taste,” says David Jacobowitz, co-founder.

Nebula Snacks launched online on Thanksgiving 2021 with a commitment to natural and sustainable products — the bars are free of added sugars or animal by-product and centered on natural vegan recipes — and sustainable packaging.

The snacks’ on-package claim is “Wrappers made with Bio-Based Materials”.

That appears on the back of the wrapper. Other on-wrapper callouts: Sugar Free Planet, Plant-Based Planet, Sustainable Packaging Planet, and OU Kosher Certification

Supplied by Accuflex Packaging, the snack wrappers are made of REE34WSUP from S-One‘s ReEarth line. It’s a prelaminated structure composed of a Futamura-supplied cellophane print layer and a proprietary bio-sealant layer.

While the current films are not certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, Nebula Snacks’ next product run will include a closely related BPI-certified compostable film from S-One, REE34MSUP, that’s replacing the “W”-grade version.

Accuflex tells us that the wrapper provides a minimum one-year shelf-life, though brands using the material are encouraged to conduct tests to determine the “Best By” date. It explains that “materials stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment are likely to see an extension of that one year.”

Nebula Snacks set a two-year shelf life, Jacobowitz says. “Best By dating is listed on our ecommerce shipping box rather than the wrappers because our bars are sold exclusively online at the moment.”

Digital vision and details for 20,000 unique wrappers.

For the packaging design, Jacobowitz looked to the stars.

“It was essential to inspire wonder as to what delicious treat lies below the vast expansiveness of a nebula,” he says. “We wanted to capture those vivid colors on our packaging to showcase the vibrancy of flavor that’s found inside. The focus was on pink and purple for the dark chocolate bar and light and dark blue and for the oat milk bar.”

Nebula SnacksNebulaFronts-400-SQ.png

Nebula Snacks was unaware of the HP Mosaic tool when it approached Accuflex.

“As we explained our vision and shared our initial mockups, the Accuflex team identified the opportunity for us to truly expand our vision, much like a supernova that births a nebula,” Jacobowitz reports. This ensures that no two are the same.”

At the time of this report, that has totaled 20,000 unique wrappers.

The HP20000 digital printing system was installed in April 2020. Accuflex informs us that “our parent company has been a long-time supporter of HP Indigo and has been utilizing HP printing technology since 2003.”

HP has a suite of tools built into their workflow, HP SmartStream Designer, that makes variably printed materials relatively easy to produce. 

Two tools Accuflex uses on a regular basis are HP Mosaic and HP Collage. The supplier says that “for the Nebula Snacks project, we used HP Mosaic.”

Using an algorithm, the HP Mosaic software can generate millions of unique designs through variations of a core pattern by using scaling, transposition, and rotation.

The distinction doesn’t stop there. The top of the bars have a natural cocoa butter pattern sprayed on during manufacturing, a built-in variable such that “no two bars look the same, either,” Jacobowitz tells us.

The company launched with two chocolate flavors, one dark chocolate and one made of oat milk.

“Reminiscent of the flavors you’re used to, but better for you,” he adds.

Nebula SnacksNebula-EcoConsciousPackagingBreakdown-392-SQ.png

Nebula Snacks products are available at the company store and on Amazon in four stock-keeping units: a chocolate variety box with four dark and four oat milk bars; an 8-count oat milk box; an 8-count dark chocolate box; and a two bar sampler pack.

The commitment to sustainability extends to all four SKUs, which use either compostable or 100% recyclable materials that include

  • Boxes made with 100% recycled materials and are printed on the box top using algae ink.
  • Protective foam inserts in the boxes are made using cornstarch and are compostable.

“The inserts are water soluble and can be dissolved in your home sink,” Jacobowitz says.

The brand’s tagline reads “Nebula aims to not only be good for humans with our snacks, but to be good for the Earth!”

Shooting for the stars while keeping both feet planted on the ground is a good formula for success.


