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Exclusive Interview with Haleon

Ahead of this year's Sustainability in Packaging Asia 2024, we spoke with Joe Muscat, Environmental Stewardship and Innovation Senior Director at Haleon, to get a sneak peek of what we can expect from his presentation on 'Driving Circularity in Consumer Healthcare Packaging' Here's what he had to say…

Q1. Your presentation at this year’s Sustainability in Packaging Asia will cover Driving Circularity in Consumer Healthcare Packaging. Why is it important for others in the industry to hear this message?

To achieve circularity as an industry, we need to consider challenges throuought our products’ entire lifecycle. That means addressing everything from material selection to how products are handled at the end of their life.
The use of non-virgin petroleum based plastics has typically been less common in consumer health products than in other categories.  Whilst part of this has been due to the need to access suitable volumes of high quality food grade plastics, ambiguity in regulations and standards have hampered efforts to move towards recycled resins.
Furthermore, consumer health products have tended to be packaged in small, complex multi-material formats such as metal/plastic laminates for toothpaste. Haleon, and a number of other major toothpaste manufacturers are now rolling out toothpaste tubes made of a single material which make recycling less of a challenge.
By discussing this topic, we can shed light on the need to integrate healthcare packaging recycling into mainstream practices and find new innovative ways to maintain safety and quality without sacrificing sustainability.
I’d like to encourage industry players to collaborate and innovate, ultimately working towards a more sustainable future where public health and ecological well-being are equally prioritized with well thought through regulations to support system wide change.

Q2. What are the main challenges in your day-to-day work relating to sustainable packaging solutions?

One of the main challenges relating to sustainable packaging solutions is balancing environmental concerns with practicality and cost-effectiveness. While there's a growing demand for eco-friendly packaging, finding solutions that meet sustainability goals without compromising product protection or increasing production costs can be a hurdle.

It's important to consider the problem from every angle. If using an alterative material isn’t a viable solution, we look at other innovations like changing the size or shape of our packaging to cut down on waste.

Q3. What are some of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the packaging industry?

One of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the packaging industry is the rise of innovative materials and technologies. From biodegradable plastics to reusable packaging systems, there's a wealth of possibilities for reducing waste and minimizing environmental impact while meeting consumer demands for convenience and functionality.

Q4. What do you think will be some of the most interesting advancements in packaging in the near future?

Looking further ahead, some of the most interesting advancements in packaging will likely revolve around the use of novel materials, such as cellulose-based packaging. In addition, AI based technologies that can help make our products more accessible to consumers will play an important role. Our Seeing AI collaboration with Microsoft is a great example of this shift. The technology allows consumers in the US and UK to scan barcodes on our products to hear important information such as name, ingredients and usage instructions. In doing this, we’re able to make everyday more accessible for people who are blind, have low-vision or have difficulty with reading product labels due to low literacy.

Q5. What are the challenges the brands have to overcome in the next few years?

Adapting to changing consumer preferences for sustainable products and packaging, as well as navigating complex regulations surrounding packaging materials and waste management, will be key hurdles to overcome for brands seeking to stay competitive and environmentally responsible.
It's important to remember that only so much is in our hands. Other factors like recycling infrastructure and consumer behaviour will impact whether or not our innovations are successful. That’s why its so important to foster industry-wide collaboration so we can work together to have a larger impact and make progress on our journey toward circularity.