Plastic has immense potential if used properly: Huhtamaki’s Rahul Nene

Clearing the air around plastic’s non-recyclability in food packaging

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Huhtamaki
Rahul Nene, Head of Sustainability, Huhtamaki India. Photo Huhtamaki

Think plastic and the first image that comes to the mind is heaps of garbage, full of plastic refuse. Rahul Nene, the sustainability head of Huhtamaki India, however, feels that plastic is much beyond that and has immense potential is used properly and designed in a circular manner. 

On World Environment Day, sharing his opinion on the ‘myths’ surrounding plastics and its non-recyclability as well as its significance in the flexible packaging industry, Nene said plastic as a material has infinite potential, “If used properly, it is a beautiful material and if designed in a circular manner, it can even prevent pollution and bringing in sustainability benefits.” 

Huhtamaki
The blueloop innovations are both unique to Huhtamaki and transformational.

According to Nene, about 70% of plastic packaging in India is flexible packaging and majority of it is multi-layered packaging. Huhtamaki’s sustainable head said, “Multi-layered plastic poses a threat as it is not easily recyclable. If a consumer tosses away this packaging, it doesn’t necessarily find its way to the value chain of plastic. It’s either disposed of at landfills or incinerated. This is why we are focusing on making our products only mono-material-based under our blueloop initiative for sustainable packaging, launched in India in 2023.”

Nene says blueloop has been designed for the most demanding applications where sterilization for food, pet care, and healthcare products is required. It contains more than 90% mono-material content and is designed to provide ultra-high barrier performance, comparable to that of multi-layer solutions. In the case of pet food, the materials used have been shown to result in positive palatability assessments — the overall appreciation of medicine by organoleptic properties such as vision, smell, taste, aftertaste, and mouth feel (for example, texture, cooling, heating, trigeminal response) and possibly sound.

Huhtamaki
Mono PE Bulk Bag from Huhtamaki India

Recyclable flexible packaging with high-barrier performance

New packaging structures, designed by Huhtamaki, for recycling and reduced material use, will be available in paper, PE (polyethylene), and PP (polypropylene) Retort, suitable for a wide range of demanding applications in food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, home, and personal care, and industrial needs. 

Nene said, “The blueloop flexible paper is a fully recyclable, mono-material paper solution for flexible packaging. It provides an industry-leading 90% paper content, combined with an ultra-high barrier performance comparable to aluminum-based solutions. blueloop is an all-new solution range made up of up to 95% mono-material content, designed for recycling. OmniLock PE is part of the blueloop brand, offers high-barrier performance, which is on a par with aluminum-based solutions.”

Huhtamaki
Huhtamaki Foundation recycling plant in Khopoli

Packaging South Asia also covered the launch of Huhtamaki’s innovation. Marco Hilty, president of flexible packaging at Huhtamaki, outlined its importance, “What we’ve done, quite simply, is to redesign the future of flexible packaging by setting new industry standards in mono-material solutions. These blueloop innovations are both unique to Huhtamaki and transformational. They simultaneously deliver recyclability, with no compromise in product, protection or affordability. This is the power of three.”

Hilty said these at-scale innovations will support its customers reach the commitments they have made, including using only recyclable, compostable, or reusable packaging by 2025 and aligning with the direction of future policy, both in the EU and globally. “Our innovations ensure flexible packaging affordability – especially important to consumers across the world, and they provide the high level of product protection, for food and household essentials, that flexible packaging is known for.”

Huhtamaki
The blueloop innovations are both unique to Huhtamaki and transformational.

“The best waste is that which never gets generated. Huhtamaki Foundation India in 2022 designed a waste recycling recycling plant based in Khopoli, Maharashtra. The idea is to process multi-layered flexible packaging, which seldom gets recycled, or in many cases does not even get collected in recycling. Multi-layered flexible packaging is prone to get dumped in landfills and Huhtamaki is most interested in delivering appropriate solutions to this challenge. Its attempts include the granulation of such plastics to be recycled and reused in better ways.

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