The International Industrial Packaging Conference (IIPC) – It’s a Wrap!

Industrial Packaging have been on the road once again, this time to the medieval city of Ghent in Belgium. Our destination – the International Industrial Packaging Conference (IIPC). 

This event only rolls around once every 3 years. Previously, it had been held in Japan, and the next one will be in the US. This year, over 200 delegates from around the world assembled in Ghent to discuss the current state of the industrial packaging sector. 

Most delegates were owners or managers of leading manufacturing and reconditioning companies and exhibits from various suppliers were on show. So, it was an ideal opportunity to learn from each other, share our own product innovations and network with new business connections and industry experts.



Reconditioned Drums – The Circular Economy in Practice

Just to give an overall context to the Conference, one of the main focuses of our discussions was a topic that’s on the top of everyone’s agenda these days (or should be!) – the environment. This year’s theme was “Industrial Packaging and the Circular Economy”, and creating a sustainable and healthy industry is clearly a key objective for the sector. It’s a broad subject though and it needs to take into account market needs, the regulatory environment, technical considerations and environmental impacts.

The need to facilitate the reconditioning of Fibre Drums, Plastic Drums, and Steel Drums, as well as used IBCs, is a priority for Industrial Packaging and we were delighted to discover that this is also considered a matter of great importance for our colleagues across the globe. These are exciting times for those of us who can influence sustainability innovations in the industry because there are clear opportunities to improve our processes and reduce our impact. Reconditioned Drums and IBCs reduce the amount of energy and resources needed to meet market demand and also offer a more comprehensive solution for customers, who want to meet their own sustainability goals.

On top of that, for manufacturers like ourselves, the re-conditioning of product helps cement our relationships with customers as the product is effectively transformed into an ongoing service. This really marks-out suppliers like Industrial Packaging as true partners in business, throughout the lifecycle of the reconditioned drums.


Busy Days!

The Conference schedule was action packed, and over the course of two days, we had to chance to listen and engage with many interesting topics and individuals. And it’s fair to say that while there was a lot of consensus on general concerns, there were also some “robust” discussions about the best way forward!

Mr. Mathias De Clercq, the Mayor of Ghent, delivered a welcoming address and the Conference comprised of 6 formal sessions, besides the informal networking of course.

Rob Lee, Commercial Director attended them all, so if you are interested in getting more detail on the discussions and highlights of any of the following topics, let us know and we can bring you up-to-speed.

Economic and Environmental Background – Reconditioning Organisations

If you want to get to the guts of what’s going on globally with re-conditioning, there are a number of trade organisations operating in this space and the ones represented here included SERRED, JDRA, RIPA and SAICRA. But the next session would probably be of more interest to Industrial Packaging customers, not least because our own Robert Lee was on the panel.

Economic and Environmental Background – Manufacturing Organisationshttps:


This session related specifically to an overview of manufacturing associations in this sector over the past five years. Rob Lee participated on the panel in his capacity as the President of SEFFI since 2020. SEFFI is the trade body that represents European Fibre Drum Manufacturers. There’s more about SEFFI here.

Environmental Regulation for Industrial Packaging

This was very interesting btw and covered EU regulations, the Green Steel Deal, US Regulations and Approaches for Carbon Neutrality. A key issue we all face is trying to meet different regional regulations in a globalised market. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why Industrial Packaging became involved in SEFFI, so that we could help influence and standardise regulations.

Market Expectations Towards Industrial Packaging

There was a focus here on the Chemical industry as obviously the requirements of customers in this market are necessarily stringent. We know from our own experience of dealing with Pharma, Chemical and Food industrial packaging that essentially often what is needed is to take a “problem-solving” approach, to deliver the right solution, and this was confirmed by the speakers – one size definitely does not fit all!

Technical and Regulatory Developments on Packaging

There was a lot of discussion here on packaging at the end-of-lifecycle and how emptied packaging with residue should be dealt with, especially in terms of responsible care and the proper management of chemical substances.

Industrial Packaging Industry Global Viewpoint

This wrap-up session brought together leaders in the industry to summarise key issues discussed at the Conference and our own Rob Lee, representing not just SEFFI now, but also speaking from his extensive industry expertise as Commercial Director of Industrial Packaging, discussed the Recycling and Re-use of Fibre Drums, together with two other industry experts. Here’s a snapshot of the main points of this presentation……


Secondary Life Cycle of Fibre Drums – Roll it there, Rob

The new EU legislation PPWR (EU Packaging Waste Legislation) is due to be published around Q2 or Q3 in 2024, so we need to have a plan in place to meet the requirements, the basic tenant of which is that all packaging should be recyclable by 2030. It also deals with targets in relation to plastic packaging up to 2040, as well as labelling and other relevant waste considerations.

Of course, Fibre Drum materials can be recycled at present so the impact in this context should be small. However, we need to consider the whole secondary lifecycle of Fibre Drums, as outlined by this graphic….

Fibre Drum Reconditioning


At present, there is plenty of scope to eliminate the incineration and waste disposal of Fibre Drums and this is the challenge for the industry – to work with our customers to facilitate the Reconditioning, Re-use and Recycling of Fibre Drums – possibly at their own premises, which would have significant additional benefits in terms of logisticis. If these drums could be cleaned and relabelled locally, then there would be less pressure on infrastructure involved in transporting and delivering them, and less fuel emissions.

In fact, the resulting reduction in costs could lead to an increased demand for reusable fibre drums.

Although there are still some challenges in relation to cleaning drums that have contained certain products, and to separating the components of the drum, Industrial Packaging and others in the sector are working on innovations to address this and now almost every part of a fibre drum can be recycled. Again, this will have massive improvements on the ecological impact of the industry.

With fibre drums being sustainable, lightweight, easy to handle, and great value for money, it’s no surprise that there has been a sustained growth in demand for these drums from the food, flavours, and fragrances sectors, as well as pharma and personal care. And growth in the industry is one of the key objectives of SEFFI.


SEFFI – the European Drum Manufacturers Association

Robert Lee has been the President of SEFFI, the European Drum Manufacturers Association, since 2020, and with so many SEFFI members present at the Conference, it was the ideal time to hold the organisation’s Annual General Assembly.

SEFFI was founded in 1991, initially by industry practitioners from France and the UK. It’s main goals include the monitoring, understanding, and influencing of environmental and dangerous goods regulations. It also offers a forum to swap industry expertise, network within the sector and it creates a platform for members to promote the use and appreciation of fibre drums.

Made up of 16 member manufacturers from across Europe, at the Assembly we discussed the imminent EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives. The need for the re-use and recycling of packaging in the EU will bring some big changes to the industry, and these will all be changes for the better. Industrial Packaging is committed to leading the charge in this context!

Rob Lee IIPC

Where next?

If you are in the market for Industrial Packaging and you want to talk through any of the considerations highlighted in this article, why not schedule a meeting? Contact Us.

And if we’ve whet your appetite for industry events, the Making Pharmaceuticals Exhibition and Conference is 11th -12th September in the RDS, Dublin next year. Industrial Packaging will be exhibiting at European Industrial Packaging conference next year and we hope to see you all there!

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