Thomas Reiner

Thomas Reiner

Thomas Reiner

CEO, Berndt+Partner Group

As Co-Founder and CEO of Berndt+Partner I advise my clients worldwide on packaging design and business strategy, helping them to take the next step.


My current topics:

  • Digital Transformation
  • Circular Economy
  • Culture + Agility


Further involvement:

  • Chairman of the German Packaging Institute (DVI)
  • Founder and Chairman of the Global Local Branding Alliance (glba)
  • Member of the Board of the World Packaging Organization
  • Co-Founder of the German Packaging Museum
  • Speaker and presenter at important events in the packaging industry
  • Worldwide publications in trade journals and the daily press
  • Member of the jury for the Sustainability Awards, Worldstar, Dupont Award, 3M-Scothban Award, ECMA Award, FEDES-Star
  • Guest speakers at universities worldwide

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Pharma is not an island. Circular economy reaches blister packaging

Pharma is not an island. Circular economy reaches blister packaging

Thomas Reiner | 26.04.2021

TerraCycle and Sanofi are launching a new initiative to recycle empty blister packaging for medicine. Consumers can drop off packaging at pharmacies. They will then be recycled in a unique recycling process. The circular economy is thus also penetrating the pharmaceutical sector. The solid-sector is pioneering the fundamental shift here.


TerraCycle and biopharmaceutical company Sanofi have launched a new initiative in the UK called “Little Packs, Big Impact” for recycling medical blister packaging. Consumers can drop off empty blister packs free of charge at participating pharmacies. Special packaging is available there, which is collected by TerraCycle. The company recovers reusable raw materials from the blister packaging in a unique recycling process. The initiative includes over-the-counter and prescription medicines. From the Sanofi portfolio, these include Buscopan and Dulcolax, for example.


The initiative is a strong sign that packaging strategies are also beginning to change in the pharmaceutical sector. From market movements in the supplier sector, we can see that issues familiar from the consumer goods industry are also gaining in importance for pharma. These include the use of mono-materials, the replacement of composites and the avoidance of PVC. The solid-sector is taking the lead in efforts to improve the recyclability of pharmaceutical packaging.


The “blister problem”

TerraCycle Europe points out in a statement that blister packs are made of a complex mix of difficult-to-recycle materials. On the one hand, they guarantee the necessary protection of the packaged pharmaceuticals, but on the other hand, they are not accepted by most municipal recycling systems. As a result, they end up in the residual waste bin and – depending on the nation – are either incinerated or landfilled.


Cooperation with pharmacies

In its first year, the project aims to set up 400 drop-off points across the UK. Pharmacies can sign up for the program through the TerraCycle website. Consumers can use an interactive online map to find the nearest pharmacies with collection bins.


Recycling in response to consumer concerns

Sanofi and TerraCycle’s initiative is a response to growing consumer concerns about the environmental impact of plastic waste. At the same time, circular economy and recycling are meeting with growing approval as a solution. A pre-COVID-19 survey found that nearly two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) have become more aware of the importance of recycling in the past year.


Pharma is not a sustainability island.

Many still believe that the pharmaceutical industry is unaffected by the sustainability debate surrounding packaging. We have been doubting this for some time now – as it turns out, with good reason. Quite obviously, the pharmaceutical sector is learning from the behavior of the consumer goods industry. Their volume and market penetration radiates to other sectors. And pharma is not an island. We’ll continue to see rising sustainability initiatives in this segment as well.


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Reusable is closing loops. Carrefour stores now with Loop system

Reusable is closing loops. Carrefour stores now with Loop system

Thomas Reiner | 21.04.2021

Carrefour wants to offer its supermarket customers an “experience without waste.” To this end, the Loop reusable system is being brought from the online world to the world of the shelves for the first time. An app-based deposit system and in-store return stations makes it possible to use refillable, reusable packaging for a range of everyday brands. Reuse is circularity at its best. Carrefour’s “Early Bird” will be followed by many.


International retail and wholesale giant Carrefour is expanding its cooperation with “reusable” recycling company Loop. Previously limited to its online business, the French company is now gradually opening more supermarkets to the system with refillable and reusable packaging under the motto “Experience without waste.” Carrefour is the first retailer to bring Loop’s reusable solution to its shelves.

Approaches to reusing packaging are still fairly new and rare. But the example shows how it can be done. Carrefour’s “Early Bird” will be followed by many other retailers. The sustainability arguments of reuse are too tempting, keeping plastic in the cycle and thus radically and automatically reducing new expenditure.


The “experience without waste”

As part of its collaboration with Loop, Carrefour offers products ranging from glass yogurt pots to dishwasher tablets in aluminum containers. A range of products from well-known and everyday brands such as Nivea, Coca-Cola, Danone, Evian, Puget, Nutella, Chocapic, Ricoré and Maison Verte in refillable packaging.

Since early 2021, Loop-packaged products have been available in 10 supermarkets, including Carrefour stores in the Paris area. Using the learnings from these pilot stores, the company plans to gradually expand its initiative this year.


