Interview with Achim Schalk, Berry Global: Th...
Interview with Achim Schalk, Berry Global

There is no one-size-fits-all solution

Achim Schalk (Source: Berry Global)
Achim Schalk (Source: Berry Global)

Now the Index is finally taking place in-person in Geneva, what do you hope/expect from this fair?
After a long period of video conferences and telephone calls, it is great to finally have the chance to connect with our customers, suppliers and industry leaders face-to-face. We are looking forward to strengthening existing relationships, building new ones and engaging in fruitful discussions that we believe will center around 2 main topics: Innovation and Sustainability. For Berry Global, these are clear focus points which are deeply embedded in our strategy, and we believe our size and scale positions us very well to deliver solutions around both to our customers and end users.

What will you present at the Index?
As you may know, Berry Global has an extensive nonwovens product range for the hygiene, healthcare and specialties markets. Detailing each and every one of these products in this interview would take up too much of your time, so allow me to highlight some of the new products that we will showcase:
On the hygiene side, I would like to spotlight the following products: Suavis 3D: our latest launch addressing the consumer need for premium visual and tactile softness, through our new 3D embossing technology; Nuance: our super-soft spunbond offering with first-rate elongation for premium elastic laminates; L-CloZe: our sustainable and appealing fastening solution, offering very good body grip; and Elastipro films and laminates for high comfort and fit, at reduced odor and improved recyclability.
Focusing now on the specialties market, we will present our Endura recycled spunbond solutions program, Punchback our acoustic fabrics with up to 100% PCR content and our Synergex superior air filtration solutions for light weighting.

Through our MicroPro, Armum Ultimate and Hymelt range, we will present our new healthcare coverall solutions: Off-the-shelf, certified nonwovens and laminate solutions produced in Europe, with very good protection and comfort, to keep both healthcare staff and frontline workers safe.
On the sustainability side we will present a wide variety of solutions, ranging from advanced recycled and bio-based spunbond; light-weighting solutions, such as our Sof-flex Ultra backsheet film or our Softech and Obex spunbond; biodegradable color-coded wipes such as our J-cloth compostable; or fabrics made with natural raw materials, such as our Apex spunlace or Airten Enviro Cotton.
There will be some additional, very exciting new developments at our booth. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, so we invite customers to come and join us and experience them first-hand.

At the moment, every new development, every new product should also be sustainable and environmentally friendly. What is your approach to a greener world?
Sustainability is the clear challenge we face as we move forwards. At Berry Global, we take this very seriously, and have made public commitments by way of our Impact 2025 strategy and beyond to reduce our environmental impact, in line with science-based targets to limit global warming to 1.5°. When it comes to product offering, we don’t believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution, but have taken the approach to develop sustainable product offerings which are specifically designed for the different segments we play in. By way of example: a fully compostable wet wipe has clear value, as they are not always disposed of correctly. For a contaminated healthcare gown that is incinerated at the end of its life, on the other hand, we need to look at the lowest CO2 footprint possible to produce this product, while keeping in mind the rigorous safety and regulatory requirements. Therefore, a bio-based or advanced recycling solution is the better answer here.

Other than our aforementioned broad sustainable product portfolio, we have clear targets and actions in place to reduce the environmental footprint of our operations. For our EMEIA (Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa) nonwovens and film production sites, we are on track to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2025 vs. 2019’s baseline, as well as to migrate to 100% renewable energy by 2030 (50% by 2030) while ensuring that additional renewable energy capacity is actually built through our actions. We are also well on track to reducing our water consumption by 80% (2025 vs. 2019) through smart investments. Ultimately, we aim for 100% of Berry Global’s Health, Hygiene and Specialties Division sites in EMEIA to be Carbon Neutral certified (Scope 1+2) by 2030.
To mention just a couple of the successful projects we have recently completed on our path to achieving these goals: earlier this year, we entered a long-term Power Purchase Agreement to supply our Tarragona, Spain facility with renewable electricity. To achieve this, we proudly partnered with Axpo Iberia, who are now building the largest solar park in Europe in the desert of Guadalajara, Spain. Furthermore, we migrated 75% of our Cuijk (Netherlands), facility’s gas consumption to steam by biomass.

What will be the biggest challenges for the nonwovens industry after the corona pandemic?
The nonwovens industry played an absolutely critical role in the fight against Covid-19 and we have seen that the industry responded to the situation with high agility by shifting priorities, increasing output and making investments to ensure the supply of critical PPE. Indeed, the focus is now shifting once again, and sustainability will be at the forefront, as I mentioned earlier.
That said, we see some additional key challenges ahead for the industry, one being supply chain security – with complications around raw material supplies, container and truck availability, and congested ports and customs clearance. This might trigger a new discussion around localization of supply. The other major challenge is inflationary pressure. We see large price increases across the board, from electricity, raw materials, labor and freight, to packaging material such as pallets. How we tackle this will be critical to the long-term continued success of the industry.

The interview was conducted by our nonwovensTRENDS team with Achim Schalk, Executive Vice President & General Manager EMEIA, HHS Division, Berry Global, Inc. Evansville, IN/USA.

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