Zume partners with ABB to scale ‘100% compostable’ packaging

ABB Robotics announces its agreement with Zume to scale and automate the production of plant-based packaging that the companies claim is a fully compostable and cost-effective alternative to single-use plastics.

Over the next five years, ABB says it will integrate and install over 1,000 moulded fibre manufacturing cells (MFC), including up to 2,000 robots, at Zume’s global customer sites. Zime expects that ABB will equip its factories with up to 100 robotic cells each.

ABB will use its Global Solution Centers – a network of automation experts and programme managers – to provide the scale, modularity, and speed required to launch Zume’s packaging solutions.

Zume claims that its packaging material is made from sustainably harvested plant material left over from agricultural production, including bamboo, wheat, and straw. It adds that the plant material has a lower carbon footprint and uses less water and energy than plastic packaging, as well as being biodegradable after use.

According to Zume, the company has patented an innovative manufacturing process to develop the compostable packaging for applications including food, cosmetics, and consumer goods.

Containers can be moulded from the plant material by Zume’s moulded fibre cells integrated with two ABB IR 6700 robots, says the companies. Each cell can reportedly process up to two tonnes of agricultural material every day and create 80,000 pieces of sustainable packaging.

The companies add that with the automation, speed, and scalability provided by the MFC, each site could potentially process 71,000 tonnes of agricultural material annually, with the potential to produce up to two billion pieces of packaging each year.

A pilot project has been installed by Zume and ABB at Santia Industries Limited, a large wood and agro-based paper manufacturer based in India. This has created a facility of 50 manufacturing cells that will allegedly process 100 tonnes of what straw each day to produce compostable packaging for a range of industries.

Other planned pilot installations include Parason, a global pulp and paper industry supplier also based in India, and Jefferson Enterprise Energy, a compostable packaging factory apparently powered by renewable energy and located in Texas, USA.   

Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation, comments: “Automating production of Zume’s sustainable packaging with ABB robots makes this a viable and economic alternative to single-use plastics.”

Alex Garden, chairman and CEO of Zume, adds: “Using ABB’s global automation experts to develop and integrate automation solutions for our customers will revolutionize packaging and demonstrate what sustainable manufacturing can look like.

“The flexibility and scalability of ABB’s robots enables an efficient automated manufacturing process. This means we can offer a viable, cost effective, compostable alternative to plastic, and help manufacturers to become more environmentally-friendly.”

ABB says that its partnership with Zume will be part of its response to consumer and legislative demand for alternatives to single-use plastic, while using automated solutions to respond to the growing demand for packaging of all kinds. In September, ABB expanded its e-commerce solutions with the FlexBuffer application cell, which allows the storage and retrieval of mixed items based on the sequence in which they need to be dispatched.  


Paper Bottles Grow Despite Uncertainty

Frugal Bottle and other paper bottles see brand buy-in and strong growth, yet some experts question the sustainable value of this popular format.

There’s a lot of optimism in the high-interest paper bottle market that centers on continued traction with brand owners. Yet there remain lingering doubts from consultants and others about the sustainability value of the format.

On the positive side, the format is unquestionably in growth mode: the paper bottle market is projected to grow at a ~7% CAGR over the forecast period 2022-2030, according to a market study published in October by Research Nester.

The report notes that the PET beverage bottle is falling out of favor due to widespread environmental awareness. According to a UN Environment report, an astonishing one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, most of which end up in landfills and oceans because only 9% of plastic waste is recycled.

“Paper bottles offer a green alternative to plastic bottles, as they are biodegradable, and do not harm the environment,” claims the report, pointing to that as a major market driver. There’s a rising tide of replacements to plastics particularly through paper alternatives including for cups, straws, bags, and a range of packaging.

The largest growth market for paper bottles is anticipated to be for water.

While growth is spread globally, “the Asia Pacific region is [expected] to witness noteworthy growth over the forecast period on the back of rising government initiatives to reduce pollution and promote the adoption of eco-friendly products.” For more about the report, see Paper Bottles Market.

Another supportive aspect is brand buy-in.Frugalpac1-Frugal-Wine-Ftr.jpg

Brands embrace Frugal Bottle.

