Beyond-Plastic – Innovation and sustainability become indivisible in the food sector -- drupa - May 28 to June 7, 2024 - Messe Düsseldorf

Beyond-Plastic – Innovation and sustainability become indivisible in the food sector

Those who want to harmonise innovation, sustainability and packaging must pay attention to three important factors: Use of renewable raw materials, recyclability and reduction of material use.

Sustainability has long been a part of the non-food packaging industry. For a long time, it was very difficult to find a sustainable alternative for food packaging. In the food sector, the packaging materials influence the brand and possibly also the product. Those who act in an environmentally friendly way have so far been limited in terms of colour and design. It is equally important that the packaging protects the food. Especially in the refrigerated segment, people continued to rely on plastic mixtures.

However, especially in the food sector, the packaging industry has experienced a boost in innovation and has produced just as many start-ups with an inventive spirit. Both in the materials used and in the design, there are now many possibilities to package the product safely and durably and at the same time to be free in the communication and design of a brand.

Recycling dark colours

We all know that packaging printed with dark colour does not enter the recycling loop in the recycling process. Dark-coloured packaging units are recognised as residual waste by the recycling plant and burned. This generates CO2.

Packaging manufacturer, Spies Packaging, has developed a digital watermark for packaging in cooperation with the companies Digimarc and Reichle Technologiezentrum. This invisible marking contains information about the material. The recycling plant reads this information and can sort the waste correctly. This gives brand managers more creative freedom in brand design.

Sustainable labels: polyethylene is replaced by sugar cane

Labels made from a bio-based PE film can completely dispense with petroleum by using sugarcane ethanol. The properties of the labels are similar to those of the well-known polyethylene, so that a changeover to the film in the labelling process hardly causes any costs.

Sugar cane is also suitable for packaging beverages. For a while now, Tetra Pak has also been using sugarcane-based plastic in the production of packaging. The product Tetra Rex® cartons is produced from a mixture of this material and cardboard and is mainly used for chilled dairy products.

Alternative raw materials – silphi fibre, graspaper and plastic from algae

Like paper production, there is also the alternative of outer packaging made from rapidly renewable raw materials. In gastronomy, take-away business and for shop sales, cardboard boxes made of grass paper and silphia fibre are particularly suitable. The two cartons have the same material properties as conventional products made of cellulose. They are printable and particularly durable.

There are also plastic alternatives made from algae or milk protein for the food sector. Milk protein also has the special property that it protects food from spoiling. Unfortunately, this product is difficult to print on. However, it can be used as an inlay, coating or transparent outer packaging and is even suitable for consumption in many cases.

Sustainability scale for companies

The sustainability of packaging materials is now controlled by a new EU law, the EU Packaging Regulation. This mainly affects start-ups. Existing companies are largely not yet affected by the new law. For start-ups, it is currently still very difficult to assess the sustainability of the many offers on the market. The new law does not only consider the material used, but also the energy efficiency in production and the recyclability.

This information is still not presented transparently. Companies have a hard time identifying the sustainability of a product. Moreover, not every sustainable material is equally suitable for the protection and shelf life of food. What follows are lengthy and expensive tests for companies.

Therefore, various NGOs, such as the UnternehmensGrün association and, propose a scale for packaging materials. This should be communicated publicly and transparently by the manufacturer. The scale should – according to the wish of the associations – indicate how sustainable and food-friendly the packaging material is, as in the case of an energy efficiency class A+++.

We look forward to innovations at drupa 2024

The fact is: packaging has now become a political issue. The laws have given the industry a boost in innovation. New products that simplify sustainable behaviour are developed almost monthly. Until drupa 2024, time will bring forth many more innovations and inventors. At touchpoint sustainability, companies from all over the world will showcase the innovations and possibilities of the sustainable printing industry.

Are you involved in sustainable packaging materials or sustainability in the printing industry? Then you can present your innovation to a global audience at touchpoint sustainability. Click on this link to download the information flyers touchpoint sustainability. Further information material is available from our drupa Exhibitor Service and the VDMA.

Your contact persons for touchpoint sustainability are

drupa exhibitor service

Christian Hruschka
Senior Project Manager
Te.: +49 211 4560-985


Lisa Grübl
Tel.: + 49 69 66031450

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