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Low impact paper converting: what is behind paper packaging

With research into materials, UV Led printing and a CO2 offsetting project Faenza Group is transforming its production processes into climate neutral ones.

Faenza, 27 February 2021. 4.9 million tons of paper and cardboard were produced in Italy in 2019. Just under four tons of this was recycled, around 81% of the total. In national terms EU goals have been achieved (EU directive 2018/852) for 2025 (75% recycled) and 2030 (85%) are within arm’s reach. Faenza Group works in the printing, paper converting and packaging sectors and has eight brands under its umbrella and headquarters in three nations as well as Italy. ‘In 2008 we obtained our first FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification bound up with the use of paper from responsibly managed forests and we installed a photovoltaic system which powers our main Ravenna province plant in 2008’, explained Claudio Rossi, the firm’s CEO. At our Romagna operations centre we study and develop the communications solutions we offer clients: stationery, invitations, catalogues, brochures and editorial projects (fashion and lifestylemagazines, company and product catalogues, art and photography books, cultural and corporate magazines) and packaging for the food and drink sector and health product, cosmetics and luxury goods sector products.

Many sectors in Italy are sceptical of packaging made from secondary sources, as Paolo Barberi, president of FISE Unicircular (l’Associazione delle Imprese dell’Economia Circolare) highlighted on the occasion of the presentation of the 11th ‘L’Italia del Riciclo’ report in December 2020. The eco-sustainability of packaging impacts on consumers’ supermarket shelf decisions. This is confirmed by the Out-of-the-Box Observatory set up by Nomisma and Glaxi for a further cardboard sector firm, Ghelfi Ondulati, an analysis which focused on enquiring into the consumer-packaging relationship. For 72% of Italians more eco-friendly packaging is a factor in buying decisions. Fresh attention has been paid to packaging’s base functions: protection, to increase perceptions of product safety in a health emergency period; conservation, determinant in shelf life considerations and the avoidance of food waste.

«The demand for certified paper and cardboard has widened’, continues Claudio Rossi, ‘above all over the last two years. Firms are looking for eco-friendly solutions across the printed product board in both communication and packaging products. Our Research and Development division has worked in conjunction with other centre-stage players in the paper chain – Italian and international support material, ink, paint and finish solution producers – to improve certain key materials aspects such as recyclability, biodegradability and compostability. These culminated in 100%Green, a brand which identifies the best solutions for firms looking for low environmental impact options. This project interacted with a further initiative: Zero Impact.‘Clients signing up to this project can attach a ‘zero impact’ tag to their publications and are awarded a certificate: CO2 emissions generated by each product are calculated and offset. All of our printing operations has no environmental impact.’ These calculations are done by Life Gate, a media network and consultancy firm for sustainable development which set up the project.

It is a growing aversion to plastic which is pushing firms in the direction of paper and cardboard ‘above all in the cosmetics sector’, Rossi points out. ‘We recently redesigned packaging which was previously made of cardboard but had three internal thermoformed plastic compartments inside it to hold products. Together with the client we developed 100% cardboard solutions.’ On the strength of plastic film ‘there are various types of material on the market, from polypropylene (PPL) to bioplastics by way of shiny films which have obtained the plastic free brand. Even cardboard packaging with transparent plastic windows to make products visible to consumers can shift to transparent PPL film which is recyclable.’.

Packaging is not simply protection from shocks and contamination. It is also a communication tool: consumers can check products through the gaps and check product information, price and nutritional properties on the surface. For the Out-of-the-Box Observatory 14% of Italians now also check environmental information (pollution, waste disposal). In addition to FSC, Faenza Group added a further certification in 2016, ‘PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes)’, adds Simona Dalprato who worked on the 100%Green project – which is better known internationally. ‘PEFC is committed to promoting forest management via independent third party certification.’ The sheets of paper and cardboard coming into firms such as Faenza Group are not always made-to-measure. This means that bringing projects commissioned by clients to fruition requires cutting and transformations leading to raw material residues which are also of value. ‘To keep consumption to a minimum’, specifies the Faenza Group’s number one

‘we prefer to buy paper and cardboard in the exact format required to make our printed products. But the minimum quantities required for ad hoc paper factory manufacturing and short supply time frame reasons mean that this is not always possible. Paper factories produce sheets of paper and cardboard in standardised formats which are available immediately.’ Recycling is required to ensure that still valid raw materials are not lost. . ‘All material residues deriving from work at our plants is collected into special containers and delivered to a waste disposal firm which makes it into recycled fibre and returns it to the paper production cycle to make recycled paper as an end product.

We use certified recycled paper for our print trials.’ Raw materials sourcing is one of the phases most affected by the environmental revolution and print processes have also been rethought. ‘ ‘The search for new technologies in this sector is always work in progress. Last year we replaced H-UV (high ultra violet) printing technology with the more innovative UV led. This new plant has enabled us to reduce our energy consumption by using UV Led lights which are mercury free and do not generate greenhouse gases. They significantly reduce recycling costs and environmental impact.’The chemical substances used to print texts, designs and colours on material and the adhesive substances needed to assemble the various product components have changed. ‘Whilst low migration inks and acrylic paints containing no minerals have been available for some time and also smell good (low odour ndr), certified C2C (Cradle to Cradle) inks globally recognised as safer and more sustainable have now made their way onto the marketplace. They were researched with the circular economy in mind and are designed to reduce the environmental impact of the products themselves. As far as glues are concerned the majority of those we use are vinyl glues and thus water-based.’ ».

Whilst packaging is benefiting from the war on plastics, questions are being asked around the future of objects such as corporate brochures and catalogues. Today’s online communications make it quicker to reach a reference public and, as it is immaterial it is possible to avoid generating what will, sooner or later, be thrown away and help firms to improve their environmental reputations.‘This is the path taken by certain top-of-the-range car firms which chose not to print catalogues for their dealerships in 2018’, explains Rossi. How did it go? ‘60% of car dealerships chose to print the catalogues themselves. Sales figures fell in 2019. Subsequently these brands decided to go back to printing catalogues, changing their graphics and paying greater attention to contents and print finishes. In brief, better contents and more attractive catalogues, in tactile and visual terms.’For the Faenza Group’s CEO what is needed is a more objective comparison between the environmental impact data for paper and cardboard and that of the digital world. The technologies used in the transmission, reception and processing of data and information have a certain equivalent CO2 emission weight. In 2020, as a recent Corriere della Sera enquiry revealed, this accounted for 3.7% of global emissions and it is forecasted to go up to 8.5% by 2025 (in 2008 it was 2%).

‘Today’s firms have discovered the paper-digital combination. One of our fashion sector clients invests in paper mail-outs using top level paper converting and printing solutions and containing objects and information which links up to online material and converts into both retail outlet and e-commerce sales. The conversion rate is around 7-8%. With online alone it would be 1-2%.’

source: Lampoon Magazine


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