Winfried Mühling, General Manager, Pro Carton

Easter is a time for new beginnings; a pagan holiday that celebrates fertility and new life, characterised by beautifully decorated eggs. The concept of new beginnings has a special meaning for Easter 2022, in particular.  It has now been two years since the start of the pandemic and while we have got used to living with COVID, everyone is longing to move on to the new normal.  However, other events in recent weeks in the middle of Europe have shattered our trust and confidence in the world. Easter 2022 calls for new beginnings in many ways.

For consumers, the giving of chocolate eggs at Easter is commonplace and has been a tradition since the early 19th century. However, with growing awareness of the devastating amount of packaging waste generated each year, consumers face a tough choice that threatens to impact this favourite tradition.

These days, consumers are no longer simply influenced by the products they are purchasing but by the choice of packaging used, how sustainably it is produced and its end-of-life qualities.  Fortunately, most brands and retailers have taken this issue on board, and together with manufacturers and converters, have made huge advances in moving their packaging to the more environmentally friendly alternative, cartonboard.

This has been reinforced further by the stance of several of the major supermarket retailers.  We see an increasing number of retailers who are requesting more sustainable products from their suppliers.  In the UK, for example, Co-op and Aldi have taken a strong position on the issue of plastic packaging, removing it from product ranges and areas such as windows and inner linings whilst others such as Waitrose have decreed that they will halve single-use plastic on their own brand ranges.  This is showing a clear understanding of the sustainability advantages and opportunities that can arise from using cartonboard packaging and its compatibility with circular economy thinking.

Being a renewable bio-based packaging material, cartonboard is a natural driver for the circular economy, which has renewability at its heart.  However, its appeal to brands and retailers extends beyond its environmental benefits; it is also an extremely efficient packaging medium.  It helps reduce waste by protecting the product throughout its life cycle, from transportation to the consumer.  It is also the ideal packaging substrate for marketing as it provides smooth surfaces for printing and allows for the application of a wide variety of textured finishes.  This helps products to stand out at the point of sale.

Moreover, the balance of sourcing raw materials and ensuring ample recovered materials helps lessen the impact of cartonboard production.  New fibres used for cartonboard production in Europe come from sustainably managed, local forests.  These wood fibres offer a renewable source for bio-based packaging material which provide a natural alternative to fossil-based products.  So, whether it is for primary packaging with direct food contact or secondary packaging: cartons will always provide the ideal solution.  Better for the consumer and for the environment.

Consumers choose cartons

Our own research has shown that consumers have a strong preference for packaging with a low environmental impact.  Four out of five consumers in Europe (81%) claimed, given the choice, they would choose cartonboard/cardboard packaging over plastic.

Cartonboard’s advantages are clear.  It’s renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Studies have shown that the fibres used in cartonboard production can be recycled up to 25 times or more.  Paper-based packaging is already the most recycled in Europe, and with discussions surrounding the possibility of separating the collection of paper from other recyclable materials, this would guarantee a higher quality of secondary raw materials.  This is an issue being debated as part of the discussions on the circular economy by EU member states, which could provide more opportunities to establish a wider resource efficiency programme.

Nowadays, supermarket shelves are replete with products packaged in cartonboard.  The packages not only protect the products but also serve as true sales agents on the shelves. Colorful and creative in design, convenient and functional in use.  Such is the innovative nature of the designs, the unpacking experience can sometimes be as exciting as the product itself.  Equally important is the trust and confidence of consumers that a carton can be easily recycled in the trusted collection systems.

As a result, cartonboard provides brand owners, retailers and consumers with a sustainable solution.  A product based on renewable resources, that is sustainably produced, with minimum impact on the environment.  Each collected and recycled carton defines the beginning of a new package making it truly circular.  Cartons epitomise circularity – the true sense of Easter.