Innovation that enables a switch from plastic to paper packaging for a range of Consumer Packaged Goods products having challenging barrier requirements has been on a tear of late. This includes paper bottles for liquids, flow wraps for confectionery, and cups for yogurt. Among the latest is a new stand-up pouch for multinational Reckitt’s Finish dishwasher tablets, a particularly difficult application given the product’s water-soluble nature.
Introduced in Carrefour retail stores in France in the fall of last year, the paper-based pouch is the culmination of a multi-step process by Reckitt to “achieve the ultimate pack in terms of sustainability.” That’s according to Krzysztof Krajewski, director of packaging sustainability hygiene at Reckitt, who says the innovation around the Finish package first gained momentum in 2018, when the company developed a long-term plan to reach its goal.
“In 2019, Finish replaced the non-recyclable plastic laminate from its stand-up pouch with a recyclable film,” he says. “Later in 2021, we incorporated a minimum of 30% recycled plastic into its recycled pouch and rigid packaging, eventually leading to the paper-based packaging that launched in November 2022.”
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The new pouch was developed by Reckitt and longstanding supplier Mondi, whose tactic is to “use paper where possible, plastic when useful,” says Olivier Seux, head of global key accounts at Mondi. Seux explains that Mondi used its EcoSolutions approach, whereby it jointly evaluated the requirements of the product packaging—sealability, durability, and water-resistance—along with Reckitt’s sustainability goals to design and manufacture the new pouch.
“The paper-based packaging is replacing 75% of plastic with responsibly sourced paper and works towards Reckitt’s sustainability target of halving the amount of virgin plastic used by 2030,” Seux explains. “At the same time, the sealable packaging provides excellent barrier properties, protecting the dishwasher tabs from moisture, making the packaging sustainable by design.”
According to Krajewski, Reckitt chose to focus its sustainable packaging efforts on the Finish package due to the plastic-reduction potential of the product—the world’s largest automatic dishwashing brand. While the new bag is currently only available in Carrefour in France, Reckitt plans to launch the new packaging across Europe once it has made adaptations to the structure to make it recyclable in those markets as well. When the launch is complete, Reckitt estimates the new paper-based pouch will help eliminate more than 2,000 metric tons of plastic annually as well have a notable impact on CO2 emissions.
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As Krajewski explains, Reckitt used the company’s Sustainable Innovation Calculator (SIC), which measures the sustainability of plastic and packaging inputs of every new product, in the development of the paper pouch. “Using the SIC and an external Life Cycle Assessment, we were able to understand the innovation’s impact across countries with different recycling regulations and facilities,” he says. “It also allowed us to get a detailed understanding of its impact on CO2 emissions. We expect this packaging will generate 15% less CO2 emissions across the packaging lifecycle versus previous versions.”
The technical details on the pouch construction are proprietary, but Seux shares that a polyethylene zipper is used for the package. The pouch is gravure-printed in up to 10 colors, depending on the product variety. According to Krajewski, the new construction did require some adjustments to Reckitt’s packaging equipment, with changes ranging from relatively small to larger improvements in the process.
As for the cost of the new package, Krajewski says that Reckitt always ensures that its innovations are cost-effective for the company and for its customers. He adds, “As we continue to scale up production of the new packaging, we expect to see its cost reduce.”