Everyone is increasingly aware of sustainability and demands responsible products. I, too, think it's important to make as many sustainable choices as possible and I'm glad that I get to do this every day in my job. At Grolsch we constantly ask ourselves whether our process can be more environmentally friendly and we continue to innovate. It is a challenge to achieve the same results with ever more sustainable packaging. And we are succeeding nicely!
As a packaging specialist at Grolsch, I have been involved in many wonderful projects. Like the development of our Kornuit crate, which is made entirely of recycled consumer plastic. But also the use of lighter bottles and the reuse and saving of film material are great examples of innovative and sustainable projects within our brewery. Yet there is one project that stands out for me: the introduction of our sustainable TopClip packaging.
The same character, sustainably packaged
The TopClip is a fully recyclable, biodegradable cardboard packaging. The taste of our beer is unchanged: the same character, but now even more sustainably packaged. With this switch we want to set the new standard for tin can packaging: we are the first brewer in the Netherlands to introduce this packaging and thus give the consumer the opportunity to make a sustainable choice. By switching to the TopClip we will save over 100,000 kilos of plastic each year! This amount corresponds to over 4 million new plastic bags.
The only machine in the world
Of course, an intensive preparation period preceded this. In 2019 - when we were already looking at an alternative to plastic - I saw the first prototype at a Smurfit Kappa Innovation Day. Contact was then made with Smurfit Kappa, which turned out to be the start of a good collaboration. It was immediately clear that a machine had to be developed for packaging the TopClip. Smurfit Kappa entered into a joint venture with the German machine manufacturer KHS. The machine fitted into our existing line and, after the necessary preparation, could be properly integrated. All in all, we have been busy for about two years. The machine at Grolsch is the first - and for the time being the only one. Isn't it cool that it's here in Enschede?
Extensive test period
In 2020 we have done an extensive test at 18 PLUS supermarkets. How sturdy and user-friendly is the TopClip? And what influence does humidity have on the packaging? All questions we had to get answers to. We also had an external Life Cycle Analysis carried out. This confirmed that the TopClip does what we expected: significantly reduce the environmental impact. On the basis of these results, the TopClip turned out to be the best choice for us: in the TopClip we find a solution without glue, we save considerably on CO2 emissions and plastic, and we retain optimum user-friendliness. This makes the switch to the TopClip something we are very proud of!
More awareness, less plastic
Is cardboard really so much better than plastic? This is a discussion that is still going on, in many areas. According to the study we commissioned, the TopClip comes out better than film. But, as with many IT problems, the problem is between the chair and the monitor: the problem is not only in the material, but also in how we deal with it. That's why I'm glad that we at Grolsch can do our bit to raise awareness and make the plastic mountain a little smaller.
Do you have any questions, ideas or comments on this subject? Please feel free to contact me.
Packaging Material Development Specialist