Reusable cups: Starbucks links sustainability with innovation.

Photo source: Starbucks

Reusable cups: Starbucks links sustainability with innovation.

Thomas Reiner | 27.05.2022

Starbucks has committed to reducing its waste by 50 percent by 2030. To achieve this goal, the coffeehouse chain is increasingly relying on reusable cups. As part of the “Returnable Cup Program,” for example, customers in selected cities can optionally buy their beverage in a deposit returnable cup. Starbucks is going one (clever) step further with its newly launched Forget-Me-Not Frappuccino. The new flavor is available exclusively in returnable cups. The approach of linking sustainability with innovation is consistent – and further proof of how significant the reusable approach has already become.


For the launch of its new flavor combination of orange and vanilla flavors called Forget-Me-Not Frappuccino Blended Beverage, Starbucks is using packaging to put an exclamation point on the trend. The new flavor comes exclusively in a reusable cup, including a reusable straw. It is also the first beverage to be delivered as a reusable variant through Starbucks Delivers. The promotion for the new seasonal beverage is taking place in parts of the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region.


Two reusable options

There are two reusable options for customers. Option one: They opt for the new, special Forget-Me-Not Frappuccino® beverage cup, which is already included in the beverage price. Option two: You bring your own reusable cup and receive a Starbucks reusable discount of 30 cents. The discount applies accordingly for each additional use of the Forget-Me-Not cup.


Starbucks reusable cups

Cups account for 20 percent of Starbucks’ global waste. But above all, according to the company, it is a symbol of the throwaway society. So it’s only logical that Starbucks is addressing this site.

According to the company, the new reusable cups it has developed have a low environmental footprint, are made of lightweight polypropylene, are ultimately recyclable and could replace 100 disposable cups.


Returnable Cup Program

The launch of the Forget-Me-Not reusable cup coincides with the testing of the Returnable Cup program in select cities such as London and Geneva. The test is expected to pave the way for rollout across all 4,000-plus Starbucks stores in EMEA by 2025.

Under the program, female customers can order their drink in a deposit returnable cup. The deposit is refunded upon return. The reusable cups are subsequently checked for damage, professionally cleaned and disinfected before being returned to the cycle.


Reusable as a savior

Starbucks’ new reusable cup offering is part of the brand’s commitment to reduce its waste by 50% by 2030.

The coffeehouse chain is betting on reusable as one of the industry’s most vital trends. More and more brands and retailers are embracing offerings with reusable containers and packaging. Still, the trend is just getting started. There is much more to come here.


Clever approach

That Starbucks is combining its new offering with a product innovation is clever and consistent. Sustainability meets innovation and reinforces each other. Especially in view of the symbolic value of the coffee-to-go cups, the packaging plays to its strengths as an ambassador for brand and product.

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EU to ban thousands of chemicals. Is PVC also facing an exodus?

Photo source: onlyyouqj – Freepik

EU to ban thousands of chemicals. Is PVC also facing an exodus?

Thomas Reiner | 06.05.2022

Are thousands of chemicals in Europe soon facing the end? The EU is planning new restrictions that will blacklist a host of potentially harmful substances. Up to 12,000 chemicals, including so-called “forever chemicals” with long degradation times, could fall within the scope of the proposal, which the EU has published in its “roadmap for restrictions.” Numerous substances of importance to the packaging industry are also affected. The regulations come unchecked and blow by blow. The issue of the long degradability of chemicals could have serious implications for plastics.


Even for activists, the planned restrictions under the roadmap published by the EU on April 25, 2022, are the strictest ever. According to industry associations, up to 12,000 substances could ultimately fall within the scope of the new proposal. According to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the plan would become the “world’s largest ban on toxic chemicals.”



In early 2022, scientists rang alarm bells. Chemical pollution of the environment had crossed a “planetary threshold.” The collapse of the global ecosystem was threatening.

According to the scientists, the denounced “synthetic pollution” poses catastrophic dangers. They range from a decline in human fertility rates to the extinction of whale species and two million deaths worldwide each year.


The plans of the EU

The EU’s “Roadmap for Restrictions,” published on April 25, is meant to be a first step toward changing the situation and addressing the threats. For the time being, existing laws are to be used for this purpose. With their help, toxic substances associated with cancer, hormonal disorders, reproductive disorders, obesity, diabetes and other diseases are to be banned. Among other things, the focus is on so-called “forever chemicals,” substances that take a very long time to break down naturally.

The main new aspect of the regulators’ plans is that, for the first time, entire classes of chemical substances are to be banned. For example, bisphenols, PVC plastics, PFAs (perfluoroalkoxy polymers) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) would be affected. A wide range of very different products such as flame retardants, cosmetics, cleaning agents, lubricants, pesticides, disposable diapers and granules for children’s playgrounds would then have a major problem.


Consequences for the packaging industry

But the packaging industry will also have to adjust to the new realities. This is because some of the substances are also found in materials that come into contact with food. And especially in the pharmaceutical sector, PVC plastics are currently still used in many relevant applications. But the comprehensive list of the roadmap also brings paints and adhesives into focus.


Plans for the future – and REACH

According to the EU’s plans, the substances and materials identified (for the time being) are to be placed on a “continuous list” and subsequently used by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) as the basis for a prescribed restriction. The plan is to regularly review and update this list. A comprehensive and fundamental revision of the European Chemicals Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is then planned for 2027.


What is certain

What is already certain is that the issue of the long-term degradability of certain chemicals will not disappear from the agenda. The new focus on “forever chemicals” may have a massive impact on plastics – reaching the packaging industry on a larger scale.

We see that environmental regulations continue to grow unchecked and on a massive scale. The EU is acting quickly, concretely and consistently. The number of construction sites for our industry will continue to increase. It will be all the more important not to patch things up, but to approach the future with full concentration and a clear strategy.

