The future of packaging: an interview with Caroli Buitenhuis

What will packaging material look like in the future? Caroli Buitenhuis, Chain innovator in Bioplastics, Biobased Packaging & Bio-economy projects at Green Serendipity, and ambassador of the sector Graphic & Packaging at Material Xperience paints a picture of her vision of the future of packaging for us in this interview! Click here for a free entry ticket for Material Xperience!

How will we package in 100 years, if it were up to you?
At this moment, we are not able to look further than where we want to be in 2050. By then, we have to be a lot further when it comes to the use of materials for packaging. Packaging materials will no longer be made from fossil fuels or other exhaustible and non-sustainably produced raw materials. The materials that will be used then will be derived from renewable and/or inexhaustible sources and will be sustainably produced. To give an example, the ordinary PET bottle made from fossil fuels will no longer exist. It will be replaced by, for example, a bottle made from a material made from cellulose from saw dust. Preferably, the material will be infinitely recyclable, to keep the raw materials in the chain as long as possible.

What do you think is the best invention ever and why?
If you look at packaging, it’s better to speak of innovations. And those innovations are currently following one after another. Glass used to be a great material for packaging, but now it’s often too heavy, too fragile and has a too large CO2 footprint. Plastic also used to be an amazing innovation, but is now the source of many environmental problems. Plus, we do not want to rely on fossil fuels in the future. The best packaging material does not exist: specific demands have to be considered for each product that needs packaging, as well as the entire chain of the packaging material.

What are the most important material innovations within your sector and why?
There are now many materials launched that no longer are based on fossil fuels. But what I think is the best innovation, and a must for the next 50 years of packaging is to make a packaging material out of the company’s own waste stream. For instance, a chocolate manufacturer that uses cellulose and fibres from its own production to make paper in which the chocolate can be wrapped. Or a coffee manufacturer that makes coffee capsules based on the coffee husks, a waste material from the bean roasting process.

With which other sector is your sector related most or is the most cross-pollination when it comes to material innovation?
With packaging, crossovers happen with various sectors. In the world of fashion, denim jeans are still the number 1 when it comes to sales numbers. Currently, there are companies that are recycling jeans fabric. When the fabric is unravelled, ‘denim dust’ and small fibres are released, which can be used to make packaging material in the paper and cardboard industry, to package jeans.

In the future, Styrofoam will not be made from oil anymore, but from fungi, and can be used to package fragile electronics, but also in construction as acoustic or insulation material.

Materia aims to connect various parties. Which other person or party do you think people should get to know and why?
I would like to invite everyone who is looking for innovative, sustainable packaging material for a conversation about the right materials for the products that need packaging and to connect them with the right parties in the chains. Nationally or internationally: welcome!

The price for sustainable packaging materials is currently usually higher than common plastic packaging. But by choosing sustainable and innovative materials, it is possible that there are advantages in other parts of the chain that can be added up. Aside from that, companies should wonder which priorities they really want to have in their packaging policy and how consistent they want to match their word to their deeds.

Caroli Buitenhuis at Material Xperience
Caroli is the ambassador of the sector Graphic & Packaging at Material Xperience. Together with Materia, she has put together an exhibition with some of the most interesting projects within the packaging sector. Want a sneak peek of what to expect? Click here.

Thursday 15 March, Caroli will hold a lecture about innovative packaging materials and how they fit into the circular economy of the future! For the full lecture programme, click here.

About Caroli Buitenhuis
Caroli Buitenhuis is chain innovator and consultant in Bioplastics, Biobased Packaging & Bio-economy projects and is also educated as packaging expert. She has brought various innovations effectively into implementation (including award winning innovations). Caroli has a broad international chain network, which she uses to connect brand owners and retailers to the right parties in the biobased and circular supply chain.

Green Serendipity is a consultancy for bioplastics, biobased packaging and bio-economy projects with the focus on the circular economy. The whole chain from raw material to end-of-life is the central objective.