Importance of Sustainable Packaging and Huhtamaki Initiatives.

Rahul Nene, Head Sustainability at Huhtamaki India, shares insights & the various initiatives undertaken by the company to reach sustainability goals.

Huhtamaki India Ltd is India’s leading producer of primary consumer flexible packaging and labelling materials. We are part of Huhtamaki Oyj, a global specialist in food packaging. With a proud history of more than 80 years, Huhtamaki India is driven by the simple purpose to protect food, people and the planet.

Since 1935, Huhtamaki has been working to make packaging memorable, along with experiences together with its customers and partners. Today, we are a total solutions company with a pan-India presence; backed by 14 manufacturing sites and 5 customer support centres.

Our solutions include a barrier and recyclable laminates, specialized pouching-like shapes, 5 and 6-panel pouches, thermoforms, decorative labels, digitally printed laminates for pack personalization, and tube laminates.

Huhtamaki has a strong sustainability ambition and has been working towards driving sustainable practices throughout its value chain. In India, we have been working on a wide range of areas when it comes to sustainability, from the product stewardship perspective as well as on our operational footprint. Three such key developments from Huhtamaki India include-

  1. Drive to make our products recyclable, reusable, or compostable: Blueloop is Huhtamaki’s enterprise-wide range of sustainable packaging products. The brand promise for our Blueloop solutions is that they are designed for circularity. They are part of delivering on our 2030 Strategy to become the first choice in sustainable packaging solutions. Our BlueLoop brand started in our Flexible Packaging business to develop circular flexible packaging. We have now extended this to include innovative products designed for circularity across our different technologies in Huhtamaki. At Huhtamaki, we innovate to develop recyclable packaging while ensuring their robust functionality, thus leading towards the fulfilment of our sustainability goals as well as those of our customers.
  2. We built a cutting-edge multi-layered plastics recycling facility under the Huhtamaki foundation with the intention of recycling post-consumer MLP trash that would have otherwise ended up in landfills and disposal sites. The purpose of establishing this factory, which is located in Khopoli, Maharashtra, was to recycle multi-layered plastic, which is allegedly difficult to recycle and would otherwise wind up in landfills. In order to recycle post-consumer garbage into granules that may be utilizedin place of virgin plastic, we have been attempting to gather it from adjacent cities like Pune. The focus has also been on preserving effective recycling control and assuring moral plant operations.
  3. We have a 2030 ambition to achieve carbon-neutral production and with that in mind, we have started implementing renewable energy projects at our sites. One of our sites is now using biofuels for its primary energy needs while we have installed rooftop solar panels at two other factories. While this is just a start, we look to make stronger progress on this in the coming years. As part of our ongoing efforts to promote environmental sustainability and reduce our GHG emissions, we have undertaken some effective initiatives across our sites and operations – after all, small efforts can make a big difference over time.

Some of our sites have adopted a more balanced approached to sustainability:

  • Rudrapur site -Switched to a cleaner PNG fuel for higher efficiency
  • Hyderabad site – Using VFD for ventilation units, cooling towers and motion sensors for air curtains and lights for lowering utility costs and saving energy
  • Guwahati site optimized the use of compressive air for reducing wasteful energy consumption

Our sites have also installed energy-efficient pumps to reduce production costs and support green credentials.

Challenges faced in making packaging sustainable

Circularity in packaging is critical to its sustainability. While I would not call it a difficulty, it is more of an opportunity for all stakeholders in the packaging value chain to work together to ensure this circularity. From raw material supply to package design, production, post-consumer use collection, segregation, recycling, and bringing quality recycles back into the value chain as raw materials – parties participating in these processes must contribute to facilitate circularity. That is the most pressing requirement today!

Initiatives that are undertaken in Recycling in India

Huhtamaki handles the end-of-life of the product and the production waste in terms of waste management. Working with partners across the value chain, planning for circularity, minimizing waste in our production, and creating solutions are all ways that we address this complex problem to provide a framework for waste management. By 2030, we wish to have recycled or composted more than 90% of the non-hazardous waste generated by our production, with zero waste going to landfills. In terms of products, we fulfill our EPR commitments. We have partnered with Waste Management Agencies (WMAs) to effectively meet the FY 2022–23 EPR objectives as we are registered as Producers under the EPR standards.

Success stories of sustainable packaging solutions implemented in India

Our path toward sustainable packaging choices is going well, and our research and product development efforts are entirely aligned with it. Our goal of having sustainable solutions for all of the products we create is being addressed, and we are making good progress. We have delivered long-term solutions to certain key applications, and many more are in the process of being replaced.

Customer demand for sustainable alternatives is also increasing, and Huhtamaki is preparing to scale suitable solutions to satisfy customer demand. While doing so, we ensure all functional aspects are satisfied and that no compromises are made with regards to customer expectations. Our innovations at Huhtamaki are driven by both implicit and explicit consumer demands. This keeps us guessing. We have created a number of innovative inventions in the last several years, including simple peel retort-able lidding for food trays, recyclable aluminium foil-free lamination for coffee, the pouches on ree innovation for fresh produce packaging, and biodegradable pouches for confectionery applications. We’ve also created insulated packaging for food delivery applications and thermoformable wine/juice glasses. The list above highlights the range of our previously introduced inventions, and we are working on an equally exciting pipeline of new solutions for the coming year.

Sustainability Head, Huhtamaki India

A mechanical engineer with a post-graduation in Sustainability Management from NITIE, Mumbai, Rahul has around 12 years’ experience working in oil & gas, FMCG, technology and chemical sectors. He also holds additional certifications on Renewable Energy Procurement from Imperial College, London and the NEBOSH – International General Certificate.

Rahul spent a major part of my earlier work experience at L'Oréal India, managing their sustainability and safety programs in both research and operations. His last experience has been at Pidilite Industries where he was the Corporate Sustainability Head.

Currently, Rahul is Head Sustainability at Huhtamaki India, which is a world leader in flexible packaging. The job involves strategizing and implementing ESG and Sustainability actions across the operations of the organization as well as managing ESG disclosures and initiatives at a corporate level.

Rahul has keen interest in driving Sustainability as a culture and also passionate about implementing Health & Safety Practices. He has previously led manufacturing sites to RoSPA Gold awards under the Patronage of the Queen of England, for excellence in Safety Management.

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