Transformation of the packaging industry

25/07/2022 | 2 min read
Charlotte Enzelsberger

At the Innovation Day 2022 Anton Wolfsberger, Borealis Director of Strategic Polyolefins Business Projects, discussed the transformation of the packaging industry towards a circular economy, looking at trends and challenges from a PO manufacturer’s perspective.

“Market dynamics are changing rapidly in the whole packaging value chain,” he said. “We are driven by the consumer, who no longer looks away and knows what’s going on, so brand owners must deliver brand promises. Meanwhile, retailers fight for their image and their shares and also set the pace, while NGOs amplify visibility and set frameworks. Next comes legislation and industry pledges which drive the transformation towards a circular economy.”

Anton Wolfsberger showed that the EU has set out a number of directives around plastics, with the details of implementation over the coming years.

By 2025:

  • t least 55% of all plastics packaging in the EU should be recycled
  • PET bottles must contain 25% recycled plastic
  • and there must be a 77% collection rate target for single-use plastic drink bottles.

By 2029:

  • 90% of plastic bottles must be recycled
  • there will be a 90% collection rate target for single-use plastic drink bottles
  • and there will be requirement for bottles to be designed so that caps are connected. He compared these with the top 10 FMCG’s CES ambitions, pledges and commitments.

He then moved on to waste hierarchy and substitution trends. “At the top of the waste hierarchy are reduce and re-use, while recycling has emerged as the front-runner for effective end-of-life treatment. It is estimated that plastic packaging will more than double by 2050 due to the emerging middle class in developing Asian and African economies, so besides recycling, we have to further develop solutions at the beginning of the value chain to reduce consumption.

“We should focus on elimination and substitution. Across reduce and reuse, various models exist for displacing plastics from the waste stream, each with various

implementation methods. Elimination occurs directly when redundant or non-essential packaging is removed from the packaging design, or innovated out from the product altogether. Substitution is assessed from three plastic alternatives: un-coated paper; coated paper; and compostable materials. Other materials, such as aluminium and glass may be considered, but life-cycle assessments indicate very limited advantages from these substitutes. Reuse can be separated into consumer reuse models – where the consumer owns and refills multi-use containers; and reuse as a service models – where third parties collect returned containers and brands resupply packaging within their own eco-systems.”

We have developed 10 codes of conduct for design for recyclin

Anton Wolfsberger, Director of Strategic Polyolefins Business Projects bei Borealis

The three overarching codes are:

1.      to ensure the preservation and protection of the food or product, while ensuring that the requirement is really necessary and not over-engineered

2.      make it easy to strip and/or wash-off all decoration (such as labels, sleeves, adhesives, printing and inks) from the main functional part of the packaging

3.      and use as few different polymer types as possible. Mono-materials therefore represent the right answer for ‘Design for Recycling’ in flexible packaging.”

Anton Wolfsberger compared the traditional value chain versus PO demand, with the recycling value chain versus r-PO opportunity, saying: “The circular economy distinctly impacts the current packaging value chain, with new entrants and new feedstock leading to power changes.”

In closing, he said: “Innovation across the packaging value chain will be most important for delivering step changes to achieve highest circularity, and to master all these circular

challenges, new forms and formats of co-operation and collaborative business models along the packaging value chain will be required

“Innovation in the circular economy is not an individual battle, it is an intelligent team-play across the whole value chain.

Anton Wolfsberger, Director of Strategic Polyolefins Business Projects bei Borealis

Recording: Transformation of the packaging industry

Watch the full recording from Anton Wolfsbergers presentation on our Innovation Day.

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