With a flurry of announcements by companies launching 100% recyclable water-resistant paper for packaging, we look at how this could transform the packaging industry.
When it comes to packaging, it’s widely accepted that paper and board have a huge range of qualities. Versatile, light and protective, with the ability to be printed easily make it the packaging material of choice for the vast majority of the world’s retailers. Then, of course, there’s the highly significant fact that, with a current recycling rate of 83% in Europe, paper-based packaging is one of the most sustainable forms of packaging available.
But there’s one superpower that paper doesn’t currently possess – the ability to resist water. While this may not be too worrying for the average parcel delivered to the door by van, there are plenty of products within the global logistics network that can be quickly ruined by the presence of moisture, such as electronics and clothes. One unexpected downpour and entire batches can be destroyed, costing thousands.
Paper with barrier properties is nothing new, but the amount of plastic used in these papers makes them difficult to recycle. This is why the development of 100% recyclable water-resistant paper is such big news in the world of packaging.
One of the first companies to announce the launch of water-resistant paper for packaging was Mondi who, together with German machine supplier beck packautomaten, developed ‘Functional Barrier Paper’. Designed to replace plastic packaging for e-commerce, it’s made of 95% paper, which makes it recyclable in existing European paper waste streams. Mondi also adds that the paper is responsibly sourced and made of renewable materials.
“All types of goods are being transported around the globe on a daily basis,” says Thomas Lunz, Industry Group Manager of Functional Paper at Mondi Functional Paper & Films. “The need to create bespoke packaging that reduces waste, protects a wide range of products and delivers on sustainability targets is enormous. Our FunctionalBarrier Paper enables online retailers to continue reducing the use of unnecessary plastic.”
Functional And Sustainable
The second paper company to throw their hat into the ring is Smurfit Kappa, which recently launched AquaStop, a water-resistant paper that can be recycled along with standard paper-based packaging. AquaStop is designed to replace single-use plastic in packaging, able to offer the same barrier properties that protect the goods from exposure to water and condensation.
“Our product development team has been dedicated to developing something that offers the required functionality and at the same time is 100% recyclable in standard recycling mills,” says Lars Henricksson, VP of Product Development at Smurfit Kappa’s Paper Division. “This has given a unique combination of functionality and sustainability credentials. The focus is on designing the optimal packaging where AquaStop can replace today’s 100% plastic solutions or laminated products which requires special recycling technologies.”
The Revolution Starts Here
There’s little doubt that recyclable water-resistant paper could transform the packaging industry. With this final tool in the paper packaging toolkit, the e-commerce world could start to phase out single-use plastics forever. And with the global e-commerce packaging industry worth over $49.2 billion, there will be no shortage of companies launching new innovations to improve its sustainability further. Watch this space.
It’s important to remember that paper packaging is already the leader in recycling rates in Europe, with 82.9% of all paper packaging being recycled in 2018. This outperformed metallic packaging (80.1%), glass packaging (74.7%) and far exceeded that of plastic packaging (41.8%). Even with such a high recycling rate, the fibre-based packaging value chain remains focused on improving this further.
Source: Two Sides