It is this time of the year that I sit on a plane going East.  Far East, to the Philippines.  Enjoying a Whiskey Cola on board and reflecting on the past year.  Here we go. What a year!

Winfried Mühling, Pro Carton Director of Marketing & Communication

On the regulatory side, Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) and the upcoming votes have played an important role since the beginning of the year.  There have been debates on social media with a focus on recycling and reuse.  Sometimes I would say in an uncompromising, even hostile way.

My own exchange of private messages with the authors showed a different picture than what was shown “live” on socials.  In most cases we came to an agreement that finally both solutions will be needed to meet consumer demand.

We have always maintained our position that both recycled and reused packaging complement each other, depending on the existing infrastructure and the intended use.  After all, we are pursuing the same goal:

Protect valuable goods, Avoid food waste and Enable safe consumption.

Early in the year, we published the results of the Carton Carbon Footprint Study.  The industry has managed to reduce its cradle-to-grave carbon emissions by 24% CO2e in the period from 2018 to 2021.  This proves that all the efforts and investments are paying off.  We would like to thank all Pro Carton and ECMA members for providing the detailed figures.  We would also like to thank the RISE Institute and Michael Sturges for collating all the figures and producing a report we can all be proud of.

2023 was the first year of unrestricted exhibitions and live presentations after the pandemic.  We took many opportunities to strengthen the position of cartonboard and folding cartons.  What I remember most vividly are the live interviews with Packaging Journal at Interpack.  At the trade fair, you could feel the sense of relief that the industry was finally coming together in person again.  The interviews with Julia Paul and Jan Malte Andresen were brilliantly staged and it was fun to talk about packaging, the results of our carbon footprint study and what else moves our industry.  Thanks again to Packaging Journal.

We also took part in several roundtables and other live interviews.  In a session with Neue Verpackung, we shared the results of our recent Consumer Survey on mandatory deposits.  The results show that consumers are looking for options and will not accept a top-down decision on mandatory deposit solutions in the HORECA (Hospitality, recreation and Catering) channels.

One of the most memorable events we attended was EuroPack in Montreux, organised by Marcus Evans.  A great networking event with participants from the entire packaging value chain.  Professional presentations and scheduled times for networking.

We are also grateful about successful media partnerships we initiated in 2023.  A special thank you goes to packAKTUELL where we started a regular chapter on “Verbandsnachrichten” – packaging news from the associations.

The Sustainable Packaging Summit organised by Packaging Europe was also great.  The content is rich and the format also promotes networking with colleagues from the entire value chain.

Not forgetting, of course, the ECMA Congress and the Carton Awards Gala in Seville.  This year, ECMA and Pro Carton welcomed more than 200 participants to the congress and more than 250 to the gala night:

A big thank you to all our members for submitting more than 100 entries to the ECEA (European Carton Excellence Award).   We have succeeded in reversing a downward trend that we have observed in recent years.  We are aiming for a new record of 110 contributions in 2024.  It will be a stretch, but we are counting on your support to achieve this goal.

Our student Awards – Pro Carton Young Designers Award (PCYDA) and Pro Carton Student Video Award (PCSVA) – also received high entry figures and participation.  We engaged more closely with the universities and the students and we plan to bring the students and our industry representatives closer together at the 2024 Congress.  Interaction is key.  All the students have demonstrated their interest in our industry and excellence in their projects.

A big thank you to the professors, teachers and students.  Every year, it’s great to see how passionate you are about packaging.

There were many other things that took place in 2023.  I’m sure I haven’t mentioned everything.  I would like to say a big thank you once again to all our members for their support during the year and of course to our ever-growing following on our social media channels.  Next year, we want to reach the magic number of 8,888 LinkedIn followers.  This will be a stretch, but we will do our best to achieve this goal.  With every 1,000 followers mark, our messages reach a larger audience.  We appreciate your support by actively sharing, reposting and approving our posts.  An active follower base will help us amplify the voice of the carton.

Finally, a word of thanks to all the people who support Pro Carton in the background.  Storm Communications and Katie Ryan deserve special mentions.  It is the many hands in the background that bring our vision to life.

We are in the middle of the Carton Awards campaigns for 2024.  The Pro Carton Student Video Award and the Pro Carton Young Designers Award are open for submissions.  Also, ECEA 2024 will soon open to entries.

The ECMA Congress and the Awards Ceremony in 2024 will take us to Berlin, a very special place.  Berlin has become a symbol of change in Germany.  A fast-moving city with a strong history, resilient and friendly, multicultural and colourful, agile and future-oriented.  All attributes that we also claim for our industry.  What a great addition!  We would like to welcome 300 people to the Award’s Night on 19 September.

I wish you a peaceful Christmas season and a healthy, colourful and successful 2024.