Cologne. Achieving a completely circular economy, one step at a time: together with Interseroh, the cheese producer Hochland has improved the recycling capability of its “Grünländer” packaging and has now been awarded the “Made for Recycling” seal of quality by the environmental services provider. The accolade is based on a scientific method of assessment which was developed by Interseroh together with the bifa environmental institute – and has been confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV. “This example demonstrates the importance of the partnership-based cooperation between manufacturers and recycling specialists for ensuring an effectively-operating circular economy,” explains Markus Müller-Drexel, Managing Director of INTERSEROH Dienstleistungs GmbH. “We are pleased to have been able to support Hochland with this sustainable packaging optimisation.”
The “Grünländer” packaging was completely redesigned in a multi-stage development process. The special challenge: by using recycled plastic from used PET bottles, Hochland had already improved its CO2 footprint, but it still wasn’t possible for the PET cheese packaging to undergo material recycling at the end of the product life cycle. “We therefore had to choose between a currently non-recyclable PET package with a recycled content, and a recyclable package made from polypropylene/polyethylene,” explains Markus Birzer, Head of the Grünländer Brand at Hochland Germany GmbH. “In the interests of a climate- and resource-friendly circular economy, we ultimately opted for recyclable packaging; in this way, the valuable recycling raw materials are conserved for reuse in industry. During the optimisation, the expert advice we received from Interseroh was a great help.
Relevant data was also provided by the GaBi Packaging CalculatoR+, which was used during the process. This online tool was developed jointly by Interseroh and the life cycle specialist Sphera. In just a few clicks, users can create life cycle assessments for packaging, determine the recycling capability and compare design alternatives in terms of their environmental impact.
Combined expertise for successful packaging optimisation: the new packaging for the “Grünländer” cheese is made from the polyolefins polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE). The paper label has also been replaced with a PP label. With the thinnest possible barrier layers, the packaging provides maximum product protection and minimum contamination for the recyclate. For these reasons, the packaging was awarded 19 out of 20 possible points, and is therefore “Made for Recycling”.
With the “Made for Recycling” seal on its packaging, Hochland now offers its customers a genuine guidance for sustainable consumption. After all, the recycling of recyclable materials makes a major contribution to climate protection. Such were the findings of the “resources SAVED by recycling” study of the Fraunhofer Institute UMSICHT: with its closed-loop management of 6 million tonnes of recyclable materials, the ALBA Group, which includes Interseroh, was able to save 4.2 million tonnes of climate-damaging greenhouse gases in the year 2019 alone. That is equivalent to the positive annual impact on the climate of about 59 million trees.
With 394,000 tonnes of cheese sales and a turnover of 1.6 billion euros, Hochland SE is one of the biggest privately-owned producers of cheese in Europe. Founded in 1927, the company has 5,500 employees, 2,100 of whom are in Germany. Hochland is represented with its products in food retail, and in addition supplies the food industry and the world of gastronomy with individually designed products in all the required retail formats.
Within the group, Hochland Deutschland GmbH is responsible for the German brand business. With the well-known cheese brands of Hochland, Almette, Grünländer, Patros, Gervais and Valbrie, Hochland is represented in all the leading cheese segments. Its product portfolio includes processed cheese, hard and semi-hard cheese, cream cheese, grainy cream cheese, white cheese/feta, soft cheese and herb quark.