Companies and startups making ripples in sustainable packaging research
Around 40% of all the plastic produced globally is used in manufacturing packaging products. Plastic packaging plays a vital role in our economy as almost every industry depends on it. But since most of these packaging products get thrown out after one or two uses, the damage being caused by this plastic is more severe than the benefits it gives.
Sustainability is becoming the core motto of a lot of consumer goods companies and on their way to becoming greener, packaging is the first stone they are turning.
A lot of major brands are researching to find alternatives to plastic to make their packaging sustainable. In November 2018, more than 250 organizations including Amcor customers DANONE, L’Oreal, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and H&M signed an agreement to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at the source.
We analyzed some of those major brands and startups working in sustainable packaging to get a bird’s eye view of the innovation happening in this industry. This is the second part of the 3-part market research study focused on different aspect of sustainable packaging. Here’s what we have covered in this entire research: (You can click and jump to the parts that are most relevant to you)
- Why Sustainable Packaging Is Important?
- Benefits Of Sustainable Packaging
- The Research Landscape Of Sustainable Packaging
- Most Common Raw Materials Being Used
- Some Creative Eco-Friendly Packaging Products
- How Major Brands Are Adopting Sustainable Packaging For Their Products?
- Companies And Startups Making Ripples In Sustainable Packaging Research
- What Is Cellulose?
- Why Cellulose-Based Plastic Is The Next Big Thing Of Sustainable Packaging?
- Which Industries Are Using Cellulose In Their Packaging Products?
- What Kind Of Strategies Are Companies Using To Shift To Maintain Their Edge In This Domain?
- What These Insights Tell You?
Just in case if you’re short on time, I have converted this entire analysis into a shareable/printable PDF that you can keep for later reading or sharing with colleagues. You can download it using this form:
Top companies working in Sustainable Packaging
Between 2009 and 2015, the Coca Cola company replaced fossil based ingredients to plant-based, which are biodegradable; and manufactured more than 35 billion bottles which were distributed in 40 countries. These bottles have 30% plant-based ingredients while the remaining 70% of the PET (the PTA) is made from traditional fossil fuel-based sources.
By adopting this practice, they prevented 365,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The next step on their journey is to make all the PET packaging from renewable resources. Coca-Cola is also planning to get those plant-based ingredients from food waste such as fruit peels, tree barks, corn cobs, and stalks.
In 2015, the company unveiled a bottle made of 100% plant ingredients at the World Expo – Milan, in which the major raw material used was cellulose, a biodegradable and transparent organic compound.
Coca Cola is also working with their partners to deliver its packaging vision “World without waste” according to which they have promised to recover as many cans and bottles from outside as they manufacture.
PepsiCo, in October 2018, announced its goal to use 25% recycled content in its plastic packaging by 2025 as a part of its sustainable plastics vision. The company also aimed to achieve 33% recycled PET content by 2025, while striving to design 100% of its packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.
To achieve its objective, PepsiCo has taken various initiatives. Below listed are few of them:
- PepsiCo and biotech firm Danimer scientific collaborated for developing biodegradable film resin from polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) for the food and beverage company which meets its packaging requirements.
- PepsiCo has also signed a multi-year supply agreement with sustainable packaging industries to get recyclable packaging for their food and beverages.
- PepsiCo announced that by 2020 it will begin incorporating Loop’s plastic which is made up of 100% recycled material into its product packaging.
Loop’s technology would enable PepsiCo to ensure that plastic packaging never becomes waste.
“This partnership represents a step-change that will empower PepsiCo in our drive towards creating a circular economy for plastics.”
Dr. Mehmood Khan, Vice chairman and Chief Scientific Officer, PepsiCo
Loop’s plastic is produced by a technology company that allows no and low-value plastics to be recovered and recycled endlessly into new, virgin-quality Loop PET plastic.
In its efforts to play a role in sustainability, Nestle created an institute of packaging sciences. This institute is dedicated to the discovery and development of eco- friendly packaging solutions including functional paper and biodegradable materials.
