Company’s manufacturing plant in Debrecen, Hungary achieves ISCC PLUS recognition, broadening its eco-certified materials stream for tubes.
Thun, Switzerland – Hoffmann Neopac, a global provider of high-quality packaging for Pharma, Cosmetics and FMCG Industries, has successfully completed an audit conducted by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) at its tube manufacturing facility in Debrecen, Hungary.
Julia and Hannah, together with a cross-functional team you pushed for the new, more sustainable packaging of the NIVEA Natural Balance face care range. How did this happen and how did you find Sabic as a partner?
Hannah: Identifying sustainable raw materials and using them for packaging has long been an important topic for us in Packaging. Our aim is to explore innovative approaches that can reduce or replace our fossil raw materials. In this process, we carried out an extensive market research and looked at what alternative materials and technologies are available. We wanted to find a partner who could deliver a truly sustainable approach and reliable, high-quality materials. Among these requirements, Sabic's concept was particularly convincing.
Julia: We see Sabic as a pioneer in this field and their so-called feedstock concept is based on tall oil, a by-product from forestry. This means that, unlike "first generation" feedstocks such as sugar cane or corn, there is no competition with the food production – that was very important to us. Once we had found Sabic as a cooperation partner, things moved quickly. The commitment of the teams was there right from the start, so we were able to quickly put the idea into practice and start producing the new and more sustainable packaging.
What exactly is different about the new packaging? And how do you save fossil raw materials with it?
Hannah: Visually, the new renewable plastic packaging is indistinguishable from other plastic packaging. This is because the certified renewable plastic we use has no visual effects, impairments, or other special properties. Also, the material safety and recyclability is 1:1 just like fossil-based plastic packaging. That's really great, because when we chose the new material it was also very important to us to ensure a 100% recyclability – so that we don't have to compromise in this area. How we save fossil-based raw materials? It’s simple: In the production process of the plastic tall oil instead of crude oil is being added. The certified renewable polymers used for our packaging are based on a so-called mass balance system in accordance with the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC PLUS) scheme.
It doesn't sound that hard, but it's a big step ...
Julia: In fact, you have to dare to go new ways and build up new relationships with suppliers in order to open up to new markets for raw materials. This is a big effort and doesn't happen by itself. We want to be a transformation accelerator, actively driving change across our company and the industry. The more companies come on board to this sustainable approach of mass balancing, the greater the impact. We are currently a pioneer in our industry, but we would like to see the entire industry pulling together in the future to conserve resources and save CO2.
What has excited and driven you the most in this project? And what do you think about the fact that "your baby" will soon be on the shelves?
Hannah: It was great to see how much all colleagues – across many different functions – united on this topic and how fast you can be when the entire team is passionate about what they do. It took just nine months from the first idea to the first products on the shelves. The Can-Do spirit was amazing and omnipresent. Many thanks at this point to the entire project team for implementing and driving the project forward!
Julia: It was also exciting to see which new paths we took – because to become more sustainable, we have to go much deeper into our supply chain, look for new solutions together and build new relationships to suppliers. Becoming more sustainable means driving material development forward. It's about strategic partnerships beyond the tier 1 suppliers and bringing them together with our direct suppliers. Also, from this point of view, the whole process was a super exciting experience!
Shareholder advocacy firm As You Sow submitted a proposal requesting shareholders vote to have Amazon issue a report on packaging materials, citing the ocean plastics crisis that fatally impacting marine species and damages marine ecosystems.
“Amazon does not disclose how much plastic packaging it uses but is believed to be one of the largest corporate users of flexible plastic packaging, which cannot be recycled,” according to the proposal.
As You So alleged that Amazon has no goal to make all of its packaging recyclable and said up to 22 million pounds of its plastic packaging waste entered the world’s marine ecosystems last year.
“Shareholders request that the board of directors issue a report by December 2021 on plastic packaging, estimating the amount of plastics released to the environment due to plastic packaging attributable to all Amazon operations, and beginning with the manufacture of the plastic source materials, through disposal or recycling, and describing any company strategies or goals to reduce the use of plastic packaging to reduce these impacts.”
