The global manufacturer of primary glass and plastic packaging solutions, as well as of delivery systems for drugs and cosmetics has integrated sustainability “holistically and systematically” in all of its business processes. The group applies eco-design principles in all its projects and is heading towards low carbon glass melting. Premium Beauty News met with Nicola Balena, Global Vice President Cosmetics, and Patrick Kraft, Manager New Business Development and Sustainability at Moulded Glass.
Premium Beauty News – As an introduction, can you provide us with an overview of the beauty packaging division within Gerresheimer?
Nicola Balena, Global VP Cosmetics, Gerresheimer
Nicola Balena – Gerresheimer produces plastic and glass packaging, as well as drug delivery systems. We are one of the leading global packaging solution partners for the pharma, biotech, healthcare and cosmetic markets. We produce in 36 plants in 16 countries and employ more than 11.000 people worldwide.
Solutions for the cosmetics market contribute around 12% to Gerresheimer’s global revenue of EUR 1.82 billion in 2022. All in all, this represents a production volume of more than 1 billion pieces annually. We have three main factories dedicated to the cosmetics and personal care markets: moulded glass in Momignies (Belgium) and Tettau (Germany) and plastic packaging in Zaragoza (Spain). The three factories, which all include decoration facilities, employ more than 1.500 people.
Being part of such a big group allowed us to intensively leverage synergies across all the different business units. We are profiting from our global footprint and our expertise in multiple technologies to meet the needs of our customers with a large array of solutions. This is the case, for instance, for tubular glass or droppers.
Premium Beauty News – Sustainability is now a staple requirement for the packaging industry, how does Gerresheimer address this issue?
Patrick Kraft – Sustainability needs to be integrated holistically and systematically in all of our business process. We therefore established a sustainability council at group level with the aim to set up a comprehensive strategy targeting all aspects that we can directly influence.
Our sustainability strategy comprises three pillars: Gx Pure, which focuses on the environment, mainly on decarbonization and renewable energy; Gx Circular, which focuses on resources and materials, in particular the integration of ecodesign principles; and Gx Care focusing on our people.
Of course, this comes with quantitative, measurable and transparent targets for each category. Our first focus is on decarbonization, for which we committed ourselves to a 50%-reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030 in comparison to 2019. The second main target is eco-design. Since 2023 all of our new product developments incorporate eco-design principles.
Premium Beauty News – As far as glass is concerned, what specific initiatives have you implemented to reach these targets?
Gx CyClic refill jar by Gerresheimer
Nicola Balena – In practice, these general targets are cascaded into the entire company and beyond, from supply chain to product development, glass production and logistics.
Using PCR glass was one of our first initiatives. During the glass manufacturing process, using 1 ton of PCR saves the extraction of 1.2 tons of virgin raw materials and the energy consumption in the furnace is approximately 2.5% less for every 10% more cullet added. We have a long experience in including high PCR glass rates of up to 40% in our production, both in Momignies and Tettau, and it has enabled us to push the limits of recycled content in cosmetics glass packaging.
Patrick Kraft – Actually, PCR glass is so useful that high collection rates should be a priority for public policies. While certain European countries have reached almost 100% collection rates for glass, this is far from being the case in many other countries, and this even worse outside Europe.
Nicola Balena – Our second focus is on light weight glass. We are using advanced computer simulation tools to optimize the weight and product design. We have several lightweight standards in our portfolio, e.g. a 60g 50ml jar made from 40% PCR glass, or a 30 ml serum bottle matching our dropper.
Furthermore, we are promoting tubular glass in cosmetics, which is a savvy way to create lightweight products. For instance, we are developing ultralight refill system inserts made from tubular glass.
Lightweight and PCR are included into our 360° eco-design guidelines, according to which every project is screened and assessed.
Patrick Kraft – We also have to consider the glass production process itself, in which melting is by far the most energy and CO2 intensive step. To date, there are basically two major options to address this issue: the first one is electrification, which is the more mature low carbon technology, the second is the use of renewable fuels, including green hydrogen.
We have established a roadmap to transfer our entire furnace portfolio systemically towards low carbon glass melting solutions. In summer 2022, we have started a new hybrid melter in Tettau that enables the use of up to 50% renewable electricity. It completes our all-electric furnace in Momignies, Belgium. We are also building a power station comprising 12,000 m2 solar panels in Momignies to enable the use of locally produced renewable energy on site.
Premium Beauty News – How does Gerresheimer collaborate with customers to develop sustainable packaging solutions?
Nicola Balena – Collaboration between providers of packaging solutions and their customers is a key factor for success when it comes to sustainability. A continuous dialogue and constant exchange are needed to avoid potentially negative impacts of good intentions, such as a decrease in production efficiency that would generate more waste, for instance.
Patrick Kraft – It is also important to consider that glass production is a heavy industry where sustainability needs strategic planning! And this cannot be done by one company alone. Cross-company collaboration with customers is crucial. That’s why we are keen and willing on developing joint decarbonization roadmaps together with our customers.
Nicola Balena – The world is changing, with young generations adopting new ways of thinking! With the consequences of climate change being increasingly perceptible in our everyday life, sustainability has become one of today’s main concerns of the consumers. They want to contribute in a positive way but many of them also think that manufacturers and governments must lead the way. We take our responsibility seriously and integrate environmental considerations in all our business decisions, with the aim to support our customers in their endeavour to provide more sustainable products to to consumers.