Mondi’s flexible packaging sustainability head: Policy must boost recycling and harmonize circularity legislation
06 Mar 2023 --- Achieving improved sustainability in environmental and human health continues to be a major challenge for the flexible plastic packaging sector. Big industry players like Mondi are designing recyclable solutions to contribute to a circular economy, but regional and international recycling infrastructure remains insufficient.
PackagingInsights speaks to Fabio Peyer, head of sustainability flexible packaging at Mondi, to discuss how the company is dealing with these struggles as product innovation paces ahead of government support.
“Achieving a closed-loop system and truly circular economy for plastic packaging is possible if primary adjustments are made,” he says.
“Unnecessary packaging needs to be avoided and minimized, innovative sorting and recycling models need to be in place and – above all – fit-for-purpose packaging has to be designed for recycling to ensure a sustainable end-of-life scenario.”
“Over the last years, we’ve seen a critical mass of unharmonized national legislation leading to differing requirements on packaging design. It was challenging to make sound design for recycling decisions that would hold true across numerous geographies.”
Harmonizing legislation across borders
Policymakers must take several actions to address these issues and harmonize legislation internationally, Peyer asserts.
“To support the transition to a truly circular economy, credible long-term pathway scenarios and policy frameworks need to be identified. All packaging needs to be collected separately for recovery to remain a valuable part of the circular economy. If packaging waste lands in the wrong stream, it is lost,” he says.
“Furthermore, end consumers need to be educated and guided more on how to correctly dispose of the packaging once it comes to its end of life. Without their active contribution, there will not be enough material to boost recycling rates.”
Recently, we spoke to Paul Foulkes-Arellano, a circularity consultant, who explained that wherever companies are making genuine efforts to create recyclable or renewable packaging products, a lack of sortation, collection and management infrastructure stands in the way.
Industry takes the initiative
While calls are made on governments to better harmonize and provide resources for a circular economy, Peyer says industry groups like Mondi are taking their own initiatives to push forward.
“The industry came together to take up the challenge and established harmonized design guidelines to support the transition to more sustainable packaging – notably the CEFLEX guidelines for flexible plastic packaging and the CEPI/4evergreen guidelines for paper and functional paper solutions,” he explains.
While the design is only one piece of the puzzle, these guidelines have driven alignment across the entire value chain on what design for recycling means.
“Finding the most suitable packaging and designing it for recycling is the first step toward creating a circular economy for paper and plastic packaging and, at the same time, it is the single biggest contribution Mondi and our customers can make to drive higher recycling rates,” Peyer continues.
“By developing and commercializing solutions that are designed for recycling, we help create the critical mass that is needed to accelerate advancements and investment in collection and reprocessing capacity.”
Recently, Mondi has developed and commercialized numerous solutions designed for recycling, such as FunctionalBarrier Paper, BarrierPack Recyclable, FlexiBag Recyclable and PerForming MonoLoop, which “push the limits of what is possible.”
Monomaterial structures lie at the heart of these innovations. Innova Market Insights recently listed “Plastics circularization” as its top trend for 2023, noting that although plastic reduction initiatives are gathering pace and renewable alternatives are on the rise, plastic’s inherent qualities as a lightweight, versatile and hygienic material means that production and consumption continue to increase.
“We will continue to invest in R&D and capabilities to push the limits even further,” says Peyer. “For example, through our new R&D Centre and the Recycling Laboratory at Mondi Frantschach.”
“Mondi’s purpose is to contribute to a better world by making innovative, sustainable packaging and paper solutions. This better world is one in which everyday products are designed to minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency as part of a truly circular economy, supported by responsible and sustainable business practices and strong collaboration.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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