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Meet Our People: Maik Nungässer

This week we have been celebrating Wipak Walsrode 20 year anniversary as part of the Wihuri Group corporate family. One of its longest members is Maik Nungässer, featured in this week’s Meet Our People feature. Here’s what Maik has to share:

 

Describe what you do at Wipak in a way that anyone could understand!

I work in print and color management and, in addition to various projects, I am also Wipak Walsrode’s dangerous goods officer. My team and I are in charge of the work preparation of the print jobs. We specify the optimal color system combination in order to guarantee all the required properties for the customer‘s applications. In addition to optimizing the scheduling of orders, we also ensure that all the required raw materials are available at the right time. We are always trying out new materials in order to continuously improve the products.

 

What are your thoughts on Wipak valuing sustainability?

Sustainability is one of the most important topics we are currently dealing with, I find it very important that Wipak is active on the subject. We have started with the first new paper composites solutions and trending towards thinner foils or foils that can be better recycled. There will be still many changes within our company in the nearest future. We have to be ready to face these changes and offer the right sustainable solutions.

 

Can you share something local about your Wipak site that is unique?

The complexity in Walsrode is unique. If I just take a look at the finishing area, we have everything from prepress, printing cylinder engraving, gravure printing machines with up to 11 colors and inline lamination, digital printing machines, solvent-based and solvent-free lamination, as well as cutting systems with robot technology to offer the customer complete product solutions, all from a single source. The high level of training our colleagues possess here on-site only contributes to this. We are able to deliver solutions fitting almost every customer requirement.

  

What is something unique about you that not many people know? Do you have a passion, hobby, or a new skill you’d like to share?

I have discovered Golf last year. It allows me to switch off completely within a few minutes. In addition to the joy of hitting the little ball, the exercise is also great: you can cover 10km while on the pitch. I would recommend everyone to try it out, it’s really a great sport!

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Sustainability goals: are you in or out?

How long can plastic companies go without focusing their goals on sustainability? Leading market insights have indicated that not only are sustainable goals the key to businesses succeeding, but they also need to be completely transparent about how they plan to achieve them. We cannot go on without keeping sustainability at the center of what we do. 

  

In the plastics industry today, we are expected to adapt and evolve. Plastics are a key part of the global economy, but the current plastics economy has major disadvantages: after a first short use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or USD 80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). 

  

Wipak has been conscious of this for years and is well into our journey of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. In Europe, we have until 2030 for all packaging to be reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective way. The European Commission‘s directive on packaging waste indicates that our objectives must be concentrated on reducing the number of materials used in packaging, as well as designing for recyclability and supporting innovation to make plastic products easier to recycle. The pressure is also on to provide these kinds of solutions to market leaders.  

  

But we cannot do it alone. As we strive for a circular economy, we require partners like Digimarc and initiatives like the European Brand Association‘s Holy Grail 2.0 to drive scaled-up business action and engagement across the entire plastics value chain.  

  

Since 2018 we have collaborated with Digimarc, whose invisibly printed digital barcodes on packaging enable users throughout the complete value chain to quickly scan or detect information. These are also extremely effective at increasing recycling accuracy and sorting. The Holy Grail 2.0 project is pioneering digital watermarks for smart packaging recycling in the EU, alongside over 85 companies and organizations from the complete packaging value chain. 

  

The clock is ticking. Are you setting goals for a better future? 

  

What we’re watching: What is the price of not responding to the climate crisis? 

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Which sustainable materials do you offer?

Wipak already offers some of the world’s most sustainable packaging. On the road to a truly circular economy, we remain focused on developing recyclable and recyclate-containing packaging solutions – keeping plastic within the supply chain and out of the environment, while understanding that the complete elimination of plastic is not yet an option. We’ve also created some of the thinnest packaging out there and are beginning to use new, innovative bio-based materials, with plans to eventually produce fully bio-based solutions in the future. 

As part of our sustainable product portfolio, we currently have a variety of solutions that are 90 to 95% polyethylene or polypropylene-based, which can be recycled in their respective streams. Some of these even offer CO2 footprint reductions of 30-35%. Many of these solutions are already recyclable in several EU countries. 

