The Best Paper-Based Packaging Innovations of 2021

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  • Published on January 20, 2022

PEFC UK Limited403 followersFollow

2021 has been a memorable year, not always for right reasons.

Looking beyond the global pandemic, many people were left disappointed with the outcomes of the COP26 summit. Russia failed to show up and there was widespread criticism of the targets set by the World’s two largest countries, China and India. However, those with greater insight into the carbon debate would argue that emissions in these countries are, in fact, strongly driven by demand for cheap products from Western markets. And so the debate rolls on.

Focusing on the more positive aspects of COP26, PEFC was pleased to see measurable commitments made by the world’s largest nations to provide $12bn in “forest-related climate finance” and to engage in “enhanced collaboration to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”.

Macro level issues aside, PEFC has seen a significant increase in interest from Brand Owners and Retailers in renewable and certified paper-based packaging this year. Innovation has undoubtedly helped fuel this growth and for that reason we would like to showcase those who are pushing the boundaries in terms of developments in both raw material and packaging design.  

 A consistent trend across this year’s best innovations is close collaboration between paper suppliers, machine manufacturers and packaging design experts as the examples set out below illustrate.

 Heinz Cartonboard Multi-Pack Holder – WestRock

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In January 2021 Heinz launched its new cartonboard solution to replace plastic shrink-wrap on its multipack canned products in the UK.

The ‘Heinz Eco-Friendly Sleeve’ is manufactured using WestRock’s PEFC-certified CarrierKote cartonboard, which is fully recyclable and uses wood fibre from renewable and sustainably managed forests. Heinz claims that the wrap design uses 50% less material than a fully enclosed wraparound paper box. We were pleased to see the packaging carrying the PEFC label to provide customers with assurances of responsible sourcing

Heinz also reports that the manufacturing and transport of its new sleeve are carbon-neutral, and that it has a nearly 20% lower CO₂ footprint compared to the equivalent shrink-wrap design. The new format was launched across all Heinz’s canned products and major retailers in the UK in the Autumn of 2021.

 McDonalds Sundae Cup – Huhtamaki & HAVI

The McDonalds sundae cup (and cold drink lid) were the result of a project between Huhtamaki and HAVI which has attracted much praise. The product is made from 100% wood fibre, without any plastic additives, and has been formulated for use with ice cream and a broad range of sauces and toppings.

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Describing the objectives of the new design, Neal McCone from Huhtamaki had this to say – “Our Circular design addresses the consumer (and increasingly legislative) demand for a switch to renewable materials by using wood fiber from sustainably managed forests, utilizing efficient manufacturing processes that reprocess all scrap and wastage and ending with a consumer and operator validated package that can be recovered in existing paper streams, have the high-value material within it captured, and then recycled”[1].

 Paper Blister Packs – Syntegon & Huhtamaki

Blister packaging was first launched into consumer markets in the early 1960s[2] and has changed little since. The standard blister pack consists of a Polyethylene base topped with an aluminium foil. The foil remains fixed to the plastic when tablets are released there is little chance that the packaging is ever recycled.

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Thankfully, a ground-breaking innovation was launched in 2021 that solves these problems. A new paper-based blister pack has been developed by the German machine manufacturer Syntegon, and materials experts Huhtamaki. The sustainable paper-based solution is coated with a sealable barrier and finished in a special process. Essential requirements in terms of barrier, sealing capability, and easy push-through removal are met, without compromising recyclability.

Sylvicta Barrier Paper – Arjo Wiggins

Sylvicta® is a translucent, functional barrier paper that preserves the quality of food and cosmetics just as well as conventional plastics – all the while ensuring limited impact on the environment.

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This pioneering paper is suitable for various applications and is aimed at eco-conscious brand owners, retailers and converters. Sylvicta paper is fully recyclable, compostable and bio-degradable and is available with PEFC certification, offering a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic packaging.

Bio-based materials are now becoming popular as the foundation for sustainable and flexible packaging. “As a paper manufacturer, Arjowiggins is dedicated to protecting and respecting the environment,” says Christophe Jordan, Managing Director of the Translucent Papers division at Arjowiggins.

 Trayforma – Stora Enso

Trayforma is a renewable wood fibre-based tray (coated with a PE, PET or bio-based barrier) which can be used as a direct replacement for 100% PET trays.

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Using this product reduced the amount of plastic by 80% without compromising product performance. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the tray by up to 67%[3].  Depending on the coating used, the trays can be used in the oven or microwave.

Trayforma is available with PEFC certification to ensure that all wood fibre used in the product is sourced from renewable, responsibly managed forests.

 Paper Tube Packaging – Billerudkorsnäs & Aisa

It’s now possible to replace 80% of the plastic in tubes used in the personal care sector thanks to a partnership project between Billerudkorsnäs and the machine manufacturer Aisa.

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Tubes can now be manufactured used FibreForm, a renewable biodegradable, cold-formable paper that requires less energy in production than plastics.

By using FibreForm from Billerudkorsnäs, Aisa is now able to replace up to 70% of plastic in the functional shoulder component and together with the tube sleeve made of over 85% of paper, this hybrid shoulder contributes to a package that now is composed of more than 80% paper.

You can find more information on any of these initiatives on our web page dedicated to PEFC certified packaging

[1] Source: Packaging Europe 29th July 2021


[3] Source: Stora Enso LCA studyReport this

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PEFC UK Limited403 followersPublished • 1dFollow2021 saw a year of ground breaking innovations for recycling. Close collaboration between paper suppliers, machine manufacturers and packing design ensured a move away from traditional plastics and toward recyclable, compostable and bio-degradable materials as our article below celebrates. hashtag#collaborationhashtag#recyclinghashtag#materialshashtag#plasticfree

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