Amazon countered by noting its initiatives and its founding membership in The Climate Pledge, as well as its commitment that 50% of all Amazon shipments will be net-zero carbon by 2030, and renewable energy programs that “have put us on a path to powering our operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025.”
“We recognize the importance of reducing plastic waste by promoting reusable and recyclable packaging. As described in more detail below, including with respect to our goals, we have made progress in four primary areas in our efforts to reduce our use of plastics:
(1) plastics in packaging for products manufactured by other companies that we sell to our customers (where we can make the biggest impact),
(2) plastics in packaging to the extent we repackage a product for delivery,
(3) plastics in Amazon devices and our private label products, and
(4) plastics in physical stores, primarily Whole Foods Market and its use of plastic shopping bags and plastic straws.”
Amazon said it has a goal of having the packaging for Amazon devices be plastic-free and made up of entirely curbside recyclable material by 2023. “We will continue to share our efforts and progress to our shareholders and the public,” and the Board recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal.
Nowadays, those who shop for food in discount stores will almost always be buying plastic packaging as well. The vast majority of sausage, cheese, meat and fish is pre-packed. Fresh fruit, salad and vegetables too often come in plastic packaging. This method is hygienic and protects the food on its journey to the home. However, mineral oil-based plastics are contributing to the growing waste mountain.
In Germany, a total of 38.5 kilograms of plastic packaging waste per capita was generated in 2017 alone. This plastic waste floats on the oceans or is exported to Asian or African countries for disposal. Exposed to environmental factors, these large plastic items break down into microplastics, which eventually make their way into the food chain. Reducing plastic packaging in the food sector as well, then, is a matter of necessity.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV and the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB have now presented an innovative and sustainable solution for food packaging. Just as with conventional packaging, it keeps the food fresher for longer. The new packaging, though, involves no plastic whatsoever. After use, it can be recycled without a problem.
Proteins, waxes and antioxidants extend the shelf life of the food
In the “BioActiveMaterials” project, the researchers use paper as the base material for producing typical and functional packaging materials: resealable bags or wrapping paper. The paper is provided with a special coating using standard processes. The researchers make this coating from proteins and waxes with biobased additives. The special formulation of this coating, which offers long-term stability, performs several functions at the same time.
“First, the proteins act as an oxygen barrier layer while the waxes form a water vapor barrier, preventing fruit, for example, from drying out quickly. Second, the biobased additives have an antioxidative and antimicrobial effect. This stops meat and fish spoiling as quickly. Overall, the food has a much longer shelf life,” explains Dr. Michaela Müller, Head of the Functional Surfaces and Materials Innovation Field at Fraunhofer IGB.
The proteins in the coating also play specific roles. They prevent mineral oil permeation from the paper to the food. Recovered paper in particular contains residues of mineral oil-containing printer’s ink.
The coated papers developed as part of the “BioActiveMaterials” project are an alternative to the packaging currently used for all kinds of food, no matter whether fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, cheese or even confectionery. Consumers can store and handle the paper-packed foods in exactly the same way as the food packed in plastic today.
“Our paper-based packaging is also suitable for goods that have to be chilled, meat for example. The anti-oxidant function remains,” adds Müller. This packaging can even be used for frozen foods. “After use, the packaging is placed in the waste paper recycling bin, the coating is biodegradable and does not impede the recycling process,” says Dr. Cornelia Stramm, Head of Department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV.
The Fraunhofer Institutes have pressed ahead with the project in close-knit teams. While the scientists at Fraunhofer IGB have taken care of the complex formulation and production of the coating, the researchers at Fraunhofer IVV were testing how well the coating works in practice.
“We have tested, for example, how effectively the coating protects the food against external influences such as water vapor, oxygen and mineral oil”, explains Stramm.
The team at Fraunhofer IVV also made sure the coating was capable of being applied to the paper using roll-to-roll technology. This is done using a machine on which the paper is guided over rolls. The coating is applied as an aqueous dispersion.
