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Blog | 06/11/2019 21:00:00 | 5 min Read time

Reduce, Recycle & Renew: UPM Raflatac combines innovation with renewable raw materials in labeling

Jan Hasselblatt

Director, Global Business Development, Home and Personal Care, UPM Raflatac

In my previous blog articles, I’ve discussed the ways UPM Raflatac is responding to the challenges of the plastics waste issue and the climate change. So far, I’ve covered topics such as the importance of reducing, enabling better recyclability and the effects of using recycled content in labeling. In this blog article, I’m focusing on the third R: renew and the meaning of renewable raw materials in sustainable labeling and packaging.

Sustainably managed forests, a source for renewable materials.

In short, by renewables we mean raw materials that are coming from natural renewable sources. Plastic is a non-renewable, but a finite fossil one. This is why we are seeking solutions for replacing fossil plastic packaging with renewable alternatives. Currently the options available in the market are limited and not necessarily helping e.g mitigate climate change or promote recyclability.

In most cases for us, renewable resources mean paper made using wood sourced from sustainably managed forests. UPM’s long history and know-how of utilizing forests in a sustainable manner means that wood-based innovations are one of our main assets in the labeling and packaging business. A significant share of our business today is based on wood as raw material, and by sourcing from sustainably managed forests we can safeguard the environmental performance that is needed to tackle massive challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss and availability of clean water.

Replacing plastic with renewables is a question of chemistry

While we may never be able to replace plastic packaging completely due to some of its pre-eminent features, we are currently developing adhesives and wood-based plastics. Our UPM Raflatac RafBio product is a sugarcane ethanol-based film. RafBio PE has the same functional properties as fossil-based PE and can be recycled in the normal PE recycling process, making it a fantastic and high-performance alternative – completely fossil-free. 

Our long term aim is to replace virgin fossil raw materials with renewable raw material where possible, and therefore we are putting our best foot forward to invest in innovations and research in order to continue our story of creating pioneering solutions for a cleaner future beyond fossils.

UPM’s ambitions to grow as a biochemicals business based on wood gives us a whole new set of opportunities. It is fantastic to know that we source our raw materials from the forests, instead of an oil well in the ground and little traceability or transparency in the supply chain. In my view, a cleaner future is a question of renewable raw materials and UPM Raflatac is a leader in this game.

Quantifying Forest positive impacts with UPM Raflatac RAFNXT+ labels

RAFNXT+ is a next-generation paper range with forest positive impacts. By forest positive we mean that the positive impacts associated with growing the wood fibre in the forests is greater than the negative impacts caused throughout the whole lifecycle of a product.

Key here is that all the RAFNXT+ paper products are coming from  FSC™ certified sustainably managed forests (FSC-C012530).

A common solution to climate change that you often hear is planting more trees to increase the amount of global carbon sinks. I can’t emphasize enough that even more than planting trees, we need more sustainable forest management. Only this way can we guarantee that our forests simultaneously absorb the carbon effectively and offer better and more sustainable raw materials for society to use and meet the demands of a growing population globally. I am proud to be part of UPM Raflatac, the first labeling company ever to quantify the benefits of sustainable forestry.

A network of sustainable partnerships are vital

I dare to say that thanks to our innovative mindset and expertise, we are the most sustainable labeling company in the world – and for a reason. Whether that’s through our ground-breaking solutions that support reducing the use of raw materials, better recyclability or the use of renewable alternatives to fossil-based raw materials, we are committed to keep our business sustainable. What I also find is a strength, is our long track record of collaboration and partnership with suppliers, customers and end-users who can make that happen.

One of these collaborations is our commitment to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment together with other industry and action leaders. UPM Raflatac has an important role among these operators as the go-to expert in sustainable labeling.

We, at UPM Raflatac will continue to tell the world that labels matter in the combat against the plastics waste issue and climate change. We are working hard for a better future beyond fossils, and if you wish to make more sustainable choices with your labeling and packaging, talk to us and let’s see what we can do better together.


Read more:

RAFNXT+ range: next-generation range of sustainable labeling and packaging
Ellen MacArthur Foundation



Jan Hasselblatt

Jan Hasselblatt

Director, Global Business Development, Home and Personal Care, UPM Raflatac | “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take"
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