“It is absolutely clear that the future will be a new balance between responsible reuse and sensible single use. However, this pandemic showed us that we will need a certain percentage of single-use-packaging,” says Roberta Colotta, main coordinator of 360° Foodservice, a trade association representing businesses in the food service packaging industry. On the whole, however, the direction of travel is towards packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable, she says. So much so that 360° Foodservice has repositioned itself as a representative of those pioneering in this area – manufacturers, distributors, users and so on – as well as those who are committed to working to reach these goals. “We know that the world is changing; reuse will be part of the future,” says Colotta. “Our members realise and completely understand that.”
Among their members is Henkel, which manufactures adhesives and coatings necessary to produce packaging. These adhesives can be found in pharmaceutical blister packages, in labels used on PET bottles and in paper straws, while a coating might line a paper coffee cup to keep the contents warm while protecting the drinker’s hands.
Although sustainability is increasingly factored into packaging design, and legislation is pushing sector change, the value chain isn’t always joined up. In July 2021, as part of the single-use products (SUP) directive, an EU-wide ban on 10 types of single-use products, including certain packaging made of or containing plastics, came into force. Banned items include some single-use plastic bags, plates, expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers, stirrers, cutlery and straws, among others. To consumers it might sound like a simple change, but as with everything in packaging, in practice, it’s complicated and the industry is facing unintended consequences. Take straws, for example. As more and more paper straws come on the market, 360° Foodservice found that some products entering the EU market were not meeting EU health and safety standards. “Unsafe alternatives are coming in mostly from outside Europe,” says Colotta.
In response, the trade body has developed the Quality Straws initiative, of which Henkel is a signatory. Companies in the paper straw supply chain who sign on commit to being fully compliant with all EU health and safety regulations. 360° Foodservice has introduced a label that signatories can place on their products to indicate this compliance. Market surveillance will follow.
Getting ahead of the legislation
Elodie Picard is global head of market strategy for Tapes and Labels at Henkel Packaging Adhesives, and one of the “go-to” people in her department for packaging sustainability. She says that Henkel is more than prepared for the SUP directive: “This is something that we have been working on for many months and [even] years.” Indeed, Schuster adds that the company as a whole makes changes in anticipation of trends and societal shifts rather than in response to legislation, whether that’s working with partners to redesign packaging from the outset or – in the case of paper straws that require an adhesive to stick the spiralised paper together – creating safe adhesives that are compatible with recycling systems.