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Sustainability and the development of more environmentally friendly and less wasteful packaging are issues that affect all industrial sectors. But do the same practices and methodologies work? Are the materials the same and can they be used in the same way for a water bottle as for a cosmetic container? What can chemical recycling contribute? With the participation of leading brands from the chemical sector, suppliers and technology developers, Hispack devoted a session to experiences in the development of new containers, new materials, the promotion of recovery strategies and the reintroduction of recycled materials in the chemical, cosmetics and pharmacy sectors.


Jesús Pérez – Moderator

Director | Container and Packaging Innovation Cluster


Ferran Vaqué

International Sales Manager & New Project Manager | Careli 2007 SLU

Israel Nadal

Commercial Director | IRISEM

Francisco Javier Calatayud

Innovation & Packaging Division | RNB Cosméticos

César Aliaga

Head of Packaging and Circular Economy | ITENE (Technological Institute of Packaging, Transport and Logistics)

Where do we stand?

César Aliaga – ITENE

We have seen a few years in which everything has been recyclability. Now, with the publication of the waste act and the new decree, new challenges have arisen. Currently, we are still talking about recyclability — all packaging will have to be recyclable by 2030 according to the royal decree — but the recycled content is also added because of the tax on plastic we will have from next year.

We also added the concept of compostability and, as a disruptive element, the reuse of packaging.

Recyclability, reusability, recycled content, prevention and compostability are the challenges ahead.

Francisco Javier Calatayud – RNB Cosméticos

From a more practical point of view, we are experiencing what we call a refill revolution, a complete range of packaging that allows reuse, but we believe that there is a lot of supply that does not give assurance of minimum safety guarantees and does not provide us with reliability.

In terms of materials, we would like to use those with a high added value of recycling, but today it is still a handicap to use them in food safety. We believe that eco-design has to be present in the solutions we provide, and lightweight packaging is going to be a very interesting solution. We are working to make all materials recyclable and there is a clear trend to eliminate multi-layers in flexible packaging and to be able to use mono-layer materials with barrier properties. At this point, a defence should be made of plastic, in that it has provided guarantees of protection that other materials have so far failed to achieve. Paper and cardboard are other materials that we see as a future option and we believe this is an interesting area of research to pursue.

Ferran Vaqué – Careli 2007 SLU

We need to do more and better with less. For this reason we work with water-soluble capsules, but in terms of packaging, from the beginning we started to work with doypacks, bags that allow us to have benefits in terms of visibility on the shelf without sacrificing safety, with the childproof zip, while at the same time reducing the amount of plastic we put on the market. Our approach to sustainability is to reduce material.

The current trend is clear: the use of recyclable packaging with recycled material content, both in solid and physical form such as bottles, and we have also incorporated a proportion of recycled material in flexible packaging, as in the case of doypacks. In addition, we work with a range of compostable products made from materials of renewable origin. In terms of reuse, we also offer the possibility to eco-design products in such a way that we can use the packaging and only buy the refill, such as body gels, hand soaps… Re-use is one of the trends of the future because we don’t have to throw away things that still have a useful function.

Israel Nadal – IRISEM

There are clear trends based on the 3R’s: recyclability, reuse and reduction. Success lies in knowing how to combine them and in each of us doing our bit by working on these pillars.

Francisco Javier Calatayud- RNB Cosméticos

Mono-material systems are very interesting in that they allow for greater recyclability, but they require longer test plans and more attention. All changes and new materials have to follow reliability and safety criteria, doubling, if necessary, the tests and testing methods we have had up to now.

What can eco-design contribute to sustainability?


César Aliaga-ITENE

Eco-design is everything. Any improvement we make to packaging is eco-design, but the trend has been changing. The key is to understand eco-design as the tool to adapt packaging to sustainability needs. This approach can be complex —with all layers of the packaging life cycle—or we get down to the nitty-gritty and focus for example on one topic—reuse, production process, packaging methodology… The eco-designs we are seeing are aimed at reducing packaging, making it recyclable, reusing it and introducing recycled material.

Francisco Javier Calatayud – RNB Cosméticos

There is a trend that sees eco-design as the way to make packaging less bad, but we see it as the possibility of doing something disruptive. In the case of fine perfumery, we work to reduce weight by offering, for example, the same aesthetic solution with less weight; glass makes this possible, and sometimes we have to sacrifice an aesthetic element for the sake of sustainability (when moving from 130 g bottles to 100 g ones). Plastic manufacturers are more reluctant because lightening the weight poses more technical problems for them, but they are working on it and solutions are already being offered in this direction.

