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Qwarzo CEO: Natural barrier market to grow amid EU single-use paper boom

#Qwarzo CEO: Natural barrier market to grow amid EU single-use paper boom


Emiliano Caradonna.
Qwarzo CEO Emiliano Caradonna.

12 Mar 2024 — Finding non-fossil-based materials that can act as grease barriers for fiber-based packaging and making them cost-competitive with traditional solutions is one of the industry’s most pressing issues. Italian company Qwarzo is using silicon-dioxide to bridge this gap as businesses turn away from plastics.

Qwarzo’s barrier solution creates hydrophobic paper or cardboard with self-assembled silicon-dioxide, linked to cellulose fibers, which can be used to pack foodstuffs. The paper or cardboard can be printed and is recyclable.

Innova Market Insights pegged “Breakthrough Barriers” as a top trend for 2024, noting that the movement away from plastics and toward fiber-based solutions has led to the challenge of replicating grease moisture protection and shelf life without using plastic.

Since the recent preliminary agreement on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), which recognizes the role of single-use paper recycling as central to the EU’s circular economy ambitions, barrier innovations are gaining market momentum.

Qwarzo hydrophobic paper.We discuss the sector’s opportunities and challenges with Qwarzo CEO Emiliano Caradonna.

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How was Qwarzo founded, and what is the company’s main aim?
Caradonna: Qwarzo has invested significant time and resources into developing innovative solutions that reduce the environmental footprint of packaging materials. This is not just a fleeting project but rather a result of continuous research efforts aimed at doing what’s right for the environment. Our mission is to provide sustainable alternatives to traditional packaging materials, ensuring that our solutions are both environmentally friendly and practical for businesses.

Our mineral-based technology creates an invisible barrier, a sort of protective layer, on packaging materials such as paper and cardboard. Unlike traditional coatings, our technology offers superior barrier properties against moisture, oxygen and other environmental factors, without affecting the recyclability of the product.

Importantly, products coated with Qwarzo’s technology can be easily recycled alongside conventional paper and cardboard, further enhancing their sustainability credentials.

What are the main challenges you’re facing?
Caradonna: One of the main challenges we face is optimizing our barrier solution to achieve the same level of performance as plastics while maintaining cost competitiveness. This involves continuous research and development efforts to enhance our technology and scale up production processes to meet growing demand.

However, our commitment to recyclability ensures that the environmental benefits of our products outweigh any initial investment required, making them an attractive choice for brands seeking sustainable packaging solutions.

Can you tell us about some of the brands you’re currently working with?
Caradonna: We are proud to collaborate with leading brands across various industries, including F&B, cosmetics and healthcare. While I cannot disclose specific names at this time, our partnerships reflect a shared commitment to sustainability and innovation in packaging.

Beyond the projects that are under development, we can bear witness to various products launched on the market that boast Qwarzo technology. For instance, Flo Group launched a sustainable tableware set, Alcas launched its PAP ice cream paper scoop and Gondola Packaging won the Innovation Award, presenting the paper ice cream cup with our barrier.

An example of the grease barrier technology in action.Grom was one of the first early adopters of our technology, which used Qwarzo ice cream scoops. Brands recognize the value of our technology not only in providing superior barrier protection but also in contributing to their sustainability goals through recyclability.

Qwarzo is also the preferred option for conscientious brand owners and end consumers seeking a seamless blend of convenience and sustainability without compromising on flavor. Being odorless, invisible and leaving no unpleasant flavors, Qwarzo provides a pure, unprecedented sensory experience.

What should policymakers keep in mind in the lead-up to the PPWR?
Caradonna: The PPWR represents a significant opportunity for Qwarzo to further establish itself as a leader in sustainable packaging solutions. The new measures aim to make packaging used in the EU safer and more sustainable by requiring all packaging to be recyclable, minimizing the presence of harmful substances, and improving collection and recycling.

We anticipate increased demand for our barrier coatings as companies seek alternatives to single-use plastics. Policymakers should prioritize promoting innovation and incentivizing the adoption of environmentally friendly packaging solutions to drive positive change in the industry.

Recognizing the recyclability of products made with Qwarzo’s technology will be essential in shaping effective policies that support the transition toward a circular economy.

We are committed to driving positive change in the packaging industry through innovation, sustainability and collaboration. We believe that by working together with brands, policymakers, and consumers, we can create a more sustainable future for generations to come. Our solutions offer superior performance and contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of packaging materials, aligning with the goals of a circular economy.

By Louis Gore-Langton

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