Configurable Lines: Converting

Market trends suggest sustainability will drive tissue industry innovation and growth

7.04.2021 | Claudio J Muñoz | 3 min read Topics |

The global pandemic caused a seismic shift in the tissue industry. Most of 2020 found tissue manufacturers scrambling to keep up with pandemic-related product demand, and nearly all tissue categories saw significant growth.

COVID-19 lockdowns skewed consumer buying preferences toward ecommerce, where smaller brands gained competitive traction. Consumers found private label toilet paper and facial tissue as viable solutions for affordability, quality, and value. For the fiscal year ending October 4, 2020, private label toilet paper sales in North America increased 22.3%, compared to 14.4% for national brands.1

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For tissue manufacturers, this is valuable information. Shifting focus to affordability and sustainability will bolster lagging year-over-year growth in the toilet paper category, currently predicted not to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022. It will also allow for premiumization opportunities that favorably compete in the market.

COVID-19 will continue to play a role in how the future evolves for every industry. However, much tissue innovation will be driven by sustainability initiatives as consumers continue to inextricably link sustainability and personal wellness.

Tissue trending toward greener products

  • Packaging: Tissue manufacturers are sensitive to the environmental impact of using necessary raw materials. Chief among action steps taken by industry leaders are identifying and embracing virgin paper pulp and fiber alternatives. Similarly, the following trends suggest a holistic approach to sustainability is being pursued: Retailers continue to support the twofold approach of reducing the amount of product packaging and increasing the recyclability of necessary packaging materials. Worldwide, major retailers are committing to adoption of green packaging that necessitates manufacturer innovation keying in on obstacles such reducing the use of virgin plastic and eliminating hard-to-recycle packaging. The future of packaging tracks similarly in the eyes of consumers, who are expected to continue to seek out products with recyclable and sustainably-produced packaging.
  • Products: Manufacturers have explored and implemented minor production adjustments to produce more sustainable, zero waste options and, generally speaking, consumers see little to no cost increase on the shelf. Likewise, traditional adhesives used in bathroom tissue log production has proven detrimental to the environment. The glue is poorly degradable as solid waste, a threat to wastewater treatment, and is largely oxygen-dependent during prolonged organic breakdown. In response, water lamination and glue-free technologies that eliminate dependence on adhesives have gained popularity. 

Equipped for a greener future 

Supporting these trends takes Valmet tissue converting and packaging equipment that addresses today’s concerns with tomorrow’s technology. Plastic-free packaging alternatives made of biodegradable, compostable materials introduced by Valmet are finding their way onto shop floors for use on manufacturers’ existing wrappers. The key is the Bio Pack, available either as an add-on or a machine option that provides the technical modification necessary for paper packaging to run on Valmet packaging equipment. These dual innovations help manufacturers prioritize and integrate sustainable packaging at efficiency and maintenance levels equivalent to today’s poly packs — with the added benefit of improved sealing to assure maximum product protection.

Solid and Solid+® technologies are established frontrunners in zero waste products. The Solid roll, that has been on the market for over 10 years now, is the one and only roll without a core or central hole. The innovative Solid+ roll features a removable inner mini roll instead of a traditional cardboard core. With Solid and Solid+ solutions bundle volumes decrease — which requires considerably less packaging material — while also optimizing transportation as up to 16% more product will fit on a standard truck.

Aquabond water lamination is a sustainable and practical solution for replacing adhesive with water during ply bonding. Since no new equipment is required to add Aquabond to the tissue conversion process, manufacturers realize immediate cost savings. Further, eliminating adhesives in favor of water means not having to deal with the expensive challenges glue can present beyond environmental hazard — gummed up contact surfaces and excessive equipment maintenance, dry-out during downtime, and considerable waste if contaminated by paper dust. Available for pure or recycled paper fiber, Aquabond lowers operational costs, increases ROI, helps improve tissue softness, and makes tissue conversion a more earth-friendly practice without compromising final product quality.

Accelerating market growth with greener packaging and products is both a goal and necessity for the tissue industry. As a trusted thought leader and collaborative partner, Valmet actively anticipates what tissue manufacturers need to stay ahead of the sustainability curve and remain competitive. Reach out to the Valmet team and learn more about the innovative equipment and green technologies we can provide to your operation. 

1Tissue Online, High demand for paper products continues, February 23, 2021 
2Claudio Munoz, Valmet, Tissue Conference: An overview of sustainability initiatives for tissue converters, January 2021