CHEMISTRY, MATERIALS & PACKAGING
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Trending: European CPG Giants Continue Charge Toward Sustainable Packaging

Image credit: Carlsberg

First, Danish brewer The Carlsberg Group has unveiled a series of packaging innovations, including its new Snap Pack, which is set to reduce plastic waste globally by more than 1200 tonnes a year – the equivalent to 60 million plastic bags.

The Snap Pack replaces the plastic wrapping used around Carlsberg’s six packs with a pioneering technology that glues its cans together. A world first for the beer industry, it will reduce the amount of plastic used in traditional multi-packs by up to 76 percent, and save 1,200 tonnes annually – the equivalent of 60 million plastic bags – once all of its 4-, 6- and 8-packs have been converted.

“We always strive to improve and today’s launch clearly shows our ambition to follow in our founder’s footsteps towards a better tomorrow,” said Carlsberg CEO Cees 't Hart. “Carlsberg's snap pack will significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste, and we look forward to giving our consumers better beer experiences with less environmental impact.”

Three years in the making, the Snap Pack is just one of Carlsberg’s newest sustainable packaging solutions. Other improvements include:

  • A switch to Cradle-to-Cradle CertifiedTM Silver inks on its bottle labels to improve recyclability
  • A new coating on refillable glass bottles to extend their lifespan and therefore reduce their environmental footprint
  • New caps which remove oxygen to make the beer taste fresher for longer

The innovations represent the first of a series of consumer-facing manifestations of Carlsberg Group’s sustainability programme, Together Towards ZERO, which includes ambitions of a ZERO carbon footprint and ZERO water waste. They will first be applied on the flagship Carlsberg brand to drive constant reappraisal and refinement. This will further substantiate the iconic tagline of ‘Probably the Best Beer in the World´ in a meaningful way – giving consumers a great-tasting beer that also helps them reduce their environmental impact.

“We are working hard to deliver on our ambitious sustainability agenda and to help tackle climate change,” Hart said. “We always strive to improve and today’s launch clearly shows our ambition to follow in our founder’s footsteps towards a better tomorrow. Carlsberg's Snap Pack will significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste, and we look forward to giving our consumers better beer experiences with less environmental impact.”

Carlsberg Group’s supply chain, sustainability and development teams have worked closely with the Carlsberg brand team and external partners to innovate in ways that will make a difference to both consumers and the climate.

To accelerate the implementation of its sustainability ambitions, Carlsberg also announced a strategic partnership with Plastic Change, a Danish environmental organisation, in addition to its long-standing dialogue with the WWF on sustainable issues and their impact on both the environment and the world’s natural resources.

Image credit: Carlsberg

To celebrate the launch of the Snap Pack, Carlsberg created its own unique version of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid statue, made entirely from its new Snap Pack cans. Held together with glue just like the Snap Pack cans, the mermaid ‘canstruction’ embodies Carlsberg’s intent to make beer that is not only great tasting but is also better for the environment. Three metres high, the new installation features a rising tide of 137 kilograms of plastic – representative of the amount of plastic that Carlsberg will be eliminating every hour, thanks to Snap Pack.


Meanwhile, both the LEGO Group and Henkel are joining the likes of Unilever in committing to 100 percent sustainable packaging by 2025.

German chemical and consumer goods giant Henkel has pledged that 100 percent of its packaging will recyclable, reusable or compostable* by 2025; and aims to use 35 percent recycled plastic for its consumer goods products in Europe.

Henkel has been focusing on sustainability in packaging for several decades: All of the company’s packaging is designed to meet consumers’ expectations while using the least possible amount of material – and the most sustainable materials. Reflecting the three key phases of a circular value chain, Henkel’s new strategic framework represents a holistic approach that underlines its ambition to drive progress toward a sustainable future together with its partners from across industries.

“It is more important than ever for companies, consumers, governments and other organizations to drive progress toward a circular economy. Only by reusing and recycling as much material as possible will we be able to live well within the resource limits of our planet. This concept is at the heart of our approach to sustainable packaging,” says Kathrin Menges, EVP of Human Resources at Henkel and Chair of Henkel’s Sustainability Council. “Together with our partners along the entire value chain, we want to include materials from sustainable sources into smart designs to close the loop – for the benefit of people and the planet.”

