The materials revolution led by the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle


The 3Rs have established themselves as the three essential rules to be considered upstream of marketing. The revolution in packaging materials is being tackled head-on by the packaging industry, which has its back to the wall in the face of pro-environmental challenges.

The materials revolution : working towards the common goal of providing sustainable solutions for an industry with a heavy environmental impact.

Materials experts gathered for a round-table discussion at the Conference Area of the ALL4PACK Emballage Paris trade show, with some crucial questions in the background: What is the future of today’s and tomorrow’s materials?
What improvements can be made upstream of production?

The materials revolution: redefining the basics

By way of introduction, Jean-Michel SERVANT, President of France Bois Forêt – Pôle Emballage Bois, reminded the audience that “we are dealing with flows, not stocks. [Wood comes from the forest and is a renewable resource”.

Backed up by figures, the Pôle Emballage Bois representative added that :

  • A third of the country is covered by forests
  • Some 17 million hectares in France
  • An area that has been growing rapidly since 1850
  • In line with the emergence of fossil fuels
  • Still growing and dynamic

    Before, of course, putting the key question on the table:
    Will we have enough wood in the long term ?

A question that in itself raises major concerns about the supply of resources – whatever the raw material concerned.

A question that in itself raises major concerns about the supply of resources – whatever the raw material concerned.

In the case of wood, the question of supply pits the biological growth of forests against the extraction of resources to feed the production chain.

Here are some key figures to help you understand the challenges facing the timber industry :

  • The current stock of wood is 3 billion cubic metres
  • Every year, thanks to chlorophyll and the process of photosynthesis : 100 million additional cubic metres of wood are produced.
  • 60% of which is used for all purposes, materials, energy and industry.

In short, we are not consuming all the growth in wood in France.

That said, as far as the fundamental issue of climate change is concerned, it affects forests in the same way as other resources, such as water management, for example.

Environmental issues are forcing forests to adapt in order to prevent ever-accelerating climate change.
The objectives of the revolution in materials applied to wood are set for the next 50 years.

Nevertheless, it is becoming essential to diversify on a large scale, particularly as some trees are dying out – as a result of drought, health attacks, etc. This is a real boon for the packaging sector, whose industry is proving capable of using the full diversity of wood species.

The materials revolution and new challenges: between collection and recycling

For her part, Claudie MATHIEU, General Delegate of the SNFBM (Syndicat National des Fabricants de Boîtes, emballages et bouchages métalliques – National Association of Manufacturers of Metal Boxes, Packaging and Closures) contributed her expertise on the revolution in metal materials – in particular, steel and aluminium.

Materials that are perfectly suited to all kinds of cans: food cans, tins, decorative cans, metal cans of all kinds, as well as drinks packaging, drums and various closures.

Concentrated and localised at the same time, the SNFBM players have some forty sites across France, close to their customers and to the recycling industry.

The Delegate highlighted the Union’s new logo:
Infinitely recyclable METAL”. It’s a slogan that reflects the hope of reintegrating every material into the circular economy.

She also pointed out that both steel and aluminium can be recycled ad infinitum, without losing any of the raw material’s original qualities.
Finally, the SNFBM representative gave a special mention to the “every can counts” programme – set up to facilitate the entire process of collecting and recycling all types of cans.

For her part, Emmanuelle Schloesing, Circular Economy Manager at ELIPSO, shuffled the deck by talking about the reality of recycling on the ground. “We have a major collection challenge”, she said, before pointing out that in the past, the yellow recycling bin offered a limited collection option… which is now changing.
In fact, thanks to the programme to extend sorting instructions that is being put in place, the time has come to democratise recycling and expand collection options.

Jacques Bordat, President of the Fédération des Industries du verre, in turn informed the audience about the revolution in materials such as glass – the Federation’s favourite ancestral material:

Glass collection began in 1974, and other types of packaging were introduced in the 1990s.
– Glass is made from silica in France, which has significant raw material resources.
– Recycled glass accounts for 65% of the raw material.
– The average recycling rate for glass is 80%, or 8 out of every 10 bottles collected.

Around 50% of wine and spirits glass is collected from hotels and restaurants.

However, there are a number of problems with access to glass collection in large towns and cities. That’s why it’s high time to broaden communication and facilitate access to recycling, in order to promote the act of sorting, as Jacques Bordat, President of the Fédération des Industries du verre, pointed out.

The materials revolution and future prospects

The lasting solutions that emerge are the fruit of collective efforts, led by each sector, towards a common direction.

The materials revolution applied to wood has its place in reuse, as well as in the economy of functionality; with the ultimate aim of favouring the multiple uses of wood, beyond its simple sale.

In the pallet sector, there are many local and repair loops that make wood part of sustainable development.

Favouring the logic of contribution over the logic of single-use consumption: this is the new credo of the materials revolution.
Wood, one of the most noble and ancient of materials, is an integral part of the equation.

As far as the revolution in metallic materials is concerned, steel and aluminium are at the top of the list.
With sustainable solutions on the horizon, there is hope that recycling of aluminium and steel, which has mirrored the sustainable growth of these materials over the last 30 years, will continue to grow.

For corrugated board, sustainable solutions are based more on the potential of recycled material.
Reusing cardboard is an option that is rarely considered.
On the other hand, the material lends itself to being reintegrated into the circular economy loop.

In terms of the materials revolution, plastics are moving towards the development of the re-use and, above all, the recycling of materials.
Gradually, the aim is to minimise the marketing of “new” plastics, with an emerging ban on single-use plastics.
To date, 5 plastic resins can be recycled, and the industry is continuing to invest in research into eco-responsible solutions.

Finally, glass presents 2 major challenges: controlling single use and reuse.
Reuse needs to be organised intelligently, with a fluid system of delivery, collection and reuse, if this material is to be reintegrated into the production chain.

In terms of the materials revolution and the sustainable development of the packaging eco-system, the outlook for the future is one of collaboration and complementarity between materials.

You can replay all the conferences on our You Tube channel @SalonEmballageTV, and to watch the conference on the Materials Revolution in its entirety, log on now !

We look forward to seeing you at the next ALL4PACK Emballage Paris in 2024, so register now.
In the meantime, keep up to date with all the events taking place at the show in 2023 !

Watch the replay of the conference :

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