What’s more, all the paper in our renewable packaging solutions are FSC® certified, sourced from responsibly managed forests. Plus, thanks to award-winning technology ProDirect®, a selection of the paper composite solutions we produce are available as completely carbon neutral packaging. Our unique ProDirect® digital inkjet printing line uses water-based inks, taking us one step further away from using solvents that need to be burned, and runs almost without waste even for smaller lot sizes.    

In the coming years, by sharing technological resources with like-minded companies, we will develop and deploy a portfolio of new recyclable packaging solutions made from cellulose-based materials, also sourced from sustainably managed forests.   

Our R&D departments continue to explore how plastic packaging can be recycled even if it is multilayer or a multi-material, how our packaging can be made more sustainable, and how it can be recyclable depending on a country’s waste management infrastructure. Follow us as we continue on this journey.   

Check out our sustainable solutions here and look out for our product pages with more details coming soon! 

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How would you define sustainability?

Sustainability is the consideration of environmental, economic, and social actions taken to avoid depleting our natural resources and negative effect on the climate. As a packaging company, this means a circular economy is essential – implementing recyclable packaging solutions while using recycled and renewable materials in our products. Keeping plastic out of the environment, and ensuring customers and consumers understand their roles are also key. 

Circularity also requires end consumers to choose the most sustainable choices. Some of us may be familiar with standing in the supermarket trying to figure out if a particular package is indeed good for the environment. Surely the PET plastic bottles have the highest carbon footprint, or surely this glass is recyclable? At Wipak, this is why sustainability means transparency.

At Wipak, this is why sustainability means transparency. 

We know that consumers would be happy to pay more in order to do their part – but only if they knew without a shadow of a doubt that their packaging was better for the environment – or even carbon neutral. And yet most of them don’t. Why not? Because choosing sustainable packaging has been made difficult. How do you recognise it? Where do you find it? How do I know I’m choosing the option with the lowest carbon footprint? How do I recycle it properly?  

We need to make that choice as easy as possible for people. People don’t buy what they don’t trust, and people don’t trust what is not transparent.  

This is why we set out to measure the carbon footprint of everything we do, minimise it faster than anyone else by 2025, and inform our customers how to reduce the CO2 footprint of their packaging without compromising on performance. Thanks to our dedicated CO2 team and new technologies, we are actively pursuing a circular economy.  

Want to know more about our sustainable packaging solutions that have a lower carbon footprint, are recyclable, or use renewable or recycled raw materials? Go to www.wipak.com/sustainable-solutions 

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What tangible actions we have been taking to reach carbon neutrality?

A plastics company trying to be carbon neutral may sound like greenwashing, unless you understand the tangible actions our teams around the world have been taking to implement our Carbon Zero strategy.  

Whether our customers are looking to change their packaging to light-weight, sustainable pouches, or to paper-based materials, we have been busy building up the capacity to help them make that change at scale in a big way – in a way that makes them game changers. For over 10 years, we have been calculating the carbon footprints of our packaging and consulting R&D to reduce our emissions effectively. and inform our customers on the best possible green choice for them.  

We have built new factories to get us ready for the future. While people can think of factories as these inherently dirty places – chimneys and noise and pollution – our factories are where our most significant sustainability innovations come from. We’ve been addressing low-hanging fruit such as changing lights to more energy-efficient LEDs, providing electrical charging points for employee cars, and other energy sources such as solar panels are in discussion for implementation where suitable. But many of our factories, like Wipak Nastola, already run on 100% renewable energy, with Walsrode and Poland to follow in 2021. All our sites will be entirely carbon free by the end of 2022. 

We have investments in our global sites which allow us to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency. Most recently, we announced a multi-million pound machinery investment in Wipak UK, which will significantly enhance their production capabilities and sustainable product offering by Summer 2021. “Wipak UK’s new conversion equipment is fully in-line with our promise to reduce our CO2 footprint to ZERO and will allow us to develop REAL sustainable packaging solutions with REAL benefits for our customers, consumers and the environment.” shared Managing Director of Wipak UK, Andrew Newbold.   