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“Unpacked” closes loops: disposable deposit cups made from recycled material at Kaufland

Photo source: © Kaufland

“Unpacked” closes loops: disposable deposit cups made from recycled material at Kaufland

Thomas Reiner | 19.04.2022

The German supermarket chain Kaufland, part of the Schwarz Group, is expanding its “unpacked” stations at the POS, introduced in 2021, to include deposit cups made of 50 percent recycled material. The disposable containers can be returned to Kaufland by consumers as empties after use and then enter the Schwarz Group’s own recycling cycle. The new solution is exciting. It relies on the use of recycled material and at the same time ensures reuse via the deposit system. “Unpacked” will continue to grow. This is due not least to pressure from legislators.


The Schwarz Group is a global big player in the retail sector. In addition to the supermarket chain Kaufland and the discounter Lidl, however, the company also includes the waste disposal and environmental service provider PreZero.


Unpacked at Kaufland

As part of its “REset Plastic” plastic strategy, Kaufland launched test “Unpacked Stations” in selected stores last year. To date, these stations have been installed in a total of eight stores. According to the company, the “unpacked” range has been well received.

  • The “unpacked” range includes around 40 staple foods such as rice, pasta, bulgur and quinoa, as well as chocolate-coated nuts, dried fruit and muesli.
  • Shoppers can make use of the containers on offer or fill the goods into their own containers that they have brought with them.
  • By offering unpacked goods, Kaufland says it is pursuing the goal of reducing both plastic and food waste in private households.


The disposable deposit cups

  • The cups and their lids are made of 50 percent recycled PET.
  • They have a capacity of 600 millilitres.
  • The deposit value is 0.25 euros and is refunded when returned as empties to Kaufland stores.
  • After being returned, the disposable cups are sent for recycling by PreZero, a waste management company belonging to the Schwarz Group, where they are reused.


REset Plastic at Kaufland

The latest campaign is part of the Schwarz Group’s REset Plastic program. As part of this strategy, the company has set itself the goal of using less plastic and closing loops at the same time.

Kaufland had already taken steps in the direction formulated in previous years. These include

  • plastic-reduced packaging,
  • the discontinuation of disposable carrier bags,
  • the use of recycled PET bottles,
  • the introduction of the fresh bag for fruit and vegetables, and
  • the introduction of a reusable lid for dairy products.


In this way, unpacked becomes a well-rounded solution.

Kaufland’s latest cup example shows how “unpacked” can be approached in a sensible way. On the one hand, this involves using recyclates as extensively as possible. The model gets the right “kick” by integrating the cups into a deposit system. It is tried and tested and works better than recycling via collection by household systems. The fact that Kaufland can ensure material recycling via its “own disposal company” also makes the solution completely rounded off from a corporate point of view.



We will see more “unpacked”. Not least because the model is also attracting more and more attention from regulators. The pressure from corresponding legislation will increase. The industry is well advised to proactively work out solutions here.

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Müller & Waitrose get to grips with color

Photo source: Roberto Sorin – Unsplash

Müller & Waitrose get to grips with color

Thomas Reiner | 05.04.2022

Blue, green and red are a thing of the past: In collaboration with UK supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners, Alois Müller Dairy, part of German food group Theo Müller, will replace all colored caps on its HDPE milk bottles with clear variants from April 2022. According to the company, the seemingly small innovation will mean that the closures can also be recycled for food-grade applications. The approach is consistent and logical. And it shows that retailers and brand owners are continuing to ramp up the momentum toward a circular economy – with a direct impact on the packaging value chain.


The colors used in the plastic are being tackled in the spirit of the circular economy. Following a successful internal trial, Müller and Waitrose will test the new clear closures in all of the retailer’s 331 stores from April 4-30, 2022.


Recycling upgrade in quality and quantity

The background to the switch to colorless closures is that the colored variants cannot currently be recycled into food-grade packaging, according to Müller and Waitrose. This is all the more serious as the HDPE bottle (without closure) can in itself be fully recycled in a food-grade manner.

The introduction of clear closures now preserves the closure material for reuse in the food sector. According to the company, the availability of the scarce rHDPE on the market can increase by 1560 tons per year as a result of the color waiver and help to reduce dependence on virgin plastic.

Another benefit of the innovation is that Müller and Waitrose can retain the HDPE bottles they currently use and still upgrade their milk packaging solution to a fully food-grade closed-loop solution.


Consumer survey in advance

The Alois Müller dairy is best known for its Müllermilch brand. In the run-up to the changes now being implemented, the company had conducted a survey to determine consumer attitudes toward colorless capping.

The result:

  • Slightly more than half of customers look at the color of milk caps when selecting their milk in the store to find the product they want (and are used to). Other orientation aids include colored labels, location in the refrigerated section or signage at the POS.
  • Eight out of ten shoppers said they would prefer a milk bottle with a clear, food-grade recyclable cap over a colored cap that is not appropriately recyclable.


The joint action with Müller is not Waitrose & Partners’ only move on sustainability. The company also recently joined the “world’s largest” refill coalition of retailers, whose members include companies such as Marks & Spencer’s, Morrisons, Ocado and CHEP. The group intends to work together to develop a scalable end-to-end refill solution for staple foods such as rice and pasta. It is intended to be usable at the POS, as well as for bulk home delivery.


Packaging needs solutions

Retailers and brand owners are moving very dynamically toward a circular economy. The pace and intensity are growing day by day. The pressure on the packaging value chain is growing accordingly. It must find solutions that pave the way for its customers.

It’s not always about the next new material or the really big thing. Even seemingly small things like not using color on plastic closures can make a difference. As in this case, making it possible to recycle the entire packaging for food applications.

Thinking – and acting – consistently pays off!


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