Innovative technologies for a greener world


As an important part of its ongoing Better Planet Packaging initiative, the global provider of paper-based packaging solutions Smurfit Kappa, whose 2018 revenue was as high as 8.9 billion euros, has collaborated with Mitsubishi HiTec Paper to create an innovative, recyclable food-safe packaging

Smurfit Kappa is one of the leading providers of paper-based packaging solutions worldwide, with approximately 46,000 employees and over 350 production sites across 35 countries. It is located in 23 European countries and 12 in the Americas, where it is one of the very few large-scale pan-regional players in the Southern regions of the continent. In 2018 it posted revenue of 8.9 billion euros, also thanks to its 100% sustainable and renewable products, developed in order to support its customers in improving their environmental footprint. Over the second half of 2019 FTSE 100 company signed an agreement with Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe GmbH, which is a German subsidiary of Japan-based Mitsubishi Paper Mills Ltd, known for being one of the world’s leading manufacturers of specialty paper. The result was that the combination of Smurfit Kappa’s expertise in paper-based packaging and Mitsubishi HiTec Paper’s strength in coated papers led to the first product in the new range to be shortlisted as a finalist in the Swiss Packaging Awards. As sources reported, the outer board-based packaging was made from Smurfit Kappa’s ground-breaking MB12 packaging solution which has a unique, built-in adsorbing technology designed in order to protect against aromas and possible migration of substances. The inner packaging, which contains Mitsubishi HiTec Paper’s Barricote barrier paper, proved able to ensure a valuable protection against moisture and grease and has heat-sealing properties. This solution, that the two firms dubbed «unique» has thus demonstrated the possibility to create functional board-based packaging that’s fully recyclable thanks to the optimised use of renewable raw materials in the barrier itself.

«The highest possible percentage of biodegradable resources»

According to Lars Henriksson, vice president of Product Development of the Smurfit Kappa Paper Division, the partnership between the two multi-national producers was undoubtedly successful. «It has been a very interesting and collaborative process for us working with Mitsubishi HiTec Paper on this project» Lars Henriksson considered, «and the fibres that Smurfit Kappa’s industry-leading paper is made from represent an excellent solution for a huge range of products, also due to their very rich variety of attributes and properties, and, not least, because of their inherent sustainability». As for Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe GmbH, the director of New Business Development and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) doctor Dieter Becker pointed out: «as experts in specialty paper coatings, we brought our know-how in barrier and protective coatings to this process. Our solutions», as doctor Dieter Becker added, «are completely free from foil, laminates, aluminium, and fluorocarbons. Instead, we decided to rely on the highest possible percentage of biodegradable resources, which is the reason why Smurfit Kappa’s MB12 solution proved to be the right one». Hobako AG, a Swiss producer of chocolate products, together with its Swiss packaging provider Schelling AG, were in fact the first brands to use the new board-based packaging solution which was shortlisted as a finalist in both the sustainability and technology categories of the Swiss Packaging Awards earlier this year. «At the moment», as sources at Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe told Paper Industry World, we can describe two business cases: The first is that of a paper inner bag made from our barricote paper and combined with Solid Board MB12 secondary packaging from Smurfit Kappa. The second is about the lamination of Smurfit Kappa Solid Board grades with our barricote papers. The main principle it is the combination of Smurfit Kappa Solid Board grades with different barrier properties, complemented with the specific barrier properties from our barricote papers. The combination can be different for each good to be packed, food or non-food».