Proteins from waste materials, waxes from Brazil and North Mexico
When selecting the raw materials for the “BioActiveMaterials” project, the team chose natural substances approved for use in the food industry. For the protein element, for example, they experimented with rapeseed, lupins, whey or sunflowers. In practice, agricultural operations could deliver unused waste materials from production to the packaging industry. Turning to the waxes, the researchers went for beeswax and wax produced from the candelilla bush native to northern Mexico and from the Brazilian carnauba palm.
“We decided on these waxes because they are biodegradable, approved for food contact and readily available on the market,” explains Müller.
Conventional laboratory techniques, such as crushing, heating, agitating and mixing, are employed in production.
“The skill is in the mixing ratio and the sequence in which the individual substances are added. The flexibility with the ratio when mixing the different substances also allows us to optimize the coating for specific applications,” says Müller.
Packaging for meat, for example, containing more antioxidants, could have a particularly strong antimicrobial and antioxidative effect, whereas a wax coating protects salad packed in a pouch especially well against drying out.
Advantages for producers, retailers and consumers
The researchers have even thought of the very practical aspects. The bioactive coating can be used for cardboard as well as paper. And printing on the packaging is no problem either. A producer could print on their logo or the nutrition information required under food law. Discount stores and food retailers will also benefit from the Fraunhofer packaging. Because consumers are following the trend towards resource-efficient, biodegradable and plastic-free packaging.
The project partners at Fraunhofer IVV and Fraunhofer IGB are already experimenting with concepts for applying the coating directly to foods such as fruit or vegetables, thereby extending their shelf life. Edible coatings are harmless to health by their very nature.
The packaging, which marks the latest step by the Big 4 retailer to remove, reduce, recycle and reuse plastic from its operations, aims to prevent nearly 12 million plastic bottles – or 297 tonnes of plastic – from entering the ocean each year and further polluting it.
Sainsbury’s said it would use Prevented Ocean Plastic – a high-quality certified recycled plastic – while working with packaging supplier Sharpak to ensure 34 per cent of its fresh fish and 80 per cent of strawberry punnets are sold using packaging made from plastic rescued from coastal areas.
“From this year, over 39.5 million items bought from Sainsbury’s will be packaged using plastic bottles rescued from polluting the ocean,” the retailer said.
Sainsbury’s added that its commitment to social and environmental change will contribute to the creation of almost 6531 days of employment for plastic bottle collectors.
“Using Prevented Ocean Plastic is one change we’re making to our supply chain to help us remove, reduce, recycle and reuse plastic,” Sainsbury’s packaging director Claire Hughes said.
“Not only will it have a positive environmental impact by preventing plastic from polluting the ocean, but it will also have an important social impact by allowing our customers to make sustainable choices and support overseas coastal communities at risk of ocean plastic pollution.”
Since pledging to halve its use of plastic packaging by 2025, Sainsbury’s has removed thousands of tonnes of plastic across the business.
These changes include eliminating 290 million loose produce plastic bags, 216 tonnes of rigid plastic trays from tomatoes, courgettes, kiwis and baby corn, 114 tones of plastic overlids removed from cream pots, 28 tonnes of zip removal on frozen fruit bags, along with removing and replacing 6400 tonnes of difficult to recycle black plastic, PVC and polystyrene from own brand packaging.
Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s removed plastic straws from its own-brand lunchbox carton range, cut down the plastic packaging on its own brand pancake range by 86 per cent and introduced new trial recycling facilities in 63 stores, allowing customers to recycle polypropylene plastic film – such as bread bags, frozen food bags, biscuits and cake wrappers.
Sainsbury’s also recently announced a mass roll out of its first plant-based own-brand tea bags, and became a Principal Supermarket Partner for the UN’s international climate change conference, COP26, taking place this November.
UK-based supermarket chain Asda is introducing its full chicken range in new pouch packaging to replace plastic trays.
The move will reduce the amount of plastic packaging used in the range by up to 50% and will help the company save 450t of plastic a year.
The pouches also allow meals to be prepared safely and hygienically, as customers can pour the chicken from the packaging straight into the pan without using their hands or any utensils.
