In an increasingly digital world, the Austrian government is aiming to increase digital capability of its country’s citizens by supporting the creation of a non-profit initiative called Fit4internet. The hub and platform is headed by Mondi Group’s chief executive Peter Oswald and will work closely on digital competencies with companies, institutions and organisations.

Also on the digitalisation trail is Husky Injection Molding Systems, which has launched the Next Generation Operating Model (NGOM) moulding solution, which it says will revolutionise the way it does business.

When it comes to revolutions, the UK could be set for one of a robot kind in the food production industry as a result of Brexit, according to machinery maker Ilapak, which says that one of the main barriers to greater uptake of automation is the cost of unskilled labour versus investments in robot technology. The company believes that Brexit will change the labour landscape in just a few years and companies will turn to robots to fill the gap.

Movement of labour was 7th on the list of no-deal Brexit concerns for businesses that participated in a survey conducted by the British Plastics Federation. Top of the list of worries was border delays, followed by material supply and tariffs.

Crossing a few borders, Swiss firm Mold & Robotics Group is transferring its in-mould labelling technology to sister company CBW Automation in the US, meaning that the systems will be manufactured in North America for the first time.

Another company with interests in the Americas is Japan’s Toyobo, which has signed an exclusive distribution deal with Terphane, which is based in Brazil. The Japanese company is seeing increasing demand for high-barrier transparent packaging materials and will sell its ECOSYAR transparent gas-barrier film, Toughster polyester film, Olyester heat-sealable polyester, and BOPET film made from 80 per cent post-consumer PET, through Terphane.

Fellow Japanese flexible film producer Toppan has had a US subsidiary for some years now but the company is preparing to start developing polyethylene-based barrier film this year, in response to growing consumer demand for sustainable packaging solutions. The company ventured into mono-material packaging with an oriented polypropylene-based barrier film last year.

Still the subject of a protected acquisition attempt, RPC Group has signed a three-year cooperation agreement with Norway’s TINE, the country’s largest producer, distributor and exporter of dairy products. RPC Superfos, RPC Bebo and RPC Kambo will work with TINE to deliver more functional, sustainable and competitive packaging solutions.

RPC as a whole finally accepted a £3.3 billion ($4.3bn) bid in January from US private equity firm Apollo, with the latter immediately creating a new company called Rome UK Bidco. While the RPC board called the buyout fair, some shareholders were not happy with the value of the deal and urged a rival bid from Berry Global Group. Berry is reported to have requested diligence information, suggesting that the US packaging converter might still table an 11th hour bid.

Elsewhere, New York private equity firm, One Rock Capital Partners, entered into an agreement to acquire the plastics distribution of Nexeo Solutions, Erema Group purchased a 60 per cent stake in recycling machinery maker Plasmac, and Avantium regained full ownership of its YXY plants-to-plastics technology by purchasing BASF’s shares in the Synvina joint venture.

With the focus continuing to be on sustainable packaging innovation, Finland’s Walki Group is preparing to roll out the first products made from SABIC’s circular polymers, which are created from recycled mixed plastics waste.

Interface Polymers has been awarded a £638,000 ($840,000) industrial grant by Innovate UK as part of its ‘Plastics Innovation: towards zero waste’ initiative. The aim will be to reduce mixed plastics waste by recycling multilayer flexible plastics packaging back into high-value uses. According to the 2015 Deloitte Sustainability report, of the 31.3 million tonnes of plastics annually produced for the top five usage EU countries, approximately 23 per cent of the plastics packaging waste flows is lost in landfills and 47 per cent is incinerated.

And finally…

The expanded polystyrene (EPS) industry is ‘popping’ mad after being seemingly labelled as ‘non-recyclable’ by the new Central Office Packaging Register (ZSVR) in Germany, which was established in January to help implement the country’s new Packaging Act.

According to a Conversio study, the recycling rate for airpop (EPS) packages is around 50 per cent in Germany, and the industry is working with the value chain on solutions for the small volumes from the yellow sack scheme that are not yet recycled.

Keep calm and carry on popping.