A new concept in packaging sustainability: mineral coating from Qwarzo®

Qwarzo is an innovative SME with headquarters in the Brescia area. Its technology harnesses 20 years of knowledge and research in the field of inorganic chemistry, in particular its flagship product today is Qwarzo® coating, a patented invisible mineral-based coating.


The silica-based technology, can be used to replace plastic and plastic films on paper, fabric, metal and other substrates, giving the material to which it is applied new functional characteristics, new identity and high performance. For example, coated paper becomes resistant to heat, cold, water, oil, steam, chemicals, and acquires mechanical strength. Emiliano Caradonna, CEO of Qwarzo talks about this innovative solution, which starts with a reflection on the importance of Ipack-Ima:


“We have participated in several trade shows over the years, and Ipack Ima stands out both for the professionalism of the organisation team and for the quality of the exhibitor portfolio. In fact, it is at trade shows that we build partnerships and relationships that are very important to our business with both converters and brand owners interested in a transition that is as sustainable as it is efficient. One of the reasons our Qwarzo® solution is innovative is that it provides extraordinary properties thanks to the silica-based barrier that, for example, on paper closes the porosity, reinforcing it. Another innovative aspect is that our business model is not limited to the formulation of the coating or finished product, but encompasses a complete technological solution that enables companies, with special reference to the packaging sector, to transform their production lines, meeting sustainability targets fully and on time. We launched finished products with our technology at the beginning to demonstrate the scalability of the product, and over the past 18 months, we have been striving to deliver innovations to work on market-ready solutions to accompany companies on their journey to circularity, enabling them to respond to an ever-changing market, with new packaging regulations and directives.”


Making paper packaging production circular


With Qwarzo® solutions, therefore, companies can respond to new demands for circularity, aligning themselves with a trend that embraces recycling and requires all manufacturers to innovate in the direction of single-materials and sustainability.


But that's not all: where high-value recycling is rewarded and where paper in the coming years must have an increasingly high recycling rate (85% by 2030), our technology, without altering the recyclability of the material itself, is now recognised as a circular solution that supports and accelerates corporate ESG policies by making the barrier properties of paper totally reliable as well as sustainable.


Constant dialogue with the world of packaging machinery


In order to understand the packaging market in the best possible way, Qwarzo promotes a constant dialogue with all the players in the packaging ecosystem, as demonstrated by its participation in trade fairs such as Ipack Ima. On this point, Caradonna highlights the company's strong propensity for networking: “We strive to create valuable partnerships that enable an exchange between our scientific and industrial knowledge and that of the extraordinary Italian packaging industry. We listen to the needs of the packaging industry and we build on these to create new innovative solutions, bringing all our skills to the table; together we develop projects to create more sustainable products, in material and design terms. From this perspective, even measures such as the Packaging & Packaging Waste regulation or the SUP directive can be seen as extremely positive and stimulating, despite the concerns of the Italian market.”


The PPWR as an opportunity

On the new regulation, Qwarzo, instead of seeing challenges, sees significant opportunities.  The criteria set for defining the predominant material open up important opportunities in the handling of the recycling chain to which a product treated with the mineral coating can be sent.

The PPWR is potentially a great opportunity for packaging,” Caradonna continues, “in particular because it has set specific limits with regard to composite materials and realistic deadlines to allow the system to adapt its production lines with a view to both reducing the amount of waste and raising the quality of the material to be recycled. Thanks to the regulation, the whole supply chain has been driven to innovate with the knowledge and experience gained over many years in the industry. Consumers are increasingly orientated towards sustainability but also towards simplifying the separation and recycling steps. That is why, measures such as the PPWR have simplified the terms of recycling and support innovation.  Our technology based on an inorganic coating not only fully complies with the regulatory requirements of the packaging regulations and the single-use directives, but also falls outside the scope of the technologies related to plastic polymers and thus the plastic tax.”


The market trend between sustainability and packaging design


Emiliano Caradonna concludes by pointing out what new trends he sees in the dynamic packaging and wrapping market: ‘Packaging is increasingly a driver of consistency on certain messages. The trends are a consequence of new laws and a renewed consumer awareness, which present extraordinary opportunities and new market niches, especially for those who rely on new technologies.  Accepting change is mandatory.  Let's think about PPWR and the reuse obligations that have been revised during the course of the regulation’s approval. It is very difficult to imagine reusable plastic products that are suitable for industrial use, products that do not generate microplastics, are durable and have a low carbon footprint.  A critical issue is driving many plastics players to enter into the paper market, leading to a “cross-contamination” which is generating new competencies, built around the exchange of information and the experiences of two worlds that had never spoken to one another before. We believe that innovation and creativity are the strategic elements for the future of the sector".


"We build our value proposition on these elements. There are stakeholders who believe in us and in this new innovative technology as an answer to the problems linked to regulatory changes and the urgent issues of environmental and health protection. The acknowledgments are already there.  Since the beginning of 2024, Qwarzo has won the Innovation Award with its plastic-free barrier with Gongola Packaging at SIGEP. It was nominated as a finalist for the Tocco Award in the FUTURE VISIONARY MATERIAL category, it won the Green Product Award in the Packaging category, received a special mention as Innovative Material in the Avantgarde 2024 competition at the Packaging Première and been nominated as a finalist for the European Green Award to be held at the end of the month in Milan.  Interest in Qwarzo® is very high at the moment, even from big brands and the packaging industry. We are working with several partners and converters who have already placed their trust in our technology for sustainable conversion, obtaining excellent feedback from the market with examples of companies such as Flo and Alcas, leaders respectively in the vending and ice-cream sectors. In short, the solutions for the green transition of packaging are there. We are strongly convinced that ours really is the new generation of coatings.