Expanded strategic framework for sustainable packaging

Image credit: Henkel

Henkel’s new framework for sustainable packaging reflects the three key phases of a circular value chain. Each of these phases is translated into specific actions:

  • Materials from sustainable sources: Henkel is committed to including an increasing share of sustainable materials into its product packaging – both use of recycled materials, especially recycled plastic, and renewable materials such as paper and cardboard.
  • Smart packaging design: Smart designs are the prerequisite to further replace virgin material in Henkel’s product packaging – this is why the company will put an even stronger focus on design principles that enable a circular economy right from the start. Smart design is also about rethinking packaging concepts as such: Henkel will explore innovative solutions along the entire value chain, e.g. in the field of transport packaging and related logistics. In addition, Henkel is continuing its efforts to reduce the amount of packaging material it uses and ensure it only uses packaging that is absolutely essential.
  • Closing the loop: Henkel is committed to making sure its product packaging can be recycled after the product has been consumed, e.g. by entering into partnerships to promote appropriate systems for recycling. The company will further explore solutions such as refill systems, which allow consumers to reuse packaging. Henkel is also actively searching for materials that enable packaging to be returned into nature – such as biodegradable materials that meet international composting standards.

Partnerships to promote sustainability in packaging

Progress toward sustainable packaging will only be possible if organizations from across industries and along the value chain work together. That’s why Henkel is collaborating with a variety of partners to drive innovation in packaging development and promote improved recycling infrastructure. For example, the company is participating in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative that brings stakeholders together to rethink and redesign the future of plastics and build momentum toward a circular economy; and partnering with the Plastic Bank, a social enterprise aiming to stop ocean plastic and provide opportunities for people in poverty by giving them a chance to earn money or services by removing plastic waste from their local environment. The plastic collected is made available for recycling.

* excluding adhesive products, where residue may affect recyclability


Image credit: LEGO

In 2015, LEGO announced its ambition to use 100 percent sustainable materials in both its bricks and packaging by 2030, and has progressed on both fronts: In March, the toymaker announced that, starting this year, LEGO® botanical elements such as leaves, bushes and trees will be made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane; and this week, LEGO committed to 100 percent sustainable packaging by 2025.

Currently, the majority of LEGO® packaging, by weight, is cardboard or paper-based, which is recyclable, sustainably sourced and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.  

“To support our company mission, we have a Planet Promise and we have pledged to play our part in protecting the planet for future generations,” said Tim Brooks, VP of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group. “Using sustainable packaging is an important part of fulfilling that promise. By bringing forward our ambition or sustainable packaging, we are also acknowledging the need to find better packaging solutions sooner. We’ve made good progress in the past three years, and there is still work to do.”

LEGO bricks are designed to be reused and handed down through generations, but not everyone keeps their LEGO boxes and other packaging. As some LEGO packaging contains single-use, disposable plastics – which today are not sustainable, and in some cases cannot be recycled by consumers – the LEGO Group is actively taking measures to improve its packaging sustainability.

“By 2025, our aim is that no LEGO packaging parts have to end up in a landfill," Brooks added. "Packaging will be made from renewable or recycled materials and will be easy for consumers to recycle.”

The LEGO Group has taken several steps to improve the sustainability of its packaging:

  • In 2018, the company began using recycled plastic in packaging blisters – the transparent plastic windows that provide consumers a glimpse into some LEGO boxes
  • This year, LEGO boxes in the US and Canada started to feature the How2Recycle® label, promoting packaging recycling and providing US and Canadian consumers with clear guidance to responsibly recycle their LEGO packaging
  • In 2017, plastic trays used in Advent Calendars were replaced with recyclable paper-pulp trays, saving up to 1 million plastic trays from going to the landfill
  • Approximately 75 percent of cardboard used to make LEGO boxes comes from recycled material
  • The average size of a LEGO box has been reduced by 14 percent over the past four years, improving transport efficiency, saving on average every year over 3,000 truckloads and 7,000 tonnes of cardboard
  • All paper and cardboard used in LEGO products and product packaging is recyclable, sustainably sourced and FSC-certified

The LEGO Group’s sustainable packaging ambition focuses on finding sustainable packaging alternatives that are:

  • Renewable: 100 percent of LEGO boxes, bags, and special packaging are to be made from recycled or sustainably sourced bio-based materials
  • Efficient: continually exploring ways to optimize packaging, balancing consumer appeal with environmental action
  • Recyclable: designing packaging that facilitates consumers to recycle in our major markets

Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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