Our daily lives are surrounded by packaging, which reduces food waste and overall product breakage at low cost with cutting-edge convenience features2. The worldwide packaging market has grown rapidly over the last ten years as a result of changes in substrate preferences and the rise of new end markets. In addition to the economic expansion in China and other rising regions, headline changes include the increased usage of plastics to replace other substrates and satisfy consumers' need for convenience.
Sustainable packaging is the development and deployment of packaging that results in increased sustainability. This entails using life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle inventory (LCI) more frequently to help direct the use of packaging that has a smaller negative impact on the environment. Regulatory and public concerns over single-use packaging waste, together with other strong trends regarding sustainability , are converging to push significant changes in consumer packaging. Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) businesses and retailers are proactively making significant commitments to enhance the sustainability of their packaging and to fundamentally rethink their packaging systems. Regulators are taking action on the issue.
The survival of many in the sector may be in danger due to the major impact on packaging converters and their value chain. However, the new environment could present considerable growth and new collaboration opportunities for packaging converters with the correct focus and innovation capabilities to assist clients in updating their packaging portfolios. Converters will need to actively address sustainability challenges as consumer demands and regulatory obligations increase in the future.
Given adequate development, sustainable packaging includes a number of qualities that help uphold the necessary quality requirements for product transportation, receipt, and storage in addition to decreasing the impact of ecologically hazardous materials. Some of these are as follow:
Optimised packaging - It is advised to produce packaging with materials and designs that enable it to have several lifespans in order to maximise the decrease of the environmental effect of that packaging. This entails abandoning single-use packaging and choosing reusable packaging that users can utilise for other things.
Sustainable ingredients - To create sustainable packaging that doesn't harm the environment or add to ecosystem degradation, recyclable and environmentally friendly materials must be used. Although the packaging may last for a number of years, it is possible that it may eventually reach the end of its useful life. In this case, it is critical that the packaging be recyclable or biodegradable. Cellulose and bioplastic are two of the ecological materials most frequently utilised to create sustainable packaging.
Because they are materials that disintegrate quickly and are also very pliable, cellulose and its derivatives (mostly paper and cardboard) are frequently utilised to make sustainable packaging. This makes it simple to construct and apply various designs. Despite resembling conventional plastic, ecological plastic, also known as bioplastic, is made from plants and is fully biodegradable. It is also one of the materials that is most frequently used to make sustainable packaging because of its resistance.
Another viable choice is to use recycled plastic. Tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic are currently in use; recycling this material to give it new life is a further step that contributes to reducing the environmental pollution.
Resilient packaging - A sustainable package must be able to protect the goods without endangering them and always adhere to the quality requirements for safe transit in order to fulfil all of the functional requirements. For the product to be protected and to be delivered in perfect condition, the packaging's design and durability become crucial factors.
Reduced chemical use - Adhesives and inks used in traditional packaging frequently have chemical components that are not environmentally friendly. Sustainable packaging aims to swap out these components for more natural ones. In order to address climate change and ecosystem damage, sustainable packaging is required.
While others continue to operate as per the status quo, with few or no laws in place, some of the biggest and most developed nations and areas are taking considerable steps to adopt regulations to drive sustainability. For instance, 16 states in the US have passed statewide laws governing packaging waste that primarily target single-use plastics, and shopping bags, and raising recycling goals. When it comes to sustainability, Europe has advanced more than some other regions. The "New EU Directive for Single-Use Plastics" (released in May 2019) aims to limit the leakage of the ten single-use plastic items that are most frequently seen on European beaches. Even more aggressive targets, costs for introducing non-recyclable packaging, and additional legislation, such as utilising only recyclable packaging, setting greater recycling targets, etc., are being implemented in some European Union countries.
In an effort to stop plastic from leaking into the environment, Thailand has imposed a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retailers. According to the Indian Ministry of Environment, 20 Single Use Plastic Products (SUPs) will be phased out by 2021. These are categorised as having the worst environmental effects and the lowest utility. China has enacted legislation to boost recycling, recovery, and recirculation of used plastics, limit single-use plastics, and reduce their imports. Through the early 2000s, Latin America had a low level of commitment to sustainability and few laws in place. However, there has been a noticeable increase in awareness in recent years: between 2016 and 2019, numerous local and federal acts were enacted or introduced in nations throughout the area.
In the past, FMCG companies and retailers have tended to concentrate their efforts on fast wins, such as lowering weight and material utilisation to enable them to reduce their packaging costs. Strong material innovation upstream at substrate producers, such as resin producers, has also contributed to this progress. These changes have favoured the usage of flexible packaging and pouches in place of rigid packaging styles. Almost all the top 100 FMCG companies (in terms of revenue) have made bold declarations and commitments to drive sustainability over the coming years.
Packaging converters will need to make additional investments and significantly scale up their innovation capability in order to meet the growing pressures to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, comply with legislation, and fulfil customer preferences. This change in innovation will be significant.
Moving forward, in order to assist clients with innovation and seize chances to fill current sustainability gaps, packaging converters must have three things in place. This firstly entails a precise system for benchmarking the sustainability, expense, and convenience of your packaging products. Secondly, a comprehensive grasp of the opportunity and value that are at stake across your product line as a result of the expansion of sustainability criteria. Finally, make sure your packaging and technology roadmap is clear and innovative, and that you have the necessary relationships in place to address future customer and consumer packaging demands.