Nestle is taking huge steps to avoid plastic and shifting towards sustainable packaging. They collaborated with the Danimer scientific technologies to work on the design and manufacturing of bio-based resins for Nestle water business by using PHA polymer Nodax.
In 2018, the University of Georgia (U.S.A.) confirmed that PHA Polymer Nodax is an effective biodegradable material which can be a great alternative to plastic.
PepsiCo was already working with Danimer as pointed earlier. Both the companies hence gained access to the resins developed under the collaboration. In 2018 Nestle announced that their partnership will accelerate the company’s packaging to 100% recyclable and reusable by 2025.
Colgate-Palmolive has also jumped in eco-friendly packaging trend and they have committed to making their packaging 100% sustainable by 2020 for three out of four products. They have also committed to developing recyclable toothpaste tubes and by doing so their fourth product will also come near to sustainability.
The vision throughout the designing of all these packages is to reduce the use of natural resources and making the packaging recyclable. Colgate also increased the recycled content of packaging from 40% to 50% and reduced/ eliminated the use of PVC in packaging by using polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), and paper pulp (fiber).
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson says packaging plays a critical role in maintaining the quality, safety, and integrity of their products throughout the value chain. Johnson & Johnson packaging strategy requires that at a minimum all product packaging must comply with local packaging regulations. They continuously try to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging by focusing on various terms, like:
- Reducing material use by decreasing packaging size, weight or thickness
- Using packaging materials with more recycled content
- Designing for recyclability by selecting materials that are already widely recycled in the given market
- Purchasing responsibly sourced packaging materials;
- Influencing recycling rates by raising consumer and customer awareness.
For further development of sustainable packaging, Johnson and Johnson made a public commitment to increase the recyclability of packaging in five key markets in the Consumer segment as part of their Health for Humanity 2020 Goals.
Amcor was the first global packaging company that pledged to develop all the recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. Here are some of their developments in recent years towards their goal.
- In 2016, Amcor launched AmLite Ultra, a transparent, metal-free packaging solution.
- In 2017, Amcor partnered with Plantic Technologies to develop a biodegradable package.
- In 2017, Amcor also partnered with cleaning products company Method to produce Sustainable pouches.
- In 2018, the first LiquiForm molded bottle was launched by Amcor. Amcor produced the 12 oz PET Boston Round bottle, which is made with 50% post-consumer content, on a proprietary Amcor-built machine which is the industry’s first manufacturing unit to successfully utilize the LiquiForm technology.
- In 2019, the company plans to open a new Sustainability Centre of Excellence in Ghent, Belgium, to coordinate development of platforms that can be used to manufacture packaging across consumer goods segments, regions and Amcor’s global accounts.
Tetra Pak ’s long-term ambition is that the company’s entire packaging material portfolio be made from 100% renewable material, without compromising safety, quality or functionality.
In 2016, Tetra Pak became the first company in the food packaging industry to have its climate impact reduction targets approved by the Science-Based Targets (SBT) initiative. Further to this, in 2017, Tetra Pak achieved a 13% reduction in its overall climate impact, despite a 19% increase in packages sold.
Tetra Pak committed to reduce its operational emission to 42% by 2030 and 58% by 2040, from a 2015 baseline. Here’s a complete timeline of different steps they have taken towards achieving this target:
- In 2014 Tetra Pak partnered with Braskem to launch a renewable package Tetra Rex® carton.
- In 2016 Tetra Pak launched Tetra Brik® Aseptic 1000 Edge with Bio-based LightCap™ 30.
- In 2017 Tetra Pak launched new Tetra Fino® Aseptic 100 Ultra MiM package for ice-cream to be available from 2018.
Tetra Pak released its “2018 Sustainability Report,” which shows how the company’s approach to sustainability has evolved from focusing solely on environmental commitments and actions to evaluating every part of the business and its impact.
