Orientation in the Packaging Jungle

At the third „Österreichischer Verpackungstag“ (Austrian Day of Packaging) organized by the FH Campus Wien, the focus was on the challenges of recycling-friendly packaging design. The international packaging design guideline presented for this purpose provides uniform recommendations for the industry.

Silvia Apprich is not worried about the prospects of her graduates. „The job opportunities couldn’t be better,“ said the head of the Sustainable Resource Management and Packaging Technology and Sustainability course at FH Campus Wien. Specialized knowledge around sustainable packaging is in demand. „Circular Economy – Orientation in the Packaging Jungle“: With the choice of topic, the FH Campus Wien, which organized the „Österreichischer Verpackungstag“ for the third time now, picked up on the need for expertise.

In the Museum of Applied Arts at Vienna’s Stubenring and digitally via livestream, the lectures highlighted many facets of the topic. One focus was the regulatory framework: After all, the EU’s circular economy package is intended to significantly increase the recycling of raw materials and thus also the collection and recycling rates throughout Europe in the coming years. „In a dynamic and rapidly changing packaging world, our packaging day provides orientation and an outlook on the necessary strategic course to be set,“ promised Apprich.

However, EU regulation and national legislative amendments are not the only challenges facing the consumer goods industry, retailers and the packaging sector. Günter Thumser, Managing Director of the Österreichischer Verbands der Markenartikelindustrie (Austrian Association of the Branded Goods Industry), explained how consumer attitudes have changed with regard to sustainability. Whereas in the past the focus was on the security that brands gave consumers in their purchasing decisions, today brands are supposed to „create meaning“ above all. „Climate change dominates everything,“ Thumser noted.

Guidelines for recycling-friendly packaging design

To ensure that sustainability claims are reflected in reality, there are many details to consider. As far as the recyclability of packaging is concerned, one of the things that is needed is standards that are as international as possible. How must packaging be designed to actually achieve a high level of recyclability? The Circular Packaging Design Guideline of the FH Campus Wien should provide an answer. It is intended to demonstrate how functional, recyclable design can be created. „This Guideline is now in its 4th edition, and with new content and developments it takes into account the urgent need for orientation,“ explained course director Apprich.

In addition: with an internationally harmonized Packaging Design Guideline, the FH Campus Wien, the ECR Community, and the World Packaging Organisation want to jointly provide uniform recommendations for recycling-friendly packaging design. This is intended to be a decision-making aid for all players in the supply chain and thus support them in achieving the higher recycling rates of the EU Circular Economy Package. „Circular Packaging Design Guideline goes global. Through the cooperation of the World Packaging Organisation, ECR Community, and FH Campus Wien, we are jointly setting global standards in Circular Packaging Design,“ emphasized Johannes Bergmair, Secretary General of the World Packaging Organisation (WPO).

Packaging manufacturers fine-tune solutions

At the „Österreichischer Verpackungstag“, a presentation by Konrad Wasserbauer, Global Circular Economy Director at Greiner Packaging, showed how complex the task to meet the numerous criteria for good and sustainable packaging is. He raised awareness of the numerous requirements that have to be reconciled in packaging design. In addition to basic criteria such as product protection and food safety, logistics requirements and efficient production, criteria such as climate protection, circular economy and resource conservation must be harmonized. This sometimes leads to conflicting goals. If material is saved in order to conserve resources, this can, for example, necessitate a multi-layer structure for the packaging of cups in order to enable stability and protection. This in turn can have a negative impact on recyclability.

Wasserbauer also brought along an example of a solution, the new „K3 r100“ cup: with this, the cardboard sleeve and plastic cup separate virtually by themselves. All you have to do is press the cup together. The cardboard sleeve, which can be made from recycled material, gives the plastic cup stability so that it can be produced with particularly thin walls. Because the white or transparent plastic cup is unprinted, it again yields recycling material.

„Green Packaging Star Awards“ presented

Last but not least, the „Green Packaging Star Awards“ were presented at the „Österreichischer Verpackungstag“. Packaging manufacturer Mondi won several awards, including one for its WalletPack for ham producer Abraham. The mono-material packaging uses significantly less material than the solution previously used by Abraham. Südpack is also among the award winners. The submitted recyclable thermoformed packaging concept for ham by the traditional Austrian producer Berger convinced the jury.

At the award ceremony for the ARA Special Prize, offered by Altstoff Recycling Austria, it finally got a little more crowded on stage: awards were presented to representatives of the numerous people involved in the concept of sustainable rPET cups for school milk in Oberösterreich (Upper Austria). In the project, farmers who supply milk to schools and kindergartens cooperate with packaging manufacturer Greiner Packaging, film producer PET-MAN and Starlinger Viscotech. The goal is to close cycles at the regional level through the cooperation of all participants. The project shows: For successful circular economy, many hands must interlock.