Turning the tide on waste
Defining Sustainable Packaging
Sustainable packaging refers to the sourcing, development and use of packaging solutions with a reduced environmental footprint, within the overall context of sustainable waste management.
Packaging is crucial to our food system: it helps to protect food and beverages, guarantees product quality and safety, provides useful information to consumers and prevents food waste from spoilage. Unfortunately, it all too often comes at the expense of our planet.
Sustainable packaging may be achieved through a number of routes – such as the materials used to produce the packaging, minimising the carbon footprint of the production process or creating a circular economy by providing opportunities for reusing, refilling or recycling.
Why does sustainable packaging matter?
Rising consumer awareness of the ramifications of packaging waste – in the ocean, in landfill, even in the very air we breathe (1) – is driving a shift towards more sustainable packaging. This is coupled with international initiatives, like the UN’s 2022 End Plastic Pollution Resolution (2), and increasing governmental drives to tackle the issue (2).
Plastics are everywhere – and they affect people, wildlife and the natural world in damaging ways, although the full scale of effects is worryingly unknown. Undisputed, however, is that plastic exposure is detrimental to human health with wide-reaching consequences on fertility, hormones and the brain. The burning of non-recyclable materials is polluting the air we breathe while 11 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year (source). Moreover, at least 800 marine and coastal species are affected by plastic pollution through ingestion and entanglement.
Discussing the 2022 UN resolution on plastic pollution, the NGO The Pew Charitable Trusts writes:
“Plastic production soared from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at $522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040. The impacts of plastic production and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution are a catastrophe in the making (3)”.
Opportunities and challenges
The good news is that packaging technology and engineering is developing at an extraordinary pace. The global green packaging market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.55% in the years leading to 2027 (4). The last five years have seen a dramatic increase in the breadth and range of eco-friendly packaging choices on the market, driven by growing consumer demand. Many innovators are tackling the issue with a multitude of different approaches, including:
- Reducing use of plastic packaging and virgin raw materials
- Increasing recyclability and reuse opportunities, e.g. by developing refillable systems
- Pioneering alternative packaging materials (e.g. edible/home-compostable) that are scalable and more environmentally friendly (e.g. mycelium, seaweed)
- Improving recycling infrastructure
- Educating consumers to drive new behaviours and habits around recycling, reusing and reducing
According to The Pew Trusts, transitioning to a circular economy based on sustainable packaging and reuse would reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by 80 per cent over the next 20 years and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent (5).
For agrifood and CPG businesses, packaging also represents a significant amount of a product’s end cost, while food service businesses also lose out when it comes to food waste and packaging. Aside from the environmental impact, innovating on sustainable or reusable packaging can have a positive effect on a company’s costs and sustainability credentials.
Sustainable Packaging innovations in Switzerland
Swiss agribusiness multinationals including Nestlé and Givaudan have made public commitments on reducing their use of plastics. Nestle plans to have 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025 (6) while the latter aims to eliminate single-use plastics across its operations by 2030 (7).
Switzerland has also birthed multiple startups developing new packaging techniques, including Valley members B’ZEOS (seaweed packaging) and Allcook.kitchen (low-waste meal delivery with minimal plastic waste) and MagicTomato (groceries sustainably delivered in minimum packaging).
This growing sector also has the benefit of expertise from Swiss federal institutions, universities and agronomy research organisations. At EPFL, the Sciences and Engineering of Materials study covers everything related to packaging, especially of food products while Agrôpole aims to accelerate new production methods to reduce waste and spoilage.
This huge topic cannot be solved in silos, and collaboration between startups, established multinationals, research institutions and governmental bodies is crucial to identifying ways to reduce plastic waste and transition smoothly to Sustainable Packaging in the food industry.
The Swiss ecosystem actors
ADM is committed to providing a clean label to customers through traceability practices
Agropôle is a unique campus connecting all the agri-food business stakeholders and accelerating the deployment of world-class innovations: an active community, R&D projects, fields for trials, and strong commercial networks, for the implementation of sustainable food solutions.
