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Sustainable packaging: does it already exist?

Sustainable packaging: does it already exist?

Why “the” sustainable packaging does not (yet) exist, the bad plastic sometimes a better one LCA has a future as glass, and reusable also has a future in the to-go area.

Buy more ice cream at Stanitzel! The packaging is part of the product. And that in turn is the only really sustainable type of packaging currently available. Is that wrong, do you think? There has long been sustainable packaging made from renewable raw materials that has replaced plastic and co. Made from corn or potato starch, for example. That's right, says Dagmar Gordon von Global 2000. And adds: "Renewable raw materials and sustainability are two different kinds of shoes." And that in turn has to do with arable land.

Granted, that's probably not your first association with it. “Everything that grows needs soil,” explains Gordon. But this is becoming increasingly scarce and should primarily be used to produce high-quality food for people and not renewable raw materials for packaging. ”The facts prove her right. Austria is now world champion in soil sealing. So slowly the land of the fields is really running out of soil. So it's a good argument. But what is the alternative?

Back to plastic?

“That is the wrong question,” says Andrea Lunzer, owner of the same name Customization, who advises companies on packaging issues and used to manage the packaging of "Back to the Origin" (note from Hofer's own organic brand). “The topic of sustainable packaging doesn't start with the material, but with the question of how long something will be used.” She also has an example. The bottle of lemonade. The 350 ml disposable glass bottle is drunk in a few minutes. From a purely ecological point of view, a single-use plastic bottle would make more sense in this case. Disposable glass bottles are at the bottom of the ecological list if you include the transport distances that are typical in Austria. Despite the high proportion of recycling in glass, the energy required to produce a bottle is very high. Weight is also an issue.

And it gets better. Because the real number one in terms of sustainability is reusable plastic: “A very clever product,” says Lunzer, “No other material is included in the ecological balance.” In fact, a glass bottle can be refilled up to 50 times. A returnable PET bottle may only be used 25 times, but it is lighter to transport. Extrapolated to around 1.000 liters of bottled water, a returnable PET bottle consumes around 0,7 kilograms less crude oil in terms of fossil resource consumption. There is, however, a tiny problem: The packaging industry is not geared towards the actual impact, but towards the consumer. And he just says: 'Plastic is bad.' Reusable pet products are currently not available on the Austrian market.

From plastic bags and returnable bottles

“How many hundred plastic bags can you use to get to the footprint of a cotton sack?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? Dagmar Gordon likes to ask such uncomfortable questions. “Even if you have 50 of them in the box and don't buy a new one, a lot of water has flowed and pesticides have been sprayed for these cloth bags,” she says, trying to make it clear: “The packaging issue is complicated. There is no simple solution to the problem. "

Even recycling is not a simple matter. All you need to do is look across the border to Germany. There is a functioning system with a relatively high deposit for one-way beverage packaging. Thanks to the deposit, almost all beverage packaging is returned to retailers sorted by type, does not end up in the environment and is recycled. On the other hand, there is Austria with a collection rate of just 70 percent at the moment and three retail chains - Penny, Lidl and Hofer - which have no deposit machines at all and which block themselves in the shop design. Although the rest of them don't enjoy it either. "The grocery trade does not want to give up a millimeter of the sales area for manipulation with returnable bottles," stated Gordon. But there is the EU directive on single-use plastic, which stipulates that plastic beverage bottles, of which 1,6 billion are currently placed on the market in Austria every year, will increase to at least 2025 by 77 and by 2029 at least 90 percent must be collected separately and also recycled. The most efficient way to close the gap, as you already guessed it, would be a deposit system.

Stainless steel to go and waste hierarchy

The take-away business and delivery restaurants also need a lot of packaging. In Vienna alone there are 1.700 tons. Or in other words 35.000 cubic meters of waste. Isabelle Weigand wants to change that. With your company skoonu she offers the catering trade stainless steel tableware in four sizes. Behind this is a reusable system and an app. The return should be easy. “We work with different restaurateurs. I can order from the Chinese today, but return the dishes to the pizzeria tomorrow. ”If you forget to do so, you will be charged five euros per dish after 21 days via a previously issued Sepa mandate. The pilot is running. However, Weigand does not see the egg-laying packaging wool milk sow either.

Instead, she locates a never-ending complexity that makes even simple decisions difficult: “For example, I reject cucumbers shrink-wrapped in plastic, but their ecological balance is actually better, they last longer when packaged like this.” For Lunzer, even recycling is questionable: “First of all Prevention is in the waste hierarchy, ”she says. The good image of recycling arises above all from the monetary commitment of the domestic ARA (Altstoff Recycling Austria). "The ARA earns by paying a fee on every packaging that is put on the market and promotes recycling". However, this only makes sense from a certain distance. “Of course I won't cart Fritz Cola in the reusable bottle from Hamburg to Vienna and back.” The order is also clear for Gordon: “No packaging, reusable as the second best solution, one deposit system for single-variety collection. "

Future Hopefully, however, will also bring one or the other bright head who is inspired by the Stanitzel mentioned at the beginning. There is already one: Jonna Breitenhuber. With the "soap bottle“Created sustainable packaging for liquid hygiene products made from soap. As the contents are used up, the soap packaging slowly dissolves from the outside. The remains are used to wash your hands. But you could also use soap straight away.

Innovations for sustainable packaging

The US company Ecovative produces sustainable packaging in any shape from biological waste and mushrooms that can replace styrofoam. Styrofoam is not biodegradable and around 1,5 liters of petrol are required for a single cube. How are you? Shredded biowaste is mixed with mushroom cultures. The whole thing grows for a few days, then the mix is ​​crushed again, brought into the appropriate shape and grows there for another five days. The compact mass is then subjected to a heat surge.

Sugar cane
The label problem could be solved by an alternative made from bio-based PE film made from sugar cane ethanol Avery Dennison has developed. The film does not differ physically or mechanically from conventional polyethylene made from petroleum. The changes in the manufacturing process are therefore minimal.

Milk proteins
The American Peggy Tomasula has created a sustainable packaging film made from milk that is edible, biodegradable and even more effective than an oil-based film. Behind this is the milk protein casein, which is an oxygen blocker and as such prevents food from spoiling. Because the foil is edible, you could dissolve a soup packed in it, including packaging, in the water and even incorporate spices and vitamins.

The British star-up Wow relies on algae, more precisely seaweed. This sustainable form of packaging is biodegradable, edible and cheap with manufacturing costs of one cent per item. The idea is based on a process called spherification, which creates a kind of waterproof skin around liquid. The goal is to sell liquid food in it and replace billions of water bottles at the end of the day.

Photo / Video: Shutterstock.

Written by Alexandra Binder

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