‘Sustainable, but also usable and affordable products’
Berry Global agricultural business is adopting a circular approach in order to reduce plastic waste in the world. While much has already been achieved in the production, design and recycling of agricultural films, the company’s focus is on developing sustainable solutions that remain functional and affordable for customers.
Berry operates worldwide, supplying innovative packaging and technical products for 16 major end markets, including agriculture and horticulture. Around 100,000 different plastic products are produced across the group’s 265+ locations.
As a major player in plastic products, we feel a great responsibility to minimize product impacts on the environment.” says Andrew Green, CEO of Berry’s European flexible film business.
For Berry, this involves a focus on three major areas – products that are fully recyclable, the downgauging (light weighting) of products, and the incorporation of post-consumer recycled material. We have been active for years in reusing used plastic to make new products and are increasing the adoption of such materials in our manufacturing processes.
Our goal is to use at least 30% circular plastics in our products by 2025,” explains Tony Nawar, Vice President, Sustainability, Strategy, and Innovation. “The development of new sleeve packaging, bale wrap manufactured with patented technology (ProTechnology) and Sustane® bale wrap with a proportion of recycled material are all practical examples of how sustainability is taking centre stage in our business.
Sustainability in Agricultural Films
Berry’s agriculture business supplies solutions for silage bales, silage sheets and grain bags. All these products are now benefitting from this focus on sustainability but equally important is to ensure that this is achieved without any compromise on overall performance.
With innovative ProTechnology, for example, Berry has succeeded in making agricultural films lighter and thinner, without affecting the quality of the film or the end results for farmers. Thinner films require less raw material, reduce the number of polymers used in production and can achieve up to 25% less film by weight than conventional films.
In addition, because the film is thinner, the rolls have more length, which means that fewer are needed to wrap the same number of bales. This may ensure less transport & storage, and eventually CO2-emissions.
Equally important, cardboard boxes for the transport of the bale wrap have been replaced by sleeve packaging. This brings forth use of less packaging material as well provides convenient recycling.
Win Win Situation
Another sustainable innovation has been in creating a better positioning of baler film around the bale, with extra protection of the mantle surface.
This results in fewer losses during storage. The bale is also easy to open, saving the farmer time. Another advantage of baler film is its smooth surface, so no fodder can become enmeshed and wasted as can happen with netted bales.
Both baler film and bale wrap can be recycled together and offered to the recycling collection points as one product, with no need to separate them. This makes it easier for farmers to recycle their plastics and encourages them to recycle more.
Increased recycling will be critical to the ability of manufacturers like Berry to incorporate more and higher quality recycled material into new products.
Throughout Europe, Berry’s agriculture business is actively participating in supporting collection schemes to encourage farmers to return their plastic to collection centres,” confirms Green. “The sector has stated that by 2025 it wants to collect and recycle more than 70% of the agricultural plastic used in Europe, so this is something we are closely following.”
Certainly, Berry is well placed to support this initiative. The group has been reusing agricultural plastics for about 20 years, with its factories in Scotland, England, Wales, and Germany all able to take in and recycle plastic.
Challenges in the Future
We want to increase the amount of material that we recover from our customers,” says Nawar. “The challenge is to take what can sometimes be low-quality waste plastic and turn it into high-performance technical end products. It is a major objective for our R&D teams, because we absolutely do not wish to compromise performance in the field.”
This is where Berry’s long-standing experience in the recycling of plastic waste will come into play in order to more effectively marry recycled content with product quality.
We will continue to focus on the collection of more waste plastic and the further improvement of recycling processes, as well as investing in the development of better polymers and in enhancing extrusion technology,” states Green. “This makes it possible to produce the same quality with less raw materials.
All this will be critical to our ability to introduce more sustainable products to satisfy the demand coming from the agriculture sector.