News & Updates Sustainability

Is there potential in hemp for bioplastics?

As more companies move towards biopolymers as an alternative to fossil-fuel-based plastic, some are considering hemp as a potential biomass source, but can this ‘wonder crop’ make an impact in the world of bioplastic? Heidi Vella investigates.

The humble hemp plant has long been known for its versatility: alongside bamboo, it is one of the quickest growing plants and is routinely refined into a variety of commercial items, including paper, textiles, and food products.It is, however, perhaps more closely associated with the drug cannabis, both of which are derived from the cannabis sativa plant. Although a different product altogether, it’s the US’s deregulation of this more infamous product that is driving a burgeoning new market – one using hemp to produce bioplastics for packaging.

The 2018 US Farm Bill changed federal policy, removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing the consideration of hemp as an agricultural product: meaning farmers can now cultivate it industrially, the waste from which many say is an ideal bioplastic feedstock.

Why hemp?

In fact, one of the first companies to use hemp bioplastics in its products is a cannabis packaging designer and manufacturer. California-based Sana Packaging uses a fibre-reinforced biocomposite made from 30% micronised hemp herd and 70% polylactic acid (PLA), derived from plants such as corn and kenaf, to produce its premium packaging.

Sana co-founder & CSO, James Eichner, says that the company was inspired to use hemp as a feedstock for bioplastics as it has several agricultural advantages over corn, from which most bioplastics are derived.

“Two crops of hemp can be grown in the time it takes to grow one of corn, hemp requires around a third of the water corn does and because it is a canopy crop, it protects the soil from sunlight and erosion – unlike corn, which leaves the soil exposed. Hemp regenerates the soil, whereas corn depletes it,” explains Eichner.

Hemp is also known to absorb large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere and can create a cellulose content – which is important for bioplastics – of 65%-75%. It is also flexible within crop cycles, due to its small harvesting period of only four months.

Sana initially started producing its packaging with pilot projects and then, when it could assure stability of supply, commercially at the beginning of 2019. Now the company is working with multiple suppliers.

Establishing a supply

However, Eichner says the supply chain for hemp feedstock is by no means comparable to other materials and it currently comes at a premium price.

CEO of US-based Hemp Plastics, Glen Kayll, says hemp bioplastics “can be less expensive than some PLA’s, depending on the base material, but more expensive than fossil fuel fuel-based resin.”

The major factor is that, as yet, there is no commercial availability of polymerized hemp plastic.

“It’s very early stages for hemp, but it is fundamentally a disruptive technology, driven by massive deregulation, which continues to play out around the world. The big swing in North America was the CBD market, which creates large amounts of industrial hemp waste that has made this opportunity more possible,” he explains.

California-based, Sana Packaging uses a fibre-reinforced biocomposite made from micronized hemp herd (30%) and PLA (70%), derived from plants such as corn and kenaf, to produce its premium packaging. Credit: Sana Packaging

The size of the global industrial hemp market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 13.7% between 2020 to 2025 and be worth $12.98bn by 2025. Difficulty refining end products from the crop and fluctuations of availability of raw materials, however, is restricting the market.

Like Eichner, Kayll believes hemp can address some of the environmental concerns around the growth of fossil fuel plastics, as well as the increase in industrial hemp waste.

“We realised that a large amount of hemp was going to be available and thought: wouldn’t it be great to find a way to reduce the amount of fossil fuel plastic and provide a product that is reasonably inexpensive and easy to implement and happens to look fantastic,” he explains.

Similarly to Sana, Hemp Plastics does not use 100% hemp-based plastic, but blends hemp plastics with various different thermoplastics, including fossil fuel and bioplastics, and custom blends.

Lack of infrastructure

While hemp is routinely used in other markets, Corey Kratcha, CEO of C2Renew, a biocomposite manufacturer that uses hemp as one of its inputs, says there is a lack of infrastructure for hemp bio-feeds.

“It’s a chicken and egg scenario with fibre processing in general. It usually starts with a pilot or small-scale investment in the equipment, but the output is so low that the economics to recoup the cost has to be much higher,” he explains.

“That can be prohibitive, there needs to be confirmation there will be revenue sources. We would use it readily if the supply was consistent.”