Last year, the pouches were trialled on mini-fillets and diced breasts.
The packaging will initially be used on chicken thighs before being extended to the full range, including whole birds, drumsticks, legs, diced breasts and mini fillets, later this year.
According to Kantar data from last month, half of all UK households buy chicken in their weekly shop.
Asda poultry buying manager Lisa Barratt said: “The change in poultry packaging marks the next step in our commitment to using less and recycling more, something we are very passionate about delivering for our customers and colleagues.
“The move means customers don’t have to prioritise plastic reduction over grocery decision-making, ensuring the nation can continue purchasing quality poultry at the same price.”
Company’s Switzerland facilities are now fully powered by renewable electricity via hydroelectric power and an extensive new solar plant.
Thun, Switzerland – Hoffmann Neopac, a global provider of high-quality packaging for a broad array of industries and applications, has installed one of the largest solar power systems in Switzerland. The extensive green energy initiative, which costs more than 2 million Swiss Francs ($2.2 million), will make Hoffmann Neopac fully electricity sustainable at each of its two manufacturing sites in its home country.
Flexible plastic consumer product packaging, including multi-layer films, helps preserve food quality and freshness, but is harder to recycle and is not accepted in curbside programs, acknowledges Keith Dailey, Kroger’s group VP of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer. “Kroger recognizes the negative impact packaging — including plastic waste — can have on the environment,” he says.
Customers are invited to collect flexible plastic packaging like bags, pouches, liners and wraps from Kroger’s “Our Brands” products and pack them into “any available box.” They must then ship the box using a free prepaid shipping label available in their account they create on the program webpage. For every pound of eligible packaging, participants earn points, which can be redeemed as donations to participating charitable organizations.
Kroger says the program will help build a stronger recycling infrastructure in the US and advances its “Zero Hunger | Zero Waste” social and environmental impact plan. It is open to individuals, businesses, schools, and community organizations.
The company says it is an extension of its recently-launched Simple Truth Recycling Program, which up to now offered customers the opportunity to recycle the flexible packaging of products from Simple Truth, Kroger’s organic brand.
Kroger has announced a commitment to reduce GHGs by 30% and transition to 100% recyclable, compostable or reusable Our Brands packaging by 2030.
In its capacity as a solution provider and technology integrator, Greiner Assistec draws on its extensive solutions expertise in the production of innovative, functional plastics. And its collaboration with German startup innoME, a pioneer in the sensor technology space, has now delivered an impressive result: the development of a smart petri dish.
• First proof of concept for thermoformed plastic parts with printed sensor systems
• Smart petri dish prototype
• Strategic partnership with innoME (accensors)
Contamination in the sealing area causes important issues for food companies as it may lead to leakage and consequently reduced shelf life, health issues and even expensive recalls with potential brand damage. As such automatic detection of contaminated seals is important for both food safety and packaging automation. For standard vision systems, detection of contamination in the sealing area is difficult if the sealing film is non-transparent or if there is not enough contrast between the contamination and the film.
Hyperspectral cameras capture information from a larger part of the electromagnetic spectrum including infrared wavelengths that penetrate through thin plastic films. The particular strength of hyperspectral cameras is that contamination in the seal can be reliably detected with a much higher contrast than traditional vision cameras, even through printed plastic films.
“We are very excited to broaden our application scope with the new HyperScope™ solution”, comments Olivier Georis, Engilico’s Managing Director, “For seal inspection of flexible packages such as pouches, flow wraps and VFFS bags, Engilico already successfully marketed SealScope™, our in-line, 100% seal inspection solution using sensors on the sealing bars. But many – and often the same – food manufacturers also use rigid trays, pots and other thermoformed
packaging, and they have a similar need for seal inspection for these packaging types.”
As during the current COVID19-pandemic, tradeshows and customer visits are cancelled or difiicult, Engilico now invites interested companies to book a dedicated, live meeting. Interested people can send their packaged products with -in case possible- seal defects to Engilico in Belgium. A live video-meeting can be organized to see HyperScope™ at work.