Story | 06/24/2020 05:40:55 | 3 min Read time

Paper packaging going fully circular

We had a chat with UPM’s Mikko Rissanen and Marko Janhunen about what everyone should expect from CEPI’s 4evergreen initiative in the coming years. They both agreed the alliance is a strong indication to the EU that fibre-based packaging is part of the solution, not the problem.

Recent months have shown the significance of safe packaging. Packaging plays an increasingly important role to protect consumers with safely packaged food, for example. . At the same time consumers and policy makers focus on the sustainability of packaging.

Therefore UPM Pulp, UPM Raflatac and UPM Specialty Papers have joined forces with other big companies in the value chain, including customers such as Nestlé, Mars, IKEA and the like, to work on making fibre-based packaging even more sustainable.

“The latest developments in EU legislation and policymaking triggered increasing need for sustainable packaging solutions. Now we have a forum for the whole value and production chain. Together we can contribute to the systemic changes required for a circular economy to truly work,” says Marko Janhunen, Director, Public Affairs at UPM.

“And we have a chance to speed up development and adoption of packaging that is designed for recycling from the ground up,” UPM Specialty Papers’ Director, Business Intelligence & Development, Mikko Rissanen chimes in.

The fibre-based packaging sector is highly fragmented in Europe. Instead of a single strong voice, the sector has several smaller domestic advocacy and interest groups. This is why 4evergreen offers a brilliant opportunity for cross-industry cooperation and tangible solutions for the global brand owners in the alliance.

“We can communicate the strengths of fibre-based packaging materials to decision makers, consumers and other interest groups. Our renewable products come from responsibly managed forests, have excellent properties and can be used to substitute fossil raw materials,” Janhunen explains.

Harmonising systems and products for a circular economy

One of the main challenges is to preserve the value of recycled fibres. How to ensure traceability of current and new packaging materials? What steps need to be taken to maintain certain levels in recycling rates, quality and hygiene?

“We must manage different material streams more efficiently so that we can recover the full value of fibres and prevent them from ending up in landfill or incinerators,” says Rissanen, who’s also leading one of the work streams in the 4evergreen alliance.

Standardisation of new fibre-based materials is similarly important for various reasons. On the one hand recycling infrastructures and practices vary greatly from country to country. How to guarantee that local recyclers will be able to handle new materials and volumes? On the other hand brand owners want to make sure their packaging suppliers can provide them with materials with the same sustainable specifications, no matter which market they serve.

“The 4evergreen alliance doesn’t want to create complications further down the value chain. We want to solve them,” Rissanen says.

And the work has already started. A number of UPM experts have joined the 4evergreen work streams and task forces that cover issues ranging from food safety to e-commerce, flexible packaging to barrier technologies.