Companies have a vast number of different package design options available. But today the important question is how sustainable they are? Should they use paper or plastic? When does it make sense to use material combinations and what are their environmental impacts?
Answers to these questions are provided in a Life Cycle Assessment study (LCA) that PE INTERNATIONAL has conducted for Wipak. The Wipak Group is part of the Finland-based Wihuri Group and holds a leading rank in the development and manufacture of multilayer films (in particular barrier films) and high-end packaging solutions in Europe
LCA compared film packages with paper composite solutions
“Energy consumption, ozone production or global warming – material combinations based on paper and plastics can be more sustainable than plastics solutions”, Dr. Annett Kaeding-Koppers, the Wipak Group’s Sustainability Representative explains. On behalf of Wipak, the PE INTERNATIONAL sustainability experts compared film packages, such as used in Germany for sausage and cheese, with paper composite solutions offering identical functionality, including different amounts of paper in the top web and in the tray web.
One result: The use of paper in general has a positive influence on the reduction of carbon emissions. This means that the impact on the greenhouse effect is smaller than it is for the reference systems made of pure plastics that were also examined in the study. There were also clear improvements in terms of ozone production, i.e. the reduction of summer smog.
Paper cannot replace plastics
There is no silver bullet. Paper cannot fully replace plastics since it does not meet the high demands in terms of optimum product protection. The ideal material mix depends on the food products to be packaged as well as on the functions to be provided by a package.
Broad range of packaging solutions
Consumers expect a responsive use of resources. This expectation also influences package development. Using paper composites, the Wipak Group has responded to the trend towards sustainability at an early stage, complementing the product range of high-quality multilayer and barrier films with more innovative paper composites later on. A selection of composite concepts will be presented by Wipak at the FachPack exhibition. The “Paper Top“ version e.g. replaces paper polyester as a print carrier. The amount of renewable resources reaches approximately 35 percent so that the use of fossil raw materials has been reduced by about 30 percent. With the “Paper Bottom“ version, the amount of paper can reach more than 50 percent, depending on the composite structure.
New marketing approaches
While paper composite solutions are still niche products, their market share grows constantly. Paper composites offer new unique selling propositions at the POS. Using the knowledge of how sustainable a packaging really is, companies are able to differentiate themselves from the competition, assuming a more credible position in the customer’s view. It is therefore worthwhile taking a closer look even just for the marketing aspects alone.