We adopt a lifecycle approach to product development, considering raw materials and recyclability, as well as seeing innovation and collaboration with our customers as the key to creating tangible, long-lasting change. Our N.E.X.T. Centre for Packaging Innovation & Insights offer creative, customer-focused workshops, training and seminars to help clients stay ahead of the market.   

Together with a highly skilled team and experts in technology, sustainability, recycling, product application and more, N.E.X.T. designs the packaging of tomorrow while keeping sustainability at the heart of the innovation process.   

Find out more about how the Wipak N.E.X.T. Centre is creating real change, here and here. And check out our steps to sustainability here

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What does carbon neutral mean and how is it achieved?

To be carbon neutral (or net zero CO2 emissions) means that we will reduce our carbon emissions as much as possible and offset those which cannot be eliminated. When we ask people what they think the majority of a packaging company’s carbon footprint consists of, most people believe it is in transport or in the end-of-life. In fact, our footprint is made up of only 7% for transportation, 12% energy usage in factories, and 81% raw materials, which are still majority crude oil-based. The energy aspect is easy to change – we will run all our factories on renewable energy in the near future. The trickier task for us has been reducing our raw material footprint, meaning reducing the footprint of what our packaging is made from.   

We understand the need to retain plastics in the supply chain, while preventing it from entering oceans and contaminating the food chain. Though studies have shown that plastics have lower GHG emissions within their life-cycle than other materials, we are not encouraging the use of virgin plastics. Instead, we aim to increase the efficient use of post-consumer materials and produce fully recyclable products, eventually working our way towards bio-based packaging.  

Wipak will achieve a raw material footprint of zero over time, but thanks to our current sustainable solutions, we are on the right path. This includes films that are made from recycled or recyclable materials, renewable materials, or are downgauged (made thinner without compromising on quality, barrier properties or puncture resistance). Thanks to innovative ProDirect® carbon-neutral products, we can also offer our customers fully carbon-neutral packaging to significantly reduce their footprint.   

With innovative technologies like Digimarc® barcodes to improve recycling accuracy and efficiency in Europe, we implement a Circular Economy approach in our business.  

We need this cooperation along the value chain.   

The future must reward and incentivize recyclability and lowering CO2 emissions. Customers must invest and believe in sustainable solutions as the only way forward. In turn, we must provide end customers with the products and the information they need to be as environmentally-friendly as possible. Only then can we achieve a Circular Economy and truly realize our goal.   

In case you missed it, read about why this is a challenge we are addressing in our last post.  

Want to know more about how we will achieve carbon neutrality in the next 4 years? Watch THIS video.

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Wipak Insights: Bordi in the spotlight

The third instalment of our Insights series spotlights Wipak Bordi, one of our key manufacturing units located in Caorso, Italy. Boasting a recent major site upgrade, Bordi specializes in the production of a wide range of customized pouches – including stand-up styles and gusseted versions – as well as coffee bags, vacuum bags and plastic bottle caps, with added features like Stabilo Seals.

The plant’s expertise in this field was honed over more than 60 years, operating under the name Bordi Carlo s.r.l. before Wipak acquired it in 2012. Since then, our adaptable services and innovation have received widespread international recognition.

This year has seen the completion of the first phase of an ambitious makeover project at Bordi, which will be the proud home of a state-of-the-art food pouch facility, complete with its very own Packaging Innovation Centre. So, what better time to delve a little deeper into what makes this unit tick? Join us for a whistle-stop tour of the site, with a special focus on its bag and pouch development.

About

Wipak Bordi stands out as a pioneer in flexible packaging, combining know-how, customizability and a wealth of experience to formulate sustainable solutions for any product. We are at the forefront of packaging design, with an industry-leading offering of pre-made bags and pouches. Rapid sealing, a strong oxygen barrier, sustainable material combinations, heat resistance and printability are just a few of the features we can develop and areas in which we can help.

Environmental protection is one of the guiding principles for our daily work. To this end, intensive research into raw materials, energy efficiency and carbon emissions occurs in tandem with manufacturing our sustainable solutions. We work actively on new materials, whilst seeking to optimize existing ones, with the aim of reducing waste and energy consumption. Our own solar facilities generate most of the energy needed for our production line.

