Developing sustainable packaging is easier said than done

Partnerships with experts in future sustainability trends and the right testing will move your goals forward.

By giving equal footing to your labeling selections as well as your primary packaging, you're reducing the risk that your products aren't as sustainable as you or your customers think. But this is easier said than done!

The world of sustainable packaging is full of complexities. Therefore brand owners must cultivate relationships with industry experts in waste management systems and policy developments - internally or externally. Alliances with the right players will provide a north star for your sustainability efforts and lead you down the right path.

With 25 years in packaging development and two packaging awards under his belt, Peter Steidle, Packaging Technology Expert for Beiersdorf, understands the importance of collaboration. With expertise in labels and sleeves, Peter drives forward new innovations in sustainable packaging, digital printing technology, and projects for Eucerin Sun.

Peter speaks to us about how he collaborates internally and externally to develop innovative solutions to help achieve Beiersdorf’s sustainability goals.

Peter, how are you involved in the decisions involving sustainable packaging?

One of our Beiersdorf sustainability targets is our "plastic pledge," which requires us to challenge every project to improve the sustainability features of our packaging. We aim to make 100% of our packaging recyclable, reusable, or refillable by 2025. Aside from managing projects, we also proactively review our packaging portfolio for improvements in sustainability.

Can you detail the sustainability goal(s) you are involved in and how you contribute to reaching these goals?  

Sustainability is a key priority for Beiersdorf and is firmly anchored in our C.A.R.E.+ strategy. Within our CARE BEYOND SKIN Sustainability Agenda, we have set ambitious targets. In addition to the "plastic pledge," we also have plans to achieve a 50% reduction of fossil-based virgin plastic and a 30% share of recycled material in our plastic packaging by 2025. To achieve this, we are working intensively to reduce the packaging weight of bottles, tubes, jars, and other primary packs. We're also investing a lot of effort into circularity, realizing "bottle-to-bottle" concepts with HDPE and PET.


Can you give us an example of the recent sustainable packaging innovation that you worked on and the label's role in the design? 

In the last months, we developed several lightweight bottles that reduced the material by about 25% for our global NIVEA Shower female and universal range. In executing these projects, we discovered that the label is much more critical than that on standard bottles. 

We found that lightweight bottles provide new challenges with the appearance of wrinkles and air bubbles under the label. These problems were due to the technicalities of the lighter bottle, including higher tolerances of the bottle dimensions, reduced stiffness of the bottle, and rough surfaces. A good result was quite tricky, but through a combination of optimizing the bottle, the labeling equipment, the label adhesives, and the softness of the labeling material, we achieved great results. 

The label is often overlooked during the EcoDesign process or considered an afterthought. As a label expert, how do you champion the importance of the label? And how have you brought it to the forefront of the EcoDesign process?

The label has an essential role in the overall packaging system. One simple example is transparent and translucent PET bottles. With “normal” label adhesives, the certified recycling rate is at 0% due to the adhesive residues that “contaminate” or disrupt the PET recycling process. However, with a change to wash-off labels, our bottles are fully recyclable.



What does the EcoDesign process look like at Beiersdorf? 

Today we are very well connected with the sorting and recycling industry, and we are informed about current recycling processes and material options that deliver more sustainable packaging systems. Furthermore, we have sustainability specialists in our group who monitor our sustainability targets and are working on future concepts regarding sustainability.

What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to developing sustainable packaging design?

One major challenge is the availability of “good” PCR materials (rHDPE, rPP, and rPET) that we can use for our cosmetic and personal care packaging. So far, there is no existing standard for cosmetic-grade packaging materials, but we are working intensively in the CosPaTox industry initiative to push the definition of this standard forward. Also, the complexity of the different sorting and recycling industries and processes around the globe, and even in Europe, make the transformation towards circular packaging across industries very challenging. I believe certain European or even global standards would make this much more accessible.

What would you consider the most significant innovation in sustainable labels today? And what do you think is the next big thing?

From my point of view, a real innovation is wash-off labels for transparent and translucent PET bottles. I see these labels as a game changer regarding the recyclability of home and personal care packaging. I look forward to the next big thing, which I believe could be linerless systems for oval labels or significant reductions of material thicknesses.



Learn more about sustainable labels

Here at Avery Dennison, we have the expertise and experience to help brands make the right sustainable label choices that move us closer to a future of circularity. Discover our “Small. Yet Significant.” guide to navigating sustainable labeling for HPC brands to learn how you can incorporate material choices, EcoDesign best practices, and innovation into your packaging decisions. 


Ready to talk? Our Ecosystem Managers are experts in the home and personal care space and are here to help you solve your sustainability challenges.