A look back on 2020. This has been a strange year for all of us at Elopak.

By Elopak CEO Thomas Körmendi

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted us to increasingly focus on the safety and wellbeing of our staff, while still providing an efficient and reliable service to our customers. I am grateful to all of my colleagues for adapting so quickly to social distancing measures and for rising to the challenge of this pandemic with such determination. Our agility and the strong relationships we have maintained with our partners and suppliers has allowed us to meet the increased demand for our beverage cartons and come through this year with our heads held high.

Despite the challenges of 2020, our ultimate goals have remained unchanged: continuing to invest in and innovate more sustainable cartons and packaging solutions. In this regard 2020 saw a number of important milestones.

In June we were proud to launch the Pure-Pak® Imagine – our most environmentally friendly carton to date. Not only is this carton fully renewable and recyclable, it is also carbon neutral and contains 46% less plastic than a conventional carton with a plastic closure. With the introduction of the Pure-Pak® Imagine we are helping consumers to make even more environmentally conscious choices.

Another highlight of 2020 came in July with the publication of our 2019 Sustainability Report. The report set out how we’ve worked to reduce our emissions and what steps we’re taking to become even more sustainable. For instance, we were delighted to record a 20% reduction in the carbon footprint of Pure-Pak® cartons over a five year period. We also managed to avoid 12,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable plastics.

We had the opportunity to present these findings at the Dairy Innovation Summit in October, where Elopak’s Director of Sustainability Marianne Groven gave an excellent speech entitled ‘The Role of Packaging: Leaving your product unchanged and the world unharmed’. Marianne shared Elopak’s sustainability story as an example of how innovation can help packaging companies deliver solutions for the future and reduce their impact on the environment while maintaining food safety.

Our commitment to sustainability continued to be rewarded this year, with an increasing number of consumers choosing more sustainable packaging options. In 2020 Elopak recorded a significant increase in the sale of Pure-Pak® cartons with Natural Brown Board , accounting for 20% of all our milk cartons sold in Western Europe. These cartons are renewable, recyclable and have a lower CO2 footprint owing to reduced wood consumption and the elimination of the bleaching process. We also saw a number of our customers make the switch to more sustainable forms of packaging, with both Levmilk in Slovakia and Saarema Dairy in Estonia ditching plastic bottles in favour of environmentally friendly Pure-Pak® cartons.

2020 has also shown us the importance of collaboration in helping to foster innovation and sustainability. In September we were excited to support the launch of the HolyGrail 2.0 initiative – a cross-value chain effort to improve packaging recycling through the use of pioneering digital watermarks. The initiative underscores our commitment to advancing sustainability in the packaging industry through collaboration and also our drive to increase recycling rates in pursuit of a low carbon circular economy.

This pursuit later formed the basis of Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Verhelst’s speech at November’s Plastic Free World conference. Patrick’s address, entitled ‘The Natural Solution’ set out why beverage cartons offer an ideal solution to the need to promote a low-carbon circular economy within the packaging industry and the advantages of Elopak’s iconic Pure-Pak® cartons in terms of renewable materials, low CO2 emissions and being fully recyclable.

All in all, it has been a challenging but exciting year for Elopak. Though we have had to make a lot of changes we haven’t lost sight of what’s important and remain as dedicated as ever to promoting sustainable packaging in new and exciting ways. As 2020 draws to a close I would like to thank all our staff, customers, suppliers and partners for your continued support and I look forward to opening the next chapter in our sustainability story together in 2021.