Life Cycle Thinking

Intervista a Karen van de Stadt, Sustainable Packaging Expert

19 Febbraio 2020

In questa intervista Karen van de Stadt ci racconta il suo lavoro all’Istituto olandese sul Packaging Sostenibile.

Karen van de Stadt is Sustainable Packaging Expert at Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging (KIDV) and a key player in the research programs that are being initialized by the Institute and maintains a close working relationship with all mayor Dutch industry organizations.

The KIDV advises and inspires companies on sustainable packaging and offers tailor-made advice, factual knowledge and practical tools. The Institute develops a number of activities aimed at improving sustainability of the whole product packaging chain and develops scientific and practically applicable know-how.

KIDV is our partner within the HORIZON 2020 MyPack project on sustainable packaging solutions.

Can you tell us about your day-to-day activities within KIDV?

Within KIDV I am the team leader of the group of packaging experts. On a daily basis we help companies (brandowners, retailers etc) that want to work on more sustainable packaging with their questions. Sometimes that is a 1 on 1 talk, or a group session with several people within the company, or a group of several companies. But we also develop tools, which companies can use without our help. Besides that the KIDV does research, together with partners such as universities and other institutes, we help formulate the research questions and translate the research into information that companies can use in their daily practice. My daily work is to work on all those activities.

You help companies improve their packaging providing reports, factsheets, inspirational examples, but also directly supporting them. Who are the typical users of this service and what are the most common requests?

Most of them are producers and importers of packed products and packaging materials. These companies want to know what the most sustainable packaging is. Unfortunately there is not one solution to the be given. It depends on the product, the supply chain, the market and the waste stage, among other things. The most sustainable solution, depends on all these factors and also on the strategy of the company and on the national and international packaging legislation and policy. We explain these factors as clear as possible, so companies can make their own choices.

Have you noticed an increased interest among companies in the development and use of more sustainable packaging?

Absolutely! More and more companies want to work on making their packaging more sustainable. They are driven by awareness and by policy. They often focus on recyclability, but we tell them that the full environmental impact also has to be taken in account.

Can you tell us something about the trends in the world of packaging?

Within packaging and especially plastic packaging there is a strong focus on recyclability, which for plastics manifests itself not only by investigations into the switch to ‘mono-materials’, but also looking at other ways to sort and newer recycling techniques, such as ‘chemical recycling’.

The focus on plastics and the feel to move away from plastic leads to a search for alternative materials, such as renewable alternatives for fossil based plastics, such as PLA and PEF, but also fibers from agricultural waste and from easy growing crops. We also see a move to paper-based materials that are coated, which can result in all kinds of options that are difficult or unrealistic to recycle. Some alternatives might even have a bigger environmental impact.

Within the e-commerce sector companies are looking into smarter ways of packing products, such as individually-made shipping boxes, switch to flexible outer packaging for non-breakables, redesigning products that are already packed in a box, so that it can directly be used as shipping box, thus reducing an additional box and unnecessary transportation of air.

We also see a growing interest on circular alternatives such as: reusable packaging, lease models, bulk packaging or ‘bring-your-own’ packaging.

What is the role of KIDV within the MyPack project?

I do this project together with my colleague Marcel Keuenhof. We are responsible for the visualization of the product-packaging combinations that come out of MyPack. There are three markets defined and the developed packaging techniques fit in those markets. Our task is to get these packaging types designed so everybody can see and understand what the results of MyPack are.

Within the project the mock-ups will be used to further test consumer behavior.

Thanks Karen!

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