News & Updates Sustainability

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.”


News & Updates Sustainability

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.


News & Updates Sustainability

Packaging-free, self-serve beverage dispensing system trialled by Coca-Cola in Spain

Consumers of Coca-Cola in Spain can now pour and pay for drinks themselves as part of a European-first trial of a beverage dispensing system developed by Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) and Innovative Tap Solutions (ITS).

ITS’ technology will enable restaurants, cafes, offices, stadiums, and other venues to offer brands in CCEP’s portfolio via self-service taps. Through this system, consumers can refill their own drinks and pay for the quantity served themselves, directly through the tap.

The self-pour, self-pay technology offers consumers a packaging-free delivery method for their drinks, while also aiming to cut down queues, reduce the need for unnecessary contact, and free up serving staff – features that are beneficial as COVID-19 restrictions lift.

ITS, which is new to Europe, will be piloted with CCEP customers Restalia – a Spanish multinational catering group – and Aspro Parks – a company specialising in theme parks, water parks, zoos, and leisure centres.

The first ITS devices have been installed in Restalia’s 100 Montaditos restaurant at Centro Comercial TresAguas shopping centre, located in Madrid, and at Aspro Parks’s Palmitos Park and Aqualand Maspalomas, in Gran Canaria.

This initiative represents a step forward in CCEP’s This is Forward Action on Packaging strategy, which was launched in 2017. CCEP has committed to investing and innovating in refillable and dispensed delivery models with the aim of reducing packaging where it can and eliminating packaging waste, while lowering its carbon footprint as part of its 2040 net-zero ambition.

Craig Twyford, co-founder of CCEP Ventures, the company’s investment arm, comments: “We’re always looking for new and innovative ways for people to enjoy our drinks, thinking beyond the traditional bottle or can, and ITS is a great example of how we’re using technology to help our customers sell and deliver our products in different ways.

“One of the key focus areas for CCEP Ventures is exploring new partnerships and investments to accelerate sustainable packaging innovation and how we can deliver more beverages while using less packaging.

“ITS is an opportunity for us to explore and test new dispensed and packaging-free delivery solutions and, alongside other steps, create a circular economy model that will help us reduce, reuse and recycle our packaging.”

CCEP Ventures invested in ITS in 2020 and plans to co-develop the self-pour, self-pay solution for soft drinks with the goal of bringing new packaging and packaging-free innovations to market for CCEP customers.


News & Updates Sustainability

Survey suggests consumer support for compostable packaging

The majority of the British public want to get rid of plastic packaging on their food and have compostable packaging instead, according to a new poll commissioned by TIPA.

The survey also found that most (83%) are supportive of a tax on plastic packaging to curb plastic waste. It found strong public support for compostable packaging as a sustainable alternative to traditional plastic packaging.

Of those asked, 83% would prefer their food to be wrapped in compostable rather than traditional plastic packaging for environmental reasons.

More than eight-in-ten (83%) agree that a tax aimed at reducing the amount of plastic packaging used by food and drink manufacturers is a good idea in principle, while 80% believe the tax should treat compostable materials differently to traditional plastic.

The Yonder survey of 2,085 UK adults, commissioned by TIPA – a leading producer of compostable materials – comes amid the Government’s plans to roll out a Plastic Packaging Tax, set to launch in April 2022. The poll shows strong support for the tax in principle – yet many campaigners and members of the public have expressed concerns that the proposed tax does not make allowances for compostable packaging solutions.

Currently the tax incorporates compostable packaging as if it were traditional polluting plastic. This differs from many other countries, such as Italy, Ireland and Japan, which have enacted policies promoting compostable materials.

Some argue that including compostable packaging in the same tax category as traditional plastic undermines the purpose of compostable materials.

Daphna Nissenbaum, chief executive and co-founder of TIPA said: “The plastic packaging tax is an opportunity for the UK to establish itself as a global leader in the fight against plastic waste. Yet it is failing to allow for innovative packaging solutions like compostable packaging which are essential if we are to curb plastic pollution.

