ITC Paperboards and Speciality Papers Division of the ITC group, a leading manufacturer of packaging and graphic boards in South Asia, is laying special focus on the value-added paper packaging business and import substitution given the unfolding opportunities in new segments of the packaging business.

The focus is on sustainable packaging solutions with the development of innovative B2B value-added paperboards.

This range covers environmentally sustainable, recyclable and compostable materials. The new paperboards are emulsion-coated with a barrier that can withstand oil, grease and the strains of varying temperatures of take-away food.

Vadiraj Kulkarni, Divisional Chief Executive of ITC Paperboards and Specialty Papers Business, told BusinessLine that “ITC is focussing on import substitution, capacity building and process innovation to build a competitive value chain. We are working closely with the entire ecosystem, end-users and printers and converters to enable transition from single-use plastic substrates to sustainable packaging solutions.”

The growth of e-commerce, the need to store food items in new packaging replacing plastics, and increasing focus on environment-friendly packaging opens up a big business opportunity, he said.

The business has introduced a ‘green stiffener’ to replace low-density polyethylene (LDPE) used in making antifungal soap wrap. This new product has effectively replaced the LDPE used by premium soap brands.

The paper division business closed the last financial year with revenues of ₹6,100 crore, and saw about 10 per cent of its produce being exported. Exports are likely to go up. In value terms, exports account for 15 per cent.

Over the years, ITC’s social forestry has greened over eight lakh acres and created 150 million person-days of sustainable livelihoods for tribal and marginal farmers. These plantations help sequester more than twice the carbon dioxide emitted by all the units of ITC, thereby making it the only carbon-positive company in the world for 15 years in a row.

Production capacity

To further reduce dependence on specialised imported pulp, which earlier could not be produced in the country, ITC has invested in a bleached chemi-thermo mechanical pulp plant at Bhadrachalam. With a production capacity of 100,000 tonnes per annum, this has enabled the company to substitute imported pulp with domestic pulpwood thereby saving valuable foreign exchange.

The company is in the process of setting up a high-pressure recovery boiler to augment the pulp mill capacity. The enhanced pulp capacity will further reduce pulp imports and help procure additional wood from farmers. The Bhadrachalam plant has seven lakh tonnes per annum paper/paperboard capacity and 4.5 lakh tonnes per annum of pulp capacity.

According to a study, the eco-friendly packaging industry will grow at a CAGR of 7.5 per cent from 2020 to 2025. This presents a huge economic opportunity for the producers and makes it imperative for packaging solutions and process to become more sustainable.