The right combination

Furthermore, the 750-employees company explained that «when we found the needed combination of packaging material and the correctly selected barrier properties, then we begin to look into the whole packaging process. In fact, such innovative packaging materials sometimes happen to require a modified packaging equipment or, depending on circumstances, processes need to be adjusted». All of Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe’s barricote papers are characterized by a number of proprietary features. First of all, these paper products are entirely derived from virgin fibers; whereas water-based coatings for combinable barrier functions can protect goods from a series of threats: water vapour, grease or oil; oxygen and aromas, the migration of mineral oils. All of the items in this portfolio are 100% free of plastic films, aluminium, extruded polymers, varnishes or laminates, fluorocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons (therefore they are Pvdc free); optical brighteners (OBA free). They can build upon a remarkable content of biodegradable ingredients and display fully recyclable. Both suitable, as already stated, for food and non-food packaging applications, they are reverse side offset and flexo-printable. In more detail, the Barricote Wrap Uni (44 grams per square meter) which was utilised as the primary packaging for chocolate sprinkles in a recent industrial application, is considered outstanding «as a combined barrier against water vapour and grease or oil with very good heat-sealability». And in addition, «Wrap WG uni represents the ideal alternative to PE wrapping materials for dry, moist or greasy food. Everything», Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe assures, «stays in shape, well protected and fresh». The barricote product line includes three main categories: Wrap WG; Liner M; HS BAG WG.

The Better Planet Packaging initiative

The Better Planet Packaging initiative that Smurfit Kappa launched aims to reduce packaging waste and, at the same time, to address the challenges of litter that ends up in our ocean and landfill, as the producer announced. Smurfit Kappa stated that thanks to this project it will use its strength in sustainable materials, packaging design, packaging recycling and industry leading expertise in order to develop more sustainable packaging. Solutions. Therefore, its goal is that to create innovative packaging solutions for our customers; design more sustainable packaging alternatives – especially in the area of plastic substitution; improve the way it designs its products, so to enable recycling; enhance the functionalities of both paper and packaging designs; last but not least to inspire global customers and employees too to understand the role the company wants to play in addressing these global issues. «We have already started on this journey», Smurfit Kappa announced on its corporate website, and «we are working with customers – and many other stakeholders – to deliver better packaging designs. We are delivering innovative sustainable solutions to customers across the globe including: alternatives to shrink wrap (Nor-Grip), corrugated punnets to replace plastic punnets, bag in box which uses 60% less plastic, sustainable buffering». «Exciting innovations», at Smurfit Kappa’s, «include Agropaper», which is «a renewable and compostable paper that’s designed to replace plastic for mulching».

«The global provider aims “to inspire others” and this is the reason why it recently ran its first Design Challenge to help harness the power of our global reach to find sustainable solutions in specific areas».

«We continue» it explained «to improve the way we design for and collect packaging waste through our recycling facilities. We play a role in collecting used packaging and re-use more than 90% of this material in our closed loop business model. We will actively engage with our customers and other stakeholders to increase recycling rates further and our goal is to remove all avoidable waste from our production system and limit any sent to landfill. To achieve success, this initiative will require collaboration to inspire ideas to encourage change». The idea is that to partner up «with companies across and beyond the packaging industry as we know the solution needs to be one that takes into consideration many different perspectives and skills». Finally, Smurfit Kappa has launched the program called BPP (Better Planet Packaging) starts with ME to ensure that as a company it is working towards removing plastics in our daily work life and our colleagues understand the role it wants to play in addressing the global issue».

A responsible manufacturer

As «a responsible manufacturer», German-based Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe GmbH claims that its intention is to constantly strive «to produce and process» its products «in the most environmentally friendly way» possible and complying «to the highest standards of quality» available. «We take our social responsibility seriously», the company wrote in a recent press release, «and we are active in various environmental associations and organizations. Complying with and conforming to rules and regulations goes without saying. Social commitment is an important part of our corporate culture». Mitsubishi HiTec Paper Europe has acquired a number of certifications over the years, among which the FSC Chain-of-Custody; Pefc Chain-of-Custody; DIN EN ISO 9001:2015; DIN EN ISO 14001:2015; DIN EN ISO 50001:2011; Inreka DIN EN 15593:2008. Furthermore, the firm is a member of the following associations: B.A.U.M.; ChePap Rhein-Ruhr; Klimapakt Flensburg; Ökoprofit Klub OWL; Two Sides; Wirtschaft pro Klima.