Vice President, Films, UPM Raflatac
Manufacturers must embrace circular economy values and companies need to work together to develop sustainable packaging innovations.
Why should manufacturers be moving to sustainable packaging solutions?
For the future of our planet we need to find new ways of consuming — and that has a direct impact on packaging. Consumers want sustainable packaging. They don’t simply want to hear companies talking about their ‘mission’ in this area. They want to see concrete results. That’s one reason why brand owners are taking action to find new ways of operating.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is committed to developing alternative, circular and renewable labelling solutions. Why is this important?
There’s an easy logic to the circular economy: the more we re-use material that is already in the system, the more efficient it will be from an environmental standpoint — and from an economic standpoint. The New Plastic Economy is gaining traction among many players. This is a commitment we would recommend others to sign up to.
How can labelling companies make a difference?
Labels are enablers. With labels we can address the 3R’s: Reduce, Recycle, Renew. Labels address sustainability from two ends: closing the loop and having sustainable origin. It means that labels enable efficient recycling of the total packaging and are made from recycled content or bio-based materials without risking the performance compared current solutions. For instance, our new polypropylene film material is a 100% wood-based solution originating from sustainably managed forests.
Companies shouldn’t have to choose sides, however. You know: are we on the circular economy side, or the bio-based materials side? We should be able to integrate both systems. In fact, doing so is the only way to create truly sustainable, commercially efficient packaging.
How important is it for companies to work with partners to develop sustainable solutions?
Companies can’t hope to come up with great solutions in this area on their own anymore to protect their Intellectual Property. They need to create the right partnerships in the value chain to make it possible.
How can we all play our part in the future of sustainable packaging?
I don’t have any better answer than there are choices we all have to make to ensure we ‘walk the talk’. As consumers, we have to demand change and then follow through with actions — which gives companies more commercial incentive to use recycled materials or bio-based materials.
Are you optimistic that demand for sustainable packaging will continue to grow?
I am. We certainly see new innovations coming to the market — and we’re happy about that. Change is coming and solutions will be developed. There is a question mark over how quickly it will happen, however. But this is something we can all influence as consumers.