OUR SUSTAINABLE PROMISE

Plastics, environment and sustainability

The effects of plastics on our environment have been the subject of much public debate in recent years. The plastics soup in the ocean in particular, and the related initiatives to do something about it, basically sparked off the public debate. Furthermore, it has heightened the level of public discussion on litter, which is proving harmful to the image of the industry. We at Aarts Packaging are fully aware of these issues, and we have been working hard in recent years to make an appropriate contribution to dealing with them in a positive way. This is covered by our corporate social responsibility policy; our business decisions are therefore focused not solely on profit, but also on their consequences for people both within and beyond the company, as well as the environment. CSR is an essential part of our management system for this very reason. As the impact of our activities as both a sector and as a company on the environment becomes subject to increasingly critical scrutiny, we need to examine in more detail how we might positive spin as an organisation. We are facing an image problem: The image of plastic has deteriorated significantly, from the revolutionary product it used to be – and still is, actually – into that of a waste problem.

How has this form of pollution come about?

The plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean consists largely of waste from fishing and shipping. Under the influence of sea currents, it has accumulated to form one of the world’s largest floating rubbish dumps to the west of the US coastline, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. According to scientists, an estimated 1.8 trillion (a trillion means twelve zeros) plastic items are currently afloat in an area of 1.6 million square kilometres – which is equivalent to around three times the size of France. This amounts to over one kilogram of plastic per square kilometre. (Source: Volkskrant newspaper, 22-03-2018).

If it is so harmful, however, then why are there no alternatives?

There is basically no suitable alternative to plastics. Other materials are either much heavier, are manufactured using processes that have a greater environmental impact, or are simply harmful to the environment. Foodstuffs are often packaged in plastic, in order to prolong their shelf life. If we did not do so, then vast amounts of food would go to waste, thus ultimately placing a heavier burden on the environment than the plastic packaging that keeps it fresh. Moreover, plastic offers greater shape versatility, and is sturdy, lightweight and affordable.

It is important that we deal with plastics responsibly, use the appropriate materials for the various applications and ultimately ensure that they are deposited in the right waste stream at the end of their useful lives. We all bear responsibility to do so.
Each European citizen is responsible for some 30 kilos of plastic waste per year. Of all the plastic we use on a daily basis, we dispose of around 50 percent within 20 minutes. It is therefore vital that plastics are as sustainably as possible (longer life span).

However, we can all easily lend a hand in combatting the pollution.

– Minimise your use of throwaway items (disposables)
– No longer use plastic bags
– Do not throw away plastic litter
– Choose products with less/no packaging
– You can contribute to recycling initiatives by segregating your household waste

Within Aarts Packaging and our industry association various initiatives have been developed to contribute to resolving the waste problem.

  • Recycling
  • Biopolymers
  • Rethink

Recycling

During manufacturing, waste generated in our production process is processed as much as possible directly on the production lines. Waste from injection branches is collected, passed through grinding mills and directly added back to the production machinery on the line. The residual waste that then remains in our factory is supplied to waste processors for recycling. This so-called post-consumer recycled (PCR) material is collected from the waste processors, sorted, washed and reprocessed into a clean material suitable for reuse in our manufacturing processes.
The following are advantages of PCR: reduced use of fossil resources, thanks to re-use reduced CO₂ emissions your contribution to reducing the amount of waste Recycled material is already used in several of our products, in order to reduce the waste stream. RPET and PP are examples of such materials currently used in our manufacturing processes. We also endeavour to point out these possibilities to our clients at an early stage and to use alternative materials wherever possible.

Examples of sustainable developments:

– RPET used for chewing gum packaging.

– Joint initiative with the client and Nederland Schoon Development carried out with Bluecup. Bluecup is a company that promotes the reuse of coffee pods instead of using a new pod for each cup of coffee. It therefore developed a concept for this purpose in cooperation with Aarts Packaging, which we have since put into production. See also www.bluecup.nl

– Following several trial production runs at our factory, a large drugstore chain in Germany ultimately opt to switch to recycled material for large part of the package of caps that we manufacture for it.

– Bio-based and biodegradable.
We both promote and investigate the possibilities of using sustainable plastics.
The use of bio-based plastics serves an alternative to oil. While oil reserves are in danger of running out, bio-based plastics, also known as renewable plastics, can be used to produce these materials over and over again by means of cultivation. The use of biodegradable plastics ensures that these materials can be composted in suitable conditions, and they are therefore disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

Sustainability policy

In general, Aarts Packaging devotes attention to energy savings, the use of energy efficient machinery and the reuse of heat generated on the production lines to heat warehouses. The use of LED lighting, closed circuit cooling systems, the purchase of green electricity and sheltered employmentare other sustainability initiatives that our organisation promotes.

The internationally acclaimed Ecovadis organisation awarded Aarts Packaging a Gold Medal Rating. In addition, an audit of our sustainability policy by DNV achieved favourable results. We are a member of the NRK PVT, a collaboration between the two industry associations that represent the interests of the plastics industry in the Netherlands. One of the most important initiatives launched the trade association is Rethink. Rethinks objective is to strive for the preservation of plastics as a material for the future, while closely focusing on utility, safety, sustainability, use and reuse, recycling and innovation. Furthermore, it concentrates on how we as an industry can contribute to the realisation of CO₂ reduction and a circular economy. A roadmap has been drawn up for this purpose, outlining how we intend to increasingly work towards the sustainable use of plastics in industry across the board.

Want to learn more about Rethink?
Check out rethinkplastics.nl or the rethinkplastics roadmap.