Schwarz Group Continues to Convert Own-Brand Packaging
4/19/2024 Sustainability New Paths Design Start-ups Article

Schwarz Group Continues to Convert Own-Brand Packaging

Packaging design has a key role to play when it comes to expanding the circular economy, explains PreZero board member Dietmar Böhm. His colleague Michel Janzer, Head of Quality and Sustainability at Lidl International, cites examples of successful packaging conversions.

Dietmar Böhm speaks at the German Packaging Congress dvi. Dietmar Böhm, CEO of PreZero International, spoke about transformation in the value chain at the dvi's German Packaging Congress.
“Where does the cycle start?” asks Dietmar Böhm, CEO of PreZero International, provocatively. Under the title “Transforming (in) the Value Chain”, Böhm speaks to participants at the German Packaging Congress and knows that his audience largely consists of experts from the packaging industry. But when it comes to the circular economy, one has to go deeper, he explains. Does the cycle start where packaging is waste, or does it begin when the packaging is created? Böhm asks and immediately adds his answer: “We have to start with the packaging design.” Within the Schwarz Group, PreZero does not define itself as a waste disposal company, but as an environmental service provider that develops recycling cycles for retailers. The company is the “center of expertise” for all packaging within the Schwarz Group, which includes Lidl and Kaufland.
Bioland garden cress in cardboard packaging. PreZero has developed paper packaging based on the Silphie plant, which the Schwarz Group's two retail divisions Lidl and Kaufland use for numerous products.
From the packaging material producer to the machine manufacturer, packaging manufacturer and filler to the consumer, many players are involved in the cycle. This poses a challenge, explains Böhm. He calls for greater digitalization of processes in order to make them more efficient. The PreZero boss is also clear on the subject of materials. Paper is not the solution, if laminates are then required for the protective barrier. According to Böhm, “clean mono plastic packaging” is the better choice for the recycling process.

Lidl: Buckets Without Handles

Michael Janzer, Head of Quality and Sustainability at Lidl International, can provide plenty of practical examples of sustainable packaging solutions. He takes up the example of the yoghurt pot, which has been the subject of discussion in the industry for years and was the same once again at the Packaging Congress. Do consumers take off the paper sleeve, do the packaging components end up in the right garbage cans? These questions are as topical as ever. Janzer explains why sometimes saying goodbye to packaging components can also lead to success in terms of sustainability.

Lidl’s own-brand Milbona yogurt in a 1-kilo bucket has always come with a handle. But which customer actually carries the bucket to the checkout in the store using the handle? Most people take the bucket off the shelf and put it in the shopping cart. By omitting the carrying handle, Lidl saves 322 tons of plastic per year. “We want simple solutions”, says Janzer. However, he explains that such simple packaging changes also require discussions with the machine manufacturers and thousands of suppliers. He also recommends replacing yoghurt pots made of aluminum, paper, and plastic with mono-materials, like mono-PP.

Packaging Made from Silphia Fibers

Another example: the deodorant can of the private label brand Cien is made from 50 percent aluminum recyclates from the Yellow Bag. Lidl also uses packaging paper made from the fast-growing silphia plant. It is produced by PreZero and sold under the OutNature brand. With a share of at least 35 percent, the fibers of the energy plant form the basis for the innovative packaging. The regional cultivation of silphia reduces transportation routes and the associated CO2 emissions. In addition, little water and energy is used in the preparation process and the fibers are obtained without the use of chemicals. Whether mono plastics, silphia paper, or reduced packaging: the Schwarz Group wants to use a style guide for sustainable packaging optimization to promote the implementation of further changes and make them transparent.

Sustainability Targets Partially Achieved

The targets set as part of the REset Plastic sustainability strategy by 2025 remain ambitious: 100 percent of Lidl and Kaufland’s own-brand packaging is to be made as recyclable as possible. The group wants to use 30 percent less plastic in their private label packaging and transport aids (compared to 2017) and use an average of 25 percent recyclate in store-brand plastic packaging. According to Lidl, it has already achieved this recycling target. The reduction in plastic was already 29 percent in the 2022 financial year, meaning that the target has now been raised to 35 percent. Lidl achieved around 56 percent of its 100 percent recyclability target in 2022, while Kaufland achieved 51 percent.

Digital Platform for Packaging Manufacturers

In April, PreZero expanded its range of services to promote the sustainability of packaging and launched a free digital platform for packaging manufacturers and distributors. The web-based solution PreZero SPOT (Sustainable Packaging Optimization) takes into account not only the material and design but also the disposal structures of all EU countries when assessing the recyclability of packaging. This makes differences in the recyclability of packaging visible: the tool lists the respective CO2 footprint and the relevant costs such as plastic taxes, license fees and litter funds on a country-specific basis.