Logistical Gains

As with everything Wipak does, benefits are maximized for economic efficiency all the way through the value chain thanks to our circular economy model. You only need to glance at a rigid 3kg tomato can and eight flexible flat pouches to ascertain which is the lighter and preferable option for holding the same volume. This saving on packaging weight could reach 85%, whilst reducing secondary packaging volume by up to 95% when comparing the number of pouches that could be fitted into the same space taken up by cans. Best of all, the product stays just as fresh, for just as long, with the same amount distributed across a greater number of state-of-the-art sustainable solutions. For distributors, one pallet of empty pouches equates to 29 pallets of empty tins, meaning fewer trips for them and fewer carbon emissions for the environment. For producers, our pre-formed pouches undergo quality control tests to ensure the seal is robust enough for the rigours of transportation, as well as supermarket life.

Consumer Benefits

Consumer benefits are so wonderfully varied that they are more than deserving of their own moment in the limelight. Pouch packaging advantages include:

  • a lightweight product that is easily carried
  • multipack formats, which facilitate meal-planning and bulk-buying, whilst reducing food and packaging waste volume
  • user safety, with no sharp edges to the product
  • easy opening, pouring, emptying and reclosure thanks to super-secure spout options
  • microwavable concepts, which allow the product to be heated without another container. Neat and easy.

Creative Solutions

Now it’s time to place our packaging features further under the microscope. First up is a versatile barrier, which can protect a product from oxygen, water vapour, aromas, light and bacteria. Factor prioritisation is of course tailored to the product and its shelf life requirements, with protection always our main objective.

Our broad range of functional and stable sealing layers ensure a perfect fit for any application, enhancing protection and machinability for high-speed processing and manufacturing.

Our similarly extensive portfolio of deep-freeze and refrigerator-counter applications caters for hot fillings, microwaving, pasteurization and sterilization, with a temperature range of -50 to 130°C, ensuring optimum safety for any product. These temperature-resistant multilayer films are of a reduced thickness thanks to intelligent and energy-efficient material combinations and production methods, marrying form with functionality to create the best possible solution.

For those more aesthetically inclined, Wipak Bordi supplies premium print design and film printing across flexo-, rotogravure and inkjet digital methods. Specialist surface effects and more intricate designs and textures – including matte, gloss, haptic and tactile lacquers – are all made possible with our revolutionary technology, together with paper-printing and watermarking thanks to our Digimarc brand.

Pouches

So now you’ve heard what our pouches can do, but what about the specifics? Let’s hone in on two popular and fully customizable types: stand-up and spouted.

Wipak Bordi’s stand-up pouches are available in all manner of formats, complete with a bottom gusset and large front and back panel, making them a perfect fit for eye-catching gravure or flexo-prints.

Meanwhile, our spouted pouches act as an extension of our stand-up range, with all of the aforementioned benefits and the added bonus of a screw-cap spout. Tamper-evident options are also a possibility, alongside a whole host of packaging shapes and forms – both heat-treated and non-heat-treated – to complement unique designs and appeal to consumers on the supermarket shelf.

Bags

Much like our pristine pouches, our brilliant bags have a variety of features and options to meet your every need. We’ll be taking a look at two kinds: stabilo and gusset.

Wipak Bordi’s stabilo bags are available with a quad- or four-corner seal, featuring two side gussets for a reinforced structure and improved shape maintenance when filled. They are perfect for heavier or high-volume applications, with a “single lip” option to partially seal the bag top and cater for use on a stand-up pouch filling line.

Last but not least, our gusset bags – as the name suggests – feature two side gussets, a bottom seal and a single seal that can be placed either on the back or side of the packaging. This is particularly useful for keeping coffee beans and dry powders fresh so you can enjoy your morning cup of joe.

Conclusion

So there you have it. An admittedly brief, but nonetheless highly informative, tour of our Bordi plant and the magic that goes into making it the iconic location it is amongst our employees. We innovate. We contribute. We care. Wipak.

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How to clean items on the way into the home during a Pandemic?

