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Article // Gerber News // Sunday, 12 March, 2017

Pushing paper's sustainability credentials to new frontiers

Pictured above: Back row from Left: Marcus Lager (BillerudKorsnäs Business Segment Director Bag Solutions); Stuart Harris (CEO Gerber Goldschmidt); Deon du Plessis (Director Gerber Paper); Stephen Hollinshead (BillerudKorsnäs Sales Manager); Didier Flinois (BillerudKorsnäs Sales Director Sack Solutions); Mikael Peterson (BillerudKorsnäs Technical Service Director, Sack Solution); Robert Mwangi (BillerudKorsnäs Technical Service Manager, Packaging Paper, Kenya) Front row from left: Conner Birkett (Gerber Paper Managing Director); Eva Stromfors (BillerudKorsnäs Customer Service Specialist); Nuria Renom (BillerudKorsnäs Sales Director, Bag Solutions); Jon Haag (BillerudKorsnäs Consumer Insights Director)

Following the success of its first Smarter Packaging Seminar held in Cape Town in 2014, BillerudKorsnäs recently presented the second event to paper-based sack and bag converters and brand owners from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mauritius. Nici Solomon reports.

Delegates at BillerudKorsnäs two-day Smarter Packaging Seminar – hosted at The Wanderers Club in Johannesburg – learnt that challenging conventional packaging for a sustainable future is key to unlocking future business. This can be achieved through insights into value chain drivers and future trends, consumer perceptions around packaging sustainability, and BillerudKorsnäs’ cost-reducing alternatives to less environmentally friendly packaging materials. Among BillerudKorsnäs’ executives at the seminar was Marcus Lager, business segment director of Bag Solutions, who described his company’s biggest investment to date and the growth opportunities it’s expected to facilitate. ‘To achieve an annual growth rate of 3 to 4% and take advantage of attractive we’re investing in a 550 000 ton/annum state-of-the art board machine at the Gruvön facility in Sweden,’ Marcus told delegates.

Production on the 8.6m-wide machine is due to start in 2019 and to be fully utilised by 2023. ‘This will allow us to expand our product portfolio in food service board, develop an excellent position in the premium cartonboard segment, and maintain our leading global position in ambient liquid packaging board and premium white kraftliner,’ he said. This investment, he added, is in line with a predicted growth in middle-class consumer spending of 4% annually to 2025 – fuelling food packaging demand by around 8% annually – providing the paper bag converting sector with big growth potential, especially in emerging markets such as Africa, Brazil, India and China.

He emphasised, however, that challenging dominant flexible packaging formats will require a value chain approach. ‘This is achievable by prioritising growth enablers and profit drivers, such as the demand for modern retail and consumer packaged dried foods, and capitalising on growing anti-plastic awareness and legislation in these markets.’ Axello paper can assist in executing this approach. ‘This range, which reduces material consumption, is suitable for high-speed bag filling lines because of its purity, strength, stiffness and printability,’ Marcus explained. 

Building on the investment theme, Bag Solutions sales director, Núria Renom, reported an additional €130-million investment in its machine-glazed packaging paper platform with a view to increasing volumes and quality and to extending the product portfolio produced at its Skärblacka facility. The first component of this investment programme has involved transporting the Yankee cylinder from Tervasaari in Finland to Skärblacka in Sweden to become part of the PM10 paper machine. This machine will produce market-leading quality paper (in terms of purity and cleanliness) for laminated flexible packaging, form-fill-seal and consumer bags, and siliconised hygiene products. Test reels will be validated in February/March 2018 and full-scale production is expected to start in mid-April. 

The second component centres around upgrading PM7 (35 to 70g/m²) into a global production leader in the supply of sterile barrier paper for medical device packaging and two ranges of in-line treated grease-barrier papers. The first range, consisting of grease-resistant grades, is for cheese, cold meat and burger wrappers and for producing consumer bags and pouches for fast foods, cookies and pastries. The second range, called ConFlex, is suited to dairy, confectionery and other food packaging applications requiring strong papers for technical laminates converted on high-speed lines. All three ranges will be available from the first quarter of 2018. Cementing advances Mikael Peterson, technical service director of Sacks Solutions, created excitement when discussing paper sack developments, specifically the D-Sack for Lafarge Holcim. This sack, he explained, protects the contents when exposed to bad weather conditions but dissolves when the empty sack is placed in a concrete mixer. This development offers numerous ecological benefits – reducing waste and eliminating extra transportation and packaging disposal costs. This, in turn, enhances productivity levels thanks to fewer tasks, and improves workers’ health and safety thanks to less cement dust.

The development of D-Sack has followed BillerudKorsnäs’ well-defined three step development process when improving existing packaging and/or exploring innovations – conduct a needs assessment and verification; develop the improvement and analyse it in the laboratory; and then implement it.