By 2030, Huhtamaki wants to make all its products 100% recyclable

Rahul Nene of Huhtamaki India spoke about the company’s commitment to sustainability at the 17th CII Sustainability Summit held on 21 September in New Delhi.

14 Oct 2022 | By Rahul Kumar

Rahul Nene: There are several challenges when it comes to recycling plastic

Albert Einstein once said, if you have a problem, go deeper into nature and you will understand things better. And when it comes to circular economy, Rahul Nene of Huhtamaki India, takes inspiration from this quote. “Because, if you look at nature, you’re talking about sustainability, you are talking about sustaining life on this planet, and if something has to sustain on this planet, it has to have circularity,” Nene said during his speech at the 17th CII Sustainability Summit in New Delhi held on 21 September.

Regarding sustainability in the context of flexible packaging, Nene said more or less 70% of the products we use in our everyday life come under flexible packaging. However, the problem in India is that we don't have segregation, collection, cleaning and recycling structures in the current infrastructure, an infrastructure which is economically viable, and brings back the material back into the packaging value chain.

He said the attitude right now is that replacing plastic will bring about sustainability, and according to Nene, this is not the right approach. “Plastics have proven beneficial to sustainably package multiple applications. What is not present is how we can add circularity to it and maybe produce sustainable plastic,” he said.

However, Nene agreed that there are several challenges when it comes to recycling plastic and adding circularity to it. 

The first challenge is the material itself. There are different types of plastics, and it adds to the difficulty in recycling.  

Second, the recycling infrastructure in our country is mechanical recycling which has the limitation of taking in spoilt packaging as input. Additionally, our plastic waste is so huge at this point that it’s a challenge to bring it back to the value chain.

The third point is consumer awareness around segregation of waste. Nene said in the last five years, the awareness has increased a lot, but we still don't have sufficient mechanisms at source to ensure that the packaging is returned to the value chain.

The last issue is the logistics from consumer to the recycling plant, and from the recycling plant to the manufacturers. Nene said the logistics is not feasible economically. 

Nene said due to these challenges, there are issues in terms of achieving circularity when it comes to packaging in India.

“As one of the key stakeholders in the solution, we are trying to ensure that the circular economy comes to action in the days to come. One of the biggest challenges we have is the multilayer plastic. So, most of our R&D efforts are going into designing mono-material packaging without compromising on quality, functionality, and customer satisfaction,” he said. “By 2030, we want to make all our products 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable. That’s the key focus for us.”

Another aspect of the circular economy is closing the loop. So, when plastic is successfully recycled, there is a need to find a use for the recycled material. Nene said Huhtamaki India is working towards improving this situation. Huhtamaki has setup an MLP recycling plant which collects post-consumer multi-layered plastic waste and recycles it. Huhtamaki has also invested in a river cleanup project in the Mithi river of Mumbai which collects marine litter from the river and enables its recycling.  

Latest Poll

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Results

The packaging industry is confused by recycling and sustainability rules in India. What is the biggest challenge?

Shortcomings in EPR policy

 

22.22%

Inadequate infrastructure

 

11.11%

Shortage of recycling firms

 

16.67%

Lack of consumer awareness

 

50.0%

Total Votes : 18

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