The many positive properties of plastics are used for packaging. They are convincing due to their simple production and low weight. At the same time, they perform their main task – the protective effect on the packaged goods – excellently: they protect food from contamination, simplify its transport, are difficult to break, in many cases allow a view of the product and significantly extend its shelf life. Good packaging can therefore make a major contribution to saving resources and reducing food waste. To further increase the recyclability of packaging, four Fraunhofer institutes are working in an ongoing project to develop a monomaterial film with all the properties needed for product protection.
In recent decades, the advantages of plastic packaging have helped it become more widespread and an indispensable part of everyday life. At the same time, however, packaging waste also contributes significantly to the accumulation of plastics in the environment. If waste is not disposed of adequately, its long persistence hides the risk of accumulation of the corresponding materials in the environment, with negative effects on wildlife and even humans.
Monomaterials replace multilayer films
Single-grade disposables, can be well separated and recycled in the recycling loops, provided they are disposed of correctly. More problematic are so-called multilayer films, which are made up of several polymer layers that are practically inseparable from each other. Due to their outstanding properties, such composite films are mainly used for packaging in the food sector, e.g. pre-packaged cheese, sausage or snacks. For these materials, the only practical option at the end of the product life cycle is thermal recycling, which, however, is not an ecologically desirable solution – although it is preferable to disposal in simple landfills or even shipment abroad. The focus of current developments is therefore on monomaterials. Initial approaches for replacing multilayer films are already being offered on the market for selected applications.
Monomaterial films with tailored product properties
The recycling of plastic packaging, also in the sense of the circular economy and an associated equivalent use as the original product, is therefore also the focus of a currently ongoing project of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The consortium consists of the Fraunhofer Institutes for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP in Dresden, for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg, for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in Freising and for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen.
Under the coordination of the Fraunhofer IVV, the four institutes are conducting research to develop a completely recyclable monomaterial film that meets all the requirements of the packaging industry. These include mechanical properties, e.g. to ensure the stability of stand-up pouches, as well as requirements for the barrier effect with regard to gases, vapors and aromatic substances. The central idea of the project is to separate the property profile of the polymer granules to be extruded from the subsequent product properties of the film by specifically modifying the film material afterwards. Compared with the solutions already available, it is possible to increase the stiffness as required and thus save material. For this purpose, technologies are used which can be applied in-line to the film extrusion and therefore do not reduce its productivity. This enables the production of recyclable films while maintaining previous production costs.
SIG reinforces Industry Leadership on Renewable Energy
Already the first and only aseptic carton manufacturer to produce all its packs with 100 percent renewable energy globally since 2018, SIG has further reinforced its commitment to go Way Beyond Good for the planet by directly investing in physical power purchase agreements (PPAs) that will secure enough renewable energy capacity to power 100 percent of its carton packaging production in Germany from January 2023.
“Securing physical renewable power for our carton packaging production is the highest attainable level of responsible energy sourcing,” said Arnold Schuhwerk, Head of Category Polymers & Energy Global at SIG. “Alongside our growing global portfolio of on-site solar installations, we see power purchase agreements as the most sustainable way to directly invest in renewable energy capacity.”
Sourcing more renewable energy directly
SIG has achieved carbon neutral production since 2018 by using 100 percent renewable energy to make its carton packs.
From January 2023, SIG carton packaging plants in Germany will meet 100 percent of their electricity demands through physical PPAs. These include a combination of on-site solar installations, renewable electricity from on-shore wind turbines in Germany on real-time supply basis and a flexible top-up of hydropower – provided by energy supplier Enovos Energie Deutschland GmbH.
Sourcing energy through physical PPAs means that the energy is generated from assigned renewable power generators within the accounting grid of the energy supplier and delivered to SIG.
Initially, SIG’s renewable electricity was mainly sourced indirectly through Guarantees of Origin certificates. But the company is continuing to go further on its Climate+ ambition by sourcing more of its renewable electricity around the world directly through PPAs that support further investment in renewable energy as part of the global energy mix.
The Way Beyond Good
SIG is not stopping there. The company has several more on-site solar installations in the pipeline – including at its German carton packaging production plants in Linnich and Wittenberg, at its production plant in Saudi Arabia and at a new plant currently in construction in Mexico – that will triple its global on-site solar capacity.
SIG’s investment in renewable energy for carton packaging production has already avoided over half a million tonnes of CO2-equivalent. This is just one of the ways SIG is cutting greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and value chain as part of its Climate+ ambition – all of which contribute to low-carbon packaging and a lower-carbon supply chain for customers.
