sustainable by design
Demand for responsibly produced products has never been higher. Our innovative design of packaging and paper solutions is supporting our customers to achieve their sustainability goals. Our commitment to using ‘paper where possible, plastic when useful’ will enable us to lead in the transition to a circular economy.
The pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping and heightened consumer sensitivity to hygiene and food safety. As demand for sustainable products and packaging grows, our customers depend on us to deliver their sustainability goals. Developing sustainable products allows us to grow our business while tackling issues such as plastic pollution and food waste.
Over the last five years, our approach to sustainable products has evolved from being primarily focused on lightweighting, product safety and avoiding food waste to include innovative packaging solutions in the areas of functional barrier papers and mono-materials designed for recycling.
The market response to our customer-centric EcoSolutions approach ‘using paper where possible, plastic when useful’ has been positive with many customers and brands eager to improve the sustainability performance of their packaging and understand the potential trade-offs.
Our Sustainable Products Criteria are now being applied across our packaging and paper businesses with a focus on developing metrics to measure our progress in making our products more sustainable. In Uncoated Fine Paper (UFP), the Green Range has grown from a few niche products in 2007 to cover 89 Mondi mill brands today.
Mondi's Sustainable Products Criteria
Products using responsibly sourced raw materials and services from suppliers that meet our social, environmental, legal and ethical criteria
Products made with renewable material or feedstock
Products made with recycled content without compromising quality or safety
Products designed, engineered and manufactured to best utilise available resources and reduce emissions to air, water or land
Enhanced product performance
Products and solutions (including substitution of materials) with sustainable features to reduce product loss and/or environmental impact in the supply chain
Products optimised for the most desirable end-of-life scenario to retain value into their next life – such as through reusability and recyclability, or compostability and biodegradability
We signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment in 2018 and we continue to report transparently on our progress. Over the last five years we have invested €130 million in R&D.
Developing the circular economy
We collaborate with customers and partners who share our commitment to a circular economy. Paper-based solutions, when sourced responsibly, are an essential element of the circular economy. We are keen to help others understand sustainability trade-offs and show how plastic – when used for the right purpose and disposed of properly – can also be part of a circular economy to help meet the need for safe and hygienic sustainable packaging.
We believe stakeholders must come together to harmonise solutions to plastic waste across regions and drive innovative, systemic change throughout the value chain.
Climate-related legislation on packaging
The European Union Green Deal(1) sets a roadmap towards carbon neutrality by 2050 by moving to a circular economy. One of the main elements relevant to packaging is the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). Announced in March 2020, it targets the sectors that use the most resources and have a high potential for circularity.
The action plan includes legislative and non-legislative measures. It combines existing regulatory measures, such as the Single Use Plastics Directive, with future development – for example on packaging waste and recycled content.(2) The CEAP will place limits on over-packaging and mandate recycled content levels. It will also limit specified single-use plastic, encourage bio-sourced plastic and promote recycling of high-quality secondary materials.
Innovation. Sustainable by design
Our innovation focus spans the entire value chain – from sourcing and product design to technical specification and end-of-life. We collaborate with external partners to help develop ideas, designs, technologies, procedures, markets and solutions. For example, our collaborations with waste sorters and recyclers across industries will enable us to jointly find solutions for a circular economy.
Our research centres drive innovation and collaboration across Mondi businesses. They include the uncoated fine paper Product and Process Development Centre at Hausmening (Austria), the R&D Innovation Centre and Bag Application Centre at Frantschach (Austria) and the Consumer Flexibles R&D Centre at Gronau (Germany).
We are increasing our investment in R&D to drive deeper collaboration throughout the supply chain to move away from non-renewable and non-recyclable material. In 2020, we invested €23 million in R&D (€130 million since 2015). Through our strategic partnership with the Graz University of Technology related to Pulping and Paper technology, we are currently implementing the latest findings from science in order to reduce the energy consumption of the refining process.
Collaborating across the value chain
We aim to support the shift towards circular thinking through collaboration with multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative.(3)
As co-chair of the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group, we supported the development of The Circular Bioeconomy Report, launched in November 2020. It includes a Mondi case study highlighting a mono-biomaterial corrugated design replacing plastic for our customer Darbo. We also contributed to the Forest Sector SDG Implementation Report, published in December 2020. This report provides evidence of Forest Solution Group members’ commitment to implementing the actions in the SDG Roadmap.
We signed up to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment in 2018, committing to achieve 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025.(4) To date we have achieved 16%. The 2020 Progress Report is available here.
As a proportion of total plastic packaging volume, post-consumer recycled content is not yet significant. We expect it to increase through better quality and quantity of recycled material becoming available, allowing companies and retailers to commit to including recycled content in their products.
In 2019, we became a member of the 4evergreen alliance, launched by Cepi to boost the role of fibre-based packaging in a circular economy. The alliance now has more than 50 members including brand owners, manufacturers, recyclers and waste separators and aims to increase recycling rates of fibre-based packaging in Europe from 84.6% today(5) to 90% by 2030.
Through our MAP2030 commitment to offer circular-driven solutions, we will promote our EcoSolutions approach to support our customers’ sustainability goals. This will include making 100% of our products reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025 and working with others to eliminate unsustainable packaging.
(1) European Commission (2019), https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/communication-european-green-deal_en