Huhtamaki’s first India edition of Think Circle at Mumbai

Redefining recycling systems

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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.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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