The transition from single-use plastic to paper (P2P) is an unstoppable movement. Compared to single-use plastic, paper is more easily recycled, and the figures show this, especially in Europe. P2P has been an important element of sustainable practice for several years, and its practice is growing steadily as more companies realise the ecologically damaging results of using single-use plastics (for which there is no single chain of disposal) for manufacturing and packaging. The process of replacing plastic with paper can only become broader, faster and easier to implement as companies worldwide retool and rethink the way that they approach their businesses.
Now that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are at the forefront of many companies’ policies, the mantra of moving from plastic to paper has become the basis of a whole new set of ways of understanding what paper can do to help make a sustainable future– to ‘defend our planet’, as Fedrigoni CEO Marco Nespolo says in our interview. To show the multiplicity of ways that everyone – from designers and brands to manufacturers and consumers – can change and act, this special issue of Pulp calls upon the experiences and insights of people and companies on the frontline of P2P and the circular economy.
Paper is the future
Can we all imagine a world without single-use plastics? Many of the stakeholders we contacted while researching this issue felt confident that such a situation would arrive within the next five to ten years. For some areas of activity, the process has been going on for some time already. Consider packaging for consumer electronics such as phones, tablets, laptops and their accessories. It is hard to remember exactly which parts of their elaborate packaging used to be plastic, so effective has the transformation been. Since this is an area in which profit margins are relatively high, and the consumer base more environmentally conscious, it has been a quiet revolution.
Brand owners in the luxury sector have made great progress, too. We are beginning to see material changes in branded bags, boxes, loyalty cards and other ephemera and communication. Tea and coffee brands are following suit.
More mainstream food and drinks producers are faced with greater challenges, but there are some interesting trials underway to replace or reduce plastic ‘barrier’ materials by using moisture-resistant papers. Such new products are relevant to cosmetics manufacturers.
Fedrigoni’s Materia Viva Metamorphosis® range is for any producer who wishes to find more environmentally friendly alternatives to single-use plastic, with paper products that are water-resistant, anti-grease, scratch-proof, etc. Paper offers better end-of-life management and is more easily recycled (up to seven times) regardless of whether it is used in short, medium or long-term applications (like magazines, music packaging and books). éclose® – a thermoformed tactile replacement for the plastic moulds hidden inside luxury presentation boxes – represents another revolution in packaging.
When major consumer brands and retailers have unambiguous ESG targets stated in their annual reports, they are on a one-way journey to more sustainable practices, though this progress is not the same in all parts of the world, as our conversations with Fedrigoni’s P2P Ambassadors make clear. In many territories, for many of the bigger players, including household names, good environmental practice is now seen as a long term investment, even when that means more cost and effort in the short term.