Both consumers and regulators demand packaging materials and solutions that are good for the people and good for the planet. Essentially this means a fundamental shift where fossil-based plastics must be replaced with more sustainable alternatives, something that is both recyclable and made from renewable materials.
Stora Enso is well positioned to meet this demand. With its new production line in the Oulu Mill in northern Finland, Stora Enso will increase its capacity and produce 1.2 million tonnes of sustainable packaging materials in one site starting from 2025. As always, Stora Enso can offer its customers a documented traceability of wood origin and all its fiber is from responsibly managed northern forests.
“This is an ongoing journey, and a shift in mindset towards packaging sustainability is now taking place across all regions. The regulation is most advanced in Europe, but the trend can be seen everywhere. Our winning combination at Stora Enso is the fact that we can offer our customers a large portfolio of premium-quality materials while supporting their efforts in moving towards more sustainable offering,” Tomi Nurminen, Stora Enso’s Head of Product Line, CKB, says.
The rapidly growing demand for sustainable packaging materials can be attributed to five key factors.
1. Growing consumer demand
A profound shift in consumer mindset is driving the demand for sustainable solutions. Estimates suggest that global consumer demand for sustainable packaging materials will surge by approximately 11 million tonnes by 2030, and the premium consumer board market is also set to grow by some 3 % worldwide. Stora Enso's Oulu facility is poised to play a pivotal role in meeting the demand for fiber-based materials, particularly in the food packaging segment.
Furthermore, a significant 78% of consumers prioritise brands with sustainability efforts, and in the US, 56% prefer fiber-based cartons over plastic in food packaging. Stora Enso excels in this field, tailoring its Oulu products specifically for the food packaging sector and establishing itself as a quality leader, with other daily goods following suit.
2. Environmental urgency
Europe alone generates a staggering 20 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste annually. Even today, a part of this waste ends up in nature. However, up to 25% of the packaging volume could be replaced with recyclable, low-CO2 fiber-based alternatives. As awareness of plastic pollution and climate change has grown, the transition from non-biodegradable plastics to fiber-based solutions has become more urgent.
3. Resource transition
The depletion of fossil materials has accelerated the exploration of renewable resources. Wood fiber-based materials have emerged as a sustainable alternative for packaging, with Stora Enso leading the way. In addition to addressing the need for sustainable resources, the documented traceability throughout the value chain ensures the quality and sustainability of Stora Enso's fiber materials, which are harvested from responsibly managed northern forests, and promoting responsible sourcing.
4. Regulatory compliance
Regulations of packaging have taken a significant change towards sustainability and will continue to do so. For example, the European Union enforces strict packaging regulations with an aim to reduce the amount of packaging waste significantly and promote circularity. Other legislations are likely to follow the EU’s lead. Fiber-based solutions are well placed to meet the regulation with their renewable origins and recyclability.
5. Corporate Sustainability Goals
According to a recent KPMG report, nearly all of the world's largest companies have published sustainability reports and established corporate sustainability objectives. Additionally, approximately one-third of Europe's largest public companies have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This underscores a key driver behind the increasing demand for sustainable packaging materials, as the right type of packaging can contribute to the journey toward carbon neutrality.
Better opportunities to embrace sustainability in food and beverage packaging
Stora Enso's expanded capacity in Oulu empowers customers to embrace greater sustainability in their choices for food, beverage and personal care packaging. The new high-quality and material-efficient packaging boards enable the use of renewable materials and encourages circular design principles, including bio-based, recyclable, and low carbon options.
In the long term, the use rate, availability, and cost of sustainable materials will evolve as more people prioritise them. There will be more alternatives available, and materials will be prioritised also by different mechanisms such as the producer responsibility costs.
“The growing demand will eventually result in more and better alternatives for our customers and bring the cost of sustainable packaging materials closer to fossil-based plastics. Currently sustainable alternatives are not cheaper, and the cost differential arises from how we value our irreplaceable natural resources”, Tomi Nurminen concludes.