Since launching in June 2020 with a red wine, 3Q (shown above) from Cantina GocciaFrugalpac has experienced strong sales and interest from drinks producers around the world. A range of wines, spirits, and olive oils are using the format, which purports to cut the carbon footprint versus glass bottles by 84% and is five times lighter. The Frugal Bottle is made from 94% recycled paperboard with a food-grade plastic pouch to contain the liquid.

The feedback from industry and consumers continued to be so overwhelmingly positive it prompted Cantina Goccia to plan the release of two more wines in the Frugal Bottle in early 2022, a white wine and a rose. About 80% of the brand’s wine has already switched from glass to the paper bottle.

Frugal Bottles are now also used by a number of brands including The English Vine, the US’s Signal 7, and Spain’s Planet B for wines; NB Distillery and Silent Pool for gin; and Evviva and AONES for olive oil.

Launches are forthcoming for new markets including Russian vodka and honey soap.

Frugalpac reports inquiries from 55 other international brand, contract packing, and packaging companies to buy Frugal Bottle Assembly Machines in the coming months.

“Increased interest in our paper Frugal Bottle over the last few weeks has been incredible,” says Malcolm Waugh, Frugalpac chief executive. “It seems the rising cost of gas and the global supply issues for glass bottles has further focused drinks producers’ to consider more sustainable alternatives.”

Strong demand compelled Frugalpac to plan the opening a new Frugal Bottle factory in Ipswich in the UK.

In the accompanying slideshow gallery you’ll find a diversity of comments from two Frugalpac brand-owner customers and a diverse group of six industry professionals about the sustainable value of paper bottles. Their assessments are decidedly mixed.



Plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables to be banned in France

The French Government has announced plans to ban fruit and vegetables from being sold in plastic packaging from January 1st, 2022, as part of its anti-waste law aimed at creating a circular economy with single-use plastic phased out by 2040.

The anti-waste law was voted into effect in early 2020, with the first stage being a ban on the sale of disposable tableware, including glasses, cups, and plates, and cotton swabs in batches. In 2021, the French government expanded this law by banning plastic straws, disposable cutlery, stirrers, lids for takeaway beverage cups, polystyrene boxes, and plastic confetti.

Representing the next step in France’s anti-waste law, plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables weighing less than 1.5 kg will be banned. This will come into effect on January 1st, 2022, but the Government says the law will be applied gradually up until June 30th, 2026, so manufacturers have time to alter packaging solutions. A tolerance period of six months for the disposal of packaging stocks will also be allowed, according to the French Government.

Some of the vegetables included in this law will be leeks, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, and squash, among others. Meanwhile, apples, pears, bananas, oranges, kiwis, lemons, melons, pineapples, and mangoes are some of the fruits that will be targeted by the addition to the anti-waste law.

For salads, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, and chicory, the deadline for phasing out plastic packaging will be shorter, with the ban expected to be complete by December 31st, 2024. A shorter deadline of June 30th, 2023, will also apply to tomatoes, peaches, and nectarines.

The new law will have two exemptions: fruit and vegetable sold in lots of 1.5 kg or more, and fruit and vegetables at risk of deterioration if sold in bulk. Raspberries, strawberries, currants and blueberries, alongside ripe fruits picked at maturity, are included in the latter category. Products like lentils and soybeans will also be exempt.

The French Government says it expects a 1 billion reduction in packaging per year as a result of the ban. Currently, it estimates that 37% of fresh fruits and vegetables are packaged in plastic.

In a bid to encourage reuse, France’s anti-waste law urges consumers to bring reusable containers into retail stores to purchase items, as long as the container is clean and suitable for the products purchased.

As part of its Climate and Resilience Law, implemented in August 2021, the French Government is aiming for 20% of medium and large products to be sold in bulk by 2030, reducing or eliminating the need for plastic packaging. This complements the anti-waste law’s targets for 5% of packaging to be reused by 2023, and 10% by 2027.

