Saica was founded in 1943 in Zaragoza, Spain, where it quickly became known for producing 100% recycled paper. Since then, it has added several paper and plastic-based packaging solutions to its portfolio, all based on recycling. Saica currently has 115 production sites in 9 countries, with more than 10,000 employees and annual sales of 4,161 million Euros. During the conference, Saica General Manager for Cataluña, Placido Dieguez, shared inside knowledge on several ongoing company projects.
The loops of the circular economy
The circular economy is an excellent opportunity to address excessive consumption, environmental degradation and social inequality. The aim is to maintain the value of products and materials as long as possible. This implies that in practice we seek to reduce, re-use, repair and recycle products and materials.
Consequently, the traditional one-directional nature of supply chains that assumes disposal after use of products shifts to acknowledge feedback loops, where products that have reached their end-of-use at a certain stage will be re-inserted into previous stages of the supply chain.
Whereas in the old days, we referred to products that we did not use anymore as “waste”, today this has become “feedstock” for other players in the supply chain. In order to achieve circularity, we need companies like Saica that recover waste, sort it into multiple categories, recycle several types of waste to create new products and materials, and generate energy with the residuals. As such, they allow brand companies to close the loop, something that increasingly stringent legislation dictates (mandatory content of recyclates).
In Europe alone, we generate 27 million tons of plastic packaging waste on a yearly basis. Saica aims to recycle as much as possible of that waste, and only send the residuals to incineration in order to recover energy in their waste-to-energy plants. Landfill is the destiny that is the least desirable. With this in mind, Mr Dieguez explained to attendees how Saica has allowed Danone Spain to achieve zero waste in its Spanish plants. Auchan, another Saica customer, recycles organic materials with the company.
Among Saica’s current projects is the pioneering of a lightweight mono-polymer as food packaging solution that is 100% recyclable. This is a particularly important development, as multi-polymeric packaging is notoriously difficult to recycle. The lower weight of the packaging also decreases transportation emissions as transported volumes will decrease. Other projects, for example, are related to the recycling of plastic films to avoid the use of virgin low-density polyethylene (LDPE).
The conference closed with a lively Q&A. A key reflection was that from now on, when looking at packaging materials, we should ask ourselves where a product comes from and where it will end up afterwards.
About the author
Dr Desirée Knoppen is professor of Supply Chain Management and Head of the Marketing, Operations and Supply Department at EADA Business School.