Fedrigoni UK’s ‘Plastic to Paper’ event, held on the evening of Thursday 22 June 2023 before a packed house of designers and paper specialists, brought together five people from the paper, packaging and design industries. The panel comprised: Ian Bates from paper industry lobbying group Two Sides; Katie Kubrack from creative production house Nirvana; designer Vincent Villéger; printer Richard Owers (Pureprint) and Fedrigoni account manager and P2P ambassador Annette Clayton. Chaired by Pulp art director Simon Esterson, the panel’s presentation and wide-ranging discussion covered many aspects of sustainability with a focus on removing more plastic from the supply chain.
The event was held in Fedrigoni’s Clerkenwell studio, where visitors could look at the Fedrigoni range of products, including the fibre-based éclose® moulds that increasingly replace plastic parts in luxury packaging, plus a treasure trove of samples that Kubrack brought from Nirvana to demonstrate some of the materials and techniques that have successfully taken the place of plastic in luxury packaging for cosmetics, jewellery, clothing and more.
Bates spoke forcefully about the need for better communication. Consumers are confused about whether forests are growing or not. ‘In Europe, they’re growing at a really positive rate – 1500 football pitches every single day!’ He asked the audience: ‘Do people think recycled fibre is better than virgin fibre?’ and answered his own question: ‘We need both. If we don’t have virgin fibre, then we will run out of recycled fibre in roughly six weeks.’
Two Sides has carried out consumer research about public perception of recycled paper: ‘Less than 20 per cent of consumers think that over 60 per cent of fibre is recycled, which is shocking when you think about it. The reality is that for paper, 74 per cent is recycled; for paper packaging 82 per cent. So there is a massive public disconnect.’
Clayton talked about the ongoing journey to find sustainable solutions ‘that work on an industrial scale’. Kubrack gave examples of working with major clients who brief Nirvana to reduce plastic and hit sustainability goals. ‘If you can reduce the amount of plastics you’re using, you’re already doing a good job. And then the next step could be finding alternatives for it.’
Villéger showed some dazzling examples of his work for luxury brands and spoke with feeling aboutthe difficulties and ‘heartache’ involved in getting rid of ‘sneaky’ plastic in packaging. In Villéger’s eyes, that may mean redefining what the consumer thinks is meant by luxury: ‘If a brand delivers to you a luxury experience that isn’t sustainable, it’s not going to feel luxury anymore.’
Owers told us about Pureprint’s long journey, dating back to the 1980s, to becoming one of Europe’s most sustainable large-scale printers – twenty years ago it was the first carbon-neutral printer in the world. Among many issues, Owers touched on the process of dealing with big clients. ‘Homebase wanted to try and produce all their marketing collateral, their point-of-sale collateral, without any of it going into landfill.’ Pureprint did an audit of all the items and removed 385,000 individual, non-recyclable POS items, which they replaced with fully recyclable alternatives. ‘One of our objectives with Pureprint,’ said Owers, ‘was to make it possible that sustainability could be a mainstream business choice.’
The subsequent discussions, including many sharp questions from the audience, brought out the multiple complexities and challenges of moving to a more circular economy, from shrink-wrapping books to mining for cobalt.
As Clayton said near the close of this informative and stimulating evening: ‘It’s about all of us, we’re consuming packaging all the time!’