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Interview with UPM Raflatac

Sharon Xiao from UPM Raflatac will be presenting at this year's Sustainability in Packaging Asia 2020 in September, discussing the material challenges and innovations in sustainable packaging industry.We spoke to her about her presentation and found out why she thinks it's important to attend.

Current Industry Focus:

Q. As consumers/end users continually push for more sustainable/greener solutions, what do you think is the biggest concern regarding packaging?

Packaging waste is a dominant contributor in today's world and responsible for half of the waste on the planet. This waste pollutes the Earth and has negative impacts on all life. A large portion of this packaging waste cannot be recycled, such as most flexible packaging, composite materials and others.  
So how we reduce and recycle packaging waste is now the biggest concern regarding packaging.

Q. What are some of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the packaging industry? (Based off the Answer) How has your company chosen to react/adapt to stay on trend?

Innovative packaging materials and solutions will always gain attention within the packaging industry. 
UPM Raflatac is labeling a smarter future beyond fossils by developing innovative and sustainable labeling solutions. We have developed label materials that embrace the “three Rs”:
  • Reduce: Using less raw materials which means less waste.
  • Recycle: Enabling the recyclability of packaging.
  • Renew: Alternatives to virgin fossil materials, such as positive climate action papers and bio-based options.
Future Focus:

Q. What industry topics are getting the most attention at this time? How are these factors influencing the future of packaging?

The circular economy and climate change are the most obvious megatrends in global sustainability, and the packaging industry is developing solutions to current global challenges. 
To achieve the transition from a linear economy to circular economy, a sustainability vision must be integrated into the whole packaging industry value chain, starting from rethinking and redesigning the future of plastics. Meanwhile, the global challenge of climate change means we need packaging solutions with lower CO2 emissions and substitutions to replace fossil-based material. 

Q. What does your company/organization hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to the future of packaging industry?

UPM Raflatac has signed up to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF). We have committed to develop label solutions and partnerships that support brand owners in eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging and achieving their target of 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025. These commitments include:
  1. UPM Raflatac commits to offer customers thinner, lighter more resource efficient paper and film labeling materials that enable companies to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging.
  2. UPM Raflatac commits to offer paper and films with a range of recycled content that are suitable and safe for different end-uses.
  3. UPM Raflatac commits to develop removable labeling solutions that promote reusable packaging solutions.
  4. UPM Raflatac will develop partnerships that will grow its RafCycle recycling programme and enable partnering end-users to return 100% of the PET and Paper label liners.
  5. UPM Raflatac will source 100% of the plastic packaging it uses in its production units to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
  6. As UPM, the Biofore company, we will develop renewable alternative labeling solutions to support moving beyond fossils towards net positivity.
  7. In our own production units we will target zero waste to landfill in line with our published 2030 targets.
Q. What recommendations do you have for packaging professionals starting new sustainability initiatives?

Cooperation across the whole value chain is important in reaching your sustainability targets. 

Q. How do you expect to see the recycling infrastructure change in Asia in the next few years?

In the next few years, due to tightening regulations in environment and responsibility, the industry’s reshuffle will be coming to the Asian market. Factories with heavy pollution, low efficiency and weak innovative capabilities will be weeded out. At the same time, it also creates a good opportunity for some businesses looking to innovate with sustainable packaging materials. 

Conference Related:

Q. Your presentation at this year’s Sustainability in Packaging Asia will cover "The role of a label in sustainable packaging". Why is it important for others in your industry to hear this message? What are some of the key take-aways?

My presentation will introduce our 360º life-cycle approach to sustainability and how to choose the right labeling material for a package to bring more value for brand owners, printers and converters and enable them to achieve their sustainability targets. 

When it comes to sustainability, we state that “labels matter.” This covers many things, including product efficiency, transportation, waste, product safety and more. A label usually becomes an integral part of the product to which it is applied, therefore the packaging design and choice of label are important. 

Key take-aways:
  • Sustainability is on our agenda and sustainable packaging is one solution to current global challenges. At UPM Raflatac we take a 360º life-cycle approach to future-proof labeling.
  • Choosing smart and eco-designed label solutions increase the sustainability of your packaging and promote a circular economy. 
Q. Which presentations (what session topic) are you most looking forward to hearing about at Sustainability in Packaging Asia?  

I am looking forward to learning where we stand on the policies and what regulations will be required to achieve sustainable packaging in the future. So, the session titled “Regulatory landscape, safety and compliance of packaging” is attractive to me.