Circular Economy – The New Normal

Print and packaging are leading the charge for customer centric sustainability

For almost a decade, major global corporations have been shifting their business models, re-evaluating their strategies and asking more questions about where they source their materials. COVID-19 has revved this conversation up and the printing industry has once again stepped up to drive sustainable customer centric solutions.

“2020 could not be a better time to adopt this thinking. Print has always been fundamentally based around sustainability and the principles of a circular economy” says Lachlan Finch, Director, Rawson Print Company (RPCo.).

So, what is a circular economy and what does it look like? The premise rests on sustainability, an ethos that is likely to become more prevalent as we transition into what has been coined ‘The Great Economic Reset’ – thanks to the challenges of COVID-19.

Traditional perspectives that the printing industry is environmentally unsustainable are far from the truth. In fact, at its essence, printing is circular: trees are planted and harvested for paper, processed into an end product, distributed, recycled, biodegraded back into the ground – with replacement trees planted in an ongoing, cyclical process.

Adds Finch: “Clients want to feel empowered by the impact of their purchasing decisions, that’s why it’s more important than ever for print and packaging manufactures to not only provide environmentally sustainable solutions, which they have done for decades, but to also communicate these environmental credentials through the use of visual icons such as recycled and FSC logos and labelling. It is incumbent on us to demonstrate our effectiveness in the circular economy so consumers can be vindicated in their choices.”

According to Two Sides (a not-for-profit global initiative promoting the unique sustainable attributes of print and paper), well-managed forests planted for the printing industry actually reduce the pressure placed on natural forests and can provide many other environmental benefits.

This year, the not-for-profit completed a European survey of 5,900 consumers, commissioned by research company Toluna. The report shared key findings that identify paper and cardboard ranking highest with consumers for sustainability attributes, including home compostable (72pc), better for the environment (62pc) and easier to recycle (57pc).

In May 2020, The Conversation ran an article citing the European Commission’s vow to build a sustainable circular economy post-pandemic: ‘A sustainable circular economy involves designing and promoting products that last and that can be re-used, repaired and remanufactured’.

This sentiment is shared by the Australian print industry, increasingly driven by a focus on reducing their carbon footprint while delivering an attractive product. Similar to print,  packaging manufacturers are focused on their impact in the circular future. Examples of the drive for sustainable solutions are near boundless: from Coca-Cola’s transition from plastic wrapping to a fully recycleable paperboard topper for its multipacks, saving 3,000 tonnes of CO2 annually1, to the implementing of cellulose films for carton windowing and company such as Nestlé pleading to to make 100 percent of ALL its product’s packaging recyclable or reusable by 20252.

It’s heartening to see businesses proactively seeking out new ways of working. As businesses shift their thinking to align with broader social and environmental issues, the problems caused by our material world become glaringly obvious to consumers. As businesses question conventional practices, innovation will manifest through sustainability and circular economy initiatives.

Knowledge of the day-to-day impacts of irresponsible manufacturing and consumption, and of the potential benefits offered by the circular economy movement, is gaining traction, and fast. As printers, we must play our part. RPCo. prioritises sustainability because we believe we should be accountable to our clients, our customers and to the environment. You can find out more about our sustainability practices here.

  1. Packaging Europe – Coca-Cola announces sustainable paperboard topper for multi-pack cans. See full article
  2. Reader’s Digest – 22 Big Companies That Are Getting Rid of Plastic for Good. See full article

RPCo.’s role in Anti-Counterfeiting

How the printing sector is playing a key contributing role in the Anti-Counterfeiting Industry

In 2018, AP News reported that by 2017 the cost of global counterfeiting reached $USD1.2 trillion. It went on to forecast growth to hit $USD1.82 trillion this year. It follows that according to Global Newswire, the world’s anti-counterfeiting packaging market is set to reach $USD105.86 billion during 2020-2024. These are staggering numbers.

