09.06.2022 - Sustainability
Whether in the office, shopping or out and about: we come into contact with packaging everywhere in our daily lives. Hardly anything we buy that isn't packaged, and the packaging material can vary greatly – from plastic to paper. The spectrum for packaging is very large and offers highly interesting possibilities. One opportunity to take a close look at this is the Day of Packaging.
The event takes place for the eighth time on 9 June. Four associations from the packaging industry will be presenting their results from current packaging studies and providing information on the latest developments. For WEPA, this is of course particularly exciting with regard to recycling and environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging. But what can those interested actually expect to find out on this special day?
Packaging Day has been taking place annually since 2014, and the event was initially launched by the German Packaging Institute and annually changing supporting associations from the packaging industry. Every year, a new study is presented during a press conference which has been followed for five years by a study conference for open discussion purposes. Promoting young talent is of great importance at the event, and at the conference, around 90 students from the field of packaging come together with influencers and experts from the industry. Among other things, sustainable solutionconcepts and environmentally friendly aspects in the production of packaging materials are debated.
"Why is there more and more packaging?" is the topic commissioned this year by the Society for Packaging Market Research (GVM). It takes a closer look at the packaging consumption of specific products between 1995 and 2020. The following categories are highlighted:
• PET bottles for mineral water
• Pet food
• Dairy products
• Washing and cleaning products
• Tins and cans
• Electrical appliances
• Service packaging
Environmentally friendly packaging is more important than ever. The consumption of packaging material increases from year to year, leaving behind an enormous carbon footprint. In 2019 in Germany alone, a total of 18.91 million tonnes of packaging waste was generated. In 2018 there was 0.2% less packaging waste, and in 2010 as much as 18.1% less. The problem is that very little packaging is environmentally friendly or even made from sustainable, renewable raw materials, which in turn causes exceedingly high ecological damage. But there's also good news. Compared to the previous year, the recycling rate for packaging in 2019 increased by 2.6%. Recycling is fundamental for the purposeful and careful handling of raw materials and resources - and also of course with regard to packaging.
Sustainability has always been an integral part of the WEPA corporate philosophy. As a consequence, we've made it our mission to develop sustainable alternatives for everyday problems, and not just in the recent past. As early as the 1980s, WEPA revolutionised the hygiene paper market with the first product made from recycled fibre.
Many years have passed since then, but the topic of sustainability is still firmly anchored in our corporate DNA, and of course in terms of packaging.
We have made it our mission to keep our ecological footprint as small as possible. The development of innovative and sustainable packaging is thus currently an important focus within our group of companies. True to the motto of "reduce, reuse, recycle", we use the principle of the circular economy to sustainably utilise precious resources after initial use. Only in this way can long-term retention in the value chain be guaranteed. Not only environmental compatibility is important in this sense, but also the durability and texture of the complete result. In addition, not every sustainable raw material is suitable for a green packaging solution.
An internal WEPA working group closely analyses different packaging materials on a daily basis and evaluates possible uses. This resulted in an agenda for the continuous development of sustainable packaging:
• Reduction of packaging thickness
• Optimisation of packaging sizes and doing without superfluous elements (e.g. handles)
• Use of post-consumer recyclate (PCR)
• Further development of protective and recyclable paper packaging
First and foremost, the packaging has to protect the product and enable safe and convenient transport. For hygiene paper, plastic packaging has shown itself to be the best solution. It ensures that toilet paper is protected from moisture for example, and that kitchen towels stay clean. It is also lightweight, strong and recyclable and can be made from recycled plastic. Much of our packaging already has a post-consumer recycled (PCR) ratio of up to 60 %, which significantly reduces the ecological footprint. If paper packaging is to be given the necessary protective function for our sensitive products, this can only be achieved with a significantly higher input of resources. That, in turn, has a negative impact on the ecobalance.
Our greatest successes in the field of sustainable packaging are mainly the result of intelligent material savings and the use of recyclable material. Thus, redesigning the packaging of the mach m!t! toilet paper made it possible to save five tonnes of plastic each year just by eliminating the carrying handle. Taking all measures together, we were able to save more than 1,100 tonnes of primary plastic in all our packaging in 2021.
Already today, 100% of all packaging for WEPA products is recyclable or reusable. However, our self-imposed objective to protect the environment goes further: by 2025, at least 60 % of our packaging material is intended to consist of recycled material. For plastic packaging for example this means savings of 8,000 tonnes of primary plastic.
It's an ambitious goal, but we're confident we can achieve this together with our teams of experts, a good portion of pioneering spirit and strong partners at our side.