From Science Fiction to Store Shelves: Next Generation Solutions are here and now

Next Generation (or Next Gen) Solutions, are products made with raw materials that have a much lower footprint than the wood fibre. Often, they are derived from materials normally wasted or burned — like agricultural residue and non-edible food scraps — and/or involve smart logistic systems and product designs that enable businesses to use far fewer raw resources in the first place.

The most inspiring thing about these innovations, products, and technologies is that they have turned ideas that would have sounded almost like science fiction two decades ago into elegant, versatile solutions that are available right now — as though your favourite technology from Star Trek has come to life!

Canopy’s newly updated EcoPaper Database features 70 different fibre sources, or feedstocks, for paper and packaging products, from recycled burlap to linen waste, agricultural residues like wheat straw, and even food waste. The abundance of on-market solutions proves there are more innovative, eco-friendly paper and packaging options than ever before.

Ecopaper Database The World's Largest database of recycled paper and next generation solutions

Here’s a sample of the groundbreaking solutions some of our innovation partners have available. Craste, an innovation partner in India, has just made a six-pack case for Corona beer using 100% barley straw. ReLeaf, in Ukraine, turns fallen leaves into paper and packaging. Fibers365, in Germany, uses proprietary technology that turns crop fibres into packaging. Notpla is using seaweed residue, also for packaging. All of these innovators have low-impact alternatives to wood-based packaging solutions that area available now, and keep forests standing. 

Corona’s 6-pack beer packaging is made completely from barley straw (image credit: Craste)
Corona’s 6-pack beer packaging is made completely from barley straw (image credit: Craste).

Another important part of revolutionizing the packaging supply chains is clever reuse.

A global retailer Canopy collaborates with has redesigned its single-use, warehouse-to-store shipping box so that it can be used six times before the box is recycled. In doing so, the company now uses 83% fewer resources to ship products to stores, saving tens of millions of dollars every year! It’s a scheme that is a win for the both environment and the company, and one we hope will be widely adopted.

There is a lot to be excited about on the fashion side of things as well. Viscose (or rayon, modal, lyocell) is a widely used fabric made from wood pulp. With encouragement and uptake from the over 450 fashion brands in the CanopyStyle initiative, viscose producers are now making this fabric out of recycled materials — like sewing factory scraps or post-consumer clothing. By 2025, landfills in the EU will no longer accept textile waste, so forward-thinking innovators and producers are investing in recycling this inexpensive and plentiful waste feedstock into one of the most versatile fabrics on the market. Sweden’s Renewcell, which makes pulp for textiles from recycled clothing, is opening a new commercial scale mill this year to help them keep up with demand for their excellent Next Gen product, CirculoseⓇ. Viscose producing giants like Lenzing, Tangshan Sanyou, and Aditiya Birla all have products made with recycled content currently available from CanopyStyle brand partners like Patagonia, Calvin Klein, and The Gap.

Speeding- and scaling-up these solutions will be the challenge of this turnaround decade. Every year, 3.2 billion trees are logged to make paper packaging or fabrics like rayon. Forest degradation has been accelerating at an alarming pace, resulting in climate destabilization and a catastrophic decline in species. From 1990 to 2020, global forest area declined by about 178 million hectares (an area about the size of Libya). Meanwhile, millions of tonnes of agricultural residues are burned annually, and textiles are mounting up in landfills. These pollution-causing items can be made high-quality pulp for new products.

Next Generation Solutions solve two of the most pressing environmental problems of our time — they take pressure off of vital forests so that they can be conserved while reducing waste and pollution.

With so many Next Gen alternatives already available, and so many more solutions coming to market soon, let’s not waste precious forest habitat to make paper packaging and viscose. It’s time to turn science fiction into sustainability fact. Beam us up!