Huhtamaki Think Circle at Mumbai
Thomasine Kamerling, Suraj Nandakumar, Marco Hilty, Yogesh Bambal and Dr R Rangaprasad

Global packaging major Huhtamaki organized the first India edition of the Think Circle at Mumbai’s Taj Lands End hotel on 3 May. Think Circle is a forum to openly deliberate on ‘redefining recycling systems through value chain innovations in the packaging industry’.

The panel comprised of Suraj Nandakumar, CEO of Recity Network, Marco Hilty, president of flexible Packaging at Huhtamaki, Yogesh Bambal, senior group leader, AMEA-RDQ, Mondelez India and Dr R Rangaprasad, business head, Packaging 360. The panel discussion was moderated by Thomasine Kamerling, sustainability & communications head at Huhtamaki.

While opening the event, Kamerling said that the only way to take a step forward to closing the loop towards greater circularity is actually working with all the stakeholders across the value chain. “No one person or entity holds all of the answers. So it’s really important to us to have that conversation both across our customers and suppliers, academia, NGOs and so forth,” she said.

Nandakumar said that Recity’s role is to help improve the efficiency of plastic recovery and help brands to increase the recycled content and packaging. “The intent of Recity is to maximize the circularity of plastics in cities. The beauty of plastics is it is the only tool that we have that solves environmental problems, and also a poverty issue in the country. It’s a very beautiful tool that we have, if we use it effectively. Organizations like us play the role of actually bringing that change at the ground level.”

Huhtamaki focuses on recycling

Hilty said that he thinks there’s a lot we have to do. “And for me, it starts with making our packaging recyclable.” He added that we need to close the loop in terms of circularity and need to find a way to take back the waste into our production.

Bambal talked about the changes that Mondelez has brought about in packaging to address the issue of sustainability. He said that the company has worked to optimize packaging as well as cut down on unnecessary packaging. “It is very important how you make those changes. And then how you smartly convey that message to the consumers saying that there is no compromise on the quality and there is no compromise on the food safety,” he said.

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Bambal added that in India Mondelez recently transitioned all its chocolate packaging for recyclable packaging. “Earlier it was a complex structure and Huhtamaki has played a vital role in this transition. So we are really proud that almost 98% of packaging in India is recyclable packaging.”

Dr Rangaprasad said that until now the recycling system that has been prevalent in India has been localized or is in the informal sector, mainly using manual labor and more of a social enterprise. “But today we find that many of the polymer raw material suppliers in collaboration with their converters and also the brand owners are stepping up or scaling up because of the anticipated increase in the quantum of plastics which will be converted not only into rigid but also flexible formats.”

He said that the Indian recycling sector is gaining the status of an industry and is becoming extremely technology-oriented. “You will find that that change is happening, and you’ll see that in another maybe five to 10 years’ time the industry will work towards completing that circularity loop. You will see that plastics will no longer be the villain of the piece, so to say. So I think the trend is positive and in fact, all the stakeholders are intensifying their efforts in this direction.”

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