What we can never sacrifice is safety, and eco-design must be accompanied by a series of extra controls.

Eco-design must be present in terms of innovation in all projects: we have implemented the elimination of thermoformed plastic trays, in cosmetics we are working on a project to move towards single-wall bottles.

Israel Nadal – IRISEM

There is a long way to go with eco-design in terms of sustainability. Of all the pillars we have discussed, the eco-side would be based on reduction by focusing on some of the R’s I mentioned earlier.

Ferran Vaqué – Careli 2007 SLU

Implicitly, innovation goes hand in hand with eco-design. The important thing is to incorporate small improvements that add up to a lot. Although we are not packaging experts, I believe that eco-design is what brings us here today, and not only in terms of design. From the outset, we aim for everything to be circular, seeking to reuse packaging and promoting the use of raw materials, which also allows us to work on more sustainable containers.

Challenges in incorporating recycled material and finding more sustainable materials


Israel Nadal – IRISEM

At the administrative level we can do more: associations, companies and clusters can shed some light on how to implement more meaningful measures beyond pointless taxation.

We are seeing a lot of issues: when demand for a recycled product increases, we may run out of product. Currently, there is not enough recycled material and the quality of recycled material varies. But rather than problems, I prefer to call them particularities to which solutions have to be found, as in the case of materials.

Ferran Vaqué – Careli 2007 SLU

We are encountering problems of high costs and availability when incorporating recyclable materials, mono-materials and even with a recycled material content—for example with the case of biopolymers. This leads to longer lead times and is complicated at the company level.

Trying to do things right and help the planet should not mean a problem for the customer.

Francisco Javier Calatayud- RNB Cosméticos

We would like to be able to offer more recycled material, not only in PET, which gives us legal, supply and reliability guarantees, but other materials to be used safely. We are looking at how we can use a material with minimum guarantees of traceability with intermediate layers in order to be able to use it, but it requires research and studies that we are carrying out as there is still no reliable data.

Recycling systems have improved greatly and that has made that waste valuable, and all that recycled material is being consumed in sectors where full contact approval is not required.

We can already offer some solutions in chemical recycling, and I think this is where help can come to break new ground.

César Aliaga – ITENE

We face 4 challenges:

  1. Shortages of raw materials and therefore higher prices.
  2. Legislation: deadlines for complying with laws are very tight.
  3. Product protection: we cannot make any changes that would endanger the product. We face the technical challenge that recycled material does not have the same properties as virgin material.
  4. Certification: it is also important that the material is endorsed by the regulations behind it (e.g. the specific regulation for recycled content 15343), as well as other regulations on recyclability, composting, etc.

On a final note, recycling systems are improving, but not everything is recyclable and it is important to be clear about this. Chemical recycling has also come to solve and recycle what cannot be recycled mechanically in order to have more recycled material. In this respect, we are looking for solutions through R&D.

Are technologies available to increase the quantity and quality of recycling?


César Aliaga – ITENE

Recycling is happening a lot and well, but there are still challenges. For example, we have problems with small packaging, with mixed plastic, with multi-layers, with small packaging elements.

In Spain we have many sorting plants, perhaps more than necessary, and that is why it is going to be difficult for technology to reach the plants and for everything to be recycled. There will always be a proportion that cannot be recycled mechanically, so chemical recycling will come in and the next 10 years will be crucial to incorporate new technology and introduce this type of recycling.

Ferran Vaqué – Careli 2007 SLU
One of the problems is the lack of recycled plastic material. Post-industrial alternatives are emerging, and many companies are producing more waste than they need to. It doesn’t make much sense to manufacture surplus of your material for post-industrial recycling and sell it as a recycled material.

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Left to right: Ferran Vaqué Bover, International Sales Manager & New Project Manager, Careli 2007; Israel Nadal Valor, Commercial Director, IRISEM; Francisco Javier Calatayud Frances, Innovation & Packaging Division, RNB Cosméticos; Cesar Aliaga Baquero, Head of Packaging and Circular Economy, ITENE and Jesús Pérez, Director, Container and Packaging Innovation Cluster (moderator).

Cristina Benavides, Hispack partner