One of the benefits of working in a Food and Medical Packaging environment in times of COVID-19 is that you are around caring, careful professionals who have a number of hygiene best practices in their muscle memory. The rest of us normal folks have faced the onerous task of learning completely new behaviors. Don’t touch your face! Easier said than done. Disinfect gym equipment! But will the provided baby wipes do the trick? (they won’t – baby wipes are non-alcoholic, non-chemical for good reason!) What about takeaway now that restaurants are closed? A better option despite the fact you queue with a large number of people and Jack-the-Chef may have coughed in your soup or sneezed onto your doggy bag?

Disseminating fact from fiction is equally difficult at times. For where there is news that reports cause for concern, there are trolls. My mechanism to cope with the latter is to stick with one source of information and thus to avoid the slippery slope to despair that I would surely slide down if I spent my mornings reading ALL of the different news on the latest developments. For the former, I have developed easy checklists based on best practices by a number of people with better habits than my own: doctors, specialists who work in packaging clean rooms, and a virologist friend.

There is a lot of information on what to do and not do while out in public. Somehow there is precious little advice for when the front door of our home slams shut behind us. Here is my list on how I handle myself and all goods that I bring through that front door. During a pandemic. Not under normal circumstances. I’m not mad.

  1. Clothes: I disinfect the outside of my jacket and leave my shoes in a paint roller tray with 2cm of soaped water, then leave them by the door. If my trousers have touched any surfaces outside they go in the wash. In most cases, I leave them by the door for the next run/outing
  2. Packaged food: I disinfect the outside of all packages including milk cartons etc.
  3. Fruit and vegetables: I leave them in water with vegetable disinfectant or if I am out I use a reasonable amount of liquid hand wash
  4. Floors: the vacuum cleaner won’t cut it here so I have started to use a floor steamer in combination with some liquid floor cleaner
  5. Hands: washed to the elbows for over 20sec – with soap
  6. Door handles, keys, mobile phone, and credit cards: hand disinfectant does the trick

At a time like this human compassion and ingenuity face a true test. The commitment of front-line workers is a true inspiration. So is the speed at which companies innovate with the Covid Emergency Ventilator and the Virus-Killing Snood just two examples from the UK. There has long been a pleasant myth about Gin Tonic helping against malaria infections. While science agrees that all England’s favorite drink does is to alleviate the worry of catching an infection, the fact that gin distilleries across the country have started producing hand sanitizer is certainly useful.

Once humanity collectively mobilizes against a common enemy, better times are surely ahead. In the meantime do stay safe, wash your hands, and sanitize your groceries.

Hery Henry | Head of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility | Wipak Group

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Sell the strategy today

Wipak’s strategy was launched in May 2019 and a lot has happened since then. We have received a lot of positive feedback from our own people, our customers, our partners, our competitors, and in social media e.g. our LinkedIn articles have been widely shared and commented. Strategy implementation with townhall meetings, team meetings and pop-up cafes internally and FachPack fair launch externally were a success and Wipak’s strategy and long-term goal – CO₂ neutrality by 2025 – has become clear to all parties.

Transferring the strategy into actions – sales – is the next big push. The customers need a little encouragement to take this bold step of carbon neutrality. It might require them a little bit time to digest before they join the #wecontribute movement. That’s why it’s important to start the sales process early with them. That’s why I encourage everyone to sell the strategy today!

Let’s continue the fun with our strategy and to quote Bon Jovi “We weren’t born to follow” – We Are Born to Lead! We have the means – products, services, dedicated and service minded people and our valued customers and partners. In Wipak we believe that the future needs to be built and not just be expected and therefore we invite you to step in N.E.X.T., Wipak’s innovation center, and create your N.E.X.T. big thing, safe and sustainable packaging solution. Together we are strong and can do our best in preventing global warming.  I challenge all – our own people and our customers and partners to share our strategy – Carbon neutrality – today and not tomorrow.

We are to do our best for the globe and society, but we also need to do our best for ourselves.

