The global demand for packaging is on the rise, driven by population growth, rising prosperity, the imperative for food safety, and, of course, the growing emphasis on sustainability.

Consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainable packaging—aiming for minimal environmental and climate impact.

Simultaneously, legal requirements for the sustainability and environmental compatibility of packaging are on the rise.

HEIDELBERG offers solutions.

In industrialized nations in particular, more and more consumers are becoming aware that their consumption decisions and climate change are directly linked. In a survey* of 5,000 consumers from five European countries in the fall of 2022, participants rated climate change as one of the most pressing problems of our time.

*Pro Carton "European Consumer Packaging Perceptions Study"

Consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability in packaging

According to Pro Carton, when asked about their specific actions, 58% of respondents said that they had paid more attention to recycling their household waste in the last twelve months and 56% had used less water - a measure that conserves valuable resources and reduces the burden on the household budget. 48% have bought fewer products packaged in plastic and 39% have opted for more products in environmentally friendly packaging.

Market experts predict that the proportion of sustainable packaging materials in the food sector will increase from just under 50% today to almost 75% by 2040. (Source: Smithers & Pira; McKinsey& Company). It is particularly important to consumers that the packaging is easy to recycle, is made from renewable materials and protects the contents safely. In the case of food packaging, an additional factor is that it extends shelf life. Paper and cardboard packaging enjoys the greatest consumer confidence, not least because functioning recycling systems are already established at a high level. In Germany, for example, the recycling rate of waste paper in relation to total paper consumption is more than 95%. Across Europe, 82.5% of paper and cardboard is recycled.

Strong partner to the packaging industry

Against this backdrop, the packaging industry has the opportunity to make its contribution to sustainability by replacing plastics with innovative alternatives made from fiber-based materials such as paper and cardboard.

According to estimates, the value added in global folding carton production will increase from 68 billion euros today to 76 billion euros by 2027; this corresponds to a 2.3 percent annual growth. Packaging producers benefit from the fact that handling fiber-based substrates is one of HEIDELBERG's core competencies. With its complete portfolio for packaging printing, the company is a strong partner for its packaging customers all over the world. At the same time, HEIDELBERG underlines its position as a leading manufacturer of printing and finishing systems for the packaging industry; more than half of total sales are already generated in the packaging printing sector.

Sustainable materials, sustainable processes

Sustainability in packaging printing is not limited to printing materials or substrates. Progress can also be made in the production process, another core competence of HEIDELBERG.

For example, the most widely used offset press platform in the packaging sector, the Speedmaster XL 106 from HEIDELBERG, now achieves a printing speed of up to 21,000 sheets per hour, a performance increase of 16 percent compared to the Speedmaster XL 106 with 18,000 sheets. What this has to do with sustainability can be explained: One characteristic of printing presses is that the energy efficiency per 1,000 sheets improves as the printing speed increases. Every machine has a basic energy requirement for its operating functions. Beyond this basic requirement, energy consumption increases linearly with the printing speed. The faster the machine runs, the more efficiently it distributes the basic energy requirement over a greater number of printed sheets. This implies that a printing press operates most energy-efficiently when running at full speed.

That's why, upon request, HEIDELBERG provides customers with energy meters that display the enhancement in energy efficiency per 1,000 sheets with increasing printing speed.Ideally, a printing press continues production with a new job immediately after completing one. The standby mode is recommended for longer waiting periods, such as breaks, before the next printing job.

The new Boardmaster for high-volume folding carton printing also focuses on sustainability: thanks to flying job changes, the system works with low waste: if production is at a maximum output of 600 meters per minute, the proportion of unprinted material is less than ten meters after a job change. The Boardmaster also works with water-based printing inks. They contain no critical color pigments and dry quickly. At the same time, water-based inks are better for the indoor and working environment. They can also be used for printing food packaging, as their formulations meet the relevant requirements.

HEIDELBERG advises and leads by example

As part of its energy efficiency campaign, HEIDELBERG provides a range of tips for print shops on its website. This includes offering energy efficiency workshops for customers. Print companies can also learn how to offset the carbon footprint caused by the production of their machines by purchasing emission credits or certificates. These offset contributions contribute to specific climate protection projects.

Furthermore, HEIDELBERG has set an ambitious sustainability goal: by 2030, the company aims to achieve climate neutrality in Scope 1 and 2 at all its production, development, and distribution sites. Unavoidable CO2 emissions will be offset through voluntary compensation. Starting in 2040, HEIDELBERG plans to operate climate-neutrally in Scope 1 and 2 without the need for compensation contributions.

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