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Trend Paperization – Opportunities, Problems and Challenges

Trend Paperization – Opportunities, Problems and Challenges

Paperization is the name of the trend in the packaging industry, which is primarily about replacing plastic with paper. That’s good, because it saves plastic waste and protects the environment, right? Yes, that’s true on the whole. Nevertheless, the matter is not as simple as it seems at first glance, neither for nature nor for us humans.

Paper and environmental protection – not a purely positive relationship

A closer look reveals that the production of paper has a not insignificant impact on the environment. Paper is a product made from wood fibers to which chemicals have been added. A lot of water and energy is consumed in the production process. In addition, the wastewater from paper and pulp mills is often heavily polluted due to the unavoidable use of chemical substances.

Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that many trees are felled for paper. Approximately one in five trees felled worldwide ends up in paper production. Although wood fibers are considered a renewable resource, by the time even one tree has grown back, countless others have been felled – an extremely uneven ratio. Logging damages and destroys ecosystems that are so important to people and nature.

Recycled paper has by far the better ecological balance. Its production requires up to 70 percent less water and up to 60 percent less energy. However, it cannot be produced entirely without fresh wood fibers, as the quantity and quality of the original fibers decreases when waste paper is processed. So, in order to produce qualitatively sound paper, fresh wood fibers must always be added. The proportion of recovered paper in the overall paper cycle can be a maximum of 80 percent.

The question also arises: is paper really that recyclable? Pure paper: yes. But as soon as it is a composite with plastic, the matter becomes far more difficult – due to the complex and sometimes even impossible separation of the materials used. Composites of paper and plastic are not uncommon in the packaging industry, as pure paper is not leak-proof and protects food from spoilage less well than plastic.

Paper shortage as a problem not to be underestimated

With the paperization trend, paper is set to take over world domination in the packaging industry, so to speak. At the same time, however, we Europeans are faced with a paper shortage that no longer seems to be merely acute. There are various reasons for this, for example the fact that Asian countries, above all China, are increasingly buying up waste paper in Europe. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the development according to which more and more companies on our continent are (wanting to) switch to paper packaging, thus increasing the demand for paper.

What impact will this have?

– The pure supply of paper is hardly at risk in the packaging industry (for publishers and printers, on the other hand, things look bad in this respect as well).

– But: due to the increased demand and simultaneous scarcity, prices are naturally rising.

Paper packaging must also convince customers

Another difficulty is that the switch to paper packaging, which is made mandatory by environmental legislation, represents completely new territory for many companies. A considerable part of the operating process has to be converted. It can take a while to become familiar with the new machines and technologies and to learn about the properties of the completely different material in the context of one’s own products and how to deal with them successfully.

And then there is also the customer side: How do they perceive the changed packaging? We know that it is an immense challenge for companies to completely realign their packaging system, also with regard to the design-specific aspects. We are happy to help you get the most out of your new paper packaging to continue to ensure an optimal consumer experience.

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