A challenge to investments in the industry could be that corn, the dominant feedstock for bioplastics, is heavily subsidised in the US. Farmers that produce commodity crops such as corn receive around 40% of their income from subsidies.

What we’re trying to do is recognise the need to move away from corn as a mono-crop in the US and as a feedstock for bioplastics.

“Corn has been subsidised for a very long time and hemp will not compete with it until either the hemp industry reaches a certain economy of scale through its own natural growth, or until hemp itself is subsidised, or until corn is no longer subsidised,” says Eichner.

“What we’re trying to do is recognise the need to move away from corn as a mono-crop in the US and as a feedstock for bioplastics.”

In Europe, where France is the predominant producer of hemp, the hemp packaging industry is as yet non-existent. However, the European Industrial Hemp Association is promoting it as a potential application and says the sector is becoming more organised and has “great opportunities ahead”.

The Association reports that there is currently an oversupply of hemp biomass in the EU, caused by the “hype” around CBD, which in turn has led to an ‘explosive growth in the number of cultivators, producers, and investors’.

It was recently reported that authorities in the Italian town of Roccasecca are exploring the potential for developing a hemp plastics supply chain while cleaning up local land, as the plant has remediation possibilities. A company called Eir Health also claims to be building the first factory in Europe to produce 100% biodegradable Hemp PLA.

Future potential

Despite hemp’s environmental credentials, some question the sustainability of bioplastics full-stop, noting that they are often non-recyclable and commercial compositing is still nascent.

Eichner agrees that the end of life argument is where the sustainability case for plant-based materials becomes harder to make.

However, Kayll says even if it is not biodegradable, reducing the amount of plastic used by 25% – the level of hemp used in Hemp Plastics’ products – is “meaningful”.

“If you are a company that’s running hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic every year, then that’s a very meaningful reduction, and it’s also a great way to sequester CO2,” he says.

While the hemp bioplastics sector is still fledgeling, Kayll believes in the future it will compete with other commodities due to its durability, versatility, and ease of growth.

“It’s a very valuable plant, there’s going to be many applications, it’s just going to take a while – industries take time to build, but the bioplastics and sustainable materials market is growing extremely quickly relative to your traditional incumbent markets,” says Kayll.

Indeed, by 2030, it is estimated that 40% of the plastics industry will be bioplastics. Furthermore, Kratcha says it only takes one huge company to start using hemp bioplastics to move the market.

“Hypothetically, if Walmart said it wants hemp composite in its clothes hangers it would very much move the needle,” he concludes.


News & Updates Sustainability

German confectionery brand opts for Futamura compostable packaging

Futamura has supplied German confectionery brand Cool with NatureFlex compostable cellulose films to package its confectionery product Ocoologisch Herz Lolli (lollies).

According to Futamura, its NatureFlex and Cellophane products have good technical performance for confectionery, with barrier, optical clarity and deadfold, a benefit for traditional twist wrap applications.

The films can also be printed and laminated just like conventional plastic films.

The individual lollies are wrapped in single-ply NatureFlex and the outer bag is a NatureFlex / biofilm laminate.

André Richter from Cool, said: “We were looking for an ‘environmentally friendly’ variant of this type of packaging and found a suitable price-performance ratio at NatureFlex. Good quality, stability and hold are important.

“We have found the machine performance to be good and in no way inferior to other conventional films. We regularly receive good feedback from consumers who feel it is very positive that we care about the environment, often asking if there are other products using these bio films.”

News & Updates Sustainability

Ocado overhauls own label packaging with JKR has revamped its own label range, claiming the move has reduced 27 tonnes of plastic and removed 9 million “non-essential packaging components”.

The online grocery retailer has linked up with design agency JKR to create the new range, which also features updated artwork. The own label range comprises over 530 products including coffee, berries, salad and tinned goods. New additions include Moroccan Inspired Houmous, Cheese & Chive Dip and Chimichurri British Flat Iron Steak.

According to Ocado, 27 tonnes less plastic packaging has been used, 640,000 plastic nets have been taken away and at least 9 million non-essential packaging components have been removed. As part of its commitment to the UK Plastics Pack, the retailer has eliminated PVC, polystyrene and black plastics from all own-range packaging and it is Ocado’s target is for all items to be 100% recyclable and made from at least 30% recycled materials by 2025.

