Yangi explains why dry-forming technology can offer next-gen sustainable packaging, at scale
Also teaming up with other industry players in a special project and pushing brands in the health, body, and beauty industries to explore their current packaging portfolio and inviting them to ”collaborate to innovate”.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
November 06, 2023
Building on decades of innovation from several R&D projects — some of them originating from the mid-90s — Swedish startup Yangi seized the opportunity to secure the dry-forming technology and continue building on years of knowledge. The team has then worked with hundreds of collaborations within the packaging value chain, and several machine iterations, to further develop the technology, called Cellera, and simplify the transition to dry forming for brands and packaging producers.
— The future of packaging technology isn’t coming. It’s here, today, says Johann Kaiser, CEO. Cellera is a turnkey dry-forming manufacturing technology with the potential to replace rigid plastic packaging, at scale. Designed to make the transition to dry-forming not just seamless, but completely pain-free, it’s not just another machine. It’s rather a revolutionary turnkey solution with customised packages of value-added services that support brands and converters in reaching their NetZero targets. Cellera is the first of its kind, there are no other machines like in the whole world today.
Yangi uses partnerships in the packaging value chain to develop new fibre-based technologies and solutions.
— The innovation with the dry-forming technology is to utilise cellulose fibres for 3D-formed packaging without dissolving the fibres in water. Cellera can produce this kind of packaging directly from cellulose pulp in one machine line at a 30% lower cost than existing fibre-based solutions, with no process water added and less energy use, resulting in a 75% reduction in CO2 emissions. Additionally, our solution is designed to ensure streamlined and reliable operation, enabling manufacturers to achieve optimal productivity while maintaining stringent quality standards, says Hanna Rüdel, Chief Commercial Officer. She continues:
— Dry-forming is not just about 3D product formation but the whole transformation journey of cellulose fibres within Cellera. By combining two core technology platforms, air-laid forming of cellulose fibres and 3D product forming, we’ve developed a state-of-the-art machine platform that produces high-performance cellulose-based packaging products that fit into existing recycling systems globally.
— Cellulose materials are a promising alternative that can replace plastics in rigid packaging products fulfilling the key requirements of rigidity and 3D format. Cellulose is a renewable material where more than 70% is recycled and where the fibres can be recycled more than seven times without compromising on quality. Cellulose-based packaging is a future-proof solution that supports a circular economy by improving resource efficacy which is indispensable for meeting the costs of climate targets, and we deliver a cost- and resource-efficient manufacturing solution that supports brands in meeting their sustainability targets, sooner rather than later.
Can you explain more about the dry-forming technology and its benefits?
— Wet moulding, paper forming, and bioplastics solutions are available — however, each comes with a large set of setbacks, Rüdel explains, continuing,
— If we look at wet moulding, which is an established technology, we are looking at a high entry barrier with expensive tooling, a labour-intensive, and slower production process, high cost, and high energy consumption. Paper forming is also an alternative to plastic, but it also has its challenges such as an expensive production process, high production waste, and limitations in formability. As for bioplastics, it is a growing market but their sustainability claims are doubtful, and this solution is currently non-compliant with single-use plastic directives and is not recyclable. It is also an expensive material of which there is limited availability.
— In comparison, dry-forming is a new technology that has a lower barrier entry, offers cheaper tooling, and easier prototyping, is a low-cost solution with low cycle times, and consumes low energy and minimal water. However, having said that, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions and there is a need for many alternative solutions to plastics. There is room for many different actors offering many different solutions.
You recently secured investment from Chanel as the first Swedish company to do so.
— Yes, it has always been extremely important to bring in shareholders who understand that this is a new technology that requires a long-term perspective. Chanel is a brand owner with very high-quality standards. The fact that they believe in the technology alone is a mark of quality, says Anna Altner, Founder and Head of Strategy & IR.
— We have reached a milestone we’ve been striving for, for many years, Altner adds. Our team has now developed a robust and outperforming machine platform that meets the needs of packaging producers and brands. By combining established production technologies targeting a new field of application, we have created possibilities for significantly improved sustainability in packaging. We are entering a new era of cellulose fibres with Cellera.