News & Updates Sustainability

NFT Coffee Pouches Are an Eye Opener

A new subscription coffee service, Bored Breakfast Club, is shaking things up with packaging that leverages the latest digital trend — NFTs.

Bored Breakfast Club is bringing the metaverse and real-life packaging together with a digital-meets-analog approach that features nonfungible token (NFT) illustrations on its coffee pouches.

An NFT is a blockchain-based digital identifier that certifies the authenticity and ownership of a digital file containing unique content, such as artwork. Bored Breakfast Club’s clever strategy marries those virtual assets to physical packaging.

Developed by Los Angeles-based digital design studio Kley, Bored Breakfast Club is a subscription service that periodically ships a new whole-bean coffee blend, in packaging designed specifically for that blend, directly to consumers. The first blend shipped in February 2022 to 70 countries.

Although some of the blends are available to consumers paying with non-crypto payment methods, the brand’s business model favors club members — that is, Bored Breakfast Club NFT holders.

For all the product releases, consumers who own one of Bored Breakfast Club’s 5,000 NFTs qualify for a free “rewards” shipment. The brand’s NFTs were minted in January 2022, and the number of owners is currently 2,600.

Bored Breakfast Club NFTs reside on the Ethereum blockchain, and each NFT is sized for use as a banner in the owner’s chosen social network. Each NFT depicts a unique breakfast scene.

The brand’s packaging has so far featured ape-themed NFT illustrations that Kley owns. But going forward, the company plans to license NFTs from the Bored Breakfast Club community for use in its limited-time package designs.

Despite the on-pack apes, Bored Breakfast Club is not affiliated with Yuga Labs, creator of the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.

Bored Breakfast Club’s 12-oz coffee pouches are co-branded with the brand’s own logo and that of coffee roaster Yes Plz. Printed at the top of the pouch, next to the tear line, is the phrase, “Tear to Ape In.” In NFT-speak, “aping in” means rushing into an NFT or cryptocurrency.

The pouches ship in a small corrugated carton; the tape on the carton is decorated with both logos plus whimsical illustrations of coffee cups and breakfast foods. This unboxing video on Twitter displays the packaging for “Greasy Spoon,” Blend Two, which began shipping on April 2, 2022.Image courtesy of Bored Breakfast ClubBored Breakfast Club tape-web.jpg

The brand is currently working on a charitable project, the #StandWithUkraine coffee blend. Bored Breakfast Club will sell this special-edition blend for $25 per pouch, with 100% of proceeds going to refugee and humanitarian efforts in and around Ukraine. The projected ship date for #StandWithUkraine is May 21, 2022.Image courtesy of Bored Breakfast ClubBored-Breakfast-Club-Ukraine-web.jpg

In this exclusive Packaging Digest interview, Brad Klemmer, founder, Kley and Bored Breakfast Club, answers questions about the brand’s packaging, NFTs, and coffee and explains the nuances of this ground-breaking marketing strategy.

Did Kley design all the Bored Breakfast Club NFTs?

Klemmer: Yes, we worked with an illustrator to create the generative scenes. There are millions of possibilities, but only 5,000 were minted.

Who’s the target consumer for Bored Breakfast Club coffee?

Klemmer: We’ve built a community of coffee lovers, both novice and pro. The entire community has been helping to educate one another on how to make a great cup and NFTs alike.

How does the NFT packaging and distribution model appeal to these consumers?

Klemmer: We’ve built an exclusive club that receives tangible rewards in the form of ongoing reward shipments. NFTs give us a tangible connection between our brand and the consumer.

We have access to data and feedback in real time, which helps us make business decisions and give our consumers exactly what they’re looking for, which helps propel our business forward in every aspect, while the consumer is being rewarded with constant and exclusive perks and benefits on an ongoing basis.

In addition to the great coffee they receive, we host a ton of community events in our Discord [community] and are continuously building out our digital content library to help educate people on coffee and how to make a great cup at home — teaching them about what they’re missing out on. And challenging their perception of what quality is. We know that with the smallest amount of effort, they can be enjoying better coffee at home than any coffee shop they may frequent, and at a fraction of the price.

