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The perfumery and cosmetics sector in Spain is one of the industries that invests most in packaging innovation to drive its sustainable and digital transformation. The Ecosmartpack 4.0 project promoted by the Stanpa (National Perfumery and Cosmetics Association) and the AIMPLAS technological centre are seeking to assist it. At Hispack we learnt more about the challenges facing the industry when it comes to achieving more sustainable and smarter cosmetic packaging.

The Spanish cosmetics industry ranks second in the world, only behind France, in terms of exports of perfumes and cosmetics. With growth totalling 7.8% in 2021, the industry focuses on the search for pioneering packaging solutions. In this regard, we shouldn’t forget that this is a regulated industry halfway between consumption and health, which entails certain limitations on the materials used in its packaging.

Susana Arranz, Stanpa’s Director of Innovation, highlights the importance of packaging in an industry such as perfumery and cosmetics: “The packaging is key, as it performs a series of essential functions: it protects the product, it ensures and guarantees its quality and conservation throughout the period of use, and it also constitutes a gateway for communicating with the consumer”.

Susana Arranz, Stanpa’s Director of Innovation

This is why the transformation and management of packaging forms a fundamental part of the commitment to sustainability and the circular economy in perfume and cosmetics. To do so, amid the crisis generated by the pandemic, Stanpa created Feeling Innovation by Stanpa, an initiative currently involving 75% of companies in the industry with the aim of promoting a sustainable and digital transformation.

The entity seeks to promote innovation by means of collaboration between companies, knowledge centres and research groups, promoting synergies and expanding upon multidisciplinary opportunities and public-private cooperation. They face a series of challenges in their quest to offer innovative packaging solutions. According to Lucía Jiménez, Stanpa’s head of sustainability, “innovation is essential in facing the challenges of packaging”.

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Lucía Jiménez, Stanpa’s head of sustainability

Challenges of packaging in eco-design

  • Functionality cannot be lost.
  • Product authenticity must be ensured.
  • Materials must be simplified, taking into account the impact of the environmental footprint.

Challenges in the materials:

  • Development of new materials that are compatible with the legislative restrictions that come from being in a highly regulated industry.
  • Introduction of recycled material into the packaging, chiefly recycled plastic.
  • Addressing the shortages of certain raw materials and the costs of secondary materials.

Recyclability challenges to achieve circularity:

  • Improve the recyclability of packaging with its inherent characteristics.
  • Improve recyclability at sorting plants. The entire value chain must be involved in the process.
  • Ensure that the consumer is more and better informed when it comes to recycling properly. These products tend not to be for daily use and the consumer is unsure as how to proceed.
  • Standardise and unify the concept of recyclability throughout Europe.

Communication challenges

  • Digitise the labels. A process that must be implemented alongside the suppliers.
  • Provide the consumer with clear information on the labels with regard to product ingredients and how to use it.
  • Standardise claims and labelling throughout Europe.

The Ecosmartpack 4.0 project, transforming packaging

Rosa González is a senior researcher at the AIMPLAS Packaging Group, a technological centre with over 30 years’ experience in the plastics industry that provides solutions for the entire value chain. The Ecosmartpack 4.0 project is being carried out in partnership with different entities, including Feeling Innovation by Stanpa. According to González, the current situation, the consumer’s evolution, the need for greater interaction between the packaging and the consumer and the legislative changes in the industry are making it necessary to devise new solutions to traditional packaging.

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Rosa González, Senior researcher at the AIMPLAS Packaging Group

In this vein, the Ecosmartpack 4.0 project forms part of the field of smart, sustainable and innovative packaging for the cosmetics industry. The project consists of the development of circular containers that are reusable and traceable throughout their use cycle by means of a device that can identify each of them and their uses until they become packaging waste. The initiative, geared towards industrial research, on the one hand envisages the design and execution of the digital platform required for the container’s traceability throughout its different useful life cycles and, on the other, the securing of a functional smart packaging prototype, with a traceability identifier in a simulated environment and validation.

As a result, Ecosmartpack 4.0 adds value to the packaging industry in different areas:

  • It improves the traceability throughout the value chain by means of a digital platform custom designed to identify cosmetic packaging.
  • It improves upon factors such as the supply and management of the different types of packaging.
  • It provides better connectivity with the factory, the logistics chain and the consumer.
  • It reduces the environmental impact of packaging in the cosmetic industry. In this regard, the materials are more sustainable in terms of manufacturing materials and the extension of the container’s useful life, thus aligning the improved product sustainability with the packaging.
  • It boosts consumer loyalty thanks to increased connectivity.

AIMPLAS envisages a second phase of the project that takes into account other factors, such as the validation of the reuse cycles for the new kind of packaging, the recyclability end-of-life and industrialisation, shifting from functional prototypes to the manufacturing process.

Cristina Benavides, Hispack partner