The mentioned ambition to work together in order to innovate is also shown in the Trific project which was introduced to the world during Interpack this year and was a nominee for the Luxe Green Award at this year’s LuxePack Monaco.
— It’s a collaboration between us and three other companies: Holmen Iggesund, a premium paperboard company, Optima Packaging Group, a world leader in dosing, filling, and packaging technologies and FutureLab & Partners, an accelerator of new sustainable and circular technologies, Altner explains. The concept was designed with circularity in mind, where nothing is wasted. The Trific prototype is a bio-based 48-hour travel kit for people who travel responsibly and well. It embodies three elements of modern travel packaging: renewable materials, low-energy manufacturing, and user experience. The package itself and the sleeve are made from 100% biodegradable and renewable solutions that fit into existing recyclable systems.
— This also serves as an invitation to brands in the health, body, and beauty industries, challenging them to explore their current packaging portfolio to replace them with more sustainable alternatives. It is a call to collaborate to innovate. And also, an example of what can be achieved when partners across the entire packaging value chain are willing to explore and be a part of pioneering new packaging solutions.
The mentioned beauty and personal care industries are currently struggling to find new solutions that can lower the impact yet provide the right properties to carry the products safely.
— Our dry-forming technology is pioneering but of course, it comes with its sets of challenges and limitations as all new technology does, says Rüdel. It took the plastic industry 50 years to develop their ’perfect’ solutions and so comparatively, dry-forming technology is still in its infancy. One-to-one replacement is simply not feasible at this time.
— Product design is an area where we are continuously exploring and even if we have worked on numerous proofs of concepts with partners and on several different products from different segments, each new product contains some new aspects that build new knowledge. At this time, we have done successful proof of concepts for packaging in the beauty and cosmetics, fresh foods and takeaways, dairy and ice cream, as well as consumer products and electronics industries. Currently, our dry-forming technology works best for packaging that has simple, less complex shapes, and short shelf life.
— However, our research department is working hard to find solutions for more complex shapes and to develop advanced biobased non-fossil barriers. We work in close collaboration with barrier and chemical suppliers and are currently active in several R&D projects to further develop the performance of the products. In every project, our ambition is to minimise the climate impact and optimise renewable content and recyclability of the products with the aim of expanding the products that the dry-forming technology can produce.
What’s your general view on packaging? Will plastic remain as important in the future?
— It’s common knowledge and quite frankly quite a recurring topic of conversation that there is an urgent need to reduce the use of plastics, says Rüdel. According to a study from 2018 by Material Economics, the CO2 emissions from plastic will double to 85 million tons by 2050, of which 60% comes from plastic packaging. Also, more than 70% of plastics are not being recycled and 50% of plastic produced is for single-use purposes, used for just minutes, and then thrown away. The list of reasons why we should find more sustainable alternatives goes on and on.
— How do we start addressing this problem when it comes to creating more sustainable packaging? Well, as a start, developing new technologies that will enable us to replace fossil-based materials with bio-based materials is the obvious first step. Currently, plastic is the dominant material used in packaging. We talk a lot about CO2 emissions and bio-based materials but let’s also take a minute here to note the importance of developing new technology that also addresses resource deprivation and water shortage. We are facing a large challenge in water scarcity and energy prices, so it is not only about selecting a sustainable raw material but also designing and developing a process that is resource-efficient on a broader spectrum. In this way, we can develop a more future-proof solution.
— Overall, the good news is that consumers are making more responsible choices with 50% of consumers wanting brands to reduce plastic in their packaging. Brands are offering more sustainable products with us seeing 150% growth of plastic-free claims in the last 3 years, governments are implementing new legislation to reduce single-use plastics in packaging, and the industry is adapting to these new changes. Action is being taken.
— Change is happening but the reality is that we need to continue developing sustainable alternatives and solutions that continue to support this global trend of change.
You mentioned some of the future plans, what’s next for you?
— Cellera is currently up and running in our 3000 sqm new state-of-the-art production facility in Varberg, Sweden. With a fully industrialised platform in place, we can now showcase the viability of the technology on a large scale, and in collaboration with customers and partners validate product concepts, aiming to launch compelling offerings in the market, concludes Rüdel.
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