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Mondi’s Frantschach recycling lab: Translating technical and contextual details to boost circularity

GO CIRCULAR

Mondi’s Frantschach recycling lab: Translating technical and contextual details to boost circularity

Mondi opened its first in-house recyclability testing laboratory in Frantschach, Austria. Since the launch, numerous R&D projects have been carried out to decrease footprints, improve performance and speed up production time of packaging materials.

Source: PackagingInsights

In total, approximately 230 tested samples (160 in full assessment and 70 quick tests) have been run since the facility’s opening. Nearly all of these samples were for internal R&D purposes to accelerate Mondi’s market time, and the brown and white base papers ratio was approximately 70% white to 30% brown.

Elisabeth Schwaiger, head of innovation at Mondi’s Flexible Packaging division discusses the key learnings and milestones from the lab’s operations so far, and reveals what the company is aiming to produce in the near future.

She says the opening was “an important milestone in building up Mondi’s diverse network of testing labs. We are accelerating our circularity efforts through our recyclability testing lab that tests and verifies the recyclability of our paper and packaging solutions following industry protocols.”

For our customers, the lab helps to cut through the complexities of recycling. When the lab first launched, establishing the recyclability of a paper or combined paper-plastic hybrid packaging solution wasn’t as clear as it could be and not standardized within the packaging industry. Today, through the tools at our disposal, our experts can put products through their paces more thoroughly than ever before — to ensure that our packaging portfolio is sustainable by design and fit-for-purpose.

Elisabeth Schwaiger, Head of innovation, Mondi

Translating technicalities

The lab translates technical details into understandable, actionable guidance for packaging industry companies. According to Mondi, this can help provide a clearer path to navigate complicated sustainability decisions.

With recycling infrastructure and consumer behavior varying widely, brands and businesses must determine optimal solutions by “testing, tweaking and then testing again,” says Schwaiger.

The lab has also been instrumental in bolstering our innovation efforts and product development function, allowing recyclability testing in real-time during innovation projects — not after the product is made. Our lab offers the data and insights to analyze recyclability, and identify the best product options based on unique customer needs — material, size, flexibility, weight and more. It’s only through that testing-insight feedback loop that we can always be sure that the packaging in circulation is the best packaging for the product and enables these fibers to stay in circulation.

Elisabeth Schwaiger, Head of innovation, Mondi

The future

Mondi says its focus for the testing laboratory remains on continuing to develop packaging solutions that are sustainable by design with a material-neutral approach — from paper-based alternatives to hybrid solutions or plastic packaging.

It can be a difficult task to select materials that balance sustainability and performance. But assessing that product’s life cycle factors — from materials’ origin through to its shelf life, use and eventual material recycling — is the only way to ensure it’s fit-for-purpose. An example of how we’ve already achieved this is our FunctionalBarrier Paper range: barrier papers that reduce the amount of plastic used by replacing it with a renewable resource that has specific mechanical properties, such as puncture resistance, flexibility, printability and barrier protection.

Elisabeth Schwaiger, Head of innovation, Mondi

The range is designed for recycling, as tested in the recycling lab in Frantschach.

We see the successes of, and aspirations for, our recycling testing lab as a significant milestone in our journey toward circularity. And going forward we are looking to build on what we’ve achieved to date. We recognize that there is still work to be done. It’s about a new way of thinking and designing. With the lab’s technical capabilities combined with strategic partnerships across the value chain, Mondi is committed to driving solutions that are both sustainable and functional. This year promises more testing, more collaboration and more innovative steps toward our vision for a circular economy.

Elisabeth Schwaiger, Head of innovation, Mondi

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