“Compostable packaging offers a sustainable solution to things like food contact plastic films, which for many reasons cannot be recycled. Instead, they are removed at recycling facilities and either sent to landfill or incinerated. This poll shows clear public support for compostable packaging. It is vital that the Government listens to this and recognises the need for a separate tax system for compostable packaging”.

The poll follows mounting pressure from politicians on the government to develop stronger infrastructure and policy support around compostable packaging. Last week Baroness Bakewell addressed the House of Lords, calling on the government to recognise the role of compostable materials in reducing plastic pollution. Peers are now set to consider amending the plastic tax to exclude compostable materials.

Baroness Bakewell said: “Plastic films are extremely hard to recycle, and even if they are recycled are seldom if ever recycled into new films.  The idea of a ‘circular economy’ on such packaging is just an illusion.

“By contrast, compostable films can be an appropriate substitute, and more sustainable than conventional films from recycled sources.  The unintended consequence of the plastics tax as it stands is that these innovative solutions are perversely penalised.  My amendment to the Environment Bill would ensure that independently certified compostable films are treated as separate and distinct from conventional plastics.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet said: “There is not one silver bullet solution to our plastic crisis; instead there will be a myriad of alternatives as we switch to better, more sustainable materials and systems. Consumers have rightly recognised that there is a place for compostable materials in our future.

“When compostables are used as a conduit to take food waste into the food waste and composting system, this is a double whammy win for the environment. They help us create more compost for our hungry soils and they help reduce plastic pollution of our soil. What doesn’t make sense is for Ministers to persist with policies that fail to recognise the beneficial uses of compostables and treat them in exactly the same way as conventional plastics that do nothing but harm to our soils and our Ocean.”


News & Updates Sustainability

Unilever creates world-first paper detergent bottle

Unilever has used new Pulpex technology to develop the first-ever paper-based laundry detergent bottle, which is made of sustainably sourced pulp and designed to be recycled in standard paper waste streams.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of products on the planet and are making purchasing choices based on sustainability factors, including packaging and its sustainability.

With this in mind, Unilever says it is placing high importance on delivering functionally superior products that address environmental issues that people care about.

A prototype paper-based bottle is currently being developed for Unilever’s OMO brand (which is called persil, Skip or breeze, depending on which market it’s sold in), and is set to debut in Brazil by early 2022. The new technology has been developed in partnership with the Pulpex consortium, which is a collaboration between Unilever, Diageo, Pilot Lite, PepsiCo and GSK Consumer Healthcare.

Unilever says the ability to package liquid products in paper-based bottles will be a huge achievement, but before such a bottle hits the shelves, it will be tested against its performance in real-life situations, such as transportation or storage in damp environments.

The paper-based bottles are sprayed inside with a proprietary coating that repels water, enabling the material to hold liquid products like laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioners, which contain surfactants, fragrances and other active ingredients.

While creating recyclable, paper-based packaging without additional plastic layers is a massive challenge, Unilever claims the Pulpex solution offers a “promising way to radically reduce plastic use in line with commitments to a waste-free world”.

“To tackle plastic waste, we need to completely rethink how we design and package products,” says Richard Slater, Unilever’s chief R&D officer.

“This requires a drastic change that can only be achieved through industry-wide collaboration. Pulpex paper bottle technology is an exciting step in the right direction, and we are delighted to be working together to trial this innovation for our products.

“Innovating with alternative materials is a key part of our sustainable packaging strategy and will play an important role in our commitment to halve our use of virgin plastic materials by 2025.”

The company is also piloting the same technology to create paper-based hair care bottles.

The recent development forms part of Unilever’s 2020 commitment to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in its cleaning and laundry products by 2030. Unilever has also committed to halving virgin plastic use by 2025 and aiming for net zero carbon emissions from all its products by 2039.


News & Updates Sustainability

From plastic waste to vanilla flavouring

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have devised a novel way of tackling the issue of plastic pollution by using bacteria to transform plastic waste into vanilla flavouring.

