“It’s the ultimate example of the circular economy in action”. Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton, explains why paper-based packaging not only looks great but is fantastic for the environment.

What’s the biggest issue for the packaging industry at the moment?

Sustainability is the biggest thing. The publicity that’s been surrounding plastics for the past couple of years has heightened awareness of the whole sustainability issue, and what we’re trying to do is communicate the benefits of paper-based packaging. That type of packaging is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable, and there aren’t many other materials that can claim all three.

Are there certain sectors you see that are in growth?

The area that we’re seeing the most growth in is fast food. There’s been a big move in that area from expanded polystyrene to paper-based and carton-based solutions. I also understand that fresh produce has seen some growth as they move away from less sustainable alternatives. But the fundamental characteristics of paper and cartonboard are very strong in their own right, aside from their fantastic environmental credentials.

Are there any packaging innovations that you find particularly exciting?

Smart packaging continues to move forward and get wider acceptance, so I think that will continue to grow. The whole area of biodegradable coatings will also develop over the next few years. The characteristics of cartonboard and its ability to be used in a huge number of different markets, from everyday products to luxury products, taken with the myriad of special effects that can be applied, makes it appropriate for so many sectors.

“I’m a passionate believer that we need to be doing the right thing for the environment and that we all need to make some changes”

How well is the area of luxury packaging doing?

Very well. If you look at premium drinks – champagne, fine whiskies and the like – they very often come in cartons. That’s because, firstly, it shows the product to great advantage, and secondly, it really adds value for the consumer. It’s the same with cosmetics and perfumes – there’s a very good reason why they’re packed in cartonboard, because of its luxury connotations. It’s also the fact that they make very presentable gifts.

Are you optimistic for the next 12 months in packaging?

Extremely. I think the positive movement towards paper-based packaging and cartons is great for our industry and great for the environment. I’m a passionate believer that we need to be doing the right thing for the environment and that we all need to make some changes. In the packaging arena we have that opportunity, so I say let’s take it.

How do we do that?

We’ve got to make sure that everybody understands the benefits that cartonboard offers, make them understand that we need more paper-based products. It’s a renewable material, it’s recyclable and it’s biodegradable. It’s the ultimate example of the circular economy in action, and that’s what we need if we’re going to do something about these problems that we as a society have created in the last 50 years.

Article written by Sam Upton

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