The trend topic of environmentally conscious packaging material is now becoming increasingly relevant even for large companies. Using paper as packaging material is the latest trend.
Increasing environmental awareness leads to rethinking habits in all branches. In the plastic industry for example the focus lies on circular economy and leading packaging materials back into the recycling circuit. Other companies, however, are working on other approaches. That’s why paper is being used more and more in places, where you wouldn’t think of it. One of them is paper as a packaging material. There are companies from almost every sector who are trying to use more paper as their packaging materials, even with products you wouldn’t think of in the first place: For example, in the food industry. But what is this trend leading to and which advantages and disadvantages do you have to consider when using paper as a packaging material?
The Challenge of Using Paper as Packaging Material
Per year the EU produces about 40 Mio. tons of paper for packaging purposes. The raw material for paper is cellulose fibers, which are originally generated out of wood, but you can reuse them up to six times, which makes it much easier to lead back into the recycling cycle. On top, the production is getting much cheaper. On this regard, why aren’t we using paper as the major packaging material, when it seems to be both: sustainable and even easy to produce? The problem with paper is its missing barrier for liquid, fat and other chemical compounds. There is a high permeability, which makes it especially for food and beverage difficult to be packed in plastic. The expiration date decreases significantly and also transportation is getting much more difficult.
Dry food such as flour or pasta are not highly affected by this, but it’s pretty challenging to pack wet food or food with a high percentage of fat in paper.
How to create a barrier with paper?
One possible workaround to deal with this problem is to connect paper with other materials such as aluminum or plastic PE. By connecting those materials, it becomes possible to carry liquids or fats in the paper, because there is now a much more stable barrier. That means, that you still benefit from the advantages of paper such as its low weight. Also, it is really easy to get paper printed, in fact it’s much easier than printing on most other materials. Otherwise, the high density of paper isn’t existing anymore. All in all, this makes the range of products, that can be packed with paper, much wider.
But with connecting paper with other materials, it gets more difficult to return the packaging to the recycling cycle and the production becomes more complex. This means that the real advantages of paper are no longer given. That’s why, at the moment, paper is mainly used as secondary packaging or for transportation for example as corrugated board.
A German Chocolate Company as Pioneer
But these times will soon be over, because one of the main German chocolate companies has now dared to change this: Ritter Sport. They set up a prototype of a new packaging design, completely made out of paper! Their main aim is to bring the claim to economize with human beings and nature in harmony to life. Because of that, sustainability, especially in packaging, is really important for them. But as said above, it’s not easy to produce a functioning packaging completely out of paper, especially not for a product like chocolate, which contains a considerable amount of fat due to the cocoa butter.
That is why the prototype of Ritter Sport is still at the beginning. At the moment you can only buy the paper-packaged chocolate in two special concept stores of the brand in Germany, as the edition is limited.
Of course, Ritter Sport is still working on improving the packaging to reach a more and more sustainable standard. But nevertheless, it is a true milestone in the chocolate industry to work on a packaging option completely made out of paper.