The researchers have discovered that the common bacteria E. coli can be deployed to convert post-consumer plastic into vanillin, which is the is the primary component of extracted vanilla beans and is responsible for the characteristic taste and smell of vanilla.

The world’s plastic crisis has seen an urgent need to develop new methods to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used for packaging. It is estimated that around 50  million tonnes of PET waste is produced annually, and while PET is recyclable, recycled products can also contribute to plastic pollution. 

To tackle this problem, scientists from the University of Edinburgh used lab engineered E. coli to transform terephthalic acid – a molecule derived from PET – into the high value compound vanillin, via a series of chemical reactions. The team also demonstrated how the technique works by converting a used plastic bottle into vanillin by adding the E. coli to the degraded plastic waste. Vanillin is widely used in the food and cosmetics industries, as well as the formulation of herbicides, antifoaming agents and cleaning products. Global demand for vanillin was in excess of 37,000 tonnes in 2018. 

Researchers say that the vanillin produced would be fit for human consumption but further experimental tests are required.

This is the first example of using a biological system to upcycle plastic waste into a valuable industrial chemical. “The results from our research have major implications for the field of plastic sustainability and demonstrate the power of synthetic biology to address real-world challenges,” says Joanna Sadler, First author and BBSRC Discovery Fellow , School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

“Our work challenges the perception of plastic being a problematic waste and instead demonstrates its use as a new carbon resource from which high value products can be obtained,” adds Dr Stephen Wallace, Principle Investigator and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh. 

“Using microbes to turn waste plastics, which are harmful to the environment, into an important commodity and platform molecule with broad applications in cosmetics and food is a beautiful demonstration of green chemistry, comments Dr Ellis Crawford. Publishing Editor at the Royal Society of Chemistry. 

The study, published in Green Chemistry lays the foundation for further studies to maximize vanillin production towards industrially relevant levels.


News & Updates Sustainability

Lecta launches polyethylene free EraCup Natural

Lecta has presented EraCup Natural, a paper-based solution for single-use cups that the company says is recyclable, biodegradeble and polyethylene-free. 

EraCup Natural is the first product in Lecta’s new range of functional papers for “nature-friendly packaging”. The new EraCup Natural solution is based on a proprietary process that is both polyethylene and bioplastic free. Its composition allows the paper to be recycled in standard paper recycling circuits after having been converted and used.

EraCup Natural is a SBB paperboard manufactured with pulp from certified sources, available in substances from 170 g/m2 up to 380 g/m2. It has an uncoated outer face, with a smooth, natural finish suitable for high-quality flexography and offset printing. The inside is covered with a sealable aqueous dispersion that guarantees the manufacture of liquid-tight paper cups. In addition, this paper-based solution allows for energy savings since cups made with EraCup Natural require lower sealing temperatures compared to those manufactured with current polyethylene materials. 

The company says that the cup’s properties make it ideal for hot and cold beverage cups as well as on-the-go disposable containers.


News & Updates Sustainability

Packaging Trend Focus: A look at the 2021 refill landscape

In the second of a series of articles looking at ThePackHub’s Global Packaging Trends Compendium, Paul Jenkins, Managing Director, ThePackHub, takes a look at the subject of refills. 

The Global Packaging Trends Compendium 2021 details more than 550 packaging innovations and is grouped into nine trends. ‘Refill Revolution’ is one of the trend areas that is exhibiting strong growth. Despite potential disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, reusable and refillable packaging examples have increased in occurrence, notably over the last 18 months as brands, retailers and suppliers look at ways of reducing single-use and difficult to recycle packaging. Sectors such as dry food, household products and personal care are leading the way by making the most initial ground to transition to refillable and reusable packaging models.

The majority of the in-store examples coming to market are at the small trial and pilot stage, with refillable packaging systems set up in a handful of test stores. Major retail chains are testing the water with a small number of initiatives in outlets. However, cosmetics, skincare and perfume retailer The Body Shop is bucking this trend and scaling up their trial operations.

