Dr. Martin Berlekamp/Max Wolfmaier: Under the guiding principle of “rethink”, Schur Flexibles Group is presenting a sustainability program for greater environmental and climate protection. The recent European Plastics Strategy, developed by the EU Commission, is the result of an assessment of the global challenges facing the environment and our climate. The Commission has pinpointed the reduction of waste from plastics through increased recycling and the development of alternative packaging as a long-term solution to some of these challenges. Sustainability has therefore become a subject of paramount importance within the packaging sector. In addition, consumers increasingly value sustainability as a reason to buy or not to buy a product. Dr. Martin Berlekamp, Head of Sustainability and Max Wolfmaier, Business Development Manager at Schur Flexibles, talks about possible solutions currently being explored by Schur Flexibles Group.
You have recently announced the Schur Flexibles sustainability program. Could you explain what this involves?
Berlekamp: The transition from linear, single-use material flow to a cyclical economy is an ecological necessity. The European Commission’s aim is to drive change with its new strategy. As a flexible packaging specialist, we are committed to environmental stewardship, with the responsibility of creating packaging and processes that are as sustainable as possible. By 2025 most of our products will be recyclable, made of renewable raw materials or utilizing a minimum of raw materials, and in this we will be market leader. Our 5R program is dedicated to upholding these goals.
What does 5R refer to?
Berlekamp: This refers to the five pillars on which the Schur Flexibles sustainability concept is based.
It begins with responsibility. We take responsibility for our products and our company. We advocate sustainability within the Group and in our sphere of influence. We are currently working on many projects to make our flexible packaging products more efficient and ecological. We also carry out a lot of research and development to identify sustainable packaging solutions that are easy to implement. Additionally, we are an active partner of the SAVE FOOD and CEFLEX initiatives.
Recycling guarantees the most efficient utilization of raw materials and packaging materials. This leads to a long-term reduction in the production of plastics. We carry out research to continuously improve recyclable packaging solutions as well as optimize resource recycling. Replace refers to the replacement of non-sustainable materials and packaging concepts with sustainable ones.
The concept of reduction means that in order to save resources we strive to reduce as much as possible the quantity of materials used. Naturally, product protection and functionality are still of utmost importance.
The renewal pillar refers to packaging materials that are made of renewable raw materials. This includes packaging materials made of paper, non-woven fiber or plastic film made of 100% renewable raw materials.
The packaging solutions developed as a part of our 5R approach and “design for recycling” concept, are all marked accordingly with our rethink logo to highlight our range of sustainable products.
Could you give us some examples of products that were developed using this approach?
Wolfmaier: Our current product range already includes numerous recyclable products that contribute to sustainable resource management. Many of our products are made of mono materials and are therefore recyclable. However, not only mono materials are recyclable – materials from the same group of plastics can also be recycled together. One such group of plastics are polyolefins, to which PE and PP belong. This also enables the recyclability of product combinations such as our SkinFreshTop combined with our C-base bottom films.
We have developed a mono PET lidding film for mono APET trays, thereby enabling mono PET packaging. The BarrierTop(re) is highly machinable and is available with a peel or an antifog option.
We are particularly proud of not only having received the German Packaging Award 2018 in the sustainability category but also being awarded with the German Packaging Award in Gold 2018 at the ceremony at Fachpack for our reclosable FlexiClose(re) packaging concept. The Gold Award rewards innovations from the circle of Packaging Award winners that set very special trends, find important answers or act as a pioneer in an entirely new way. Used in conjunction with Schur Flexibles C-base, FlexiClose(re) provides a completely recyclable, high-barrier reclose solution. What makes FlexiClose(re) so innovative is the polyolefin-based lidding film which, when used in combination with C-base, forms a recyclable system. For portion packaging we have developed a special polypropylene rigid film that provides an excellent alternative to PVC or PS due to its outstanding machinability.
Our SuperThin laminate film and BarrierTop X 35 are further products in our sustainability portfolio. These new films are amongst the thinnest in the market. They offer material savings as well as reducing the amount of resources required for storage and transportation, thus leading to a more efficient use of resources all along the value chain. Last but not least, we increasingly use renewable raw materials such as paper, waxed paper (using classic wax and eco wax), PE from renewable resources (bioethanol) and sugar-based films.
Should packaging not be avoided as much as possible?
Berlekamp: There has been much discussion about the sustainability of packaging and its avoidance. At Schur Flexibles we take a 360-degree view of the subject. On its field-to-fork journey, a product goes through a multitude of production, storage and transport processes. All of these utilize substantial amounts of resources of which only around three per cent are due to its packaging.
At the same time, packaging plays a vital role in product protection and therefore leads to resource efficiency and climate protection. When you have longer shelf life and reduced food waste, less of the resources that went into producing the end product are wasted.
In the pharmaceuticals sector packaging is essential to ensure product protection. This is why one of our goals is to produce packaging using as little material as possible while still guaranteeing high levels of quality and functionality. It allows us to find packaging solutions that offer maximum product security but with minimum impact on the environment.
What long-term goals do you have in relation to sustainability?
Berlekamp: Our commitment to greater environmental and climate protection is a demonstration of our responsibility to the world in which we live. Additionally, we intend to keep our market-leading position in the European packaging sector.
Sustainability is a criterion that is increasingly influencing consumers when they decide whether to buy a product or not. This has led to retailers demanding innovative packaging solutions from the packaging industry.
Our innovative, sustainable products are designed to boost our customers’ success, allowing them to reach their own sustainability goals. The ability to advertise products by highlighting the sustainability of their packaging leads to significant market advantages.
It is important to remember that packaging is more than just a covering. Packaging should provide optimal protection, have innovative features and create eye-catching point-of-sale optics that lead to sales. In order to always be one step ahead, we engage in extensive research at our state-of-the-art research facilities in Finland, Germany and Denmark. Here we offer advice, research and collaboration, combining commerce with ecological concerns. We offer our customers close partnerships as we are convinced that the only way of mastering global challenges is by working together.
Schur Flexibles Group