FNLI: Sustainable Packaging

The packaging industry is one of the largest segments to produce plastic worldwide. Following the negative effects of plastic production (e.g. CO2 emission) and usage on the environment and climate, there is a high need for sustainable packaging solutions. Bio-based plastics are often a sustainable replacement for fossil-based plastics as they reduce the dependence on fossil raw materials and are often accompanied by a reduction in CO2 emission. Subsequently, the Dutch government wishes to upscale the share of bio-based plastics from 1.5% (2016) to 15% by 2030. 

The Federatie Nederlandse Levensmiddelen Industrie (FNLI) is a branch organization representing all food and drink producers in the Netherlands. As these producers bring packaging-product combinations to market, they have producer responsibility concerning sustainable packaging legislations. However, as FNLI industry members must adhere to different sustainability regulations, while also maintaining high-quality packaging material for their product and being economically viable, this is a very complex and challenging position. Moreover, the FNLI did not have a general and clear approach with regards to the usage of sustainable materials (e.g. bio-based plastics) in their product-packaging combinations due to a very diverse packaging portfolio. Therefore, the aim of this project was to investigate the potential uptake of bio-based plastics in the packaging-product combinations of FNLI industry members in the bread and milk sector.

Our project concludes that the uptake of bio-based plastics in the packaging-product combinations of FNLI industry members has great potential. After exploring different bio-based plastic options, our project put bio-PE forward as most promising (based on economic, technical and sustainability criteria)  in the packaging of both bread bags and milk cans. Moreover, by using bio-based plastic packaging, such as bio-PE, the FNLI will take great steps with regards to their aim of using renewable materials and lowering their CO2 footprint (FNLI sustainability plan (2019-2025)). Then, we investigated the potential of implementing bio-based plastic packaging. Following many stakeholder interviews, a great interest in bio-based plastic packaging could be noticed. Still, change often comes with challenges and we identified these challenges for the implementation of bio-based plastics as well. Three of the most urgent hurdles include (1) confusing terminology regarding bio-based plastics, (2) limited sustainability focuses of (some) industry members and (3) a lack of collaboration of all stakeholders. Still, we believe that these challenges are feasible and in order to give a kick-start to the implementation of bio-based plastics we proposed solutions (and deliverables) to the aforementioned hurdles, amongst other infographics and a pilot study. All in all, this project concludes that the implementation of bio-based plastic packaging for the FNLI industry in the bread and milk industry is within reach. With this project we would like to set an example for FNLI industry members in other sectors as well, where the implementation of bio-based plastics is explored and might hold the green key to the plastic economy of the future. 

Iris Bosch, Elvira Brand and Charlotte Nederpel