Bemis Company, Inc. has just introduced a new bio-based polymer film for the Lawn & Garden market as part of an initiative to create alternate packaging material from renewable resources. The new Lawn & Garden package contains up to 90% plant sourced raw materials comprising 100% sugarcane-derived polyethylene.
Below are some of the major steps taken by the company in recent years:
- In 2014 Bemis launched Curwood® ReNew™ PLA-based films which are high-performance thermoforming films and livestock made from corn, plant-based polymers.
- In 2016 Bemis introduced a new bio-based polymer film packaging material for the Lawn & Garden market from renewable resources.
- In 2017, Bemis Company and Dow Packaging collaborated to produce a fully recyclable trash bag made from post-industrial plastic scrap. These bags are opening doors to new ideas for previously difficult-to-recycle packaging formats to enter the recycling stream.
To create the trash bags, Bemis sent post-industrial plastic scraps to Polykar, which used its plastic recycling machines to combine the reclaimed plastics with Dow’s RETAIN™ technology.
Mondi Group is a global leader in paper and packaging. The company’s Sustainex® product portfolio represents a unique family of innovative biodegradable, compostable and recyclable packaging materials.
Listed below are some of the initiatives taken by the Mondi group towards achieving sustainability:
- In 2016 Mondi collaborated with Rodenburg Biopolymers and Taghleef Industries and developed a new bio-based chocolate bar wrapper for Mars using polypropylene-based biodegradable film made with Rodenburg bio-resin and printed by Mondi Consumer Goods Packaging.
- In 2016 Mondi Grünburg in Austria launched a 100% recyclable IceBox for transporting temperature-sensitive foods and beverages.
- In 2017 Mondi Group launched water-soluble film that is biodegradable, non-toxic and non-inhibitory and also reduces packaging waste. The water-soluble film dissolves completely in water, making the film ideal for single doses of dry materials, such as dishwasher and laundry pods or bath salts.
- They have also created a new fully-recyclable plastic laminate packaging material called Barrier Pack Recyclable. Barrier Pack Recyclable has been developed for pre-made food pouches and FFS roll stock, and the brand claims the product has the same performance properties as conventional packaging materials.
After making a point to protect the planet, Ball Corporation has made it clear that sustainability is most critical to them, and made it one of their top priorities.
Here are some initiatives taken by the Ball Corporation:
- In 2015 Ball Corporation collaborated with Coca-Cola and manufactured contour-shaped aluminium beverage bottles in the U.S. that contained 11 % lower carbon footprint.
- In 2015 Ball manufactured a two-piece, lightweight steel aerosol container called G3-HD which is infinitely recyclable.
- In 2017, Ball Corporation and Unilever partnered to introduce new Rexona and Sure antiperspirant cans using Ball’s innovative ReAl™ technology.
These 10 companies crossed our radar when we were researching about the innovation happening in this domain. Since sustainable packaging has gained traction recently, a lot of startups are also trying to take the first mover advantage of this newly booming industry.
Analyzing startups also became a crucial part of our research as a lot of collaboration and acquisition activities happens because of startups. Here’s a list of some of the most notable startups in the sustainable packaging domain.
Key Startups Activities in the Sustainable Packaging
Ecovative – How does Nature Make Plastic?
“How does nature make plastic-like material?” is a secret the team at Ecovative is trying to reveal. They are using rarely used materials like fungi for material production, among others like ironwood trees, and armoured shell animals like lobsters.
Ecovative uses mycelium (mushroom “roots”) to bond together agricultural waste particles such as seed husks or plant stalks. Their first product Restore™ Mushroom® Packaging which replaces thousands of EPS, EPP and EPE plastic foam packaging parts is used by Dell, Crate & Barrel, and PUMA. You can explore more about Ecovative here.
Paptic – The new paper + plastic
Paptic is considered to be a game-changing Finnish the sustainable packaging domain. It uses conventional paper manufacturing machines and it’s novel foam forming technology to manufacture a novel material that could replace paper and plastic.
“We do not have any plastic in the material, so also no oxo-biodegradable plastic. PAPTIC is made with conventional paper machines but with a patented foam forming technology, which is a more resource efficient and environmentally friendly process than the production of conventional paper.”
