REthinking packaging during a global pandemic

2020 may be in the rearview mirror, but the impact of the global pandemic on the
packaging industry is continuing. The past year has shown how important packaging is in
keeping essentials items like food and medicines fresh and safe, and the role sustainability
plays is being reemphasized and redefined. According to a McKinsey & Company report,
“Packaging-sustainability goals have not been abandoned by leading fast-moving consumer
goods (FMCG) companies and retailers, which remain committed to achieving high recyclability
across their packaging portfolio over the long term.”[1]

Achieving these goals requires the effort of the entire packaging value chain. During the first
fully digital Henkel Packaging Adhesives Sustainability Forum, industry experts representing
the entire value chain discussed the challenges and opportunities when it comes to sustainable

“Now – perhaps, more than ever – our industry is in the spotlight. It’s clear that we have a
serious responsibility to do our part to ensure a sustainable future,” said Tilo Quink, Global
Head of Henkel Packaging Adhesives. “This is truly a task for the entire value chain – from raw
material suppliers to machine manufacturers, converters, brand owners, retailers and recyclers.
We all must work together with the common goal of driving sustainability.”

Thinking of the end at the beginning
To make a tangible shift, the entire packaging value chain must work together, starting from
the way packaging is designed and manufactured and with the end-of-life scenario considered
from the beginning.

“We need to redesign multiple-material flexible packaging towards mono-materials with
existing recycling streams wherever possible – and develop the capabilities to sort and recycle
any remaining materials,” explained Graham Houlder, Project Coordinator, CEFLEX,
collaborative initiative of a European consortium of companies representing the entire value
chain of flexible packaging. In addition, it is crucial to invest further in infrastructure that
enables the collection, sorting and recycling so that a sustainable business scenario for all
stakeholders is realized.

Companies such as EREMA Group GmbH, which is leading in developing and manufacturing
plastics recycling equipment and system components, will prove key to these recycling streams
and to developing the ability to return high-quality materials to the loop.

“EREMA is developing its plants and equipment so that raw materials have optimized natural
color, the lowest possible defect levels, and neutralized odor. These aspects ultimately ensure
it is cost-effective in high quality packaging,” explained Clemens Kitzberger, Business
Development Manager Post Consumer at the Austria-based company.

Legislation as a key driver
The future of packaging is also heavily influenced by legislation and regulatory frameworks that
keep evolving at rapid pace, particularly in Europe. “The ‘Single Use Products Directive’ in the
EU is the beginning of a whole wave of new regulatory activities that are going to help shape
the markets for both single use and re-usable items in the future,” said Eamonn Bates, Director
of 360° Foodservice, a collaborative platform for sustainable service of food and drinks in
Europe. “This includes new measures to prevent packaging waste and higher mandatory
recycling targets for packaging.”

As a global leader for packaging adhesives, Henkel has anticipated these developments and
believes in the necessity to drive change within the industry. This can only be achieved through
close collaboration with industry partners which was the motivation to bring together partners
from the entire value chain. From raw material suppliers to packaging producers and
converters, brand owners and recyclers, Henkel’s Sustainability Forum enabled key industry
stakeholders to engage in a digital dialog. The event proactively fueled discussion of key
applications including flexible packaging, paper solutions, food and beverage packaging, and
tapes and labels.

The importance of sustainable raw materials
As a raw materials supplier, Borealis has made sustainability and specifically the circular
economy a cornerstone of their strategy. Trevor Davis, head of the company’s Marketing
Consumer Products division, explained: “Borealis has a defined view of how a circular system
should work that represents a partnership across the value chain. We start with looking to
renewable options for feedstock and working to minimize CO2 from our own operations to
keep our footprint as small as possible.”

Setting the framework for a circular economy
With events like the Sustainability Forum, Henkel underlines its ongoing effort to drive
knowledge transfer, collaboration and partnership within the industry. “In the last few years,
we have seen a huge increase in citizens expressing their intent to reduce their plastic
consumption and switching to alternatives as a response to still low recycling rates of plastics
today. At the same time, a wave of change and innovation towards a true circular economy for
plastic packaging is underway, building on the contributions of all stakeholders from material
producers all the way to recyclers,” says Dennis Bankmann, Henkel Senior Manager for Circular

[1] Beyond COVID-19: The next normal for packaging design; McKinsey & Company, July 2020

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