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Packaging students demand more sustainability, recycling and global responsibility

At the Students’ Convention hosted by the German Packaging Institute (dvi) on 12 and 13 November 2019 in Berlin, students of packaging-related subjects in the fields of technology, design and food got together with business representatives, experts and influencers in politics and society. The industry’s next generation came up with several clear messages for business and political decision-makers. The focus was on sustainability, recycling and global responsibility.

The key demands of the 80 or so students from Berlin, Hannover, Kempten, Leipzig, Munich, Stuttgart and Vienna were as follows:

  • More emphasis on sustainability and recycling on the curriculum: The majority of those taking part urged universities and curriculum directors to devote more attention on the curriculum to sustainability aspects and closed-loop economics (63 percent).
  • Clear strategies for sustainable packaging solutions: The students stressed the global responsibility of politicians and businesses when it comes to the most viable strategies for sustainable packaging solutions. 83 percent called for collection and recovery systems to be established in all countries where such structures are so far either inadequate or totally non-existent. There was also a clear vote for increased use of recycled material (78 percent) and the expansion of reuse systems (74 percent).
  • Strong political demands: In the same vein, 80 percent of the students demanded government support for establishing suitable structures in countries without a functioning collection and recovery system. A sizeable majority of 71 percent were simultaneously in favour of deposit schemes and return & refill solutions.
  • Importance of sustainability for the choice of employer: A company’s sustainability policy and / or the sustainability of its products play an important or very important role for 90 percent of the students in their choice of future employer.

Kim Cheng, Managing Director of the German Packaging Institute, was delighted with the Convention’s meaningful work and outcomes: “The industry’s next generation took a clear stance and looked beyond national horizons. These lively and very constructive debates between students and representatives of business, politics, academia and society give us every reason to be confident. Sustainability, recycling and global responsibility are aspects which this generation take for granted. If you want to attract and keep young people, you can’t afford to ignore issues like these; on the contrary, you must actively drive and promote them.”

In addition to fascinating insights into the attitudes and demands of tomorrow’s employees, the companies participating – Coca-Cola Germany, Nestlé, Tetra Pak, Griesson-de Beukelaer, Stabilo, Der Grüne Punkt, Thimm, Jokey, KHS Corpoplast, Pöppelmann and MEG – benefited from valuable opportunities to establish initial contacts with talented youngsters during panel discussions, workshops and a business speed dating session.

“The Convention was a win-win event for everyone involved”, Ms. Cheng emphasized. “On the one hand, we succeeded in encouraging the transfer of know-how and expertise between industry and students at an early stage and in showing how tomorrow’s packaging makers can generate important stimuli today and become drivers for more sustainability. That’s why the students also had an opportunity to present their own innovative ideas at the Convention. On the other hand, the students welcomed the chance to call politicians and businesses to account and articulate their demands.”

The dvi plans to continue the format and hold another similar event next year.