The packaging is something the NFT community loves and shares a [lot] on social. We also have a program we call Blends with Friends, where we feature NFT art from other projects as a way of engaging and collaborating with other projects and communities.

Did you work with Desperate ApeWives (an NFT collection and community) on the Bored Breakfast Club project? If so, what was DAW’s role?

Klemmer: Desperate ApeWives (DAW) was one of our Blends with Friends releases. We simply partnered with them to release a one-time drop featuring a DAW on the packaging. 

How do Bored Breakfast Club NFT holders get their NFTs on your packaging?

Klemmer: Currently, the apes on the packaging are owned by Kley, but in the future we’ll be licensing them from our community for use on our ephemeral packaging. Holders will sign a simple contract and be compensated for the use of their ape/NFT.

What is “ephemeral packaging”?

Klemmer: Meaning that each release is unique and one-time. So we don’t have to worry about anyone’s intellectual property (IP) being leveraged after they may have sold the NFT to someone else. [Note: All Bored Breakfast Club blends are unique, limited-time offerings, so all the products are packaged in unique, aka ephemeral, packaging. Three products have shipped to date.]

How do you print your physical coffee packaging?

Klemmer: The bags are digitally printed.

What is your production volume for each blend that you release?

Klemmer: For each release, we roast enough to send one bag per NFT in our collection, which is 5,000.

How often do you ship a new blend?

Klemmer: Currently we’re about five to six weeks apart, but this will be dictated by the funding of the Community Coffee Wallet moving forward. [Note: Reward shipments are completely paid for by the Community Coffee Wallet.]

The Community Coffee Wallet is funded by royalties on secondary market sales — we have a royalty on Bored Breakfast Club NFTs that flows straight into the Community Coffee Wallet — but it’s also a piece of every decision we’ll make moving forward, from merch sales, coffee sales, and Blends with Friends, which are collaborations with other established NFT projects where we release exclusive blends while utilizing the IP of partner projects so they have a way of rewarding their communities with tangible goods. Who doesn’t love coffee?

Can consumers buy Bored Breakfast Club coffee online with a credit card? Or must they use their Bored Breakfast Club NFT to get a shipment of coffee?

Klemmer: Reward shipments are only available to NFT holders, but special-edition drops and Blends with Friends are available to the general public — though NFT holders do receive a discount.

Is there anything else about this packaging, the coffee, and NFTs that you’d like to add?

Klemmer: I’d encourage you to check out our Twitter feed to see holders from all over the world posting their coffee packages. 


News & Updates Sustainability

L’Oréal Paris to cut 50% of carbon footprint by 2030

Beauty brand L’Oréal Paris has committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 50% per finished product, and will contribute €10m to environmental projects whose beneficiaries are communities of women around the world.

These announcements form part of the brand’s ‘L’Oréal For the Future, Because our Planet is Worth it’ sustainability programme revealed on Thursday, which lays out a new set of ambitions for 2030. These ambitions build upon its sustainability achievements to date and are aligned with the goals of the larger L’Oréal Group.

“Now is the time to reconcile innovation, sustainability and progress, to make the shift to a circular economy and to reduce the impact of our products,” said Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, global brand president, L’Oréal Paris.

“We are not starting from scratch. Between 2005 and 2020, our factories and distribution centres have already reduced CO2 emissions by 82%, water consumption by 44%, and waste generation by 35%. There is still much work to be done but we will remain strong in our resolve to make a difference and play our part in this race against climate change.”

Optimising packaging

Reducing the weight of products: To help conserve natural resources and reduce the carbon footprint of products, the brand is working to reduce the weight of packaging. For example, it lowered the weight of the aluminium used in the L’Oréal Paris Men Expert Carbon Protect Aerosol by -5.1 grams per bottle, representing 135 tonnes of aluminium saved annually.

