Powerful strides towards a more sustainable packaging policy
Design for tomorrow, reduce what we use, aim for circularity: these are the three pillars of Lotus Bakeries’ packaging strategy. Once again in 2021, we made major strides in each of these areas. Sustainable Packaging Engineer Laetitia Vlaminck outlines the most powerful steps.
“In our packaging strategy, we always aim for the optimum overall picture”, Laetitia begins. “We want to improve sustainability as a whole. So, we don’t intend to engage in burden shifting, for example by switching from plastic to an alternative like paper, which is perceived as more sustainable, but end up using much more material, reducing the shelf life of our cookies and not gaining the full benefit from the efficiency of our ovens.”
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100% RECYCLABILITY FOR BISCOFF® COOKIES
Under the heading of ‘design for tomorrow’, Lotus Bakeries is - improving the sustainability of its packaging, so that the materials can be reused. Having already switched to PVDC-free film for all individually packaged and twin Biscoff® packs in 2020, this was rolled out across the entire Biscoff® range in 2021. “This means that the packaging material for Biscoff® is PVDC-free across the whole line”, Laetitia explains. “This brings us close to 100% recyclability for Biscoff® Cookies.”
A special packaging line has also been set up for packaging Biscoff® Crumb, which was previously outsourced to a copacker. This also involved new packaging, that is easier to recycle. “Whereas before we used a plastic bag with a paper sticker on it – which made it harder to recycle – we now use a printed bag without a sticker, or with a plastic sticker that can be recycled”. In the Dutch market, Lotus Bakeries has also switched to PET for Enkhuizer product tubs, which were previously made from polystyrene. This material does not tend to be collected or recycled around the world, while PET is recycled on a larger scale and can also be made from recycled material. These changes have raised our recyclability score to 97.1% for the Lotus Bakeries Group as a whole.
There are ambitious plans on the agenda in 2022 too: all packaging for waffles, cakes and pastries should be recyclable by the end of the year. “As ever, the greatest challenge lies in the product’s shelf life. What we are aiming for is to keep crispy waffles really crispy and loaf cake deliciously soft, but in recyclable packaging”, says Laetitia.
AS LITTLE PACKAGING MATERIAL AS POSSIBLE
With the motto ‘reduce what we use’, Lotus Bakeries aims to use as little packaging material as possible, without compromising the quality of the products. “A key step towards this was when we changed the type of cardboard for our 300 Biscoff® catering case. The cardboard is now thinner, which means that it weighs less and more cases can be loaded on a pallet. As a result, every year, 36.5 tonnes less cardboard are placed on the market and 17 fewer trucks are needed to transport the cardboard to the factory, which has an impact on CO2 emissions”, Laetitia explains.
In addition, we made the plastic bottle for Biscoff® topping lighter, saving 800kg of plastic every year. The stretch film around pallets of Lotus Biscoff® spread is now thinner, saving around one tonne of plastic per year without affecting stability. “We are now seeing if we can make the same reduction at other plants. This is a tricky process because, clearly, pallets have to maintain their stability until they reach the retailer. Otherwise, we generate wastage, and that’s obviously not the intention.”
There is clearly much more in the pipeline in this area. “In 2021, we carried out a major study to investigate how we can make further reductions for our leading runners. We have already managed to implement some initiatives in 2022.” The first example to appear on the market is Lotus® Biscoff® fresh packs. We will switch to a thinner packaging film for these packs. This will save us 13.5 tonnes of packaging material annually.
KEEP PACKAGING IN THE LOOP AS LONG AS POSSIBLE
Finally, Lotus Bakeries does its bit for the circular economy with the ‘aim for circularity’ aspect. Here, it aims to keep packaging materials in the loop as long as possible, by using recycled material. Where this is not feasible, we choose sustainable or renewable materials where possible.
“In any case, we use our cardboard boxes as recycled material. It’s more difficult with plastic, as the recycling facilities for this aren’t quite there yet”, Laetitia explains. “We have already taken the first step by using 30% recycled material in the shrink film around trays of Lotus® Biscoff® spread. We already reduced the amount of material for this film by 10% last year. The same is now happening to the stretch film around pallets of this product: this year, as already mentioned, we made this 10% thinner and next year we hope to be able to use recycled material for this as well.”
It is more complicated for the wrappers for use in direct contact with food. “Here, we have to be careful about food safety”, Laetitia explains. “Unfortunately, by law, mechanical recycling doesn’t allow recycled materials to be used in packaging that comes into contact with food. This means that, until recently, we couldn’t use any recycled material for this. However, a method is currently being developed that would make this possible after all: chemical recycling. We are examining the possibilities, and hope to be able to start using a wrapper made from recycled material very soon.”
LET’S CARE FOR OUR PLANET TOGETHER
Finally, in 2021, Lotus Bakeries began to communicate more strongly to consumers about its efforts in the area of packaging. “We wanted to make it clear to consumers what we are doing and encourage everyone to do their bit by making sure that our packaging ends up in the right waste stream. That way, our efforts deliver the most. We developed an overarching communications strategy for this with a ‘recycle me’ logo on each recyclable pack, provided that the packaging is collected in that specific country. The logo is combined with the slogan ‘Let’s care for our planet together’. In this way, we aim to encourage consumers to sort the packaging correctly. After all, the circular economy relies on all actors in the chain. Then it’s up to us to reuse the recycled material and close the loop.”