In Wipak’s Employee Engagement survey, The Wipak Spirit, in late 2019, two very important findings came up; balance between family and work and how to even one’s workload. None of us is a superman or a superwoman or a superhero although we too often tend to think so and I personally am no exception. I am constantly struggling and juggling with my busy work and my three teenagers (luckily not always behaving badly ?). To be a good boss and a good parent is not always easy, but I am sure we all know this too well. One thing I have noticed is that the better I take care of myself physically and mentally the better I can cope with the job and family. We all need to find our ways of unwinding and plugging off our busy schedules.  To me my hobbies like walking in the nature, fishing and hunting are important but lately I have discovered that sleeping is a very big thing. Enough restorative sleep can make wonders to one’s body and soul. And as years go by this comes more and more evident, so sleeping is like putting money in the bank, it accrues interest, and you will benefit from it later. Sleep tight!

In Wipak locations globally there are a lot of initiatives ongoing to take care and improve our physique – some of them are organized by employees by themselves and some by the company and I am happy to say that many have joined the activities. Investing e.g. one hour per week in one’s body and soul pays off many times over. These health initiatives together with good team spirit are vital for making Wipak even greater place to work.

Karri Koskela | CEO, Wihuri Packaging Oy

 

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Simple ways to look out for our planet

I had a scintillating conversation on the topic of sustainable eating habits with a vegetarian friend. “I am torn”, she said. “I have just found out that almond milk may just be worse for the environment than eating Cumberland sausages. I became vegetarian to make a difference to the planet, and now this!”

Looking for simple answers to complex problems seems to be the flavor of our times. Well-meant activism manifesting everywhere – often without the necessary fact base. Common sense helps you get off to a good start to reducing your environmental footprint. Strawberries for Christmas? Probably not locally grown in London. Argentinian prime beef covered in Zanzibari spices? Not great for the environment. After the obvious ones, it gets trickier, however. Salmon or avocado? Sausage or cheese? Or indeed, almond milk or your regular, dairy-based swill?

As a society, we are only at the very beginning of assessing the true environmental impact of our daily habits. The only way to be sure is by creating a fact base in the form of carbon footprint calculations that allow facts-based comparisons. We have begun calculating the carbon footprint of all our plants at Wipak. We will then be able to iterate the carbon footprint of all our products. A necessary step to becoming a carbon-neutral packaging company.

In the meantime, there are some simple ways to look out for our planet in our day-to-day:

  • Stop smoking – cigarette butts are the single greatest polluter of oceans according to an NBC (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/plastic-straw-ban-cigarette-butts-are-single-greatest-source-ocean-n903661) report.
  • Avoid food waste. The environmental impact of a slice of salami is over 5 times that of its package. Around 50% of all food is wasted for various reasons. Adequate packaging helps reduce it. And so does our attitude. Leftover Mondays, empty-the-fridge Fridays are now a thing in our household – and they make a nice addition to pancake Tuesdays, which have been a “thing” for much longer
  • Holiday like your parents did. In my childhood we’d book the one holiday per year. Mostly we’d go in a full car, taking toys, pets and what-have-you with us. All other travel throughout the year would be domestic. Nowadays cheap flights make week-ends in Dubai or 4-day getaways in Morocco much more affordable. Let’s be honest with ourselves: these trips are not great for the environment.
  • Take public transport. Gustavo Petro’s famous quote rings truer than ever in this age of global warming: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation”. A lot of our car use is down to habit. The use of public transport may take a bit of extra time but it does free your hands up for something productive like reading.

Since I began writing this post the COVID-19 situation has changed the public discussion around sustainability. Protecting food and extending shelf life while reducing food waste has become a daily topic, while pollution and waste are secondary to public health during a pandemic. At the same time, mother earth’s lungs breathe a sigh of relief as industrial production especially of non-essential goods has plummeted and the world travels more carefully. While public transport is a great idea in normal times, Londoners are well-advised to walk these days.

While we continue to do everything we can to protect fragile food and medical supply chains with our state-of-the-art packaging, my department will continue to work on assessing our environmental footprint. Packaging well and protecting the environment do not have to be a contradiction. I firmly believe we can protect both mother nature and the product on its way to your table!

With best wishes for the health of you and your family,

Hery Henry | Head of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility | Wipak Group

 

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