Further changes to the anti-waste law are expected in 2022, including non-biodegradable plastic tea and herbal tea bags being removed from supermarket shelves in France. The country’s food service industry will also be impacted: the distribution of plastic games with meals will be banned in 2022 and, from 2023, restaurants will be required to replace disposable dishes with reusable ones for meals and drinks served on site.

Press publications and advertisements will also be shipped without plastic packaging from 2022, in accordance with France’s anti-waste law.

Governments in Europe are taking varied measures to address the challenge of plastic waste. Another initiative implemented by France is the HolyGrail 2.0 project, which may see the country have digitally watermarked products introduced to store shelves in the first half of 2022, if the current semi-industrial trial taking place in the City of Copenhagen is successful.  

Meanwhile, representatives from the plastics industry recently called on the European Union (EU) to set a recycled content target of 30% for plastics sold on the European market by 2030, although this has been criticised by some for not sharing responsibility across the value chain.FOOD



‘Recyclable’ monomaterial retort pouch unveiled by Mondi

Mondi launches RetortPouch Recyclable, a monomaterial solution apparently featuring a high-barrier film alternative to aluminium that means the pouch is “fully recyclable”.

The company says its new high-barrier pouch can replace complex multi-layer and unrecyclable packaging for a range of food and wet pet food products.

It adds that this includes moist or semi-moist foods that are heat-treated in stream or hot water retort vessels to achieve commercial sterilisation for shelf stability, which requires retort packaging. The RetortPouch Recyclable solution apparently replaces the aluminium typically used to achieve these properties, replacing it with a high-barrier film that keeps temperatures high and maintains short processing times during the retort process.

Mondi claims the monomaterial retort packaging is also fully recyclable, as part of Mondi’s goal of ensuring that all of its products are reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, a key target of its MAP2030 commitments.

According to Mondi, it has spent over two years researching and testing the product to ensure that several application needs can be met.

Eveline Wagner-Hahn, managing director at Mondi Korneuburg, comments: “Sustainability is a top priority for Mondi and we are committed to make this innovation available for all our customers by using our customer-centric approach, EcoSolutions.

“Our fully recyclable solution helps to lower the product’s environmental footprint and customers can be confident that their products will be completely protected throughout manufacturing and transportation and meet their sustainability goals.

“This is another example of our award-winning expertise in creating sustainable food packaging and delivering circular-driven solutions that work for the customer, the end user and the environment.”

The new monomaterial pouch represents a further commitment from Mondi to innovative packaging solutions that combine its sustainable initiatives with customer needs. Earlier this month, Mondi developed a paper bag for the retail market in South Africa, which it says is tailored for the regional climate in order to maintain the integrity of products carried inside without tearing.

Meanwhile, a stand-up pouch developed by Mondi and Wener & Mertz was awarded Gold in all categories of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Storecard – the first flexible pack in the world to do so.



Coca-Cola collaboration represents ‘significant milestone’ for commercial viability of plant-based plastic

The collaboration announced today between The Coca-Cola Company, Changchun Meihe Science & Technology, and UPM seeks to scale up and increase the efficiency of a technology that converts second-generation biomass into plant-based monoethylene glycol (bMEG) for packaging applications.

According to the group, the conversion process it intends to commercialise – which is co-owned and co-developed by Coca-Cola and Changchun Meihe – is more efficient than current technologies that produce bMEG. To achieve this, the technology reportedly takes a sugar source and removes the step of creating ethanol from the conversion process, providing more flexibility in feedstock choice.

The group adds that its technology is based on feedstock that cannot be used as a source of food, including hardwood taken from sawmill side-streams and forest thinnings, apparently from sustainably managed forests.

The collaboration is aimed at commercialising the production of renewable glycol and fossil fuel-free PET plastic, of which bMEG is a key component alongside terephthalic acid (PTA). First validated at demonstration scale in 2017, the technology is now set to be scaled up at a biorefinery currently under construction by UPM in Leuna, Germany.

According to the companies, this “first-of-its-kind” biorefinery will produce bMEG, as well as plant-based monopropylene glycol (bMPG) and lignin-based Renewable Functional Fillers (RFF), as part of a drive to increase the production of renewable raw materials that can, in turn, be integrated into existing material recovery and recycling streams. The companies add that the technology enables a reduced carbon footprint for products while still meeting performance requirements.

