Sustainable packaging made a reality in 2020
Sustainable packaging: this is an absolute top priority for Lotus Bakeries. A team has therefore been set up, led by Corporate Director Els Van Parys, to focus entirely on this. The team reports directly to the COO, a member of the EXCO. This ensures that these topics also feed through to the Board of Directors and that the matter receives the appropriate attention. In 2020, several more important steps were taken towards increased sustainability.
“We’re working full-time with our team on the sustainability of our packaging”, begins Els Van Parys, Program Manager Strategic Projects. “Working closely with our colleagues from procurement, R&D and the plants.” The role of the sustainable packaging team is to refine Lotus Bakeries’ packaging strategy, and to roll it out within the organisation through multidisciplinary projects. Els and her colleague Laetitia Vlaminck also seek out new packaging solutions, materials and technologies, as well as trends in waste management and legislation.
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Aiming for 100% recyclable
“We design packaging that can be recycled as much as possible”, Els continues. “One of our priorities last year was to remove disruptive components from our packaging. These are components that make it impossible to recycle packaging.”
The main step taken in this area in 2020 was the switch to packaging film without a PVDC coating1 for all individually packaged and twin Biscoff® packs. “PVDC gets burned during the recycling process and makes the plastic unusable. So, we stopped using it. Without compromising on quality, we also replaced the multi-material packaging from mini-Dinosaurus (which can’t be recycled because it combines different plastics) with recyclable mono-material packaging.” The same is set to happen to mini-Biscoff® in 2021, and the packaging of Lotus Chocolate with Biscoff® was fully recyclable from launch.
Many of our brands are already packed in recyclable packaging. Currently, 96.8% of the packaging of the brands marketed by Lotus Bakeries is technically recyclable.
Using less packaging
As this mono-material packaging also needs less plastic, this means some 2.7 tonnes less plastic on the market each year for mini-Dinosaurus alone. “This also reduces the amount of packaging we use”, says Els. “Compared to other brands, the ratio of the weight of our packaging to the product is also very good. But we can still make further improvements if we look at it again with a fresh eye. In 2020, we reduced the thickness of the shrink foil around trays for spread by 10%. That means 2.3 tonnes less plastic per year.”
Towards a circular economy
It is even better to use only recycled or renewable materials according to the principle of the circular economy. “At Lotus Bakeries we look at sustainability as a whole”, Els explains. “Not just how far a material can be recycled, but also the CO2 footprint of the processing and production of the packaging, for example. We only replace plastic with paper or cardboard if that decision is good for the environment as a whole.”
In 2020 this happened to several products in the cake and waffle assortments, where the plastic trays were replaced by cardboard ones. This resulted in a further reduction in plastic of 13.5 tonnes annually. Even the ice cream tubs – previously made from polystyrene – are now made of cardboard.”
Keeping an eye on trends
Finally, the sustainable packaging team also keeps a close eye on trends and developments in the market. “For instance, there’s a trend to switch to paper films as a packaging material. However, we’re yet to find a paper for our products with the same barrier properties as the light film we use now”, says Els. “So we have no guarantee that our product will stay tasty and fresh as long. Paper films also tend to be a bit heavier, and overall the footprint doesn’t match up to that of plastic film. But, along with R&D and our suppliers, we keep looking for a solution. By the way, the same applies to metallised film: this is recyclable, but isn’t well sorted in sorting plants due to the reflection.”
1 PVDC (Polyvinylidene chloride) is a component that is burned during the recycling process, making the recyclate far inferior.