Bringing the issue back home, in 2019 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australian companies are in the top 20 of those most commonly affected and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) estimated exports sent to other markets in the period 2016-2019, increased by 8 per cent.

The stats paint a fairly bleak picture, making clear the seriousness of the issue and the need for all businesses who are involved in the supply chain to make a difference where they can. We believe this calls for a proactive response from the printing industry, domestically.

Deciding to be part of the anti-counterfeiting solution

The variety of solutions and the anti-counterfeiting technology available to brands is impressive. For Rawson Packaging Co. (RPCo.) it’s been an interesting journey so far. We are strategically integrating our own anti-counterfeiting technology thereby providing another realm of value add for clients who’ve come to us for their printing and packaging needs. Both digital and offset solutions are available and we’re excited that in the longer term we will be able to assist a range of clients in this specialist area.

“The variety of solutions and the anti-counterfeiting technology available to brands is impressive. For Rawson Packaging Co. (RPCo.) it’s been an interesting journey so far.” – Lani Draheim account manager Rawson Print Company.

If our current live packaging and print projects with an anti-counterfeiting component are anything to go by, this problem isn’t going away too soon. A large proportion of enquiries are from Australian brands that are experiencing counterfeiting challenges on the ground in China. This points to the very real concerns that Australian brands are facing offshore alongside their global brand counterparts whose own issues tend to be the ones we hear about in the news.

Counterfeiting affects almost every sector

As anti-counterfeiting measures become more sophisticated, so too do the counterfeiting operations –  and there’s no market that’s immune. From the most popularly copied products – electrical goods, fragrances, cosmetics and sneakers – to fake batteries, telephone accessories, sunglasses, toothbrushes and personal care products. More and more brands are realising this isn’t a problem exclusive to the luxury market as mainstream perceptions would have you believe.

Technology is helping us win the battle

The good news is the technology has evolved to by-pass even the most astute of the counterfeiting offenders. Invisible UV pigments combined with undisclosed short runs is one strategy that builds staged, anti-counterfeiting lines of defence, protecting products and brands.

Near Field Communication (NFC) and QR Codes are other well-documented methods that brand owners are using to assist with consumer authentication and in the long run, these methods lead to a building of consumer trust in their chosen brand. RPCo. is set up to offer NFC technology to clients, a process that involves placing individual stickers on the inside of each carton, thereby making each unique.

The QR code launched in 1994 for the Japanese automotive industry. We then spent years asking what their use was. Well, the anti-counterfeiting industry has this one wrapped up! QR Codes now work with Secure Graphics, a technology which is embedded into a digital image of a QR code, making it secure against copying/counterfeit.

A great example of the use of another anti-counterfeiting solution is microchip technology. Australian wine brand, Seppeltsfield, from the Barossa launched its Grounds range in 2019 in collaboration with a protection and consumer engagement company, YPB Group Ltd. Each wine label has the technology embedded into the wine bottle label and authentication is delivered to the consumer via an app.

The Australian print industry has seen vast quality improvements over the last two decades making it a lot less difficult for counterfeiters to bluff consumers. This undoubtedly presents an opportunity for the industry to supply and integrate technology into products locally. However, for everyday consumer goods, it’s not economically viable for many brands to afford the price of silicon-based electronics, therefore creating a swell of demand for lower-cost anti-counterfeiting technology.

There’s a raft of innovative ideas and products being brought to market. Holograms are another great example of this and are becoming increasingly more widespread in the manufacturing sector. 3D Verification, Serialisation ID technology and thin film technology applicable to packaging, labelling, plastic and metal products are all anti-counterfeiting solutions that brands are using. In all of these, printing capabilities are required.

We work together with our clients to tailor their own personalised anti-counterfeit solutions to suit their product range and brand. There is not one solution that suits all, so we assist in helping clients to find the right anti-counterfeit measures to ensure brand protection.

If you think your brand and print packaging might be susceptible to counterfeiters it’s worth having a conversation. We welcome your enquiry.