Werner & Mertz and Mondi present cooperation to reduce packaging waste

Immo Sander, Head of Packaging Development at Werner & Mertz speaks in front of an audience
Immo Sander, Head of Packaging Development at Werner & Mertz speaks in front of an audience

Immo Sander, Werner & Mertz presented at the Packaging Summit in Munich. Source: Werner & Mertz

Immo Sander, Head of Packaging Development at Werner & Mertz, and Thomas Kahl, EcoSolutions project manager at Mondi Consumer Packaging, presented the development of recyclable flexible packaging at the second Packaging Summit in Munich.

Groundbreaking design for recycling

In front of an international audience of experts, Sander explained how the Werner & Mertz Recycling Initiative made unused secondary raw material sources such as the yellow sack usable for material recycling.This was achieved thanks to constructive cooperation along the entire value chain. The focus of the lecture was the joint development of Werner & Mertz with the globally leading packaging and paper company Mondi: a fully recyclable stand-up pouch made of a single material (polyethylene) with a detachable band (also made of polyethylene) – designed according to the “Cradle to Cradle” principle. “This groundbreaking design for recycling is another major step in the recycling of plastic packaging,” said Sander. After use, the patented innovative stand-up pouch can be recycled 100 percent to a recyclate of almost the same quality as the starting material.

Four years of development history

This innovation is the result of an idea that has long been on the Werner & Mertz agenda. “As early as 2014, we at Werner & Mertz were looking for “single-material concepts,” says Sander, describing the development history. The goal was a bag made of mono material instead of the usual multi-layer products, which could be printed and filled with existing technologies. It quickly became apparent, however, that the goals set could only be achieved together with a packaging specialist, according to Sander. Werner & Mertz found this in Mondi.

“We were ready to take up the challenge”

“It is no longer possible for a single company to achieve such an innovative achievement on its own. To realize packaging for the recycling economy, the following is needed a network and we – Mondi and Werner & Mertz – were ready to take up the challenge,” explained Kahl. In 2015, the two companies founded a project group together with “Grüner Punkt” (https://www.gruener-punkt.de/en/company/der-gruene-punkt.html), EPEA Switzerland and cyclos-HTP . The three partners supported the development with advice on material selection, confirmation of the bag’s actual recyclability and integration into existing recycling structures. In the development phase, however, all those involved first had to find out what “Design for Recycling” means – even the experienced packaging experts had to learn to think the product through to its end. After a committed development period, a stable and fully usable stand-up pouch made of polyethylene was created in 2017.  And after overcoming all the necessary bureaucratic hurdles, Mondi and Werner & Mertz were able to present the new development to the public in 2018.

New targets for flexible packaging

The fully recyclable bag is only the beginning in the development of recyclable flexible plastic packaging. “Our goal is to make flexible plastic packaging not only fully recyclable, but also made from recycled materials,” says Sander. He outlined the steps planned up to 2025, which range from the introduction of the current innovative packaging to further development steps in printing inks, barrier properties and the use of recyclate. “We have now laid a successful foundation on which we can build with our further goals,” says Sander.

Flexible packaging on the advance

In general, Sander and Kahl see a development of the market towards flexible packaging. Alternatives to plastic, such as paper, are also becoming more in focus again due to the awareness of the flood of plastic. “Wherever possible, made of paper, wherever sensible made of plastic”, says Kahl, “and if it makes sense to use plastic for packaging, we must commit ourselves to ensuring that it can be recycled completely and in principle”.



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