Rachel Cox Reynolds, head of own-range and technical compliance said: “We have been busy working on a new look and feel to the Ocado own-range for some time now and are delighted to be able to share the final results. Each and every one of our own-range items has received a fresh makeover featuring brighter colours and bolder patterns, just in time for the Spring.

“These products, with their updated imagery, continue to demonstrate the great quality that Ocado customers have come to expect, whilst also offering superb value for money for our customers.”

Laura Harricks, chief customer officer at Ocado Retail added: “It’s so important to us that we are able to delight customers through our range, value and convenience but we also recognise the importance of ensuring that our impact on people, animals and the environment is positive and sustainable in the long term.

“We’re delighted that the refreshed collection has given us the opportunity to improve the sustainability-credentials of our own-range packaging whilst maintaining high quality and great prices. We are proud of the steps forward we’ve made here – the bright, bold packaging is just the icing on the cake.”


News & Updates Sustainability

PB Creative redesigns Thornton & Ross brand Zoflora

Popular, versatile household product Zoflora has been redesigned for the ‘Instagram generation’

Zoflora has a loyal customer base and has passed through the generations. However, with “a new generation of Instagram-loving Zoflora fans and proliferation of ‘me-too’ products entering the market”, Thonton & Ross decided it was time to revisit the brand’s range design and cement Zoflora as the market leader in the category.

The UK manufactured, leading disinfectant brand has been helping UK households stay safe from germs for almost 100 years.  Its range of beautifully fragranced, perfumer developed, concentrated disinfectants is inspired by nature and represents the perfect partner for a hygienically clean home.

PB Creative was briefed to create a contemporary and desirable look and feel for the brand that was more appealing and relevant to new consumers, with increased stand out on shelf, but without alienating the brand’s existing and very loyal users. PB also sought to celebrate the abundance and explosion of ingredients within the products and champion the fragrance story of each variant, whilst still communicating the efficacious nature of the brand.

“This project has given us a great opportunity to upgrade and enhance the Zoflora brand,” said Agata Racka, design director at PB Creative.

“We knew that the new designs would need to entice and resonate with all Zoflora consumers, both old and new. It was key that we kept existing consumers at the heart of the brand, whilst leveraging appeal and excitement for new ones.”

“With a unique and diverse range of ingredients, it was clear that we needed to develop a strong design system that was robust enough to work across a large number of fragrance variants, while giving us the scope to communicate a distinct product story that was easy to understand. The addition of the tag line,  ‘A little goes a long way,’ helps to clarify the formulation’s efficacious and concentrated nature.”

“By refreshing the Zoflora colour palette and enhancing the fragrance story (which wasn’t coming through as a USP previously), we’ve created a bold, fresh new range design that retains the brand’s uplifting personality, but now makes it more relevant and appealing to a new generation of Zoflora devotees. Our main challenge was to remain distinct and unique in an ever-growing category increasingly populated by copy-cat brands.”

Sarah Fozzard, head of marketing, Home Hygiene, Thornton & Ross added: “PB’s new range design for Zoflora delivers instant fragrance impact and product clarity – not an easy task for such a complex brand. The team has succeeded in modernising Zoflora without losing its distinctive character and whilst striking the difficult balance between fragrance and efficacy which we knew would be key to the success of the redesign. This new contemporary classic aesthetic will allow Zoflora to continue to lead in the category and to communicate clearly with a new generation of Zoflora consumers.”

“Now more than ever, we’re keen to highlight Zoflora as a brand that can help keep us protected as we go through these unprecedented times.  Zoflora offers consumers an opportunity to create not only a hygienic, but also a welcoming space where they can all feel safe and comfortable.”

The new range design is being rolled out across 120ml, 250ml and 500ml formats this month and will launch across other markets throughout 2021.


News & Updates Sustainability

Biodegradable’ plastic will soon be banned in Australia. That’s a big win for the environment

To start dealing with Australia’s mounting plastic crisis, the federal government recently launched its first National Plastics Plan. The plan will fight plastic on various fronts, such as banning plastic on beaches, ending polystyrene packaging for takeaway containers, and phasing in microplastic filters in washing machines.

