June 23, Innsbruck. The Packaging with a Future platform organized an interactive pop-up booth in Innsbruck in cooperation with MPREIS on June 23, 2023. The goal of the pop-up booth is to have an open and fact-based dialogue with the public on the question of whether packaging is a problem or part of the solution, towards a functioning circular economy. To this end, everyday examples are presented on the topics of food waste, recycling and the value and benefits of packaging. Companies from the entire packaging value chain and the retail partner MPREIS have joined forces for this purpose.

Packaging is an indispensable part of everyday life, but in the public perception it is usually associated with polluting waste and perceived as a burden on the climate. Plastic packaging in particular has a bad reputation. The call to do away with packaging to protect our environment has long been part of the public debate. Despite increased educational efforts by the packaging industry and retailers, some myths persist. “We agree that all unnecessary packaging should be avoided, but we don’t want to ignore the important benefits of packaging,” says Sandra Pechac, executive director of the Packaging with a Future platform. The interactive pop-up stand is designed to help consumers find their way through the packaging jungle and raise awareness of sustainability in everyday life, as well as providing practical tips on food waste, recycling and the recyclability of packaging. “Each and every one of us bears responsibility for a more sustainable future and can make a contribution,” Sandra Pechac is convinced.


Taking responsibility together

Representing the 25 members of the platform were experts from the companies ENGEL AUSTRIA GmbH, Interzero Circular Solutions Europe GmbH and ePac Innsbruck GmbH, as well as the managing director of MPREIS. At the pop-up stand, the value and benefits of packaging were illustrated in dialogue with consumers, the advantages and disadvantages of different materials were highlighted, and the importance of packaging design and correct disposal for a closed cycle was explained. “The use of the optimum packaging has predominantly positive effects on the ecological balance of a product if it is disposed of correctly,” is the core message.


As little as possible, as much as necessary

“In terms of resource conservation, it is important that a product is well protected, has a long shelf life and reaches consumers in top quality. Packaging of all kinds, from plastic and aluminum to cardboard and glass, has an important function here. Optimized packaging can reduce food waste by up to 75%. The environmental benefit from avoided waste is thus in most cases significantly higher than the environmental cost of the packaging itself,” says David Mölk, CEO of MPREIS, adding, “At MPREIS, we are constantly reviewing where we can avoid unnecessary packaging, save packaging material and improve our packaging. For example, our MPREIS Alpine butchery has converted the meat cups for minced and sliced meat to rPET. The new packaging uses firstly a mono-plastic and secondly a recyclate, so it is positive in two senses. Unfortunately, there is no reasonable alternative to plastic or plastic for meat. However, we were able to switch a total of 6,000 kg of plastic to recycled PET, which has significantly reduced the use of raw materials or resources.”


Plastic can also be smart

As the Packaging with a Future platform, we are convinced that all packaging materials have their raison d’être. It must always be judged on a case-by-case basis which packaging solution is the wisest and most sustainable. “Flexible packaging made of plastic, for example, has some environmental benefits, such as less food waste due to resealable packaging and less CO2 emissions during transport due to its light weight,” explains Norbert Zillner, Sales Executive Austria of packaging manufacturer ePac, which opened a plant in Zams in Tyrol at the end of April. “Our carbon-neutral HP presses ensure that the environmental impact of printing our bags and roll stock is much lower than conventional printing.” EPac produces flexible packaging regionally on demand, preventing overproduction and thus keeping unused plastic packaging out of landfills.


Innovative solutions for the circular economy

We are currently seeing two trends in Europe: digitalization and the circular economy. Both topics make a major contribution to reducing energy consumption in the plastics processing industry and protecting the climate. “Building a circular economy needs new ideas,” knows Christoph Lhota, head of the Packaging Division at ENGEL, one of the leading companies in plastics machinery manufacturing. The example he presents is tangible even for non-specialists. It’s about food packaging and PET, the material everyone knows from beverage bottles. The special feature of this material is that it can be recycled as often as required and, under EU law, is the only plastic to date that can also be reused as a recyclate for the production of food packaging. In recycled form, the material is called rPET. So far, mainly bottles have been produced from rPET. “Together with partner companies, we want to expand the area of application,” says Lhota. A very large market for this is, for example, trays for fresh products such as delicatessen salads. This packaging is produced using thin-wall technology, which means that it requires very little material, very little energy and weighs almost nothing, so that it does not consume energy unnecessarily, even in logistics and retail. ENGEL’s development partner here is the packaging and recycling specialist ALPLA Group, a founding member of the Packaging with a Future platform.


Packaging optimization as the key

Imminent legal changes and the resulting obligations are currently presenting retailers and industry with major challenges: From 2024, Austria will have a legal obligation to offer reusable packaging to food retailers. From 2030, only recyclable packaging is to be allowed to be produced throughout the EU. “In this context, a comprehensive circular economy is not only a possible solution, but an absolute necessity,” Wolfgang Rabl, Head of Sales at Interzero, is convinced. The company offers licensing solutions, disposal concepts for companies and supports packaging development. “What is needed now on the corporate side are innovative, effective and holistic reusable and plastics recycling solutions. Packaging today must be recyclable so that the raw materials can be used for as long as possible and then reintroduced into new, circular value chains. In keeping with the motto: waste is raw material in the wrong place,” he adds.


Entire value chain drive circular economy forward

“Achieving our goals at national and EU level requires the entire value chain. Every player has an important role to play in solving the challenges,” says Sandra Pechac. “Through the conscious use of packaging, we can jointly establish a functioning circular economy in which packaging is part of the solution and makes a positive contribution to climate protection. Events like this are incredibly important to make this mindset shift visible among the population as well,” she is convinced.

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About the Packaging with a Future platform:

As the “Platform Packaging with a Future”, 25 committed companies along the entire packaging value chain join forces. From raw material processors to recyclers, from packaging to consumer goods manufacturers. The members of the platform believe that resource-saving use of packaging is possible, sensible and necessary. Our goal is to establish a functioning circular economy in Austria in which no recyclable material is lost. Equally important is the reduction, reuse and recycling of packaging.


About Interzero:

Interzero is one of the leading service providers around the closure of product, material and logistics loops as well as innovation leader in plastics recycling with the largest sorting capacity in Europe. Under the guiding principle of “zero waste solutions,” the company supports more than 50,000 customers across Europe in the responsible use of recyclable materials, helping them to improve their own sustainability performance and conserve primary resources. With around 2,000 employees, the company generates sales of over one billion euros (2021). According to Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Interzero’s recycling activities could save one million tons of greenhouse gases compared to primary production and over 12.5 million tons of primary raw materials in 2021 alone. For more information, visit www.interzero.at.