UPM’s biorefinery is planning to ramp up production in 2023 with an annual capacity of 220,000 tonnes.

Juuso Konttinen, vice president of biochemicals at UPM, comments: “Investing in the biorefinery in Leuna is a very exciting breakthrough for UPM on our way to becoming a credible player in the chemistry value chain.

“The decision to commercialize the bMEG technology from The Coca-Cola Company and Meihe was taken after extensive validation and we are excited about the prospect of widely marketing our products based on the agreement with The Coca-Cola Company announced today.”

Following the announcement that The Coca-Cola Company would be making its PlantBottle technology widely available, UPM will also be offering commercial quantities of the biochemicals produced at its Germany-based biorefinery to others in the industry – including Coca-Cola’s direct competitors.

Nancy Quan, chief technical and innovation officer at The Coca-Cola Company, adds: “The viability of this next-generation biomaterial is a significant technological breakthrough in our ongoing efforts to reduce our use of virgin oil-based plastics, by increasing our use of recycled and renewable alternatives. 

“It can not only help us achieve our commitments to carbon emission reduction but can also enable the entire industry to shift to a more circular economy.

“Through our agreement with UPM, we invite the wider industry to join us by utilizing the material once production has been ramped up at UPM Leuna.”

For The Coca-Cola Company, the collaboration with Changchun Meihe and UPM is part of its ongoing commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2040 in its Western Europe value chain, and by 2050 across all operations. By 2025, the company is also aiming to reduce the use of virgin plastic from crude oil-based sources by 3 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, the investment in UPM’s Leuna biorefinery is an “important step forward” for the company as it sets out to be a forerunner in the bioeconomy and to provide renewable biochemicals for a range of applications. Last year, UPM unveiled a new biocomposite material reportedly made from certified wood and cellulose fibres along with renewable PP polymers, which it claims can be used for food contact, personal care, and consumer goods applications.


New ‘compostable’ takeaway range from Seal Packaging to be launched in sandwich bars

Seal Packaging has announced what it claims is a home compostable and sustainable takeaway food packaging range, which will be distributed by Tri-Star Packaging while Birley Sandwiches in London will be the first location to use the product. 

Compostabowl, the new foodservice innovation from Seal Packaging, is made from bagasse, a plant-derived fibre material that the company says is “both abundant and renewable”. It adds that the material would otherwise go to waste if not used in the packaging.

According to Seal Packaging, the material used to make Compostabowl gives the product a natural look and feel that signals its “sustainability credentials” to consumers. The product is reportedly certified as fully home compostable.

In addition, the company says that the compact nested design of the packaging saves space in the kitchen and speeds up service. It is apparently suitable for all types of hot and cold food, including salads, noodles, and curries.

Seal Packaging also highlughts the importance of Compostabowl’s “snug-fitting” lid, which it claims ensures maximum presentation while providing a flat surface for vital allergen labelling from Gen-Label. The company says this will allow the packaging to align with Natasha’s law, which came into effect at the beginning of October and requires foods pre-packaged for direct sale to feature a full ingredient list with allergenic ingredients emphasised.

The lid is also reportedly made from 100% recycled PET (rPET) and is recyclable, which the company says further supports the sustainability of the Compostabowl product.

Kevin Curran, director of Seal Packaging, comments: “Compostabowl™ is the first of many new products to come out of the Seal Packaging stable, with two more planned before the end of the year.”

The first client to use Compostabowl in its restaurants will be the London-based sandwich bar, Birley Sandwiches. The foodservice chain says it is aiming to meet consumer demand for sustainable packaging, with Paul Salter, managing director Birley Sandwiches, saying that the new container “will keep us at the forefront of our industry”.

Compostabowl will be distributed in partnership with Tri-Star Packaging, which has previously worked on packaging solutions including the stackable Spartan pot range made from 85% premium high-clarity rPET and its food-to-go pot, JARR, also made from rPET and designed for personalisation



Naked’s The Big One rebrand to BIG EAT reduces plastic by 50%

Symington’s MD Kevin Butterworth talks about rebranding and repackaging Naked ‘The BIG One’ to ‘BIG EAT’, which resulted in an immediate plastic saving of over 50%.

