Author: Lena Barner-Rasmussen
The packaging industry is undergoing some interesting challenges. Consumers and regulation alike demand sustainable packaging, but how to make it happen is not an easy feat. But Walki has just made it a tad easier.
Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable packaging. Add to this tighter regulation that will soon come into force and it becomes evident that packaging companies are in a hurry to bet on the right solution. That is why Walki has put together something called the Zero Waste Future platform, compiling all solutions in the company’s offering in one place, to help customers navigate in the sustainable materials jungle. Their foremost guide is this area is Annika Sundell, Executive Vice President; Innovation at Walki.
The main goal is to avoid giving rise to waste.
”Whatever we use for packaging should either be done from renewable sources, fully recyclable materials or 100 percent compostable materials. These are also the three mainstays of Walki’s Zero Waste Future platform”; explains Sundell.
It’s not easy to decide what materials to use for different reasons.
”How far can alternative barriers take you, how will different materials suit different packaging production lines? What can be done today, and what are the solutions we should aim for in a couple of years? These are the types of questions our customers are struggling with”, Sundell explains.
Under Zero Waste Renewables Walki offers two solutions: Walki®Wood and Walki®Circular. Both solutions can be used as either coating or film, and all are commercially available.
“Wood is your option if you are looking for a completely plant-based solution, that is fiber coated with polyethene that stems from tall oil. We are currently collaborating with several customers and are soon ready for a wider launch”, explains Sundell.
Walki®Circular is based on chemically recycled plastics that can be used as coating or film. The process of chemical recycling, where you break down the post-consumer plastic waste to its smallest molecule to get what is commonly referred to as ‘brown oil’, will make for an important source of recycled plastics in the future, making the plastics as good as the virgin material.
“We are among the first ones to offer this option to customers through a collaboration with petrochemical company Sabic, who has invested in chemical recycling facilities.”
The Zero Waste Recyclable future is largely based on the possibilities dispersion technology offers. Traditional dispersions are enhanced with water-based options that give good barriers and help recycling the fibre more efficiently. There are many technologies to choose from.
“We have developed water-based dispersions that offers good barriers for water vapour and grease that are heatsealable . We are working quite intensely on finding new, advanced dispersions, especially when it comes to water vapour barrier.”
Another interesting area within recyclable alternatives is what is called as ‘earthcoating’ A plastic reduction technology that also offers improved recyclability
“It’s a very interesting concept that can be further developed to tick even more sustainability targets. This offers us the possibility to decrease the use of plastics drastically”, says Sundell.
A bit of a wild card are water-based barriers and finding the right circumstances where it can be soluble through water. This technology is however still in its infancy.
An up and coming solution is monomaterials that can be used for replacing multi-layer laminates. At Walki, films of the same materials is laminated or co-extruded. The result is a stiff laminate that makes it possible to minimise the amount of material needed to make the end product.
“It’s not an easy task but definitely worth investigating as monomaterials give us plenty of possibilities for efficient recycling”, says Sundell.
Compostable materials have been a focus area for Walki, and with the Plastiroll acquisition, the company got even more expertise in the area. The need for compostable materials depends to a large extent on the underlying circumstances.
“In countries without the needed recycling infrastructure, compostable solutions are particularly important. What works in Sweden might not be an option for Italy for instance”, explains Sundell.
Also in cases where the material is very contaminated by food stuff, the optimal solution is composting as recycling is not an option because of the food impurities.
Where the packaging industry has been uniform in the past, its future looks more geographically fragmented.
“We will increasingly see local variations because of differences in infrastructure and regulation. For us at Walki, it means that we need to have as broad an offering as possible so we can find the optimal solution for each customer”, concludes Sundell.