— Daniela Bqain, Marketing Coordinator, Paptic
Paptic uses wood pulp and man-made biodegradable and recyclable materials as raw materials. Man-made fibers are added in its novel material to give it unique characteristics suitable for the product. For example, Paptic could make mineral free materials which could be used to wrap leather and jewellery like articles.
Aeropowder – Giving Feathers a Wing Again
Aeropowder, a startup based in London and winner of Green Alley Award – 2018, has found inspiration to use not so popular waste stream as raw material and convert that into packaging material.
After two years of prototyping, the startup has launched its first thermal packaging product line Pluumo which uses feather waste from poultry industry as raw material. Pluumo can match the thermal performance of polystyrene, and can accelerate the pace of adoption of sustainable packaging for food products.
“We felt it best to work with what the feathers already were capable of and to keep ourselves from overly complicating things. At first, we were looking at making lightweight composites materials, but soon realized that the natural insulating properties of feathers could have a number of useful applications.”
- Elena Dieckmann, Director, Aeropowder
Apeel – Using Food to Avoid Food Spoilage
Apeel Sciences is using advances in material science to tackle the global food crisis by preventing the spoilage of food.
The California based startup is deriving inspiration from how nature prevents spoilage of edible materials. The start-up has developed a patented plant-based coating which when sprayed/applied on fruits/vegetables drastically slows down the rate of spoilage.
The coating material of Apeel Science contains molecules that can interact with molecules of fruits/ vegetable. The coating material can double the shelf life of a fruit/vegetable even without refrigeration.
Sulapac – A potential challenger for plastics
The brainchild of two Finnish ladies Suvi Haimi and Laura Kyllönen, Sulapac is a fully biodegradable material that has similar properties like plastic. Because it could be produced at the same cost as that of plastic, it poses a serious competition to plastic.
Sulapac is made of wood and natural binders, and has water and oil resistance. Plus, it doesn’t penetrate oxygen. It allows flexibility and could be mould per different design requirement. You can explore the product portfolio of Sulapac here.
Ecoplasteam – Recycling 100% of Aluminium Packages
Ecoplasteam has solved the problem of recycling waste having multiple layers— tetrapacks, for example – which is one of the pressing issues of the circular economy.
The company has invented a process that could recycle 100% of aluminium packages and their components. Their process doesn’t separate layers of aluminium and plastic, rather it combines them to create a new material.
Their new material EcoAllene has chemical and mechanical properties similar to virgin materials like polyethylene. Its property remains the same for several batches of production, it could be colored, has a pleasant surface, is 100% recyclable, and traceable, and could be produced at competitive prices.
Superseven – Using Cellulose to Fight Plastic
German startup Superseven is using its patented technology to increase the mechanical strength of cellulose-based packaging materials; thus, enabling the use of cellulose in packing bigger and heavier products.
Its biodegradable packaging has home and garden compostability, and is harmless for the environment.
Cellulose has become the backbone of Packaging industry as it is the choice of raw material for many companies for their packaging products. It’s not just consumer goods and food products, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and even cannabis industry is adopting cellulose based packaging for their products.
In the next part of this analysis, you’ll get to know how cellulose is shaping the future of many industries. Here are a few of the questions that I’ve tried to answer:
- How sustainable packaging is changing the cellulose industry?
- Which companies are using cellulose based products to move towards a greener future?
- What are the challenges they are facing and how are they solving it?
- A run down of how cellulose is being used in Cannabis, Pharmaceutical, Electronic, Corrugated, and Food and Beverage industries.
Want us to dive deeper and explore the innovation taking place in sustainable packaging industry? We can help you answer questions like –
- Which areas in sustainable packaging industries are being overlooked and can become a great opportunity for your business?
- How companies are solving the most critical challenges of their packaging products and raw materials?
- Where sustainable packaging industry is moving as a whole, upcoming products, new raw materials, etc.?
- And a whole lot more.
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