How the reusable system works

Consumers buy the products in reusable, tamper-evident packaging. After consumption, they bring the empty packaging back to the store, where they return it to a special collection area or directly to the checkout. The collection of the returned packaging and the refund of the deposit are controlled by a mobile application.

Loop organizes the collection, sorting and cleaning of the returned reusable packaging from the store. The cleaned containers are transported back to the store for refilling, where they end up on the shelves again when filled. Each package can be reused several times.


The Early Bird points the way

Retailers are in a great position to be able to drive such initiatives. It’s good that Carrefour is taking advantage of this opportunity. Reusable models are still the exception in supermarkets. But they will not remain exotic – on the contrary. Because reused packaging offers a sustainability advantage that is as trivial as it is great: it limits the amount of plastic used by keeping the material as a product in the cycle – without the detour via recycling.

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Monomaterial today, recyclate tomorrow? Procter & Gamble introduces recyclable HDPE tubes

Monomaterial today, recyclate tomorrow? Procter & Gamble introduces recyclable HDPE tubes

Thomas Reiner | 16.04.2021

The U.S. consumer goods giant has been switching the packaging for its toothpastes to recyclable monomaterial HDPE tubes since the beginning of the year. The example shows how brand owners are meeting their sustainability commitments. When big players like P&G move in this direction, it has an impact on the entire segment. The next logical step is to use recyclates.


US consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble began switching to recyclable monomaterial HDPE tubes at the beginning of the year. For this, the company is relying on Greenleaf Generation 2 tubes from Albéa. P&G, with its Crest, Oral-B and Blend-a-med brands, and is the first to do so. The complete transition in the U.S. and European markets will be phased in by 2025.

The new solution will help P&G reach its goal of making all packaging 100 percent recyclable or reusable by 2030. The move is a good example of how brand owners are implementing their self-imposed sustainability commitments. The use of mono-materials is a key component of this.

Colgate and P&G represent much of the U.S. market. When heavyweights of this size convert, they are effectively converting an entire segment.

And the big players will continue to set the pace. The use of monomaterials is only one component of the sustainability strategy. The use of recyclate is the next, logical step.


Certified and proven HDPE solution

For its new monomaterial packaging, P&G uses Albéa’s Greenleaf Generation 2 tubes. The tubes are recognized by the North American Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and the RecyClass platform initiated by Plastics Recyclers Europe. They also have the SUEZ.circpack certificate. The packaging can therefore be recycled within the existing recycling stream for HDPE bottles.

For APR recognition, Albéa had to demonstrate in practice that its toothpaste tubes can be converted into high-quality post-consumer DPE granules and that the granules can subsequently be used to make new plastic bottles or tubes. This should ensure that the tubes can indeed be recycled without downcycling wherever appropriate collection systems are active.


Recyclate ante portas?

Branded companies like P&G will not stop at improved recyclability through the use of monomaterials. The pressure of proclaimed and stipulated sustainability obligations will ensure that further steps are taken. The use of recyclates seems to be the next logical step.

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39% less CO2: Climate is central subject of circular economy.

39% less CO2: Climate is central subject of circular economy.

Thomas Reiner | 09.04.2021

Circular economy strategies can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 39%. That’s according to a recent report by the impact organization Circle Economy. The causal link between the circular economy and climate protection is clearly evident. This will have an impact on upcoming regulations. Circular economy is more than recycling. We must anchor the climate issue as a central component in our strategies.


Circular economy strategies can be an effective tool for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. A recent report by the impact organization Circle Economy in January 2021 put the potential to reduce CO2 emissions at 39 percent.

The report’s findings reinforce and highlight the positive link between the circular economy and climate change mitigation. This will be a signal to legislators. We can look forward to further and far-reaching legislation to expand and optimize the circular economy. In the EU’s Green Deal, the circular economy is already anchored as a top priority.

Learning for industry: Circular economy is more than recycling – and recyclability alone will not be enough. We need to broaden our focus and include the issue of emissions. Circular economy and climate protection go hand in hand.

Key facts from the report

Circle Economy’s report, titled Circularity Gap Report 2021, states:

  • More than 100 billion tons (Gt) of material is consumed by global society each year. Only 8.6 percent of that is reused!
  • Climate emissions from new product manufacturing reached a record high of 59.1 Gt in 2019. According to the 2020 UN Emissions Gap Report, these emissions must decrease by 15 Gt by 2030 to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. To reach the safe limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, reductions of 32 Gt are needed.
  • At 41.37 Gt, 70% of all climate emissions come from the extraction, processing and remanufacturing of our goods and products – from clothing to phones to food.
  • 22.8 Gt of these could be eliminated through the use of circular strategies, dramatically reducing the consumption of resources such as minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass.

Circular economy and climate change mitigation correlate

Circular economy is emerging as a powerful tool for climate action. This will be reflected in policy and legislation. Circular economy is not monothematic and recycling is not everything. It is time for industry to make climate protection an integral and central part of their circular strategies.

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