Refillable scheme starts global roll out

Following successful trials in two of its concept stores, The Body Shop is rolling out its refill and recycle scheme across the globe. The initial trial, started in 2019, was launched in Bond Street, London, and Vancouver’s Pacific Centre store. The extended launch will start in France, across 47 stores, and will extend to 400 stores worldwide by the end of 2021. The Body Shop plans to have refill stations in all of its stores by 2026. The scheme works by shoppers being given a 250ml aluminium bottle, then choosing from a selection of products, including shower gels, shampoos, conditioners and soaps. Once the product has been used, the customer cleans the bottle themselves and returns it to the store for a refill. The number of refill stations will vary depending on the size of the store but is expected to be between six and 12 per outlet.

Gable-top carton refill pack for soap launched 

Norwegian home and personal care manufacturer Orkla has collaborated with Elopak to produce a sustainable refill pack for its Klar laundry detergent and liquid soap products. The new board-based carton, called D-PAK, is a move by Orkla to help consumers reduce the amount of plastic generated in the waste stream. The gable-top carton is made from renewable materials and is said to be suitable for recycling with other board products such as milk cartons and newspapers. A trial has been conducted with selected retailers and online purchasers. Consumer feedback has been positive, with reports that refilling is easy and convenient. Consumers need to pour from the carton into the original plastic container. It is said that the new pack is more efficient through the supply chain, as it saves weight and is also more cost-effective by volume. A label over the cap is added to alert the consumer that the pack’s contents are not for consumption. 

Return and refill scheme aims to reduce carbon footprint

Upcircle, a ‘by-product’ sustainable skincare brand based in London, is launching a new return and refill scheme to help reduce its carbon footprint. The company repurposes waste materials, such as coffee grounds from London coffee shops along with other waste products such as fruit stones, argan, olives, juice and tea. Ninety-nine per cent of the company’s current packaging is already plastic-free, being made from easily recycled board, glass and aluminium and now the remaining 1% can now also be recycled. Customers will be able to return their cleaned, empty packaging free of charge, which will then be sterilized, refilled and returned to customers. As part of the scheme, the shopper will receive a 20% discount on the original price. Upcircle also has an in-store set up where customers can bring in their packs to be refilled from bulk containers. 

Reusable cup trial starts coffee chain trial

Coffee shop heavyweights Starbucks are trialling a new reusable cup programme called ‘Borrow a Cup’ in five Seattle stores for two months. The aim is to reduce single-use cup waste. The customer requests a reusable cup and pays a $1 deposit. When the drink is finished, it can then be scanned at a participating store’s collection point, and once the cup’s return has been confirmed the $1 is refunded along with 10 bonus points that are added to the customer’s account. The cups are then taken away and commercially cleaned and sanitized. The cups are ready for reuse within 48 hours. The expected number of reuses for each cup is 30 times before they are recycled. The initiative is part of Starbucks’ aim to reduce waste by 50% by 2030.

The Refill Revolution trend is anticipated to maintain its growth trajectory. Brands and retailers will continue to develop refillable and reusable solutions to meet their sustainability objectives as the sector becomes more normalized.

The 2021 Global Packaging Trends Compendium comprises nine new packaging trends. It features a comprehensive assessment of more than 550 packaging innovations. It also includes the interviews of 16 industry experts from around the world, featuring packaging experts from the likes of Mars Wrigley, Mondelez, Ocado, as well as Tim Sykes, Brand Director at Packaging Europe.

More information here:


News & Updates Sustainability

Unpacking the potential of Xampla’s 100% plant protein film

Earlier this month, we reported on a new film developed by the University of Cambridge and Xampla that is made from 100% plant protein and requires no additives. We caught up with Dr Marc Rodriguez Garcia, Xampla’s Head of Research, to find out if the solution really has the potential to replace conventional plastics.

To start us off, please could you introduce this new solution to us?        

Our technology is the culmination of 15 years’ research at Cambridge University where we were looking to understand how nature generates high-performance materials from proteins. The result is a plant-based protein material that has a mechanical strength comparable to some conventional fossil-fuel-derived plastics, but is entirely natural and requires no chemical modification. 

