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Navigating the ‘jungle of sustainability’ Part 4: Fabrizio Gerosa, sales director at Cellografica Gerosa (Italy)

Manufacturers, packaging companies, retailers, governments and consumers... we all struggle to meet the challenges of sustainability. Things need to improve – that much is clear. But how? We set out to find answers in the ‘jungle of sustainability’. In the fourth part of this series we talk to Fabrizio Gerosa, sales director at Italian-based Gerosa Cellografica Spa (headquartes of Gerosa Group), one of Europe’s leading flexible converters. In his view, we should combine our continued drive toward innovation with a pragmatic approach.

 

In the first blog in this series, we talked to Chris Bruijnes, director of the Kennisinstituut Duurzaam Verpakken/KIDV (Research Institute for Sustainable Packaging). He introduced us to the Five Perspective Model and the battle of the materials.
 
In the second blog, Mark van der Burgt, Chief Commercial Officer of Vetipak, acknowledged the Five Perspective Model, but also introduced a term that many in our market will recognize: the Jungle of sustainability.
 
And in the third blog, Erik Bunge, CEO of Smurfit Kappa Benelux, stressed that we shouldn’t make this a battle between paper and plastic, but rather one of being at the right side of the future together.

 
Paper and plastic

Erik’s point is exactly the message that Fabrizio Gerosa wants to get across in his contribution. He believes we can’t have a definitive answer to questions like ‘paper or plastic?’
 
Fabrizio: “Paper is gaining in popularity in food packaging; marketing strategies tend to emphasize the ‘green’ properties of paper. Plastic, on the other hand, is a very good material in terms of downgauging and food protection improvement. Moreover, it can very effectively fulfill the current recyclability requirements. Paper and plastic will be used alongside each other in the coming years as suitable solutions for food packaging, each one with their own specific applications.”

 

 

 

“The excellent overall properties of plastic
            will be hard to replace completely”

 

Still, “it’s a jungle out there,” to quote Vetipak COO Mark van der Burgt. That’s a good description of the current situation all over Europe, Fabrizio agrees, as it’s not easy to detect what’s right and what’s wrong.
 
“As a packaging converter, we must pursue a pragmatic approach”, he adds, “talking regularly with the most important European associations and suggesting new packaging trends in order to build a stronger sustainability culture, day by day.”

 

The future of plastic

As Fabrizio mentioned, paper has green marketing qualities that plastic lacks. What will this mean for the future of plastic? Will plastic as we know it always exist?
 
Those aren’t easy questions to answer, says the Gerosa sales director. He acknowledges that we are living in a very challenging period for plastic, in particular for flexible packaging. “New raw materials regularly appear on the market. But the excellent overall properties of plastic, which have been the reason for its popularity, will be hard to replace completely using alternative materials.”
 

 

 

Five sustainability areas

Gerosa itself has made huge efforts in recent years to improve its sustainable solutions portfolio.
It has done so in five sustainability areas: downgauging, recycled plastic content materials, monomaterials, compostable materials, and paper-based solutions.
 
“For example, we received a highly valued recycling certification from a third-party laboratory for our project on fully recyclable sausages applications. And recently, our prototype solution for dairy applications was awarded with the first prize at the Italian Best Packaging Awards. Other solutions in confectionary and the coffee sector with good sustainability results are in progress.”

Numerous developments at Gerosa

And that’s definitely not the end of sustainable developments at Gerosa. Fabrizio easily summarizes numerous sustainable new solutions in plastic packaging. From downgauging (the reduction of overpackaging) and the study of new recyclable materials (including paper laminates) up to and including the use of recycled content materials from mechanical or chemical recycling: Gerosa is on top of sustainable innovation.

 

 

“We will succeed, together”

 

 

And what about bioplastics? Will they soon break through? Bioplastics are a rapidly growing market, Fabrizio answers, but they still are a niche: “We have in our portfolio bioplastic products and we are keeping an eye on this field of application. But it has to be said that the technical gap with standard plastics has not been completely closed yet. And their price is a potential deterrent to the growth of these products.”

 

Pragmatic

In general, Fabrizio feels positive when he looks at the development of sustainable materials, and plastics in particular. He believes the keys to success in this area are continuous learning and machinery and technology improvement, along with a flexible and proactive approach.
 
“We must all work in close cooperation, keeping in mind that the situation is not completely defined in Europe”, the Gerosa sales director says. “On the one hand, we should invest in the innovation of materials and their final appeal on the shelf. But on the other hand, we shouldn’t lose our focus on other important elements that need to be studied.”
 
He concludes: “It’s not easy to cover all requirements to succeed and put that pack on a shelf at a suitable price, while giving the final consumer the option to collect it into a defined recyclability stream. The marketing strategy should be combined with a pragmatic approach. If we can manage to do that, we will succeed, together.”