Breakthrough Food Technology Award
This achievement is a tribute to the company’s commitment to Research & Development and its unique technology, breakthrough innovations and unwavering determination to open up new opportunities for customers and retailers.
Abdelghany Eladib, President and General Manager Middle East and Africa at SIG, said: “Achieving this recognition from industry peers delights us tremendously. SIG has been working relentlessly with its partners and customers to bring to market innovative food and beverage packaging solutions that raise the bar on convenience, sustainability, quality, safety, and affordability and which are produced at smarter factories that can track and measure our products’ journey to achieving these goals. Our Research and Development has been opening new opportunities for the industry to present safer and more convenient aseptic packaging solutions specifically designed with the modern consumer in mind.”
SIG’s key offerings provide convenient packaging solutions that protect the flavour, aroma, colour, nutrients, and vitamins of food and beverage products for an extended period of time without refrigeration and without preservatives. This means that healthy nutrition can be made available to everyone.
The hot drinks segment, in particular, has previously been an untapped market for carton packaging. But demand for convenient hot breakfast drinks and other hot beverages that are easy to heat at home or work for both immediate and on-the-go consumption has been rising. For that, SIG developed the Heat&Go aseptic packaging material. Aseptic carton packs using this packaging material can be heated in a microwave. Heat&Go replaces the aluminum layer found inside standard aseptic carton structures with a high-barrier alternative that allows drinks to be microwaved without compromising product quality. For this solution SIG has now been decorated with the Breakthrough Food Technology Award at Gulfood Manufacturing 2022.
Earlier last month, SIGNATURE EVO from SIG was pronounced as the winner of the independent Gulf Sustainability Awards 2022 in the “Best Sustainable Product” category. SIGNATURE EVO extends SIG’s lower-carbon packaging materials without aluminium layer – already available for plain white milk – for wider use with oxygen-sensitive products such as fruit juices, nectars, flavoured milk or plant-based beverages. SIGNATURE EVO has an even significantly lower carbon footprint than SIG’s standard packaging material structure.
SIG’s ground-breaking and award-winning innovations will be on display at Gulfood Manufacturing 2022, along with other advanced technologies and breakthrough developments from SIG – including its combismile and combistyle packaging solutions.
Next generation packaging line-up
SIG announced that it will be bringing its most advanced and sustainable next-gen technology solutions and packaging innovations to Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO). The next-gen line-up of innovations will become the showpieces at the company’s Centre of Excellence at DSO, where business partners, food and beverage manufacturers, retail customers and entrepreneurs from the Middle East and Africa will be able to experience and deploy them. The company is giving a sneak preview of its new cutting-edge solutions at the Gulfood Manufacturing Exhibition 2022 by unveiling them through augmented reality.
For the first time in the region SIG is presenting its expanded portfolio of market-leading sustainable packaging solutions at Gulfood. Debuting at Gulfood, bag-in-box and spouted pouch solutions for retail, institutional and industrial applications will be on display amongst SIG’s extended line-up of its next generation packaging that allows customers to create new possibilities for differentiation, convenience, premiumisation, and flexibility.
Abdelghany Eladib, President and General Manager Middle East and Africa at SIG, said: “SIG will be demonstrating at Gulfood Manufacturing this year the powerful value our innovations, unique solutions and leading-edge technology bring to customers in the region, whether they are looking for retail or industrial packaging. Our packaging solutions have been developed to meet the growing demand for mobile, healthy, comfortable, and convenient consumer experience. Our versatile, sustainable packaging solutions are always designed with resource reduction in mind.”
As part of its value proposition, SIG is driving product innovation and differentiation by building strong and mutually beneficial partnerships with food and beverage manufacturers across the Middle East and Africa region to meet the changing needs of an increasingly mobile society.
At the show, SIG will be displaying its innovative on-the-go packaging solution combismile that was recently launched in Saudi Arabia for Safi Danone’s Danao brand. In addition, Fair Cape will introduce SIG’s uniquely shaped carton pack combistyle that stands out on the shelf and gives South African consumers a new, modern pack.
“It is crucial that product and package complement each other to clearly reflect both product quality and brand values, while offering active consumers the ultimate on-the-go convenience. In the increasingly competitive retail environment, beverage manufacturers need to bring a fresh and distinctive look to often crowded drink aisles – our solutions help them stand out while making it easier for consumers to find what they need. combistyle for example, offers a stylish corner panel that provides a comfortable and safe grip, while allowing brand owners to effectively communicate key messages with eye-catching designs,” explains Abdelghany Eladib.