Max Wolfmaier, Head of Product Sustainability
In our new series 4 questions to… we shed light on the great #teamadapa behind the scenes. Enjoy the read!
adapa: Max, how did you become responsible for product sustainability at adapa?
During my times as business development manager back in 2017, we realised that the packaging industry is going to face fundamental changes driven by regulations, like the EU PPWR. Back then, we knew immediately that we needed to tackle this topic head-on. There was no “doing it on the side”. The industry had been going towards ever lighter and more efficient multi-material packaging until then and we had to completely rethink the approach. The first big result that we achieved was the golden German Packaging Award for our full polyolefin reclose packaging concept for thermoforming and certified recyclable as one of the first of its kind. That’s when my position was changed to Sustainability Manager. For me personally, this was a perfect fit because I believe that with the right set-up we can really make a change and reduce the resources used.
It is great to see how since then the focus in the whole industry has shifted towards the development of D4R packaging solutions based on PE, PP and paper. Now it’s time for more of our customers to use them.
adapa: How is your background as a technical application engineer influencing the work you are doing today?
It is still the base for a lot of my work, actually. D4R packaging is often-times more than challenging. Both on our side in the development and on customer-side in the application of the films there are hurdles to overcome. Having been in front of machines that come in many shapes and states and having tried to match sometimes-not-optimally-fitting packaging materials and machines to each other has been a great classroom.
In my now 6-years in the sustainability department, my experience in the field and my technical understanding of films and the machines has oftentimes helped me understand customers’ issues better. Already in the concept phase I know what probably will and will not work. This can save time in the projects.
adapa: If someone wants to stay up to date in sustainability in flexible packaging , which sources would you suggest and why?
A very good source on flexible packaging matters around D4R is CEFLEX. This initiative is a network of players from all parts of the value chain working together to make flexible packaging circular.
There are other local and European associations such as the IK, FPE, Elipso or industry initiatives where you can get valuable information since they are closer to the political landscape. What I have realised is that what really matters is to have a broad network and personal contacts. Today, I have good contacts in the packaging & waste value chain, and to customers, which gives me a holistic understanding of the sustainability-in-packaging picture. Public information oftentimes doesn’t delve deep enough.
adapa: Which pieces are missing in the puzzle of the circular economy for flexible packaging?
There are many areas where progress has been made but at the same time many where we are still missing results. For parts of it, it’s a hen-or-egg question, actually. Nobody likes to move before they get the real pressure or see real potential. But we need to start now (or actually should have started already!) to meet legislative targets.
A big piece in that puzzle are, for example, our customers, the “owners” of packaging. I believe that they have the power to hit the start button to get this engine running. Why them? Because recyclers also have a large way in front of them to build a infrastructure at scale. What they need for their investments is a certain mass of packaging designed for recycling. Who would invest in a deinking machine now if most companies continued to print in sandwich print?
As a packaging manufacturer we have developed many solutions, we have tested them with our customers and they work quite well in most cases. So, now is the time to bring them to the market. We know, these solutions are not the same as the classic multi-material laminates – sometimes it’s the price, sometimes the machine speed and sometimes it’s the changes in the brand’s appearance – but if we want to change something, we need to start moving. From there things will improve, but without a first step there is no marathon.
Would you like to get in contact with Max? Leave him a message at email@example.com!