With this technology, we’re in a unique position to say we’ve created a plastic-like high-performance material that doesn’t pollute – at the beginning or end of life.

We can source the plant protein as a by-product of the agriculture and food industries, and the resulting material can be metabolised by various microorganisms in any natural environment just like any other naturally occurring polymer, such as cellulose. This material can also be developed into edible products, given that no chemical modification is required.

What motivated the research team to develop this product, and what opportunities did you identify in planning?

In the beginning, the motivation was purely an interest in understanding the fundamental properties that allow proteins to be structured into high-performance materials in nature. We were inspired by spiders’ silk, which is weight-for-weight stronger than steel, and one of the strongest materials in nature.

When we discovered we could assemble plant proteins into a molecular structure very similar to spider silk, the potential to have a global impact on the plastic crisis became our focus. 

The technology leverages plant proteins in the form of a spider’s silk-like structure. Can you explain how this works in practice and give us some insights into the R&D process?

The strength found in spiders’ silk is a result of the regularly spaced non-covalent hydrogen bonds between the protein molecules at a very high density. Proteins have a propensity to self-assemble and the spider simply leverages protein and energy to create its high-performance material, silk. The team discovered how to make the polypeptide chains that make up plant proteins self-assemble in this way.

The outcome is a naturally derived polymer material created by taking a plant protein, such as pea isolate, and adding concentrated vinegar, heat and energy. This combination creates a material that is strong, flexible, and transparent; much like conventional plastic. 

In terms of functionality, what applications is the product suited to, and how does it perform when compared with conventional plastics?

Our mission is to replace everyday single-use plastics and intentionally added microplastics, and we’re constantly developing new applications for our material like flexible packaging films, sachets, and microcapsules. 

We can formulate materials to meet the requirements of different applications.  Our initial focus is on replacing fossil-fuel-derived polymers such as Polyvinyl alcohol where we broadly compare to their current performance, but with a completely naturally occurring material that will simply be metabolised by microorganisms in any natural environment.   

I’d like to talk a bit about end of life – how long does the material take to decompose and what is left behind? How would you recommend it be disposed of?

Our material decomposes in the environment naturally and fully and is a source of protein for living things. We’ve designed it to be home composted. In a lot of other bio-based plastic alternatives, chemical crosslinking is used to give a material the functionality of plastic, and this can compromise end-of-life sustainability by slowing degradation. Our material doesn’t require any chemical crosslinking, so there’s no trace of it after it’s disposed of. 

 What does the future hold for the film – how are you looking to make the product truly scalable?

Xampla is the commercial spin-out from Cambridge University responsible for developing new product applications and scaling the technology. We have a number of leading tech investors helping us drive this forward, alongside a rapidly growing team with the technical and commercial expertise needed to scale at a global level. 

We’re developing our material as a drop-in solution.  We need to work with current supply chain players to reach scale, and offer them a material that performs as closely as possible to their current materials.  So, our resins can be manufactured into films in standard solvent-casting processes. And our films can be made into sachets and other applications by converters with standard processes.

Major brands are being forced by impending regulation and consumer demand to hardwire sustainability into their business models, and there is an ongoing and increasingly urgent global shift away from fossil fuels. We see our material as the go-to single-use plastic substitute for the post-oil world, and we’re putting everything in place now to ensure our solution is there for the pioneering brands ready to make the shift.


News & Updates Sustainability

Sainsbury’s to roll out recycling system for flexible plastics

Following a successful trial in the North East of England recycling polypropylene (PP) film in selected stores, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has rolled out a new recycling system to a total of 520 supermarkets allowing customers to recycle all flexible plastic packaging which is not commonly accepted for kerbside collection by local authorities.

The front of store recycling points set out to make it easier for consumers to correctly dispose of flexible packaging such as crisp packets, food pouches, salad bags and biscuit and cake wrappers which 83% of UK local authorities currently don’t accept for recycling, according to WRAP reports.

The expanded initiative has the potential to significantly decrease the amount of plastic packaging going to landfill, with a report from WRAP estimating that flexible film contributed towards 290,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in 2019.