Environmental Sustainability

Applying the principles of the Circular Economy

Huhtamaki is a Finnish-owned, multi-national group that specialises in manufacturing food and drink packaging.

The Business

Huhtamaki is a Finnish-owned, multi-national group that specialises in manufacturing food and drink packaging. In Northern Ireland it comprises three separate business units:

  • Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Limited
  • Huhtamaki Foodservice
  • Huhtamaki Paper Recycling (Lisburn)

Huhtamaki is a market leader throughout Europe, with a strong blue-chip client base. The company is growing year-on-year, and market trends and company plans indicate that this growth trajectory should continue.

Huhtamaki is a major contributor to the Northern Ireland economy, employing over 450 people between its three separate business units, and supporting an extensive local supplier base. In 2016 Huhtamaki invested £5 million and created 10 new jobs, installing a new production line at Lurgan with further investment anticipated.

Huhtamaki’s plant in Lurgan has a turnover of £36 million. It was Europe’s first purpose-built mill producing moulded products from paper pulp and is now the only one of its kind on the island of Ireland. It manufactures moulded fibre egg packaging and cup carriers. Producing the majority of egg cartons in the UK and Ireland, these are supplied to producers serving all major supermarkets in the UK and Ireland. It also supplies cup carriers to McDonalds, and moulded products to other leading food service chains.

Molded Fibre Production Process

Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta was formed in 2016 following the acquisition of Delta Print & Packaging. It is one of the UK’s largest packaging printers.

Huhtamaki Paper Recycling (Lisburn) supplies paper fibre feedstocks to Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Limited.

Production waste at Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta creates approximately 8,000 tonnes per annum of scanboard waste as offcuts, which until 2012 was exported for recycling. In 2012, Huhtamaki Paper Recycling (Lisburn) secured the contract with the predecessor company to Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta to manage this waste following successful blending trials with other paper fibre feedstocks for Huhtamaki (Lurgan) Limited.

Production Efficiency by Design

Every year around 10 million tonnes (mt) of packaging is used in the UK including corrugating casing and carton board (WRAP). Recovering paper fibres to manufacture new products has a lower energy and cost requirement compared to virgin fibre production and as such is significantly more environmentally beneficial than allowing it to biodegrade in landfill. Huhtamaki has developed strong supply chain relationships that are key to maintaining security, consistency and quality of supply. This also provides its customers with quality, high-recycled content products and traceability of packaging production waste.

As Huhtamaki’s products are for the food and drink sector, product quality must be very high. Sourcing quality feedstocks of recovered paper is critical to the strength and sustainability of the business. Huhtamaki supports the Resource Association’s ReQuip quality standards that limit contamination in paper for recycling to no more than 0.5%. It is also a member of the Recycling Association and strong proponent of its “Quality First” campaign. Within Huhtamaki, production waste fibre recovery is vertically integrated in order to manage production quality control. The production of McDonald’s carton packaging at Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta has been designed to minimise waste, with any scanboard waste that is produced being transported from their factory in West Belfast to Huhtamaki (Lisburn) and on to Huhtamaki (Lurgan) for recycling.
Huhtamaki (Lisburn) blends the scanboard waste with other quality-controlled recovered paper to manufacture biodegradable moulded fibre products, such as cup carriers and egg cartons.

In turn, Huhtamaki (Lurgan) is the sole supplier of McDonald’s cup carriers for the UK and Ireland market.

Impacts

  • Huhtamaki operations are helping to drive the circular economy in Northern Ireland. Leading by example, they provide their key customer, McDonald’s, with recycled packaging products whilst minimising waste by design, conserving waste materials for reprocessing and reducing transport impacts
  • McDonald’s cup holders are made from 100% locally sourced recycled material
  • 8,000 tonnes of paper waste recycled within 30 kilometres of the Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta factory
  • Recycled paper creates cup holders and egg boxes, some of which are sold back into the same restaurant chain as Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta supplies
  • Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta’s waste scanboard is no longer exported to markets such Pakistan, India and/or China greatly reducing transport costs, emissions and carbon footprint
  • All Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta’s McDonald’s scanboard is responsibly sourced using fully certified ‘Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification’ recycled board, water-based inks and fully compostable grease carriers.
  • As a FSC-certified company, Huhtamaki Paper Recycling conducts supplier audits to ensure that it knows the provenance of all material collected as well as to ensure strict quality guidelines
  • Huhtamaki is a major contributor to the local regional economy and to Northern Ireland as a whole.  The company provides significant employment, it is a strong exporter, and a valued customer of the local supply chain
  • Huhtamaki is building resilience into the Northern Ireland economy and supporting the transition to a circular economy

The Process

  • Huhtamaki compactor and bins onsite at Huhtamaki Belfast being fed production off-cuts by vacuum. Two bins for flawless switchover when one needs emptied so no interference with production. Once full, the compactor bin is transported to Huhtamaki Lisburn and is weighed on their automated weighbridge system
  • Material being pushed onto conveyor leading to baling machine after being tipped out of compactor bin
  • Baling process to produce up to one-tonne bales for bulking up to be transported to Huhtamaki Lurgan
  • Loading a lorry destination Huhtamaki Lurgan
  • At Huhtamaki Lurgan the recycled material is processed to start a new life as a molded fibre product – in this case a cup carrier

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