But we’re particularly pleased to see a main form of biodegradable plastic will also be phased out.

Biodegradable plastic promises a plastic that breaks down into natural components when it’s no longer wanted for its original purpose. The idea of a plastic that literally disappears once in the ocean, littered on land or in landfill is tantalising — but also (at this stage) a pipe dream.

Why ‘biodegradable plastics’ ain’t that great

“Biodegradable” suggests an item is made from plant-based materials. But this isn’t always the case.

A major problem with “biodegradable” plastic is the lack of regulations or standards around how the term should be used. This means it could, and is, being used to refer to all manner of things, many of which aren’t great for the environment.

Many plastics labelled biodegradable are actually traditional fossil-fuel plastics that are simply degradable (as all plastic is) or even “oxo-degradable” — where chemical additives make the fossil-fuel plastic fragment into microplastics. The fragments are usually so small they’re invisible to the naked eye, but still exist in our landfills, water ways and soils.

The National Plastics Plan aims to work with industry to phase out this problematic “fragmentable” plastic by July, 2022.

Some biodegradable plastics are made from plant-based materials. But it’s often unknown what type of environment they’ll break down in and how long that would take.

Those items may end up existing for decades, if not centuries, in landfill, litter or ocean as many plant-based plastics actually don’t break down any quicker than traditional plastics. This is because not all plant-based plastics are necessarily compostable, as the way some plant-based polymers form can make them incredibly durable.

So it’s best to avoid all plastic labelled as biodegradable. Even after the ban eliminates fragmentation — the worst of these — there’s still no evidence remaining types of biodegradable plastics are better for the environment.

Compostable plastics aren’t much better

Compostable plastic is another label you may have come across that’s meant to be better for the environment. It’s specifically designed to break down into natural, non-toxic components in certain conditions.

Unlike biodegradable plastics, there are certification standards for compostable plastics, so it’s important to check for one the below labels. If an item doesn’t have a certification label, there’s nothing to say it isn’t some form of mislabelled “biodegradable” plastic.

But most certified compostable plastics are only for industrial composts, which reach very high temperatures. This means they’re unlikely to break down sufficiently in home composts. Even those certified as “home compostable” are assessed under perfect lab conditions, which aren’t easily achieved in the backyard.

And while certified compostable plastics are increasing, the number of industrial composting facilities that actually accept them isn’t yet keeping up.

Nor are collection systems to get your plastics to these facilities. The vast majority of kerbside organics recycling bins don’t currently accept compostable plastics and other packaging. This means placing compostable plastics in these bins is considered contamination.

Even if you can get your certified compostable plastics to an appropriate facility, composting plastics actually reduces their economic value as they can no longer be used in packaging and products. Instead, they’re only valuable for returning nutrients to soil and, potentially, capturing a fraction of the energy used to produce them.

Finally, if you don’t have an appropriate collection system and your compostable plastic ends up in landfill, that might actually be worse than traditional plastic. Compostable plastics could release methane — a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — in landfill, in the same way food waste does.

So, you should only consider compostable plastics when you have a facility that will take them, and a way to get them there.

And while the National Plastics Plan and National Packaging Targets are aiming for at least 70% of plastics to be recovered by 2025 (including through composting), nothing yet has been said about how collection systems will be supported to achieve this.

Is recycling helpful?

Only an estimated 9% of plastics worldwide (and 18% in Australia) are actually recycled. The majority ends up in landfill, and can leak intoour oceans and natural environments.

In Australia, systems for recycling the most common types of plastic packaging are well established and in many cases operate adequately. However, there are still major issues.

For example, many plastic items can’t be recycled in our kerbside bins (including soft and flexible plastics such as bags and cling films, and small items like bottle lids, plastic cutlery and straws). Placing these items in your kerbside recycling bin can contaminate other recycling and even damage sorting machines.

What’s more, much of the plastic collected for recycling doesn’t have high value “end markets”. Only two types of plastic — PET (think water or soft drink bottles and some detergent containers) and HDPE (milk bottles, shampoo/conditioner/detergent containers) — are easily turned back into new plastic containers.

