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By 2030, all plastic packaging in the EU must be recyclable, the international use of microplastics will be restricted and the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced. Horizon 2030 thus represents the European Commission’s commitment to boost the circular economy and the use of new sustainable materials. This time horizon outlines an immediate future that both leading brands and the packaging industry are already working on.

Packaging companies and manufacturers discuss the challenges presented by this scenario and the importance of collaborative innovation to meet ambitious but necessary objectives. The packaging industry is evolving to secure and extend the shelf life of products, minimising environmental impact, all while being cost-effective.


Àlex Brossa – moderator – Packaging Cluster Manager

Ana Palencia – Communication and Sustainability Director, Unilever Spain

Pere Coll – Head of RDI, Enplater Group

Alfred Piqueras – Technical Manager Packaging Adhesives, Henkel

Iago Candal – Innovation & Design Manager Iberia, DS Smith

More committed, more sustainable

Pere Coll – Enplater Group

We have implemented several changes, many of them aimed at reduction, a very important concept for us: we have reduced thicknesses in packaging while maintaining the same properties, essential in the case of the food sector, and we have manufactured recyclable materials from mono-materials in different markets in Europe.

Ana Palencia – Unilever Spain

We need to find a creative way to communicate our commitment to sustainability to the consumer. We are trying to respond to the challenges of the 2030 agenda and packaging is of unquestionable importance. In fact, we perceive that the consumer demands it too: 8 out of 10 consumers consider sustainability to be very important and almost 40% abandon brands they consider to be unsustainable.

Our targets include incorporating at least 25% recycled plastic in our packaging and ensuring that 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable and compostable by 2025. In this respect, packaging suppliers are essential to our success and to the achievement of our future goals.

Alfred Piqueras – Henkel

Our strategy is based on three main pillars: regenerating the planet, being present in the communities where we work, and being a trusted partner.

To this end, we have set ourselves the target that all factories will have a negative carbon footprint by 2030. That’s why we are working to ensure that all our production plants run on renewable energies, that our products are not just made from recyclable plastics, and that we reuse water.

In addition, in the development of our products, sustainability is present throughout the entire cycle. We are currently looking for raw materials, such as bio-based polymers, and other products that are mostly bio-based.

Iago Candal- DS Smith

We are fortunate that our main material, cardboard, is circular in nature. Corrugated cardboard has an 82% recycling rate, the highest of any paperboard and 88% of the paper we use is recycled. We also have virgin fibre paper, but it is sourced from sustainable forests and its consumption is recycled.

Design is key to sustainable packaging. At DS Smith we try to design around the value chain, and for us it’s all about integrating circularity. For this reason, we ask our customers to provide us with their value chain data – what products they are going to pack, box sizes, which pallets, whether or not they are re-packed, relative humidity, the type of transport, how long they will be in the warehouse, etc. – and with this data we determine how much material a customer needs for their packaging to function optimally in their value chain. We have developed circular design metrics for this because the most important thing for us is to offer our customers the most sustainable corrugated packaging possible.

From left to right: Ana Palencia, Director of Communication and Sustainability at Unilever Spain, Pere Coll, R&D&I Director at Enplater Group, Alfred Piqueras, Technical Director of Packaging Adhesives at Henkel, Iago Candal, Innovation & Design Manager Iberia at DS Smith and Àlex Brossa, moderator, Director of the Packaging Cluster.

Today’s innovation to meet tomorrow’s challenges

Alfred Piqueras – Henkel

We are working to ensure that the adhesive does not prevent any packaging from being recycled, even flexible packaging. Therefore we have products in both hotmelt, which can be recycled because they can be separated, and water-based products that dissolve. We are also working on bio-based products.

Pere Coll – Enplater Group

Innovation is managed in different ways. Innovation depends not only on the R&D department; it can be internal, to improve operating systems, to improve sustainability, to improve products, to launch new products… And in this respect, companies have to be like a sponge, open to receiving information from any field – suppliers, consumers, clusters, etc. – and to sharing knowledge. From there, have a team that can develop and implement those that are viable and have options for the future.

Iago Candal – DS Smith

We have to work hard and we are aware that many ideas do not come to fruition, but out of all ideas there is always something that comes out. In our case we do push innovation, by categories on how to improve, and pull, trying to find new solutions with the client.

In our RDI department we research new materials, algae-based papers and compostable plastic laminates, to name a few examples

Recycling systems, a long way to go

Alfred Piqueras – Henkel

The recycling system is not harmonious even in mainland Spain. In Catalonia, for example, there is more penetration than elsewhere, where organics are not yet recycled. We should therefore first harmonise it in our country and offer users recycling points equally throughout the national territory.

Ana Palencia – Unilever

Spain’s packaging waste management infrastructure needs to be upgraded. In practice, flexible packaging ends up in landfill because the consumer puts the flexible in the yellow bin but most recycling plants do not have the system in place and it goes to residual waste, and it is important that they upgrade. As a whole, we have to optimise all processes.

As for the multilingual packaging, although it will be obligatory to indicate the icon of the bin where it has to go, the colours are different depending on the country. Issues such as these need to be harmonised.

Horizon 2030 and flexible packaging

Pere Coll – Enplater Group

One third of the food produced in the world spoils, mainly because we do not know how to treat it well. We therefore see the 2030 horizon as a milestone for progress in sustainability.

Flexible food packaging has great advantages, in particular its weight. We are working to make most of them recyclable and enter into the circular economy.

We propose 3 ways forward:

  1. Facilitate recycling for packers and customers. We make it easy for you with mono-materials. Mixing different families of materials complicates the recycling process.
  2. Incorporate recycled material. When talking about food packaging it is complicated, but with chemical recycling we are going to get more raw material.
  3. Develop bio-based materials, i.e. materials that do not come from petroleum but are equal in their recycling behaviour. Also encourage compostable materials that actually comply with the law.

Cristina Benavides, Hispack partner