We are moving towards material innovation

Luc Williams

What are the biggest challenges currently facing the packaging industry?

Katarzyna Kala-Kowalska, president of the management board of DS Smith Polska / Press materials

In Poland, in the 1990s, we produced approximately 95 kg of packaging waste per person per year. Today it is already 150 kg, and data for Europe show that it is even worse – the average European generates 190 kg of such waste. One of the factors that influenced such a large increase in packaging consumption was the development of distribution channels, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was a significant growth in the e-commerce sector. If we add alarming data on environmental pollution to these statistics, such as the fact that on average every minute as much garbage as a garbage truck can fit into the oceans, it becomes clear that it is necessary to take actions that will actually improve this state of affairs. Currently, we are observing growing awareness, both among our business partners and consumers themselves, of minimizing the amount of packaging used and matching it to the content. In parallel with this approach, regulations are also being developed that are intended to ultimately sort out issues related to the type of raw materials used to produce packaging, their recycling, reuse, and issues related to reducing CO2 emissions.

What role do packaging manufacturers play in addressing these challenges?

DS Smith Polska, as a company that is one of the leaders in the field of sustainable packaging solutions, promotes closed loop. We offer our clients a concept in which we produce paper from waste paper and then use this paper to produce packaging that enters circulation and is used by consumers. But that's not the end. We have developed a recycling system in which we collect used packaging from the market and close the loop by producing cardboard from them again. In addition to meeting all legislative requirements, we operate in accordance with the principles of the circular economy.

At the same time, we have set a goal in the past that by 2023 all packaging that will come out of our factories will be fully recyclable. And this actually happened, among others. thanks to the implementation of the circular design concept. It means that when preparing a packaging design for a client, we take into account all factors that will allow the client to recycle the packaging in the future. In addition, we take into account CO2 emissions and energy consumption in the production of packaging.

It is worth mentioning that the cardboard packaging industry was one of the first to adopt sustainability goals and was one of the first to be able to announce that individual milestones had been achieved. We make every effort to offer innovative packaging solutions that, on the one hand, will meet the needs of our customers and, on the other hand, will be optimized in terms of costs and the environment.

What ideas are we talking about? Can the packaging industry be innovative in proposing solutions supporting sustainable development and circular economy?

We are constantly working on innovations and in this respect our activities can be divided into two areas. The first concerns innovation in materials. We have been cooperating with research centers and academic centers for many years to create innovative materials, especially paper materials, that will be able to replace plastic. Work is underway to develop barrier paper without a plastic coating. To put it simply, it is paper that could be used for packaging liquid or fat products, for which we now use plastic or paper with a plastic coating. We want to change this. I think that within a year or two we will be able to announce further innovations on the market.

And the second area of ​​innovation?

These are innovations in packaging. For example: we are currently introducing the DS Smith Easy Bowl solution – packaging for meat, fish or their alternatives – which replaces plastic equivalents still common in supermarkets and other stores. This is our innovative, sustainable product that is gaining popularity.

Taking an example from another industry: packaging for e-commerce is also a kind of innovation. Customers of the packaging industry entered the pandemic unprepared. We used existing solutions and ideas for completely new distribution channels. This did not please consumers, who after some time expressed their dissatisfaction, pointing out that the packaging did not fully protect the product, was too large, and contained a lot of fillers. As a packaging industry, we approached this conceptually. As a result, the distribution channel for shipments is now practically tailor-made. We agree with our partners what transport-related functions the packaging should fulfill, and at the same time we make sure to take into account all the marketing and communication functions that it should fulfill. The idea is that the product should still be properly displayed, also during regular courier transport.

The industry's innovation is also visible in the context of the PPWR regulation (Regulation on packaging and packaging waste – ed.), which the European Union is currently working on. This is a regulation that the cardboard packaging industry was prepared for many years ago. We design packaging in such a way that it is fully recyclable. Although made of paper, they are so durable that they can successfully replace wood, metal or glass. They are used even in heavy industry. Our solutions also safely transport products such as car engines, motorcycles and heavy machine parts.

DS Smith logo / Press materials


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.