Also, by reducing the weight of the Revitalift jar, L’Oréal Paris reduced the use of glass for this product by 11 grams per jar, saving 434 tonnes of glass annually. Furthermore, the weight of boxes and instructions for hair colour ranges have been reduced, representing an important saving of paper every year.

By 2030, the brand will reduce by 20% in intensity the quantity of packaging. This economy of materials represents a significate optimisation of weight and space in transport, contributing to reduce carbon emissions due to transportation.

Using 100% recycled plastic: L’Oréal Paris is working on accelerating the shift to a circular economy, where materials are kept in use for as long as possible, by optimising packaging recyclability, striving to conserve resources and prevent plastic pollution. This includes using more recycled content in packaging, with the objective of reaching 100% recycled or biobased plastic by 2030 (or 0 virgin plastic).

Embodying change: Since 2020, the L’Oréal Paris haircare range, Elvive, has undertaken a major transformation by targeting 100% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) for shampoo and conditioner bottles in Europe.

Engaging consumers: To seek alternatives to single-use packaging and propose refill or reuse systems while engaging consumers, L’Oréal Paris will join Loop initiative and take part in a project to trial new types of durable packaging. The new shampoo and conditioner packaging will be made of aluminum, and sold with a deposit, on the retailer’s website. After using the products, consumers will be able to return the packaging to the retailer that will collect and return the packaging to L’Oréal Paris for cleaning and refining.

Improving formulas

To reduce its environmental impact, the brand is improving the biodegradability of its formulas and reducing its water footprint. Among the products launched in 2019, Elvive Full Resist Power Mask and Men Expert Shaving Barber Club Crème de Rasage have levels of biodegradability exceeding 94% (97% and 94% respectively).

Furthermore, to address a more conscious use of water during use phase (which represents 50% of the CO2 footprint of the brand, linked with heating the water for rinsing products) and help reduce the time needed in the shower, the brand also develops formulas that need less water to be rinsed (e.g. More than Shampoo), as well as new beauty routines that require fewer rinsing steps (two-in-one products or non-rinse haircare treatments such as Dream Lengths Management).

Producing sustainably

L’Oréal Paris factories continue their ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, water consumption and waste generation. Between 2005 and 2020, L’Oréal Paris factories and distribution centres have reduced CO2 emissions by 82%, water consumption by 44%, and waste generation by 35%.

Today, L’Oréal Paris products are made in 26 factories around the world. Eleven of them are already carbon neutral (using 100% renewable energy, without offsetting) and the rest will reach this goal in 2025.

Investment in women empowerment

As women are the primary victims of climate change, L’Oréal Paris will invest €10m in a series of six carbon projects whose beneficiaries are communities of women around the world. Along with financial support, L’Oréal Paris will also develop specific programmes that encourage a greater inclusion of women in leadership of these projects.

In Honduras for example, where local indigenous communities protect and restore mangroves, the brand will support a project managed by a cooperative of women who will receive support and education.

2025 goals:

• 100% of the brand’s factories will be carbon neutral
• 50% of plastic will be recycled plastic, among which 100% recycled PET
• 100% of L’Oréal Paris’ plastic packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable
• €10m invested in environmental projects
• 88,515 tonnes of residual carbon emissions by 2025
• 54K hectares protected

2030 goals:

• 100% of all L’Oréal Paris products will be eco-designed
• 100% of the plastic will come from recycled or biobased materials
• L’Oréal Paris will reduce the quantity of packaging used for its products by 20% in intensity
• 100% of L’Oréal Paris’ renewable and mineral raw materials will be sustainably sourced
• 95% of the brand’s ingredients will be of renewable origin, derived from abundant minerals or circular processes
• 50% less CO2 emissions per product, compared to 2016
• 100% of L’Oréal Paris’ factories will be “waterloop factories”
• Carbon emissions intensity linked to transport of products will be reduced by 50% for each product