SIG recently announced that it would fund breakthrough research into more sustainable materials at EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, as part of a joint initiative with Nestlé, Logitech and other industry partners to tackle environmental challenges associated with plastic waste.
“Sustainable product innovation is at the heart of SIG’s commitment to go way beyond good for society and the environment,” said Klaus Andresen, senior vice president of Global Technology at SIG. “We already offer customers some of the most sustainable aseptic packaging solutions on the market. But we want to go further and that’s why we’re partnering with Nestlé and others to drive progress towards the sustainable packaging materials of the future.”
Driving research into sustainable materials
Together, the corporate partners have committed to providing Swiss franc 5 million (approximately Rs 40 crore) over ten years. The funding will support a new chair for sustainable materials research within EPFL’s Institute of Materials.
According to the company’s press statement, the chair, to be appointed as a tenure-track assistant professor, will be responsible for developing and implementing a new research program on sustainable materials at EPFL, one of Europe’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan science and technology institutions.
Research areas of interest will address critical questions such as the overall environmental impact of materials, the exploration of bio-based, bio-degradable and recyclable materials, including high-performance paper-based barrier materials, that could help to address environmental concerns about plastic packaging.
Stefan Palzer, Nestlé chief technology officer, said, “Tackling plastic pollution is a top priority for Nestlé. We continue our efforts to pilot novel approaches for re-use packaging, while also evaluating new recycling technologies and sustainable packaging materials. The development of high performing, environmentally friendly materials requires a fundamental understanding of material structures and properties, which is why we are collaborating with our innovation partners to invest in sustainable material research at EPFL.”
Supporting customers with sustainable solutions
The company states that beverage cartons are fully recyclable and have a much lower environmental footprint than many alternatives for long-life food and beverages such as milk, juice, or soups. They are made mainly from renewable paperboard, but small amounts of polymers and aluminum foil are usually needed as barrier layers to contain and protect liquid food products, and for caps and closures.
SIG already offers an innovative aluminum-free aseptic packaging for dairy products, known as combibloc EcoPlus, and its SIGNATURE PACK solution uses a mass balance approach to link the polymers used in the carton to 100% renewable, forest-based feedstock. The company is now working to create an aseptic pack made out of 100% renewable materials – without mass balancing or aluminum – that can be used for a range of products, including juices that are more sensitive to light and oxygen.
Supporting research into more sustainable, high-performance barrier materials will help SIG drive progress towards this goal as it works in partnership with customers to bring food products to consumers around the world in a safe, sustainable and affordable way.