Recyclability in the paper industry driver’s seat
EcoVantage kraft paper made by Mondi Group is one of several recent examples of new paper and board products with a recycling emphasis.
Image provided by Mondi Group.

Recyclability in the paper industry driver’s seat

Paper producers, packaging designers and brand owners continue to modify designs to accommodate recycling.

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March 3, 2021

The first quarter of 2021 has witnessed announcements of new and redesigned products with a common theme: recycling. Whether modifying a package to contain recycled content or to be more easily recycled, brand owners, retailers and product and packaging designers are working furiously to ensure paper and board meets circular economy criteria.

In Europe, Mondi Group and DS Smith have introduced new products with additional circularity features in early 2021, while Smurfit Kappa has updated a sustainability program that includes a commitment to offer additional sustainable packaging options to customers.

In early March, Vienna-based Mondi announced a program undertaken in partnership with Tesco Central Europe through which Mondi will purchase the retailer’s warehouse-generated old corrugated containers (OCC) to create recycled-content kraft paper for the retail chain’s shopping bags in Central Europe.

The program ties in with a new paper machine being installed by Mondi in the Czech Republic that will produce recycled-content kraft paper.

United Kingdom-based Tesco says it is working toward a net-zero emission goal, in line with its sustainability targets, to remove, reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible. Mondi, says the retailer, can contribute to that vision with its EcoSolutions approach.

This is the first time Tesco has collaborated directly with a paper producer to direct its OCC to a mill in line with the firm’s circular economy goals. Mondi says it will use the retailer’s OCC to produce the EcoVantage grade, consisting of a combination of recycled-content and virgin fiber designed “to achieve a recyclable and high-performing shopping bag.”

The board producer says the blend of virgin and recycled fibers has multiple benefits, including strength, printability and the appearance of virgin fiber top layer combined with the sustainability advantages of a recycled fiber bottom layer.

“Our EcoSolutions approach means we collaborate very closely with our customers to create the best possible product for their needs – using paper where possible and plastic when useful,” states Paulus Goess, sales director of the Speciality Kraft Paper business unit of Mondi. “We have been working on this project with Tesco for over two years, with the aim of reusing their warehouse [scrap] to create a quality product that is strong in terms of performance, based on renewable resources, uses recycled materials and can in turn be fully recycled and ultimately contribute to a circular economy. Our strong EcoVantage paper allows consumers to re-use the shopping bag multiple times despite the recycled content, and Tesco encourages its consumers to do so.”

In February, Mondi announced the development of a paper material designed to be easily recyclable that serves in the barrier-protected packaging product range. The new product range also has been designed to run on existing filling lines in form-fill-and-seal (FFS) applications.

Mondi says its AegisPaper range reduces the amount of plastic used by “replacing it with a renewable resource that has specific mechanical properties, such as puncture resistance, flexibility, printability and barrier protection.”

Also in February, U.K.-based DS Smith introduced a reusable paperboard product called Greentote it is positioning as a reusable, moisture-resistant and 100-percent-recyclable cardboard container made from what DS Smith calls renewable resources.

The reusable box is being actively marketed in the United States, where 18 of the 50 states have partial or comprehensive bans on thin film plastic shopping bags. “Greentote is about convenience and sustainability,” says Melanie Galloway, vice president of sales, marketing and innovation for DS Smith North America Packaging. “From staging orders to curbside pickup or delivery, our sustainable, renewable, fiber-based tote is sturdier than paper, keeps perishable and other grocery items organized and safe and is reusable.”

Ireland-based Smurfit Kappa, another of Europe’s largest containerboard producers, has introduced an alternative to the ubiquitous plastic rings surrounding six-packs of aluminum beverages in the form of a paperboard product. The TopClip, developed in partnership with a German company and introduced late last year, covers the top of can multipacks, protecting them from contamination and providing consumer handling and branding opportunities, says Smurfit Kappa.

The packaging and board producer says TopClip is sustainably sourced paper-based packaging that is free from additional glue and thus likely to be accepted for collection in most recycling programs.

Smurfit Kappa, like Mondi and DS Smith, is likely to introduce more such recycling-friendly paperboard options this year. In the firm’s early 2021 update to its Better Planet 2050 targets, it said in part it will remain focused on being a manufacturer of products that are renewable, recyclable, recycled and biodegradable, and it will continue to seek alternative ways to reuse, recycle and recover scrap materials to reduce waste sent to landfills.