The rest end up in a stream called “mixed plastics”, much of which we have traditionally exported overseas for recycling due to low demand here. The new waste export ban may help fix this in the future.

So what do you do about plastic?

The obvious answer then, is to eliminate problematic plastic altogether, as the National Plastics Plan is attempting to do, and replace single-use plastics with reusable alternatives.

Little actions such as bringing your reusable water bottle, coffee cup and cutlery, can add up to big changes, if adequately supported by businesses and government to create a widespread culture shift. So too, could a swing away from insidious coffee capsules, cling wrap and cotton buds so many of us depend on.

Opting too, for plastic items made from recycled materials can make a big impact on the feasibility of plastic recycling.


News & Updates Sustainability

Greiner helps Tesco add ‘snap’ back to PP yoghurt tubs

Over the past two years, following requests from retailers, Greiner Packaging has replaced yoghurt multi-packs made from polystyrene (PS) with polypropylene (PP), and ‘Project Snap’ has now successfully recreated the ‘snap’ which consumers love.

Yoghurt multi-packs have traditionally been made from polystyrene (PS), but there is currently no PS recycling stream in some territories, leading supermarkets to focus on removing all PS products.

Seeking to deliver a sustainable alternative, in February 2018 Greiner Packaging’s factory in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, began trials using polypropylene (PP), and says it was the first in the UK to recreate a functional multi-pack in PP.

One of the advantages of PS was its ability to deliver an effective ‘break’ which was initially difficult to achieve with PP. Leading UK retailer Tesco was one of the first customers to move from PS multi-packs to PP multi-packs, but consumers were disappointed that packs made from the new material did not ‘snap’ in the same way as the previous PS packs.

In July 2020, Greiner Packaging began ‘Project Snap’ to develop and improve PP multi-pack breakability. By October 2020, the first successful filling trials of the latest PP 4-pack had begun, and the new improved yoghurt 100g 4-packs are now on-shelf.

Multi-pack development from PS to PP has reportedly taken considerable investment, but has been achieved faster than originally expected, with ‘Project Snap’ delivering the final part of the story.

“Over the past two and a half years, Greiner Packaging Dungannon has invested heavily in delivering these multi-packs made from PP and then further engineering to give the same satisfying ‘snap’ as their predecessors,” says Greiner Packaging UK & Ireland CEO Philip Woolsey

“The next step, for PP yoghurt multi-packs will be to manufacture them using recycled PP,” Woolsey concludes. “Mechanically recycled PP can currently only be used for non-food packaging, however food approval is now in preparation. Chemically recycled PP is suitable for food contact, but not readily available as there are no large-scale recycling streams for PP.

“Greiner Packaging is currently involved in a project that aims to obtain food approval for r-PP from mechanical recycling. Ultimately, we will have succeeded in helping retailers move to using a material that genuinely delivers on our circular economy commitments, while still keep the fun element in place for consumers.”


News & Updates Sustainability

MMC moves to large-scale production of mushroom-made packaging

The Magical Mushroom Company (MMC) has announced the launch of large-scale production of its mushroom-derived biodegradable packaging, a plastic-free alternative that can be broken up to biodegrade on a home compost heap or flowerbed. 

The company claims that this new packaging offers the same performance, at comparable cost, to traditional polystyrene, and is already being used to protect goods ranging from cookers, to cosmetics and a variety of everyday consumer products, including Diageo’s non-alcoholic gin brand, Seedlip

This is made possible through mycelium composite technology, pioneered and patented by US firm Ecovative Design LLC. The process takes the post-processing waste from agricultural products such as hemp, hops, corn and timber and combines them with mycelium – the root system of the mushroom. This living material is then grown to shape using 3D moulds of the packaging design. These moulds are baked, hardening the material and preventing any further growth. The full process, from design to prototype takes 14 days. 

MMC Holding International LTD, trading as The Magical Mushroom Company, has the exclusive EU, UK and Ireland licence to produce Mushroom® Packaging. Its first facility, in Esher, Surrey, began production in August 2020 and has capacity to produce more than a million packaging units per year. Expand


The business will open a second UK plant in 2021, increasing total production to more than three million units per year. This will be followed by the opening of plants in Bulgaria and Italy, which together will provide production capacity for the EU of more than six million units annually. A third continental European plant (in Germany) will open in 2022.

