The issue of sustainability is finally here. Packaging has shifted its focus. As a packaging machine manufacturer, we are facing new challenges but nonetheless, ones that can be resolved, by using sustainable, fully recyclable materials that meet the same or higher standards and deliver equivalent result. One possible alternative – paper. With our customer Fripa, we have implemented the 100 percent "paper in paper" solution for the very first time.
Something's going on out there. People are taking to the streets. The environment and our climate are issues that are constantly being hotly debated. There is a new wave of consciousness sweeping through society. Maybe individual people can't get involved in every cause, but when they are making purchases, they may intensify their commitment to environmental protection and avoiding waste by consciously selecting products with sustainable packaging, and that's exactly what they are doing. Retailers are putting more and more sustainable packaging on their shelves. Recyclable materials and bio-based packaging are in great demand. Manufacturers have to deliver and do so quickly. One of them that is currently at the forefront is Fripa. This paper mill has been in business for over 100 years and is still family-owned today. As a manufacturer of high-quality sanitary paper, Fripa began to use environmentally friendly processes at a very early stage and has impressed its customers with its innovative products. You probably take it for granted that you can take toilet paper home conveniently using a handle on the long side. Did you know that this invention can be traced back to Fripa? At Optima, sustainability has also long been an important issue. Reducing waste and energy consumption when manufacturing packaging machines as well as the careful and economical use of the machines while maintaining the highest quality are key priorities and goals. Optima succeeds in doing so with its use of cutting-edge technology. Already 30 years ago Optima packed products in paper packaging. "The expertise gained in those days is an important foundation and serves us well today. We can build on this in the current project with Fripa," says Dominik Bröllochs. He is Key Account Manager at Optima and is in charge of the project.
We are convinced that Optima has the great expert knowledge needed to transfer what we have learned to the paper packaging sector.
There are countless varieties of toilet paper on the shelves, but when it comes to the packaging, the buyer does not have much choice. It always comes securely packed in a plastic film bag, so the toilet paper can be carried home easily and quickly. But are there other options for sustainable packaging alternatives? Yes. Paper packaging is in the starting blocks. Optima has just the right machine for this purpose. The close cooperation between Fripa and Optima has resulted in a completely customized machine solution based on the OPTIMA OSR bag packaging machine. The common challenges with paper have already been solved. The modules can be modified with precision so that they work very accurately and handle the material gently. A new sealing mechanism was developed for better handling. Further optimizations are currently being developed to ensure the best results are actually achieved, both from an environmental and an economic standpoint.
Optima's aspires to 100 % fulfill customers' wishes. We also demand 100 % from sustainable packaging materials. What does that mean? No separate materials that have to be sorted for reprocessing at great expense or mostly end up as residual waste. Paper on the outside may give the consumer a more positive feeling, but on the inside it is often plastic-coated to make it easier to handle in the packaging process. Alternatively, fillers are added to preserve the elastic properties of the film material. But honest packaging should made of a single material that is completely recyclable. In this case, that means 100 percent paper with no extra materials. Packaging made of recycled plastics, bio-based plastics and biodegradable plastics are already being used in our systems. The question remains whether this will result in losses. In particular, pure paper poses many challenges for us – which explains why there is hardly any suitable paper packaging for many products. For example, in the case of toilet paper. Film bags are flexible and sturdy. On the other hand, a lot of paper tears easily and is fragile. Given that consumers like to hold the product in their hands in the shop, paper is barely even considered for packaging everyday sanitary products.
"But feasible solutions exist", says Dominik Bröllochs. "This is where we try to do some preliminary work. We not only want to present an idea to the customer, we also need to find suitable suppliers. This means not just having a concept that works in theory, but also the right telephone numbers and the ability to start rolling it out right away." Optima works closely with its suppliers to ensure that the packaging material delivered is suited to Optima machines. The low elasticity and sensitivity of paper to tearing needs to be taken into account. The machines that were previously used to fill plastic film bags cannot be used immediately. They need to be converted to ensure gentle handling. For Optima, 100 percent also means an impeccable result that is easier on the customer's wallet. The packaged product that results should look good. In other words, 100 percent perfect. At Optima, sustainability is also linked to flexibility. The machine should be able to handle both film and paper, and of course, in all different sizes.
One machine for both types of packaging. From film to paper and vice versa. There are no long stops in production. The conversion takes no longer than a normal format change. For Fripa, in addition to having a wide range of formats and flexibility, the most important thing is to quickly return to the same production level as before. Optima is working on this issue as well as on the 100 percent solution that is suitable for everyone.
We would like to offer our customers another packaging alternative that is as sustainable as possible. In terms of sustainability, we have been continuously optimizing our packaging in the last few years. Films made of fresh granules have become extremely thin and efficient. Meanwhile, we also offer films with regranulate components. Both types are very easy to recycle. However, we were not satisfied with these very positive results alone. As a manufacturer of sanitary paper, we have a special affinity for products made from the renewable and easily recyclable raw material cellulose. What could be more natural than to use the tried and tested packaging methods? We intend to perfect these and pave the way for real product innovations that protect the environment. This means that in the future, we will be able to offer our customers three packaging alternatives that have been optimized in terms of sustainability.Why did you choose Optima as your partner for this project and what makes Optima unique?
It is by no means easy to outperform our optimized film packaging and its properties. To do that, you need a strong mechanical engineering partner. We have been using Optima systems very successfully for decades. In cooperation with Optima, we have succeeded in continuing to perfect our packaging over the years. We are convinced that Optima has the great expert knowledge needed to transfer what we have learned to the paper packaging sector. The concept of enabling paper to be used in a film packaging system with very short set-up times is particularly interesting and impressive. Based on our positive past experience, we trust Optima to provide first-class solutions for these demanding technical challenges.
As always, it is professional and very partnership-oriented. In terms of paper packaging, right now we are still in the early stages, but if development continues at this pace, we will make rapid progress. We are very optimistic that we will be able to present an outstanding innovation to the market.Is there anything else in particular you would like to say about this project?
The investments in the targeted "all-purpose" packaging machine are major ones. For us as an FMCG producer (FMCG: fast-moving consumer goods) it is particularly important that the packaging speed that can be achieved with paper bags is on a par with that of plastic film. At Optima, we are seeing very interesting approaches here. Of course, bag costs must be competitive and viable for the market. As well as speed, trouble-free technology and a careful packaging process is a fundamental requirement in achieving this. We need high-quality packaging that is also cost-efficient. The new product should not remain a niche product.