Mondi has developed a paper-based, aluminium-free packaging material for Unilever’s Colman’s dry Meal Maker and Sauces range that it says can be recycled in existing paper waste streams.

The old unrecyclable multi-material laminate has been replaced, and the previously-used aluminium, as well as what Mondi describes as “unnecessary layers of plastic”, have been eliminated.

This has resulted in a new packaging solution with a paper content of 85% and an ultra-thin functional plastic layer that seals the packaging and provides barrier protection for the food.

Mondi and Unilever’s R&D teams identified this layer as the minimum acceptable protection needed to ensure a long shelf life while maintaining quality and reducing food waste.

The two teams closely collaborated throughout the development process, including during the pandemic when access to production facilities became limited.

The process started with a proof of concept, followed by extensive line trials at both Mondi and Unilever’s R&D pilot plants before scaling up.

On a macro-level, two of Unilever’s key targets are to transform its entire packaging portfolio into technically recyclable, reusable or biodegradable solutions, while halving the amount of plastic it uses by 2025, both of which this new packaging solution aims to address.

Fikerte Woldegiorgis, foods marketing director at Unilever UK&I, says: “We are delighted to partner with Mondi to develop this recyclable paper packaging, becoming the first big brand within the category to do so.

“The new packaging, which uses a paper-base, ensures that shoppers can enjoy the same great tasting product they know and love, and now with the added benefit of being able to recycle the packs.”

Torsten Murra, global head of key accounts, consumer flexibles at Mondi, adds: “MAP2030, Mondi’s action plan for the next 10 years to achieve our ambitious 2030 sustainability commitments, focuses on circular driven packaging and paper solutions, created by empowered people, taking action on climate.

“By working closely with Unilever, we were able to co-create a packaging solution that will deliver on all counts and is recyclable, providing a valuable resource for the circular economy to drive real change towards a more sustainable future.”