Innovations and Sustainability in the Packaging Industry: Interview with Tarja Heikkilä, Managing Director of Jospak

Picture: Tarja Heikkilä, Jospak.

A brief history of the evolution of food packaging

Packaging is one of the most important components when speaking about food. It is essential because without it the quality and preservation would be compromised. Before packaging was invented, people had to be very resourceful with the ways how to store and transport their food. Starting by burying the food in a bog, because the acidic cool waters of the bogs have served as a refrigerator, going through the earliest signs of the packaging of glass and pottery during 1500 BC, as well as salt curing and dehydration ( a process used usually to store meat in big amounts of salt). Let’s not forget King James 1, who built the first ice house for storing food in 1619, Napoleon Bonaparte, who in 1809 offered a price to anyone who can create a possibility to store the food for his army, and that is how the metal can was invented. The foldable cardboard box, invented by accident in 1879, the heat resistant foil in 1948, the TetraPack cartoon packages for milk and cream invented by Dr. Ruben Rausing in Sweden, the first plastic soft drink bottles, made in 1977 from “polyethylene terephthalate” and sold 1 million bottles per minute nowadays worldwide…

Plastic packaging overload is found to be one of the biggest nightmares for the environment when we talk about pollution. This leads to government intervention and a plan to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

Fairforce list of professionals

A month ago my luck brought me to Fairforce where, as a part of a community of sustainability enthusiasts, I have participated in a list creation. A list in which we recognize professionals having the greatest impact on the environment united by one goal -Saving the globe.

Today, I have the pleasure to introduce you to one incredible woman who manages a company aiming to reduce plastic usage in food packaging. Tarja Heikkilä, Managing Director at Jospak, clarifies the whole idea behind the company, the benefits of going green, the obstacles, and the personal engagement towards sustainability.

The Finnish start-up Jospak was founded in 2014 to develop and commercialize a new packaging solution for the food industry. The company’s innovation is a high-barrier fiber-based tray suitable for diverse food products which are currently packed in plastic.

“The whole idea of Jospak is about board tray solution, the company is working around that innovation starting from concept development, technology development up to commercialization. Now we are scaling up and building our operations to meet the huge demand coming from the international market. So, that is clearly our focus and we are not actually doing any other products, or we don’t have any other business, so it is all about that sustainable innovation.” states Ms. Tarja Heikkilä

Benefits and improvement

The benefits of going green are many. Concentrating on sustainability and being environmentally friendly helps the customers to reduce plastic usage with 85%. Jospak board tray solution is compatible with the existing food packing process in the food industry.  The board tray solution can be used as a plastic substitute and at the same time the customer does not have to invest in any new product lines or change the toolings.

“The board material that we are using is also certified and we are using only fresh fiber material, but of course, board as such is also fully recyclable, so 85% of the packaging can be recycled as board material and then there is a possibility the consumer can separate the materials after consuming the food product and dispose of both substrates in their own waste management system. And the biggest improvement is that we can replace the fossil-based package material usage to renewable and better recyclable materials”

Obstacles 

Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal. Luckily, when talking about board tray solutions, at Jospak there is not much to point out as an obstacle, as Ms Tarja Heikkilä claims:

“The board tray concept has been fully approved and accepted by the reference customers in the market, so in that sense we do not have any obstacles when it comes to the product. But of course as a young start-up company we are still struggling with the capacity and with the growth, so this is the challenge- to build up the capacity to meet the huge demand coming from the market.”

Personal engagement

After all that has been said so far, the personal example is very important. Knowing our core values is essential to living our most authentic and purposeful life. We are all consumers, says Ms. Heikkilä, and our actions matter. Working in a sustainable environment is an advantage and it has affected Ms. Heikkilä’s habits when it comes to recycling and especially packaging materials recycling. Collecting the plastic waste in the household could be very challenging, due to the large amount of it, which makes it also space consuming. But what Ms. Heikkiä is doing to change her personal behavior towards plastic waste is to avoid plastic packaging or over packed products, trying to find products that tackle these issues.

Publishing our list with Green Professionals in the Packaging Industry, Finland, we would like to recognize the efforts of the professionals for making a difference with their actions, beliefs and values. We would like to thank them for their contribution and show you their personal example!

Thank you, Ms. Tarja Heikkilä for the insightful interview!