Founded in 2017, the Finnish company Vellamo sells premium natural mineral water in North America and Finland. The water bottles look like blocks of ice, reflecting the blue colour of a glacier. The high-quality, sustainable label is an integral part of the Vellamo water brand. The company recently started using the new UPM Raflatac Forest Film™ – a transparent label material originating from sustainably managed forests.
“The labels must be sustainable and meet all legal requirements. We also strive to recycle materials efficiently and manufacture the product itself rationally. Our goal is to achieve a carbon-neutrality for our materials, production and logistics. We are committed to avoid selling to areas without a recycling system,” says Petteri Ahonen, CEO of Vellamo.
First on the market
Forest Film is the first wood-based polypropylene labelling material on the market and has the same properties as traditional plastic labels. The raw material used for the label material is renewable UPM BioVerno naphtha produced at UPM’s Lappeenranta Biorefinery. Renewable naphtha is a fossil-free raw material made from crude tall oil, a residue from pulp production.
“We are now taking the first concrete steps to fulfil our promise of gradually eliminating fossil-based raw materials. At some point, we aim for all of Raflatac’s plastic films to be produced from either recycled or renewable raw materials,” notes Tuomo Wall, Director of UPM Raflatac’s film label stock business in the EMEIA region.
Demand for renewable packaging materials is increasing rapidly
International food and cosmetics companies are spearheading efforts to increase the use of renewable and completely recyclable packaging materials. Unilever, for example, aims to start using completely reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025. Procter & Gamble has announced that they will decrease their use of virgin plastic produced from crude oil by 50% by 2030.
“We support the phase-out of fossil-based plastic. Every tonne of Forest Film label material produced from renewable raw materials replaces a tonne of fossil-based plastic,” notes Wall.
Label materials produced from bio-based plastics have exactly the same properties as traditional plastics. This means that they can be used as a drop-in solution in current production without requiring any process modification.
Brand owners like Vellamo are increasingly aware that a product’s environmental friendliness should amount to more than marketing speeches. Forest Film label stock comes with a promise of complete chain-of-custody traceability, meaning that its origins and production chain are verified by an independent third party.
“Nature and its values are strongly represented in the Vellamo water bottle. Our use of completely recyclable packaging materials is a good example of combining smart solutions with great storytelling and design,” Petteri Ahonen continues.
Working together to replace fossil-based materials
Forest Film is a great example of how UPM’s ongoing work to replace fossil-based raw materials is bringing exciting innovations to the market.
“It is also a shining example of successful collaboration within the group. One UPM business produces the raw material, which is then refined into products by another,” says Marko Snellman, Commercial Manager at UPM Biofuels.
Forest Film’s value chain also includes other partners who produce plastic raw materials from renewable naphtha and then produce the plastic film supplied to Raflatac. Snellman emphasises that new solutions are often invented in ecosystems bringing together different industries.
Text: Matti Remes and Sini Paloheimo