Perspectives from Industry and Research

Swantje Eissing is Business Development Manager Packaging at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) in Freising. In collaboration with her colleagues, she is researching the packaging of the future. She sees the food industry as a challenge.

The Fraunhofer IVV in Freising near Munich is known for its expertise in the field of packaging, but also in the food sector. The protective function of packaging for foodstuffs therefore plays a major role in the researchers‘ considerations and is one of their focal points. Food safety, packaging, and sustainability go hand in hand. „For us, sustainability aspects also include the shelf life of food, which is ensured by packaging. This can reduce food waste,“ explains Swantje Eissing. As business unit manager for packaging at the Fraunhofer IVV, she has been responsible for a central interface between science and industry for more than a year. Previously, Eissing worked in research and development at brand-name companies in the food industry. „This allows me to link the needs of the industry very well with research,“ she says.

The research field at the Fraunhofer IVV, like the entire packaging industry, is strongly influenced by the topic of sustainability. „Consumers as well as retailers and politicians have focused strongly on this in recent years, triggering a megatrend. In material development, we are addressing the issues of recyclability of materials and use of recyclates in particular. We are focusing specifically on the substitution of multilayer plastics with monomaterials,“ explains the packaging engineer.

Packaging should pave the way for „reusable packaging in the broadest sense,“ demands Eissing. By this, she does not mean packaging that is returned for a deposit, but reusable regarding material use, i.e., the circular economy. „The entire value chain is undergoing a transformation at the moment. It requires close coordination between all the individual participants. Manufacturers, packers, and recyclers must exchange ideas about the materials to be used. The manufacturers must use materials that the recycler can do something with again. The recyclers, in turn, have to sort and prepare the material in such a way that, in the end, it becomes a good starting material again for the manufacturers,“ says Eissing. Especially when it comes to the collection and sorting of materials that can then be reused as packaging materials, there are still major differences in the technologies and possibilities. This makes it difficult to take a uniform view At the whole of Europe.

Swantje Eissing believes the food industry is one of the sectors facing the greatest challenges in packaging sustainability. „This is not because the industry does not want to, it is rather due to the specific requirements for food packaging. Aspects such as food safety and laws set clear requirements and also limits. Reconciling that is what we’re researching at the Fraunhofer IVV.“

Packaging design for better recyclability

The team at the Fraunhofer IVV is working with partners, for example, on how to ensure that food packaging is recognized as such in the sorting plant and can then be reused. This can be done, for example, using codes or markers in the packaging. The ongoing EU-funded Circular Food Pack project aims to take this next step, i.e., to test precisely such a cycle for the reuse of recyclates in the food sector. Apart from sorting technologies, functional barriers are also being developed here, with the help of which a material is ultimately created that is suitable for reuse as food packaging. One research approach in which important progress has already been made as far as the recyclability of packaging is concerned is the development of monofilms. „Developments are still ongoing here and are constantly yielding exciting new findings,“ Eissing emphasizes.

The Fraunhofer IVV is one of the regular exhibitors at FACHPACK and will again be represented this year with presentations in the TECHBOX, among other places. A more detailed article about Swantje Eissing’s work can be found here.