|VTT spearheads reusable packaging consortium|
Finland’s VTT and University of Vaasa have followed up on a joint research concept looking at viable options for reusable packaging by helping to convene the 4everPack consortium spanning the supply chain.
While many brand-owners and retailers have pledged to dramatically increase their use of recycled content and reusable packaging over the next few years, the emphasis so far has fallen heavily on recycling. This project aims to map out different possibilities for the implementation of reusables, backed up by balanced, research-based analysis of advantages and disadvantages, says VTT. Since this involves system-level - rather than materials-level - innovation, it will of necessity be cross-disciplinary and collaborative.
Project manager Jussi Lahtinen at VTT singles out the example of returnable beverage bottles which, not so long ago, were used in Finland as in other national markets. “We believe that by utilising modern technologies allowing the traceability of individual [items of] packaging, we can take reuse to the next level, making it considerably safer and more efficient,” he says. This would not only reduce the requirement for virgin feedstocks, he explains, but also help to optimise functions such as logistics and storage.
Project leader Ali Harlin, also of VTT, adds: “Digital solutions in a packaging context open up completely new opportunities for sustainable development.”
Optimisation of materials, personalisation, traceability and the digital tools to manage the packaging pool will all be examined as part of the project.
According to Hannu Makkonen of the University of Vaasa, the aim is to produce data which can be used by Finnish companies to help them take a pioneering role in reusable packaging. “The project will extensively survey the views of European consumers and their interest in the reuse of packages,” he says.
The project consortium includes the likes of polymer and chemicals business Borealis, the City of Helsinki, returnables company Kamupak, retailers Kesko and SOK, Metsä Board, RFID specialist Nordic ID, automated sorting equipment supplier Tomra and intelligent mobile data company UpCode.