1. Why is it important for APEAL to speak at this event and listen to/meet others in the industry?
APEAL, the Association of European Producers of steel for packaging is a federation of the four major producers of steel for packaging in Europe, namely ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, U.S. Steel Košice and thyssenkrupp Rasselstein. Our objective is to work with all relevant stakeholders in the European packaging sector to ensure better understanding of the opportunities for improved sustainability offered by steel for packaging, especially as we move to a circular economy. Brand owners and retailers are an important audience for us as they are key to influencing packaging choices.
2. In your talk, you will be covering the topic of how a “traditional” material can be source of both innovation and sustainability. Can you give us a few insights?
Steel packaging has been with us for many years which is why its strength, properties and sustainability credentials can sometimes be overlooked.
As well as being one of the most resilient and durable packaging materials, ideal for future growth in e-commerce, steel provides a 100% barrier against light, water and air. For manufacturers and retailers that means less wastage and spoilage. It also means steel cans can be stored without using energy which can provide important savings both financially and environmentally.
Steel is a tried and tested packaging solution that delivers natural preservation, high performance and ultimately, greater food safety. On top of that, food packaged in steel is as healthy as freshly prepared. No additives or preserving agents are needed and fruit and vegetables canned within hours of harvesting retain their nutrients throughout their shelf life. This is an increasingly important factor as society becomes more health conscious.
Environmentally we also have a great story to tell. In the last three decades, we have reduced the energy we use to make steel for packaging by 25%. This has significantly reduced our CO2 emissions, which have almost halved.
We have also become more resource efficient, making more with less. So that can walls are an average of 29% thinner.
Finally, our recycling rate has risen from 18% in 1986 to a record 79,5% in 2016. Steel packaging is now Europe’s most recycled packaging material and has been for more than the last decade.
3. A key theme within the packaging industry at the moment is the issue of carbon footprints and sustainability. Do you believe companies are finally starting to take the issue seriously? Is there still resistance where the ‘green’ way of doing things is not the most cost-efficient way?
There is no doubt that businesses are serious about sustainability and in many cases, are taking innovative steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Packaging is a complex area and decisions about formats can have unintended consequences, such as opting for lightweight formats without fully appreciating that these are not always recycled.
The EU’s Circular Economy Package (CEP), adopted earlier this year, is a significant step in creating a framework that places the greatest value on full product lifecycles and encourages the use of recycled materials.
At the same time the concept of multiple recycling, where products and packaging materials are kept in the material loop and can become resources for other products and packaging, is heading towards acceptance into legislation.
Steel, as a ‘permanent material’ that can be recycled multiple times without any loss of quality, is a great example of a ‘green’ packaging format that will appeal to more and more companies.
4. Many know Steel can improve a product’s shelf-life, but not many know Steel’s sustainability benefits. Why do you think that is?
We have been working hard to help improve understanding of steel for packaging’s sustainability credentials through a variety of PR and social media campaigns. However more needs to be done.
This is one of the reasons we are attending Packaged. It’s also why we have recently undertaken a Europe-wide research project with brand owners and retailers to establish their level of understanding of just how sustainable steel for packaging is.
We have a great story to tell. Life cycle data for both tinplate and steel cans reveal the continuous improvements being made across the sector. This is essentially due to continuous improvement in recycling rates, continuous improvement in unit lightweighting and increased amounts of green energy used for the packaging manufacturing process.
5. You appear to sense a growing interest in the food waste. What role can packaging, and indeed steel for packaging, play in saving food?
There’s certainly a great deal of awareness about the issue of food waste. The figures are staggering, especially if you consider not only the food that goes to waste, but also all the energy and resources invested into growing, harvesting and processing that food.
Packaging protects products from damage and extends shelf life. But it is also important to ensure the packaging used is sustainable. No other packaging material equals steel’s strength, total barrier properties or shelf life of up to 5 years. As a result, food packed in steel stays fresh for longer, retains its flavour and is less likely to be damaged, spoiled, or unnecessarily wasted. And as a permanent material that recycles forever, and is indeed already 79,5% recycled in Europe, it certainly has an important role to play.
6. What do you foresee as being the biggest game changers in the Packaging industry over the next 5-10 years?
The biggest game changer for the packaging industry will be the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy.
The CEP has brought new, higher material recycling targets for all packaging materials which will apply throughout Europe, which is pushing governments across the continent to increase their focus on the way products are manufactured, used and recycled.
The CEP will also increase awareness and understanding of the benefits of permanent materials like steel within those processes, particularly with the new specific targets for each type of metal.
Not only will there be legislation to drive change, but consumers’ purchasing decisions will increasingly be driven by sustainability considerations. And brands and retailers will need to demonstrate that their packaging choices reflect these trends. The “Recycles Forever” identifier created by the collective metal packaging industry for use on metal packs is a great opportunity for brands to do just that.
7. What do you hope delegates will walk away with from your session at Packaged 2018?
I’d like delegates to go away with a fresh perspective on steel for packaging. And for them to understand that far from being an old-fashioned packaging format, steel for packaging is a material for the future.