The Shift to a Circular Economy is more Complex than One Might Think

Mono-material coffee bags, thermoformed paper-based food trays: Packaging experts have been getting ready to step into the circular economy. But besides optimizing recyclability and balancing packaging function, producibility or logistics, there is a lot more that goes along with meeting the circular regulatory framework.

VDMA Printing and Paper Technology Association promotes the interests and supports member companies in machinery and (post-)printing processes as well as in paper production. Through the “Circular Competence“ interview series, the VDMA association members disclose their company preventions and solutions to set off on the journey towards a circular economy. In this interview edition, Matthias Klauser, specialist in sustainable packaging solutions at SYNTEGON, outlines the challenges that industry players have to face before entering into a circular economy.

SYNTEGON‘s Commitment to Recycling and Waste Avoidance

With 160 years of expertise in processing and packaging, SYNTEGON supplies the pharmaceutical and food industries with its machines and systems. The technology provider pays close attention to reducing resource consumption and advocates more renewable energy and an increase in recyclable waste. Furthermore, the packaging expert boasts about the high recovery rate of its plants which lies between 89 and over 90 percent, especially the ones in Germany. Besides, SYNTEGON offers its customers the possibility of refurbishing older machines. In other words, time-worn machines can be brought back to life by adapting them to new materials.

SYNTEGON‘s Circular Economy Solutions

So in order to meet the requirements of the packaging market, including the customer needs, SYNTEGON has been working on the development of two technological solutions: preferring mono-material to composite materials and switching over to paper. Matthias Klauser claims:

“With appropriately functionalised paper, it is also possible to package sensitive products.“

In search of more sustainable alternatives that will replace the previous materials, there are other aspects, e.g. concerning the sealing systems, that must be taken into account according to Mr. Klauser:

“The different material behaviour requires, for example, more precise temperature control so that the sealing succeeds without plastic sticking to the mould.“

Challenges on The Road to a Circular Economy

Circular competence is undoubtedly in high demand with Europe taking the lead. Besides, there are also different dispositions when it comes to the food value chain and the pharmaceutical sector, as Mr. Klauser points out as follows:

“While global retail chains and food suppliers now place a lot of emphasis on sustainable packaging and are pushing ahead with changes that they are rolling out globally, the pharmaceutical industry, for example, is more reserved. Here, the focus is on packaging medicines safely and in compliance with the law.”

For the sake of future-proof solutions, packaging manufacturers as well as brand owners are involved in research and development from day one since they are also the ones leading and contributing to the industrial revolution. From the view of an expert, Mr. Klauser assesses the present shift to a circular economy:

“The fact is: the entry into the Circular Economy must succeed, but the deeper you go, the more complicated it becomes. […] Ultimately, intensive analyses are also needed on the legislative side in order to be able to set a practicable framework. This must keep a future open for packaging that protects food from spoilage, ensures the safety of medication and enables efficient logistics processes without transport damage. Those who think too short-sightedly here will be at a great disadvantage in the overall balance“.

The circular economy is a global megatrend and that is why experts in the industry have been invited to share their knowledge about their circular solutions through the VDMA Circular Competence interview series. How do you implement the circular model in your business? Feel free to share your know-how in the comment section.

Leave A Comment