The company says that packaging produced by MMC is 100% biodegradable at home and breaks down in soil within 40 days. It also fully breaks down in water in just 180 days, meaning it has the long-term potential to significantly reduce the level of plastic waste in our oceans.

MMC is already working with a number of iconic brands that are serious about reducing their environmental impact. Current clients include Lush Cosmetics, Raine Marine, Bodyshop, Seedlip (from the Diageo group) and luxury designer, Tom Dixon. 

Paul Gilligan, founder and CEO, commented: “We called ourselves the Magical Mushroom company for a reason. Mycelium’s unique qualities really are magical, enabling us to produce a hard-wearing, cost effective and totally sustainable alternative to polystyrene packaging that biodegrades in the back garden in under 40 days. 

“We’re thrilled to be open for business and excited by how quickly we’re scaling up our production and securing ever bigger contracts. Customer feedback has been universally positive and our earliest customers are all – without exception – now coming back for more.”

“With over a decade of experience producing mycelium materials at scale, Ecovative is thrilled to see consumers and brands around the world adopt Mushroom® Packaging,” said Gavin McIntyre, co-founder and Director of Business Development at Ecovative Design. “We are excited to be working with Magical Mushroom Company to further scale this technology and look forward to providing more brands with this breakthrough packaging solution.”


News & Updates Sustainability

Coda Group launches coffee pod material made from agricultural waste

Biomaterials manufacturer Coda Group has launched Solinatra – a home-compostable material made from agricultural waste that the company says can be used to replace plastic and aluminium coffee capsules.

Over 60 billion coffee capsules are consumed globally each year, and many of these are currently made from layers of plastic or aluminium. According to Coda, while most capsules are technically recyclable, only a small proportion actually make their way into recycling streams.  

Coda’s own solution is home compostable – reportedly breaking down in the same time frame as a banana skin and leaving behind zero contamination. Manufactured from 100% plant-based materials sourced from agricultural waste products, the company is pitching Solinatra as a low-carbon solution that can help coffee brands and consumers to reach net-zero goals.  

Following a presentation and Q&A at the AMI virtual summit, Simon Girdlestone, head of sales and marketing at Coda Group, says: “Biodegrading in the same time as a banana skin, Solinatra is a revolutionary new material. Our innovative new biomaterial is a gamechanger for coffee brands and capsule manufacturers worldwide, and we are excited to lead the charge for truly sustainable production. 

“Currently consumers face a postcode lottery as to what recycling or composting opportunities are available to them, with Solinatra customers can be safe in the knowledge that their coffee capsules cause no harm to the environment no matter how they are disposed of.”  


News & Updates Sustainability

Maker of IRN-BRU transitions to 100% recycled shrink wrap

AG Barr, the maker of IRN-BRU and Rubicon, has announced that all its soft drink consumer multipacks will be wrapped in 100% recycled shrink wrap by the end of 2021.

This move is projected to save 400 tonnes of virgin plastic a year – the weight of about 250 cars.

IRN-BRU is the first AG Barr brand to make the switch to 100% recycled wrap across its can multipacks, with the new pack set to hit shelves from May. In terms of primary packaging, all of the company’s soft drinks packaging is already recyclable.

Following this step, AG Barr’s entire portfolio of soft drinks will use 100% recycled printed film by the end of 2021, so IRN-BRU will be joined by other brands including Barr Flavours and Rubicon.

Roger White, AG Barr’s chief executive, said: “We’re always looking for ways to make our products more sustainable and we’re delighted to introduce this new 100% recycled film which has half the carbon footprint of its virgin plastic equivalent.

“This is just one step towards our longer-term carbon neutral ambition, ensuring we play our part in reducing the effects of climate change on our planet.”


News & Updates Sustainability

EU beverage packaging aims to be fully circular by 2030

UNESDA Soft Drinks Europe pledges that EU[1] beverage packaging[2] will be fully circular by 2030.

