New research report says systemic change in food packaging recycling only possible through public-private partnerships to drive innovation


New research report says systemic change in food packaging recycling only possible through public-private partnerships to drive innovation

A new report from Finland’s Technical Research Center (VTT), “Recycling Food Packaging”, highlights those technology solutions expected to become commercially available in the next five years and says partnerships are essential to deliver the necessary technological innovations in food packaging recycling.

VTT’s team examined current and near-future recycling systems for plastic and fiber packaging and found that alliances between brand owners, recycling and sorting technology developers, and waste management companies are fundamental to the development of recycling solutions. Such partnerships are essential for future investment in new recycling technology as they provide, on one hand, accessibility to used material, and on the other hand, a potential user for the recyclate. Commissioned by Huhtamaki the global sustainable packaging solutions provider, the report aims to identify and increase understanding of the key drivers required to deliver a functioning circular economy, in which importantly packaging is not only recyclable, but recycled.

“The study predicts a significant increase in industrial chemical recycling capacity in the United States, Europe and East Asia in the next 3–4 years. Chemically recycled polymers can be included in food packaging after full depolymerization, whilst in practice today, recycled polymers certified as food contact material are mainly limited to rPET, used mostly in bottles”, says Mona Arnold, principal scientist at VTT.

Huhtamaki has an ambitious 2030 sustainability agenda, including a commitment to design 100% of its products to be recyclable, compostable or reusable. The company also aims to have more than 80% of raw materials it uses to be either renewable or recycled. To deliver on these, Huhtamaki needs to ensure that the packaging materials, which provide access to safe, affordable foods and help prevent food waste, are recycled after use in ways that maximize their value to both the planet and people, and therefore help deliver a low carbon circular economy.

”We believe a real push for systemic change – going beyond individual companies and bringing value chains together – towards low carbon circularity is needed today. It is not enough to manufacture recyclable products; they need to be recycled. This necessitates building the systems to recycle all waste and focus on reducing our carbon footprint collectively. This will only be possible through game changing innovation and partnerships across the value chain. The effective use of Extended Producer Responsibility systems to build a material-positive system for fit-for-purpose food packaging will also be helpful. The VTT report outlines how to make this happen and we hope it acts as reference point to support collaboration between industry, civil society and governments”, says Thomasine Kamerling, EVP Sustainability and Communications at Huhtamaki.

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The report is available for download at

About Huhtamaki

Huhtamaki is a key global provider of sustainable packaging solutions for consumers around the world, enabling wellbeing and convenience. Our innovative products protect on-the-go and on-the-shelf food and beverages, ensuring hygiene and safety, and help prevent food waste. We embed sustainability in everything we do. We are committed to achieving carbon neutral production and designing all our products to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030.

We are a participant in the UN Global Compact and EcoVadis has awarded Huhtamaki with the Gold medal for performance in sustainability. To play our part in managing climate change, we have set science-based targets that have been approved and validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative.

With 100 years of history and a strong Nordic heritage we operate in 38 countries and 114 operating locations around the world. Our values Care Dare Deliver guide our decisions and help our team of 19,600 employees make a difference where it matters. Our 2021 net sales totaled EUR 3.6 billion. Huhtamaki Group is headquartered in Espoo, Finland and our parent company, Huhtamäki Oyj, is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd. Find out more about how we are protecting food, people and the planet at