headline press information

Date 20th September 2013 / www.procarton.com
Title The sustainability of packaging in the retail trade
Text Guido Fuchs is Project Manager Sustainability at the Coop Genossenschaft in Basel with a focus on sustainability in the non-food segment, the sustainability of packaging, recycling and waste. As an expert on sustainability in the retail trade he has made a name for himself well beyond the borders of Switzerland. Pro Carton spoke to him about his objectives. For download in print quality, please click on the photo.

Pro Carton: How can you tell that customers are increasingly looking for sustainable packaging?

Guido Fuchs: On the one hand our own market research tells us that ecological or easily recyclable/disposable packaging is of great importance to our customers. On the other hand we also receive information via our consumer services when customers have specific or general suggestions/enquiries about packaging materials. In addition we also have feedback from articles published in our own "Coop News" when we report on especially successful or interesting packaging solutions.


You want to save another 1,250 tonnes of packaging by 2015, more than three per cent. Does that still leave room for further reductions?

Our long-term project "Packaging sustainability" includes reductions in materials as well as the ecological optimisation of materials. It is not always possible to do without packaging as packaging fulfils important protective and information functions. For example, protection during transport, protection against light and external influences etc., as well as required consumer information due to legal or own guidelines. But packaging also provides marketing and aesthetic functions. In addition we have a regular influx of new products. Our own brands can well contribute between 3,000 to 4,000 new items throughout our company every year. Of course we also examine the packaging for ecological and optimisation aspects at the start of the procurement process. We are convinced that there is further potential for optimisation for existing products well into 2015. The packaging industry as well as the manufacturers of raw materials are, of course, highly innovative and creative. New developments alone give us regular opportunities for optimising existing packaging and ecological improvement.


With a 53 per cent share of own products there is a lot you can do. Do you also have an influence on other brands?

We hold regular discussions with the suppliers of branded products. Many suppliers are completely open and together we are able to optimise packaging ecologically. As part of our Natura Award 2012, which honours especially ecology-committed business partners, we awarded a prize for innovative, sustainable packaging for brand manufacturers for the first time. The award went to the Tetra Pak company as they switched their entire range to FSC-certified drinks cartons on our initiative. Direct discussions and incentives such as these do in fact lead to results with suppliers of branded products. But of course, we cannot dictate terms. And by the way, we do not do this with our own production facilities or the manufacturers of own brands. One needs an in-depth professional exchange to arrive at really good solutions.


One day packaging will have to be 100% sustainable, do you have a personal vision as to when?

This is a difficult question to answer as there is no generally binding definition of what constitutes sustainable packaging. We try to reach our objectives at two levels:

  1. by specifying packaging materials (i.e. no PVC unless an overall ecological assessment is favourable; only materials, wherever possible, which permit material recycling within the Swiss collection and recycling system; packaging which makes optimum use of design, user-friendliness, manufacturing costs and eco-balance, and
  2. by integrating the packaging solution as early as possible into the product development and procurement process. I believe we are getting closer and closer to the goal of "sustainable packaging" without having an accurately quantified definition of sustainable packaging.


How do you assess the role of cartonboard and cartons?

Again, the answer is not an easy one. For example, if we compare the eco-balance of a carton and a bag of muesli, the carton has a weight disadvantage versus the bag, but the advantage of being a material based on renewable resources which meet high ecological demands. If we had a wish free, it would be weight reduction in this case.


And then there is the critical question of migration, especially for packaging in direct contact with foods. We would most certainly wish for a barrier paper/cartonboard which is ideally made of recycled fibres or at least FSC-fibres, and which could be disposed of without problems in the Swiss carton collection system and then be used as raw material in the carton industry.

Guido Fuchs
Guido Fuchs


Jamadu Haferkissen

Jamadu Haferkissen




Suzanne McEwen +43 1 218 6918 mcewen@procarton.com
Background Pro Carton is the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard manufacturers. Its main purpose is to promote the use of cartons and cartonboard to brand owners, the trade as well as designers, the media and politicians as an economically and ecologically balanced packaging medium.