The Circular Packaging Initiative continues to grow, and soon we will present you with the first results of our joint efforts. But before that, we will introduce you to the other members of this sustainable alliance in our interview series. Today: The Nu Company! A green food startup with an extraordinary mission that you definitely shouldn't miss. Initiative Kreislaufverpackung - "The Nu - Way of thinking".
Introduce yourselves and your company briefly, and what kind of sustainability ideas do you represent in your company?
The nu company is a green food startup from Leipzig. We rethink snacks - natural, plant-based, fair, without industrial sugar and plastic. We believe that candy bars can make this world a better place. For us, it is not an option to only give up sugar, only avoid plastic or only fight climate change. Conscious enjoyment without harming our bodies, the environment, or our fellow human beings, that's what sustainable business means to us. We consciously rebel against the status quo in the food industry and want to show that things can be done differently. We attach great importance to environmentally and climate-friendly packaging materials, and we have therefore developed compostable packaging for our products. In addition, we use food as a lever in the fight against the climate crisis and plant a mangrove on Madagascar for every product sold. This way, we can give something back to nature and become active against climate change!
Why should companies align themselves sustainably?
We are convinced that established companies and start-ups can have a major impact on our society and our planet. Sustainable business practices can serve as a cornerstone for change. However, we do not believe that consumers alone can be responsible for what ends up in our shopping cart. This makes it all the more important for us as manufacturers to ensure healthy and environmentally friendly alternatives. Manufacturers must have the courage to take responsibility for a world worth living in, even if it costs a lot of time, money and stamina. We think shopping must be fun again in the long term and companies should make our world a better place to live in. We should not have to ask ourselves what is good for us and who benefits from every purchase.
What hurdles do you encounter as a company in your efforts to act as sustainably as possible?
As a relatively small company, it can be challenging to communicate the knowledge you have gained so painstakingly to the outside world to make a real difference in the industry. A limited budget and reach can quickly become a hurdle. We would love to talk much louder about the fact that there is an alternative to plastic and thus, of course, share knowledge with other established companies and manufacturers. However, there is currently a general lack of experience in the industry in areas such as ecological packaging materials. Even if we are not yet perfect in all areas, we want to motivate change and show that things can be done differently. We want to be pioneers by working towards the best possible outcome for everyone and putting direct discourse at the forefront.
Why are you part of the Circular Packaging Initiative?
Mainly as a start-up, it is challenging to generate a comprehensive body of knowledge about sustainability in general, especially about the entire life cycle of your product. You have to build this up independently in cooperation with packaging manufacturers and, above all, disposal companies and constantly develop it further. On the one hand, this is very laborious, and, on the other, it is never complete since very frequent, small variations can already make a big difference. Within the initiative, the exchange with other companies helps gain more knowledge and jointly create more hearing for the relevance of sustainable packaging alternatives.
What goal are you personally pursuing with this initiative?
Especially when talking to waste management companies themselves, it is noticeable that packaging production contact is currently very weak. Most companies don't think about where the packaging will end when they put it on the market. Our goal as a sense-driven start-up is to demonstrate a holistic solution to the packaging problem that can inspire other companies and ultimately bring about sustainable change.
Specifically, we want to combine the packaging requirements, especially for more complex food products, and the desired simplicity of the packaging required for disposal or recycling.
From your point of view, what would be the best case that could be achieved with this initiative?
The best case would be the impetus for a sustainable change in the German packaging industry with a stronger focus on the topic of alternative packaging materials from all sides.
The biggest problem we see today is the huge gap between the variety of packaging concepts that the market offers and will continue to provide and the knowledge of the end consumer. What exactly do these consist of? How do you dispose of them? What ultimately happens to it in the recycling plant? What damage does it do if it ends up in the environment? In the future, consumers must be able to rely on the information on the packaging. With a growing population, the amount of waste is also increasing, so an awareness of this must be taken for granted by every citizen.
State of the art today is to produce and recycle single-use plastic as efficiently as possible. Innovative packaging concepts that, in contrast to plastic packaging, are not designed to bind hazardous substances and rerelease them when disposed of, i.e., do not cause damage to the environment if disposed of improperly, have not yet received sufficient attention from politicians and industry. On the other hand, there is still no recycling route to increase more sustainable packaging. This is where we have to start together.
Is there a chance or possibility that other companies can join you and support you? How?
Of course, we hope that our initiative will become bigger and are happy about every other company that wants to join us. However, just supporting more companies that want to switch to alternative packaging will not be enough to achieve a sustainable change in the packaging system. The willingness of packaging manufacturers to work on holistic sustainable packaging concepts must be created. This is because the volume flows of biodegradable packaging will increase along the way.
In the long term, this will force the waste disposal associations and also the legislators to adopt the waste disposal infrastructure to this alternative packaging.
And in the best-case scenario, this will be done on a Germany-wide or even EU-wide basis.
Cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency, which has already published several worksheets on the behavior of biodegradable materials, would also be an added value for our initiative. At the moment, the Federal Environment Agency is on the side of the disposal associations.
Since there is still a lot of packaging labeled as biodegradable in circulation, which leads to big problems in biological treatment plants, e.g. coffee capsules. Cooperation should show that it can be done differently.
Last but not least, if the biological treatment is secured, an exchange with the Central Office Packaging Register or the legislator would also be necessary in order to make the modalities of financing and supporting biodegradable packaging from renewable raw materials 1. much more advantageous to other plastic packaging, and 2. Not to channel license money for packaging registration via plastic recycling and to suspend the take-back obligation, since packaging cannot be registered when disposed of via organic waste, is thus missing from the recycling quota and the money for licensing flows in elsewhere than to the actual recycler.
You can find out more about the Circular Packaging Initiative, its members and Denttabs in our blog.
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Thank you and #zerowaste greetings
Your Denttabs - Team