Nowadays the sticker “sustainable” is slapped on many products. Often this means that something has been produced out of natural materials instead of plastic. But does this characteristic alone make something truly sustainable?
Sustainability is a major issue in the packaging industry, too. Alican Mert, export manager for Mertiz Offset Packaging, told us what true sustainability means for him and how their product manufacturing developed over time.
Mr. Mert, can you tell us a little bit about the packaging market in your country and your production?
We are a Turkish family business producing cardboard and paper packaging and boxes. The packaging market is increasing every year in Turkey, people use paper packaging a lot; it has become one of the fastest growing sectors in Turkey, especially because European customers are trying to find producers that are closer to them than for example our competitors in the Far East. Local manufacturing and short transport routes have become an important quality attribute.
We at Mertiz Offset Packaging are producing paper bags and paper boxes. So obviously our products have been made from paper and paper is produced – unfortunately – from trees. To be honest: not a very eco-friendly product.
Plus, we use millions of tons of paper every week on this planet. That’s good for my industry at first glance but if something is not good for the world as a whole, in the long run it can’t be of great benefit to us.
When sustainability became a key concern for us, we started to use craft paper which is recyclable. But in the end even craft paper is made from trees. Even if you use 100 percent recycled paper at the beginning, originally it was still a tree that had to be cut down. So we were not satisfied with this solution.
How did you solve this problem?
Now we use paper that is called “tree-free” and is produced from the waste of sugar cane – or rather: from the waste that accumulates in the sugar production process from sugar cane. This material is still new for us but we feel very lucky that we found that kind of paper for our production and see a lot of potential in that. This is what we call “upcycling”. So it’s not recycled but upcycled paper.
Recycled means you produce something from valuable materials and then you reuse the materials. With upcycling you produce something from materials that otherwise would not be used for anything else, essentially from materials that otherwise would have been garbage.
You exhibited at EuroShop 2020. How was your experience at the show?
EuroShop is of course not a specialized packaging exhibition. Packaging only plays a small role at this show but the visitors that come to EuroShop know exactly what they want. They know who they are going to meet with and what they are looking for.
We received a lot of positive feedback and reactions for our products because most visitors were looking for a sustainable solution. They were hoping to find recycled products, so when I offered them our solution – not recycled but upcycled – we exceeded their expectations.
Interview: Asif Saeed