Recycling blocks of pre-melted PE to combibloc EcoPlus - SIG Combibloc launches first CR report

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

SIG Combibloc launches its first CR report.
SIG Combibloc launches its first CR report.
SIG Combibloc has launched its first Corporate Responsibility (CR) report, which includes recycling blocks of pre-melted PE in China, its 2030 goals, focusing on an aseptic carton made from 100% renewable materials by 2020 and its combibloc EcoPlus pack.

As part of its sustainability goals, the company has created a ​Way Beyond Good​ roadmap to become a ‘net positive’ company. It joined the Net Positive Project in 2016, alongside companies including AT&T, Dell, Dow, and Kingfisher to put back more into society, the environment and the global economy than it takes out.

FSC-certified liquid packaging

It is also a member of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) in Europe, an industry-wide platform to benchmark and profile cartons as renewable, recyclable and low-carbon packaging.

Rolf Stangl, CEO, SIG Combibloc said the CR Report for 2016​ identifies management approaches to the SIG material issues, and reports on data and facts from the company’s performance in 2016 relating to society and the environment.

We have ambitious goals for 2030 and a detailed roadmap with year-on-year targets to 2020 to help us get there. By 2030, we will halve our environmental impacts and double our benefits to society​,” said Stangl.

We have already made good progress in several areas, including creating a pack with a 28% lower carbon footprint from cradle to gate, sourcing enough FSC-certified liquid packaging board to enable customers to include the FSC logo on any of our packs and securing 100% renewable electricity for all our production plants worldwide from 2017​.”

He added SIG Combibloc will be cutting the impact of its carton packs even further through innovative product design.

Cartons already offer the smallest footprint compared with alternative types of packaging. But we want to go further to offer the most sustainable solutions on the market, starting with an aseptic carton made from 100% renewable materials by 2020. Innovation is the key to realizing this ambitious goal​,” he said.

One example of innovative design is the combibloc EcoPlus aseptic carton, a renewable liquid packaging board from responsible sources which makes up more than 80% of the carton.

Combibloc EcoPlus

EcoPlus does not use aluminum but polyethylene layers and an ultra-thin layer of polyamide to protect the contents.

The radical design of combibloc EcoPlus cuts the carbon footprint of our combiblocSlimline 1 liter carton by 28% from cradle to gate. And the addition of a combiCap – 60% lighter than a normal screw cap – gives additional consumer convenience with minimal life-cycle environmental impact​,” added Stangl.

Carrefour began using combibloc EcoPlus for UHT milk in August 2016.

SIG Combibloc currently uses liquid packaging board made from wood for 70-80% of its packs on average.

To create an aseptic pack made from 100% renewable materials by 2020 it will have to replace the other materials in a pack with renewable alternatives, or eliminate the need for them completely.

It currently uses polymers as a barrier for liquids and to prevent moisture getting into the pack, and aluminum acts to protect the contents from oxygen and light.

The company says it is now exploring viable sources of bio-based polymers to replace oil-based plastics and looking for ways to replace aluminum foil by optimiZing resources without compromising on the quality of the pack.

We already offer customers an aluminum-free option, known as EcoPlus. By using a different material structure, we were able to cut out aluminum altogether and replace it with an ultra-thin polyamide layer. This increases the share of renewable materials in the pack from 75% to 82%, and cuts the carbon footprint by up to 28% cradle to gate​,” said Stangl.

The framework for the topics covered in SIG’s CR report 2016 is provided by the G4 guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Michael Hecker, head of Corporate Responsibility, SIG Combibloc said it chose to base its report on GRI ‘​to make it clear how strongly we feel about representing our key business figures in a transparent manner’.

Reporting in accordance with GRI G4 shows where we can improve, and enables us to compare our own performance with that of other companies which report according to the same guidelines​,” he said.

Stangl added, liquid packaging board, polymers and aluminium are the firm’s key A-materials, and these are the priorities for 2020.

PE plant China

By 2030 it wants to source other materials used in and for its packs from certified sustainable sources. FSC offers a suitable certification for the pallets and corrugated cardboard in its secondary packaging.

SIG Combibloc 2020 targets include:

  • 100% FSC labeled packs
  • 100% renewable carton pack
  • 100% bioplastics from certified sources
  • A carton made of 50% recycled content
  • 50% CO2 reduction and 35% energy reduction in plants (from 2014)
  • 100% renewable energy and Gold Standard CO2 offset for all non-renewable energy
  • Science-based CO2 reduction target in place covering entire value chain
  • New social responsibility requirements included in 100%

The other main material we use in our production is the ink used to print the design on our packs. There is no certification scheme available for the materials used in these inks, but we will work with our suppliers to explore alternatives such as bio-based solvents​,” said Stangl.

Talking about its PE plant in China, the report states polyethylene (PE) is one of its primary raw materials for its packs. Its extrusion process melts down granules of PE to create a thin sheet of plastic coating. But every time it stops the production lines, a block of pre-melted PE is left over.

This generated more than 490 tonnes of waste a year at its plant in Suzhou, China, because it could not reuse these blocks of PE but it introduced a new system at the plant last year to process the blocks of PE into granules that can be fed back into the production process, creating a closed loop system.

This will cut PE waste at the plant by around 90%, reducing waste disposal costs and cutting the amount of new PE it needs to buy and it wants to replicate this project at its global production plants.

Stora Enso is one of SIG Combibloc’s main suppliers. It recently asked the firm to undergo four-pillar SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audits (SMETA) at the mills supplying SIG. Stora Enso’s mills in Imatra, Finland, and Skoghall, Sweden, were audited in December 2015. Its new mill in Beihai, China, was audited in December 2016.

It has been incredibly positive to work so closely with SIG as we explore new ways to support each other in upholding our sustainability commitments. The SEDEX audit is the most recent step in our collective journey​,” said Eija Hietavuo, senior VP Sustainability, Consumer Board, Stora Enso. 

Following its FSC journey SIG Combibloc explains how it established FSC Chain of Custody certification for all the paper mills it sources from in 2009, as well as its production plants, procurement organization and sales units worldwide (licence code FSC C020428).

This certification enables wood products to be traced throughout the supply chain from forest to consumer.

It introduced the FSC label in high volumes for dairy and non-carbonated soft drink cartons starting in Germany in 2009, followed by China in 2010 and Thailand in 2011.

In 2016, we achieved another industry first and a significant milestone in our roadmap. With a minimum of 70% of our liquid packaging board now coming from FSC-certified forests, we now source enough FSC-certified material to enable our customers to put the FSC logo on any of our packs​,” added Stangl.

The next challenge is to encourage more customers to put the logo on the packaging for their products. Around 56% of the cartons we sold in 2016 carried the FSC logo and the share rose to around 75% in the month of December. By 2020, our target is for 100% of our cartons worldwide to carry the FSC logo​.”

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