Agroscope is the federal government’s competence center for agricultural and food research and is attached to the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG).
AgroSustain – a one-stop-shop solution for biological plant protection. We aim to reduce food waste and support organic food production by developing farm to fork solutions, like biological fungicides and coatings.
ALDI SUISSE AG
Simplicity, responsibility, and reliability are the core values that guide its actions. For the Swiss retailer, this means not only offering high-quality products at consistently low prices but also ensuring sustainable, environmentally friendly, and animal-friendly production.
allcook.kitchen is Switzerland’s first artisanal meals delivery service that makes it easy to eat healthy food with pleasure.
Amazentis is a dynamic and growing commercial stage company delivering innovative advanced nutrition to consumers.
B’ZEOS is a material science company that develops novel packaging materials which are bio-based and use renewable resources.
Bühler is developing smart solutions to revolutionize milling.
BusinessIn initiates synergies and creates impact on sustainability of SMEs and startups in the agrifood ecosystem by connecting them to other innovation actors such as research entities during events set up in collaboration with public and private actors.
Cluster Food & Nutrition
The Cluster Food & Nutrition is an association active in the agri-food industry since 2015.
Eat by Alex
We are here to prove that eating nourishing food using whole food plants can be simple and delicious.
We are the leader in Europe in transforming coffee husk and pulp (i.e “cascara”) normally considered as fruit waste by the coffee industry, into antioxidant healthy organic drinks.
EPFL through its Integrative Food and Nutrition Center – brings together more than 350 internationally recognized Professors that can provide expertise in the field of digitalization, from media analysis, food behavior monitoring and smart wearables to manufacturing optimization and modeling.
esmë drinks creates natural sparkling drinks, through a unique steam extraction method of fruits in order to flavour beverages naturally, with a unique taste and less sugar. All the flavour, minus the guilt !
Where Food & FoodTech professionals come to get the inside scoop on industry news and meet partners, friends, mentors, investors – and everything in between.
The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses. Since 2009, their structured accelerator programs have helped over 6,000 entrepreneurs raise over $1.75 billion in funding.
Givaudan‘s Sourcing4Good program is driving transparency across supply chains.
The main goal of the association GOOD IS… is to ensure via the automatic distribution (known as vending):
The promotion of healthy, vegan, natural food-based exclusively on ingredients from fair trade, sustainable, renewable sources, respectful of the environment and natural cycles…
The Helbling Group is a leader in technological innovation and engineering for food and beverage systems and supports its international clients in all phases of product development and in their business processes.
HES-SO Valais-Wallis, School of Engineering
The school of engineering is a dynamic and innovative team of 220 collaborators. We train 450 students in Bachelor and Master degree programmes in 4 areas : Life Sciences, Systems Engineering, Energy and Environment, Computer Science. Our 3 Ra&D Institutes work closely with the industry and academia generating a turnover of 18 Mio CHF.
Oba! is a plant-based company helping everyone reduce their dairy consumptions with a delicious alternative.
Innopearl develops a unique marketplace to activate start-up – corporation partnerships. We make the partnering process radically easier, quicker, and smarter for founders and corporate leaders.
Kickstart is one of Europe’s largest zero equity, multi-corporate ecosystem innovation platforms that run a scale-up program for later-stage startups with a goal to accelerate deep tech innovation.
Lowimpact Food SA
Sustainable protein production through insect farming, using an innovative circular agriculture system that upcycles food production byproducts and redirects them back into the food production system.
Maison Amarella SA
MAISON AMARELLA is a Swiss company specialised in producing high-end artisanal macarons. The heart of our philosophy is based on the quality of Swiss ingredients and a profound respect for nature. All our macarons are gluten free, made with local ingredients using only 100% natural flavourings and plant-based food colouring.
Since 2016, MassChallenge Switzerland has been a leader in helping startups grow their businesses by accelerating 610 startups across the world in multiple industries. They have raised more than $985M in funding.
Mocoffee was founded in 1991 by the hand of a revolutionary engineer who invented the coffee pod with the aim of sharing the best espresso worldwide.
