Circularity: a European view

We are undoubtedly in an era of significant technological progression to address climate change and protect nature. With that comes numerous changes to traditional processes that have been in place for years.

Last week was particularly eventful because of technological developments from visits to Sappi and Zotefoams that will have significant impacts this year and for many years to come.

I jotted down some of the memorable moments and thought I’d reflect on my favourite learnings.

Monday to Thursday

Monday, I travelled to Germany for a visit to Sappi’s Alfeld Mill in Hannover, on Tuesday afternoon, which, as we found out, has a rich history dating back over 300 years and is a Sappi Centre of Excellence for speciality coated and uncoated papers and boards.

This visit was truly enlightening. Sappi’s team regaled us with facts, figures and highlights about the world of speciality papers. If that wasn’t enough, there was a tour later in the day to sample the live production environment within a fascinating, amazing and historic building with lots to see.

Alfeld Mill produces speciality paper products on five paper machines (PM). The products are coated and uncoated and show a variety of finishes. The mill has a capacity of 275,000 tonnes per annum of packaging and speciality papers. With an integrated pulp plant, using locally harvested wood, it produces 120,000 tonnes per annum of totally chlorine-free (TCF) bleached chemical pulp for its own use.
We were told about board produced on PM1 is double-coated on one side and two sides on an offline coating line. The PM2 to PM5 produces single-sided smooth papers.

Five papermaking machines, one off-line coater and numerous reel and sheet cutters form part of the extensive production installations and ensure the mill’s manufacturing flexibility which allows it to match customers’ needs.

Extensive local warehousing, which allows rapid delivery to paper merchants, conclude the tour. You are left acknowledging, the excellence of product and service, sophisticated logistics and a responsible attitude towards the environment demonstrating why this site in particular is a central part of the business’s tradition and future.

From Germany, I went to Amsterdam on Tuesday late afternoon, via train, absorbing the stunning views of the German and Dutch countryside.

As soon as you board the train in Hannover, bask in the atmosphere as you are surrounded by lush green fields, windmills, and the beautiful Dutch countryside. These scenic views were the backdrop of this part of the journey to Amsterdam Centraal.

On the Wednesday and Thursday, I learnt about ReZorce circular packaging, and the work of the business behind it, Zotefoams, and its plans to disrupt the packaging market with a mono-material, aseptic, food contact HDPE/rHDPE carton. One of the major selling points is the cost of the change. What’s great about the reZorce technology is that it’s fully scalable using existing plant equipment with some very minor modifications.

I was told the product is expected to be on shelves by Q3 after quality testing via Refresco. Zotefoams has conducted a lot of groundwork to ease the passage of ReZorce into the market. As well as Refresco, one of its strategic partners is Biffa Recycling [and Waste Management]. It has worked with the UK’s largest recycler of mono-layer HDPE milk bottles to test extensively the circularity, through Biffa’s laboratories and its recycling facilities as it operates a closed-loop system.

Beyond testing, the plan is to run a 150,000-carton trial on supermarket shelves imminently and receive feedback from consumers.


There is so much more to say on both these visits and the opportunities these technologies offer. Visits aside to two amazing countries and , the major takeaway is seeing how the way we package items is rapidly changing before our very eyes. It’s no longer just about enclosing products; it’s about making them more secure, user-friendly, and environmentally sound.

Modern technologies are transforming packaging. The advancements benefit both consumers and the environment, and this will have implications for the future of shopping. From plant-based boxes to interactive labels, we’re entering a new era of intelligent, eco-friendly packaging.

Although the path towards such packaging is laden with challenges, the potential rewards for businesses, consumers, and the environment are significant.

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