Coupled with the advantage of the Greiner Packaging’s K3® cardboard-plastic packaging being perfectly recyclable, Naked is the first UK food brand to use the newly improved and more visible tear-tab to make the process of separating the cardboard wrap from the plastic cup as easy as possible.

Symington’s marketing director Kevin Butterworth explained why Naked’s ‘The BIG One’ became ‘BIG EAT’ and why Greiner Packaging’s K3 cardboard-plastic cup delivers on Symington’s journey to full recyclability.

Butterworth said: “Since 2015, Symington’s Naked brand has taken consumer’s taste buds on an adventure in an instant, with authentic Asian flavours. For the last three years, five of our noodle flavours and two of our rice flavours have also been available in a wider, larger format called ‘The BIG One’.

“The brand team identified the opportunity to review our packaging formats during our annual brand planning last year. We did some work to discover who was choosing the larger format, and the consumption occasions. The standard pot was hitting more of a snacking occasion and the large pack was popular for lunch or an evening meal.

“We wanted to know if consumers needed to have the physically bigger pot to justify the occasion and quickly reconciled that they didn’t. This led us to rebranding Naked’s ‘The BIG One’ to ‘BIG EAT’.”

Plastic reduction

Talking about the reduction of plastic when creating the new packaging, Butterworth said: “We discovered that there needed to be a demonstrable difference between the core range and the BIG EAT, but we also learned that consumers were massively favorable towards any format that reduced its plastic.

“Working closely with Greiner Packaging, we carried out a full review of the packaging options.

For the BIG EAT, we reduced the diameter from 116mm to 95mm, to match our core range. This resulted in an immediate plastic saving of over 50%. Coupled with the advantage of the K3 cardboard-plastic packaging being perfectly recyclable, the pack format change has made a significant contribution to our mission to reduce the impact our packaging has on the environment.

“By moving to the new taller cup for BIG EAT, we also slightly reduced the size of the cups for our core range to underline the value differentiation, but without reducing the portion size.

“Throughout the project, the Greiner Packaging team worked closely with us, identifying the most suitable packaging solutions, and pushed the boundaries to create the new pack size which was outside what its existing machinery could produce at that time.

“Many factors contributed to this successful project. We were clear why consumers were choosing the larger pack and for which occasion, and rationalizing the format to match the in-store footprint of our standard product line delivered improved operational efficiency. There is also a significant advantage from the plastic saving and recyclability of Greiner Packaging’s K3. Symington’s is on a journey to full recyclability, so we are currently investigating a range of options to also make the lid recyclable.

UK first for new tear-tab

“The Greiner Packaging K3 pack is perfectly recyclable, as the consumer can easily separate the cardboard wrap from the plastic cup. Naked has been the first food brand in the UK to use Greiner Packaging’s newly improved and more visible tear-tab to make the process as easy as possible. We use the reverse of the wrap not just to show the fill-level, but also to engage Naked fans with more about our brand, and how they can be part of our sustainability journey.

“For Symington’s, consumer research is ongoing, with taste-tracking the top priority. But we also discover more about appeal, relevance, modernity, and other factors. We have learned that our consumers are much more aware about recyclability, so being able to involve them with a strong message about reducing plastic and ensuring the pack is genuinely recyclable is all part of delivering our longer-term CSR commitments particularly around environmental sustainability.”



Iceland continues to reduce plastic footprint with series of plastic pack cuts

Iceland has launched a series of new packaging trials that will see the supermarket heavily reduce its plastic across nine products.

The nine products will see either plastic-free of heavily reduced packaging replace the current packaging, resulting in a reduction of plastic of 36.6 tonnes.

Frozen vegetables and herbs including garlic, coriander, ginger and chilli will now be packaged in cartons. Iceland’s Soured Cream & Chive Dip and Sweet Chilli Houmous are now packaged in paperboard pots and the supermarket’s frozen 25pk Chicken Dippers and Chicken Popsters are packaged in first to market innovative paper laminate bags.

