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Empack NL: Unveiling Insights from Packaging Titans in the Benelux Region

Innovation, sustainability spotlighted in EmpackNL: Benelux's top packaging event
April 16, 2024

Empack NL is the premier packaging event in the dynamic Benelux region, attracting industry leaders and innovators to Gorinchem. Over the course of three days, from April 9th to 11th, the event showcased a comprehensive spectrum of packaging solutions, ranging from cutting-edge filling machines to label technology and industrial packaging solutions. As the Netherlands' packaging sector continues to thrive, staying at the forefront of innovation is imperative for sustained growth and competitiveness. Recognizing this, many companies are turning to automation to streamline processes and drive efficiencies while simultaneously reducing costs.

With over 271 exhibitors, Empack NL provided a fertile ground for exploring the latest trends and advancements in the packaging arena. The TechNews180 team attended the event and used the opportunity to engage with some of the exhibitors and delve into their innovative sustainability solutions. By gathering insights directly from industry pioneers, Empack NL served as a hub for networking and collaboration and as a catalyst for driving sustainable practices within the packaging industry.

As EmpackNL kicked off its first day, the European Co-Packers Association (ECPA) hosted a panel discussion with three leading experts in packaging and innovation. Among them, Paul Jenkins delved into the four major packaging trends, Costas Papaikonomou explored sustainability ownership and its tangible results, and Marius Tent sparked a thought-provoking conversation on whether packaging should be viewed as a cost or a value driver.

Adding to the discourse, EmpackNL’s Executive Director, Ton Knipscheer, emphasized the critical role of flexibility as the number one success factor for co-packers.

On the first day, the TechNews180 team talked to some of the exhibitors. Among them is Buergofol, a German company that produces foil for the food sector. They explained that some of the best ways to reduce packaging waste are to make it as clean as possible, use mono materials, and use less printing on packaging.

L’Atarimae stood out as an advisory and consultation company that helps advise company decision boards on possible sustainability solutions. Notably, Atarimae is the Japanese custom of leaving a place cleaner than you found it, which is what this company stands for.

“I do that by giving [boards of companies] knowledge, by giving them inside enforcers that can be important for them,” said Lucy van Keulen, the face and the force behind L’Atarimae. “I’m coming from the waste sector, so I know we should close the chain better. I really believe in cooperation all the way, knowing what happens at the end of life, and knowing more about raw materials, so I'm not typically a waste or packaging specialist, but I've seen plenty of packaging waste on the recycling plans that I’ve developed.”

Van Keulen further explained that the best way for companies to reduce packaging waste is to know where their impact is with their packaging and try to improve from there. “Do it based on knowledge, based on data, and look where you can make an impact. Reducing is very important. Though I'm coming from recycling, recycling is really the lowest tap that can help.”

Kolkman Verpakkingen-hedel, a family business from Hedel, specializes in R-pet (Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate) packaging for mushroom farms and other types of vegetables. Their impressive company history started in 1985 when their founder, Jan Sr., built the first machines all by himself with his technical knowledge of thermoforming. Through the years, their in-house mechanical engineering has enabled them to customize unique packaging of different scales. Even packaging of 200 meters high is no exception.

OPACKGROUP, from the Netherlands, manufactures flexible, synthetic, and paper packaging and films. With over ten production sites and seven subsidiaries, it constantly develops new packaging concepts. OPACKGROUP operates under the slogan “The sustainable innovator.” It has its own recycling center, and all foil produced is recyclable. Additionally, the company uses green energy to operate its machines.

Altrimex Packaging Solutions, another company from the Netherlands, offers a
wide range of high-quality dosing, filling and packaging systems for the food, chemical, pharmaceutical and hardware industries. Aside from packaging, Altrimex also provides machinery and complete packaging lines, advice, delivery, installation, project management, and training for operators and teams.

With over 65 years of experience, BVP started as a packaging wholesaler but with a unique twist. They supply packaging and packaging materials to a wide array of Dutch companies. Their expertise extends to all facets of packaging, reflecting their integral role in the industry. Additionally, they offer a sustainable solution with their Papercooler, eliminating the need for traditional insulation packaging and aligning with future-forward packaging practices, ensuring customers can use it repeatedly without disposal concerns.

“We often say that we do not supply packaging but packaging solutions,” says BVP Account Manager Raymond Griekspoor. “Our Papercooler is a unique paper insulation system, a box made entirely of paper that has the same cooling properties as traditional insulation boxes, but is excellent recyclable.”

When it comes to the different challenges that companies face, BVP says that one significant hurdle is transitioning to mono-material packaging, especially for foils utilized by some companies, to ensure compatibility with recycling systems and minimize food waste. This could be, for example, using a closing box for what you send or using thinner plastic packaging without having food waste. While there are emerging solutions addressing this issue, the shift to mono-materials remains a complex endeavor. "The packaging should still work well for the product being packaged after modification. In addition, consumers should also be aware of the composition of the packaging so that they can make an informed choice and dispose of the packaging properly," says Raymond.

“Furthermore, there's a broader goal to reduce overall plastic usage, although plastics themselves aren't inherently problematic when used appropriately. Balancing environmental concerns with practicality and cost-effectiveness presents a delicate challenge. Ultimately, navigating these challenges requires a nuanced approach that considers both the environmental impact and the operational feasibility of implementing alternative packaging solutions. Education, together with correct legislation and regulations, will make the future brighter”, he says.

CPS, also known as Case Packing Systems, is dedicated to its efforts to develop state-of-the-art fully automatic case packing systems, particularly focusing on flexible products and trays. Renowned for its proficiency in efficiently packing such products at high speeds, CPS offers numerous advantages beyond automation. By compactly packing products with precision, CPS machines deliver significant cost savings compared to manual packing methods. Additionally, the company prioritizes packing in shelf-ready boxes, recognizing its growing importance in modern packaging strategies.

Following the triumph of Empack 2024, anticipation builds for the forthcoming edition. Empack and Packaging Innovations are set to reunite in 2025, slated for April 2 and 3 at Brabanthallen Den Bosch. Building upon the achievements of Empack 2024, their commitment to ongoing innovation and fostering inspiration within the packaging industry remains steadfast.

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