As pressure to 'think green' escalates through the roof, sustainability continues to be an integral part of Weener Plastics's strategy. Boasting unrivalled technological competences, the company develops packaging components for the personal care, food & beverage, and home care markets, working incessantly towards minimising its carbon footprint. Ilona Vermeer underscores the importance of sustainability solutions for Weener, explaining how it is determined to make the plastics packaging industry circular in the next years.

Weener's focus upon Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), ensuring the provision of a healthy and pleasant working environment, is to be commended. To what extent does your CSR policy extend to address sustainability within the business?

At Weener Plastics, we care about the impact that our activities have upon the environment, and sustainability has therefore already been incorporated into our business strategy for many years. We recognize the importance of the environment around us, and we ensure that natural resources, such as materials, energy, and water, are used in a responsible and economical manner during the manufacturing of our products. Our supply chain has adopted a sustainability focus, and we now seek constant sustainable and responsible procurement, whilst still meeting our business requirements.

Weener Plastics strongly believes that the plastics packaging sector should be transformed into a circular industry, and we are fully committed to playing an active role in this transformation. With this in mind, we recently established our special 'Material Team' which investigates the continuous development of innovative sustainable material solutions, including those post-consumption, and executes extensive testing in our own dedicated test center. Developing an extensive knowledge base of sustainable materials, this team is fully geared with the proactive attitude needed to support our customers through the transformation process as they change their products into more sustainable packaging solutions.

What 'green' products are currently available to Weener customers?

Lightweighting, energy reduction, and integration of functionalities have been longstanding innovations offered by Weener, and the company has enjoyed customer recognition for this reason. More recently, we have been incorporating solutions that are increasingly sustainable, adding DfS (Design for Sustainability), Product Life Cycle Thinking, and Circular Economy to our range of innovative offerings. At Weener we continue to strive to offer customers the best solution with regards to both sustainability and cost effectiveness.

Sustainability is equally key within our manufacturing and logistic processes, and valuable investments in the best advanced technologies mean that we now recycle heat from machines, use green energy where possible, and integrate operational steps, saving time, energy, and costs. Stacking, nesting, and layer packaging has optimised logistics, whilst low-emission transportation further contributes to our ever-constant efforts towards sustainability.

We offer dispensing closures and aerosol caps made from up to 100% recycled material. Our dispensing closure for Seventh Generation's Natural Dish Liquid, made of 100% post-consumer recycled material (PCR), is a prime example, alongside our mono-material tube closure, Pure Dispense, with PP membrane, designed for easy recycling, demonstrating our determination to manufacture products that are progressively sustainable.

We also offer sustainable dosing technologies, such as our SMART+ technology, a lightweight dosing system with a hinged lid that ensures precise and accurate dosing of liquids without spillage and/or overdose. This allows our customers to choose packs with higher concentrations, significantly reducing the amount of packaging used.

How has Weener coped with the pressure to adapt to the times, and has the company's significant expansion contributed further challenges?

Whilst sustainability has always been part of our innovative offering, technological advancements have provided exciting opportunities to adapt to the times, adopt new technologies, and reduce our own carbon footprint. Moulding technology is one interesting area, and we have invested heavily in the transfer of hydraulic technology to electrical drives on both machines and molds. We are constantly on the lookout for the most environmentally friendly technologies and we also conduct our own research with the aim of reducing electricity use and our CO2 footprint.

Likewise, expansion has not proven difficult; newly acquired companies are immediately introduced to our business initiatives, and we follow a very structured procedure in order to consolidate our sustainable practices. In the past we have noticed that new locations have developed green initiatives that we have been able to incorporate into the Weener organisation, meaning that we have been able to learn from each other, combining the best of both worlds.

Has Weener received recognition for its innovative spirit and efforts towards ensuring a sustainable future?

This year, having been a finalist at the Plastics Caps & Closures 2018 Innovation Awards in Chicago, Weener has been awarded the much-acclaimed Silver status by EcoVadis, an achievement based upon Environment, Supply Chain, and Social and Ethics data collected from our worldwide plants. This impressive certification indicates Weener's continued journey towards excellence, upholding the traceability and transparency of our documentation, and recognising our commitment to technological innovation. We will now go for gold, striving to achieve the top EcoVadis level in the next year.

Weener understands that recycled materials are a key focus for our customers, and, in order to always offer them the best sustainable solutions, we invited experts within the industry to a sustainability workshop last year. Guests ranged from raw material suppliers, to large global customers with challenging sustainability targets, to Wageningen University and the Dutch Institute for Sustainable Packaging (KIDV), thus representing all areas of the supply chain and feeding us with a great deal of extra knowledge needed in order to support our customers in the process of making their packaging sustainable. Customers recognise our expert levels of design, quality, and functionality, and have valued our innovative approach, proactive attitude, and our support in their search for sustainable solutions.

How does Weener envisage a sustainable future?

Weener is one of the frontrunners in the recycling field, and we will continue to invest in a future circular industry, developing the best technologies to process recycled materials. Each and every product that we develop will be designed to be more sustainable than the one before, and we pledge to actively promote the best alternatives to our customers. Our multi-layer Eco Tube, currently under development, and made only from green and recycled materials, is just one example.

We strongly believe that we must play an active role in making the plastics packaging industry more sustainable, a view reflected by our slogan, 'Weener Plastics, we care, we inspire, we deliver!'.

Interview WebPackaging, September 2018

25 Sep 2018