Iceland’s frozen Easy Peel Wild Red Shrimp will be completely free from plastic with a coated paper bag replacing the old packaging, a truly ground breaking innovation for frozen food.

The new packaging will be trialled in 115 Iceland stores across Cheshire, North Wales and the West Midlands.

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said: “While we are very proud of the progress we have made so far, our journey to becoming plastic free would be much easier if Government set more aggressive, mandatory plastic reduction targets as a framework for business to operate within. Once again, we would also call upon our fellow retailers to make more ambitious commitments to reducing their plastic footprint so we can find solutions that reduce the need to rely on plastic packaging together.”



Mondi and Unilever serve up paper-based packaging for Colman’s Meal Makers

Mondi has developed a paper-based, aluminium-free packaging material for Unilever’s Colman’s dry Meal Maker and Sauces range that it says can be recycled in existing paper waste streams.

The old unrecyclable multi-material laminate has been replaced, and the previously-used aluminium, as well as what Mondi describes as “unnecessary layers of plastic”, have been eliminated.

This has resulted in a new packaging solution with a paper content of 85% and an ultra-thin functional plastic layer that seals the packaging and provides barrier protection for the food.

Mondi and Unilever’s R&D teams identified this layer as the minimum acceptable protection needed to ensure a long shelf life while maintaining quality and reducing food waste.

The two teams closely collaborated throughout the development process, including during the pandemic when access to production facilities became limited.

The process started with a proof of concept, followed by extensive line trials at both Mondi and Unilever’s R&D pilot plants before scaling up.

On a macro-level, two of Unilever’s key targets are to transform its entire packaging portfolio into technically recyclable, reusable or biodegradable solutions, while halving the amount of plastic it uses by 2025, both of which this new packaging solution aims to address.

Fikerte Woldegiorgis, foods marketing director at Unilever UK&I, says: “We are delighted to partner with Mondi to develop this recyclable paper packaging, becoming the first big brand within the category to do so.

“The new packaging, which uses a paper-base, ensures that shoppers can enjoy the same great tasting product they know and love, and now with the added benefit of being able to recycle the packs.”

Torsten Murra, global head of key accounts, consumer flexibles at Mondi, adds: “MAP2030, Mondi’s action plan for the next 10 years to achieve our ambitious 2030 sustainability commitments, focuses on circular driven packaging and paper solutions, created by empowered people, taking action on climate.

“By working closely with Unilever, we were able to co-create a packaging solution that will deliver on all counts and is recyclable, providing a valuable resource for the circular economy to drive real change towards a more sustainable future.”



Huhtamaki and Syntegon collaborate to launch paper-based blister pack

Huhtamaki and Syntegon have today announced a paper-based tablet packaging solution for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

Push Tab paper is made from renewable FSC-certified paper and has been designed with the aim of meeting the stringent safety requirements of regulated pharmaceutical packaging.

The solution also aims to provide customers with a more sustainable alternative to traditional push-through packaging made of thermoformed PVC and aluminium, while helping to reduce environmental impact throughout the value chain.

Push Tab paper tablet contains more than 75% paper-based material sourced from FSC-certified suppliers in Europe. Combining it with advanced barrier coating technology, Huhtamaki says that it makes the pack sealable without compromising its safety, functionality, or protective properties compared to traditional mono PVC (PolyVinyl Chloride) blisters.

A special mechanical treatment reportedly allows consumers to push the tablet through easily without damaging the product inside. The material is further processed and formed with Syntegon’s unique paper shaping technology and machinery.

“We are proud to introduce a new, more sustainable packaging solution for the tablet for the healthcare sector that has high growth potential,” says Fabio Daidone, sales manager for flexible packaging at Huhtamaki.

“European sales of flexible packaging in the Pharmaceuticals category had an estimated value of €1.1 billion in 2020, of which approximately 80% are in blister packaging. We are happy to help our customers respond to opportunities with Push Tab paper, designed for circularity, which presents the first sustainable alternative for this packaging type.”

The German Packaging Institute recognized Push Tab Paper with a 2021 German Packaging Award for sustainability on 27th July 2021.