Mövenpick Fine Foods
Mövenpick Fine Foods creates premium food products with a unique enjoyment experience, active in Switzerland, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Canada. This is achieved through successful cooperation with competent license and sales partners who keep the Swiss promise of quality and market the products in the respective markets.
Innovation is Nestlé’s hallmark. We’re committed to developing innovative products and services that provide nutrition and health for people and pets everywhere, across all their life stages, in a way that’s good for our planet.
Office for Economic Affairs and Innovation / State of Vaud
The Office for Economic Affairs and Innovation (SPEI) supports companies that are located in the State of Vaud, especially those involved in the sectors of advanced technology and industry. SPEI advises entrepreneurs and puts them in contact with organizations that are appropriate to their specific needs. SPEI can also provide direct financial support.
planetary is an infrastructure platform designing, building and operating upstream, downstream and formulations capacity and related IP for biomass and precision fermentation players globally.
Planted produces delicious meat from alternative proteins, focusing on the perfect bite. Inspired by nature, the company pioneers a novel biostructuring approach that combines protein structuring and biotechnology.
potiio is the first water bottle technology that doesn’t sacrifice real taste and flavors for wellness. They want to revolutionize soft drink consumption habits with a new circular economy approach through our reusable bottles and its capsules system. By filling the bottle at home with water, you can consume your soft drink on the go and save a huge amount of waste, transportation, and energy.
ProSeed provides upcycled food raw materials to the professional ingredients market. By combining technological know-how and a circular approach, ProSeed upcycles by-products from the food industry, such as brewers’ spent grains and fruit pomace, into quality raw materials.
QualityChain helps Italian agribusiness SMEs transform their products from simple exhibits to true digital experiences capable of enhancing their uniqueness.
Spiruline SwissMade contributes to the well-being and health of consumers of its spirulina. By being a major player in the dietary supplements market, we respond to the new challenges and dietary needs of society by providing healthy solutions to improve the well-being of consumers through quality products that are eco-responsible.
Sundays Hard Seltzer
Sundays is a startup in a new beverage category. Their Hard Seltzer consists of 3 ingredients: mineral water, fermented alcohol and natural fruit flavors. Sundays is Swiss Made, sugar-free and gluten-free.
Swiss Food Group
Swiss Food Group is an independent group investing in aspirational brands and specific know-how in the Food & Beverage industry in Switzerland.
We are specialists in complete solutions for the processing, packaging and distribution of food products. Dairy products, juices and nectars, ice cream, cheese, dry foods, fruits, vegetables and pet food are examples of products that can be processed or packaged in Tetra Pak® processing and packaging lines. We focus on keeping the consumption of all raw materials and energy to a minimum during both the manufacturing process and distribution. The processing solutions are also designed to treat the products gently.
The Fribourg Development Agency – State of Fribourg
Since 1971, the Fribourg Development Agency (FDA) has been helping local businesses to get off the ground, outside companies to relocate to the region, and established companies to expand their operations.
Thought For Food
Thought For Food is the world’s next gen innovation engine for food and agriculture. We create, empower and support a new generation of leaders to solve our planet’s most pressing challenge: How to sustainably feed 10 billion people?
Weekly Food Sàrl
Weekly Food – Fresh box of meals prepared in Switzerland and ready to eat since 2021.
& the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 with the aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring peace and prosperity for all. Find out how sustainable packaging can contribute to to the delivery of these goals below.
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Sustainable packaging can help to protect the safety and quality of food, which is important for public health.
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Sustainable packaging can help to reduce the environmental impacts of packaging production and disposal, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy use, and waste generation.
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The production and disposal of packaging can contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable packaging can help to reduce these emissions by using materials that have a lower carbon footprint and by promoting the reuse and recycling of packaging.
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Many types of packaging, particularly single-use plastics, can end up in the ocean and harm marine life. Sustainable packaging can help to reduce this pollution by using materials that are biodegradable or easily recyclable.
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Packaging can also contribute to land pollution and habitat destruction. Sustainable packaging can help to reduce these impacts by using materials that are biodegradable and by promoting the reuse and recycling of packaging.