The Werner & Mertz stand-up pouch has become the first flexible packaging worldwide to achieve a “Gold” rating in all categories of the “Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Scorecard” – for the cleaning products company, the “crowning achievement” of a more than five-year joint project with Mondi’s packaging specialists.
Developing a product truly in the spirit of the circular economy: “No company can do it alone”, notes Albin Kaelin, Managing Director of EPEA Switzerland (Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency). This requires an interdisciplinary network of experts. “Thanks to the consistent approach of the entire team in accordance with the ‘Cradle to Cradle’ principles, Werner & Mertz and Mondi have succeeded in creating a real lighthouse project with the stand-up pouch.” The Werner & Mertz stand-up pouch is the first flexible packaging worldwide to achieve a “Gold” rating in all categories of the “Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Scorecard”.
EPEA Switzerland was on board as a consultant. The institute, which is an accredited assessor for “Cradle to Cradle Certified”, developed an 18-point reference model for fulfilling the “Cradle to Cradle” principle, which the two companies followed step by step. “Cradle to Cradle” is a design principle developed in the 1990s by Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart, William McDonough and EPEA Hamburg. According to EPEA this term describes the safe and potentially infinite circulation of materials in cycles.
Development according to the reference model
In the beginning, it was important to clearly define the intended purpose of the product, Werner & Mertz says. The idea of creating a truly recyclable stand-up pouch seemed difficult to conceive. This is because conventional bags consist of many different plastic layers and materials, that cannot be recycled and are therefore thermally exploited and thus incinerated.
“51 percent of all packaging that ends up in the yellow bag is film packaging. That holds enormous potential for recycling, which has hardly been exploited to date. We wanted to change that,” says Immo Sander, head of packaging development at Werner & Mertz. It was therefore quickly clear that the bag must be made of only one material, in this case polyethylene. In addition, the collection and sorting process of the materials is also crucial. Therefore, during the several years of development work, manufacturers of sorting plants and aggregates were repeatedly consulted to ensure separate sorting and recycling. At the same time, Werner & Mertz informs consumers about waste separation and recycling and draws attention to the importance of the yellow bag in the recycling process.
A lot of time and money invested
The production and supply chain are also significant. Both Mondi and Werner & Mertz have procured new machinery and retrofitted old machines. “Together with Werner & Mertz, we analyzed the entire process depth of today’s StripPouch from production to the sorting and recycling process to develop a ‘Design 4 Recycling.’ Making the most of the circular economy was our incentive,” says Jens Koesters, Manager R&D/Technical Service at Mondi Consumer Flexibles. According to Werner & Mertz, the development of the bag clearly demonstrates that sustainable products cannot be a quick fix, but require time, investment, innovation and close cooperation with all partners along the value chain to end up with truly recyclable products.