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INTERVIEW | José María Carrasco, CEO and CFO at Cartonplast Ibérica

November 11, 2022


We interview José María Carrasco, CEO and CFO at Cartonplast Ibérica, the market leader in reusable packaging; a company that prioritises sustainability.


Tell us about Cartonplast

The parent company is a German based European multi-national. Cartonplast Ibérica covers the Spanish and Portuguese market. Our core business focuses on glass container and canning manufacturers. For instance, big glass manufacturers like Verallia, Vidrala and the BA Group are our key customers in the glass sector, while Ball and Crown are our major canning customers. The added value we provide them with is based on a returnable, recyclable, reusable and repairable packaging system that enables them to efficiently transport their containers from their factories to their packaging company clients, such as Heineken, Mahou and Damm, or any other wine cellar or maker, not to mention food companies.


Cartonplast for Transportation


Are you really pioneers in managing reusable containers for transport?

Absolutely! This project began 27 years ago. At that time, all glass container transport was done using cardboard and other single-use packaging materials. These materials could not be reused, thereby causing a substantial environmental impact, not to mention the financial one. We gradually increased our market share. At present, 80% of the glass containers transported in Spain and Portugal is done using Cartonplast packaging.


What type of turnover are we talking about?

We posted a total sales figure of around €22 million for 2021. This year a slight rise in turnover is expected, which will see us reach the €23 million mark. Annual growth ranges from 5 to 10%. Even in the worst of times, such as during the pandemic, we still provided our service. So we continue to grow.


Can a company do business and still be green?

Absolutely! In fact, that’s one of the key features of our company. A business can be both profitable and sustainable at the same time. Indeed, it should be. We have steered our business in this direction in recent years: continuing to be efficient for our customers, for the society in which we live and for future generations. It’s not about leaving them an outstanding environmental debt in order to make a profit in the short term. So the answer is a definite yes.


Sector changes


Can the measures taken by auxiliary companies lay down markers for sustainability in the sector?

Whenever a company analyses its carbon footprint, it not only concentrates on the impact of its product and its activity, which in some cases can fluctuate from 20 to 50%, but also examines that of the entire upstream and downstream logistics process. In our case, the upstream part is essential. For the logistics area in a company such as a packaging one, a beer maker or a wine producer, it can account for up to 30% of its carbon footprint. When I talk about logistics, I’m not only referring to product distribution, the delivery of the filled bottle or can. But, and this is very important, to the prior reception of the empty container as well. That’s where we play a very important role. Our work greatly impacts on the activity of the sector as a whole. You may very well be talking about a carbon footprint reduction of anywhere from 10 to 15% if it’s done right.


Tell us about the process in that chain

Our company is not a manufacturer. It simply uses returnable packaging to provide the service. We work with different manufacturers, but they are not group members. The plastic layer pad and plastic pallet packaging we use is made in Europe and, therefore, subject to all EU certification and environmental requirements. Moreover, our services meet the standards for which we are certified, namely ISO 22000 and ISO 9001. Furthermore, even though it is plastic and may not have a very sustainable reputation, the added value we contribute is that we make the product we use reusable, recyclable and repairable, which means zero waste. So we perfectly meet the sustainability requirements sought by our customers, and our customers’ clients, as well as fully observing the new legislation to be enacted next year. I mean the Royal Decree on containers and container waste.


Energy management


Are there any figures to reflect your investment in sustainable initiatives?

We are going to invest over one and a half million euros in different projects in 2022. Replacing the sanitising lines for our packaging material is one of the most important actions to be undertaken. Because the material is reused, it must first be sanitised. Bear in mind that we are transporting food and drink. Several washing lines are to be replaced at our factories. We have three factories, two in Spain, one in Madrid, another in Barcelona and one in Figueira da Foz in Portugal. These improvements are to cost about a million euros. The remaining half a million is to be allocated to energy management at the company. We are electrically intensive due to the our industrial sanitising process, so we are going to have solar panels fitted at two of our three plants in the Peninsula. Some have already been installed at Parla last June at an investment cost of approximately €125,000. Others have just been installed at Figueira at a cost of around €150,000. It is expected that electricity will be self-generated at La Garriga in 2023 by means of solar panels. Furthermore, as a third line of action, we are studying, reviewing and redesigning all our internal processes to optimise energy consumption, basically with a view to making a positive carbon footprint impact over the next three years. From 2019 to 2022 we have managed to reduce energy consumption by 20%, mainly in terms of electricity.


Is it possible to quantify this emission saving?

From 2019 to 2021 there was a saving of 9% in tonnes of CO2 emitted. We have reduced the figure of 25.5 tonne of CO2 for every 100,000 services to 23.3 tonne.


Plastic pallet


How far has the plastic pallet solution for the glass industry penetrated the market?

This is a project we have been working on for a couple of years at Group level. And now we have the product. It is proving to be a perfect solution and one that is being very well received by the market firstly because the wooden pallet is not efficient sustainability wise. It can only be used around 7-8 times, whereas the plastic pallet can be used over 50 times. In other words, it is a much more robust pallet. Its more solid structure means it can be reused a lot more. Secondly, as it is made by ecodesign techniques, using the best possible weight, it also enhances the entire logistics chain, improving transport costs and the product transport carbon footprint. Thirdly, it enables traceability because it reaches digitalisation systems. Glass and can makers and packagers can monitor the pallet throughout the entire journey. Moreover, they know when the product gets to each destination. We are also better able to locate each one, thereby enhancing the agility of the logistics process. Lastly, there is no need for the plant protection treatments required by wood under European legislation. This is avoided by using plastic. Albeit more of an economic issue, if you add to all this the fact that on account of the geopolitical situation the availability of wood has dropped and that wooden pallets are difficult to source, the plastic pallet is your ideal solution.


How do you see the future of Cartonplast?

Our future lies in continuing to grow sustainably; something which is already part and parcel of who we are. And in continuing to base this growth on providing valid solutions for our customers and for our customers’ clients, that is to say, for the container maker and the packager. Our solutions make it possible for them to be more efficient economically and, above all, sustainably. In this regard, we are going to continue developing the plastic pallet for other sectors, not only for sending containers from the manufacturer to the packager, but throughout the distribution chain because there is a market demand for them. Our customers are asking us for a pallet that they can also use for distribution purposes. This is a different type of pallet in terms of size and characteristics. But that’s what they’re asking for. We also intend to continue growing and progressing in the can sector where our presence is still somewhat modest.


Is there anything you feel we have overlooked in our chat?

For me, the most important thing to stress about Cartonplast over its first 27 years is how important the sustainability 3Rs have been for it. Both at present and in the future, given the very complicated geopolitical outlook, the time is ripe to review, rethink and redesign all internal processes from a sustainable perspective to continue improving the carbon footprint and to become increasingly more efficient. That’s what our customers, society and future generations are asking of us.


Published on ENTREVISTA | José María Carrasco, director general y financiero de Cartonplast Ibérica (