Launching its Circular Packaging Vision 2030, the industry commits that by 2025 its packaging will be 100% recyclable and its PET bottles using 50% recycled content. It ambitions that by 2030, its PET bottles will be made from 100% recycled and/or renewable PET, where technically and economically feasible. It also pledges that more than 90% of its packaging will be collected and that it will use more refillable packaging. These actions, says UNESDA, are directly contributing to the EU circular economy transition and surpassing EU targets set out in legislation. 

“Our goal is that beverage packaging achieves full circularity and is recognised as a resource in a circular economy: it has value, is recyclable, is collected and used as recycled content,” said Ian Ellington, UNESDA president and SVP and Chief Category Officer, PepsiCo Europe. “We believe that packaging is a resource that should never be wasted and are taking numerous actions to achieve full circularity and support the European Commission’s agenda of accelerating the transition towards a green economy.”

A circular packaging is designed to contain recycled content, is recyclable and possibly also reusable; it is therefore part of a circular economy where the waste management and recycling infrastructure allows it to be widely collected, recycled and reused.

UNESDA says its members will deliver their Vision through these three equal pillars of circularity:

Collect: striving to achieve closed-loop collection of beverage packaging supporting:

  • Creation of closed-loop beverage packaging collection and recycling systems to accelerate achievement of the target of at least 90% collection of all its packaging by 2030[3]
  • Wider introduction of well-designed Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) for PET, aluminium cans and other materials (depending on the local situation) when 90% collection by existing Extended Producer Responsibility systems is not achievable.

Recycle: using only packaging that is circular by design and boosting uptake of rPET in beverage packaging to deliver:

  • By 2025:
  • Beverage packaging (plastic, metal, glass) will be 100% recyclable
  • All soft drinks PET bottles will contain a minimum average of 50% rPET
  • By 2030: The ambition is for PET bottles to be made from 100% recycled and/or renewable material if technically and economically feasible – thereby moving away from fossil fuel sources.

Reduce and reuse: reducing the sector’s packaging footprint and increasing the use of refillable packaging:

  • Aiming to use more refillable packaging by 2030 compared with 2020[4]
  • Studying the best environmental and economic pathway to increase use of refillable models.

Innovation is at the heart of circularity and the sector will continue investing in recycling technologies – including enhanced recycling – to improve their efficiency and financial performance. By combining mechanically recycled PET, enhanced recycled PET and renewable PET it is possible to reduce the carbon footprint of packaging and deliver products in a safe and sustainable packaging.

Europe’s soft drinks industry says it fully supports the EU ambition of making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and building a European circular economy – including packaging circularity.

To deliver its Vision, the sector will need coherent support from EU authorities and national governments including:

  • long-term perspective and legal certainty as well as protecting the single market;
  • a well-functioning secondary raw materials market that gives the soft drinks sector access to sufficient high quality rPET in order to meet its obligations under EU law, without compromising on safety standards and avoiding downcycling;
  • increased investment in waste management and recycling infrastructure;
  • an EU framework enabling innovative recycling technologies;
  • EU minimum requirements for new DRS across Europe
  • clear definitions of recyclability that foster innovation and investment.

“Our Circular Packaging Vision 2030 demonstrates that Europe’s soft drinks industry wants to continue to be a part of the solution,” concluded Ellington. “Circularity works and we are ready to make long-term investments in supporting and accompanying the transition to ensure that none of our packaging ends up as litter.”

[1] EU + Norway, Switzerland and UK

[2] Primary packaging corresponds to beverage containers (eg. PET bottles), caps and labels. Secondary plastic packaging is everything intended to protect not only the product, but also primary packaging which is often that most visible to the consumer in retail displays.  The most common examples of secondary packaging include cardboard cartons, cardboard boxes and cardboard/plastic crates.

[3] In EU law only PET beverage bottles have a 90% collection for recycling target. Aluminium (as a general material, not just cans) has a 60% recycling target by end of 2030 and glass (as a general material not just bottles) has a 75% recycling target by end of 2030

[4] Current share for each packaging at EU level: PET 68% – 64% non-refillables, 4% refillables; Glass 7% – 3% non refillables, 4% refillables; Aluminium: 17%, no refillable