Greiner & Sabic to create bouillon packaging from circular polymer for Unilever

Producing about 1 million Knorr bouillon powder packages for Unilever

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Knorr bouillon powder that are made from 100% certified circular PP from a post-consumer plastic material

These days, plastic packaging manufacturers face ever-increasing demands to incorporate more sustainable and more recycled materials, such as PPP. For the first time, Greiner Packaging has now teamed up with global petrochemical leader Sabic and brand owner Unilever in a pilot project to produce tubs and lids for Knorr bouillon powder that are made from 100% certified circular PP from a post-consumer plastic material. The new solution is already on the market.

Greiner Packaging has already been testing various recycled materials for some time to determine their suitability for the production of its cardboard-plastic combinations. The company has selected certified circular polypropylene from Sabic’s Trucircle portfolio to realize Unilever’s test project. Sabic’s material uses post-consumer mixed plastic as feedstock, which is broken down into its molecular building blocks, to create virgin plastics, which are then used to produce these new recyclable tubs and lids.

The goal is to produce about 1 million Knorr bouillon powder packages for Unilever from 100% circular polymer. As circular polymers’ availability will grow in the future, the number of circular tubs will grow alongside. “By producing some of the tubs from certified circular polypropylene, we want to set a new standard on the market together with our partners and demonstrate what is possible with recycled materials in the food segment. We also want to keep pushing forward with this development. Here at Greiner Packaging, we are not only focusing on certified recycled PP – we are also working on our first projects and tests with mechanically recycled PS,” explains Jens Krause, sales director at the Swiss Greiner Packaging site in Diepoldsau.

No compromises in quality & performance

Knorr bouillon powder has now been marketed in the same cardboard-plastic combination for many years. The outer appearance, functionality, and safety of the new packaging are the same, and the quality is likewise as high as ever. The difference is that it is made using recycled plastic, making it much more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Nothing has changed from the consumer’s perspective.

In other words, they can still remove the cardboard sleeve from the actual tub when the packaging is empty before disposing of the two components as usual. “Our goal is to continue making our packaging more environmentally friendly together with partners like Greiner Packaging and Sabic – especially in the food segment – without consumers having to lower their standards in terms of design, performance, quality, user friendliness, and food safety. We are now testing this using material produced from 100 percent circular polymer, with the goal of expanding across our portfolio by 2025,” says Mike Ross, senior packaging manager at Unilever.

Advanced recycling – an opportunity for the future

The certified circular PP polymer from Sabic’s Trucircle portfolio is produced through the feedstock recycling of used and mixed plastic that could otherwise be destined for incineration or landfill. Difficult to recycle used plastic is broken down and taken back to the molecular level by heating it at a high temperature in an oxygen-free environment, producing pyrolysis oil.

The pyrolysis oil then enters Sabic’s production chain, just like fossil-based feedstock, to deliver new materials in compliance with strict quality requirements, such as the hygiene standards for food packaging. The resulting PP polymer is verified and authenticated under the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC PLUS) scheme, which uses a mass balance approach. Greiner Packaging sees chemical recycling as an ideal supplement to mechanical recycling.

The new Knorr bouillon powder packaging is made from a certified circular version of Sabic Flowpact PP impact copolymer that is phthalate-free, safe for food contact while offering robust performance for high stackability and easy processing. The ISCC PLUS accredited material is a drop-in solution for replacing fossil-based plastics in the packaging industry without compromising product purity and food safety.

K3-F packaging: the design solution

Knorr bouillon powder comes in K3-F packaging, supplied to Unilever as separate plastic tubs and folded cardboard sleeves. The sleeves are unfolded by a machine and slipped over the tubs directly before filling at the company. This process is especially suitable for global brand manufacturers like Unilever. They offer their products in various markets or under different brands and work with a wide range of decoration solutions. This gives them a high degree of flexibility in terms of the design and keeps stocks to a minimum. Plus, the packaging is perfectly stackable, which saves space during transport and makes this process more sustainable.

The packaging solution is ideal for powdered foods, cereals, pet food, and various non-food applications. Once empty, the consumer can easily remove the cardboard sleeve and dispose of the two packaging components separately. Alternatively, the resealable and dishwasher-safe tubs can also be used to store foods once the original product has been consumed – either at home or for day-to-day use in the foodservice industry.

Greiner Packaging is a leading European manufacturer of plastic packaging in the food and non-food sectors. The company has enjoyed a reputation for outstanding solutions expertise in development, design, production, and decoration for 60 years. Greiner Packaging responds to the challenges of the market with two business units – Packaging and Assistec.

While the Packaging unit focuses on innovative packaging solutions, the Assistec unit is dedicated to producing custom-made technical parts. Greiner Packaging employs a workforce of around 5,000 at more than 30 locations in 19 countries worldwide. In 2019, the company generated annual sales revenues of EUR 690 million (including joint ventures), representing more than 40% of Greiner’s total sales.

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