Material Innovation Key to Achieving Sustainable Packaging Strategy

The market will continue to see innovations in the selection of sustainable packaging materials, as more companies embrace sustainable options.

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Consumers prefer packaging materials made from recycled goods that can also be recycled again, and, according to a new report by PMMI Business Intelligence, as technology improves and more companies invest in sustainable strategies, the variety of renewable material options and recyclable packaging options will continue to increase.

Biodegradable and compostable materials are considered to be the next frontier of innovative sustainability options. Biodegradable content is any material that can be broken down through a biological process, with the end goal to drastically reduce the time they take to break down. Bioplastics derived from natural sources, such as fungus-based shipping packers, fall into the biodegradable category.

The industry is working towards having materials that offer the right combination of being fully sustainable, affordable, and protective while maintaining shelf aesthetics.

“Moving toward more sustainable packaging is all about justifying the cost of the product and the willingness to spend more,” said one Packaging Engineer at a vitamins and supplements company.


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The report says that manufacturers have a number of options to explore in improving the sustainability of packaging materials, such as replacing non-renewable materials with recyclable options, reducing the overall thickness of materials, and seeking out materials with a low environmental footprint.

When asked the ideal characteristics of a new sustainable material, CPGs mention cost effectiveness, scalability, being globally available as well as robust and protective, and being efficient to ship.

There are five steps CPGs can consider to help achieve sustainability goals:

1.    Identify material alternatives that offer equal or less costs, use fewer resources, and produce less waste.

2.     Implement operational changes that bring equal or improved quality.

3.     Focus on cultural change that will have a measurable impact.

4.     Allocate enough resources to address sustainability aggressively.

5.     Instill company-wide recognition of the importance of sustainability.

And a few guidelines to creating a more successful sustainable package:

Too much reduction: reducing the packaging too much can result in damage to the product inside, increasing overall costs and harming brand perception.

Consider all sustainable factors of your material: for instance, paper typically takes much more water and energy to produce than plastic. While it might be easier to recycle, it may be less sustainable overall when the larger picture is examined.

Durability: material made from recycled products is not as durable and gets less so after each round of recycling. Recycled material is not the correct choice for every product due to the increased cost and decreased overall durability.

Hygienic: recycled materials need to be clean, convenient, safe, and sterile.

Origin: if recycled content is used, the origin of the material must be known, according to ISO standard 11-607.


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When looking at global packaging material growth overall forecasts to 2025, glass, aluminum foil and paper show the highest expected growth:

Plastic packaging market: estimated CAGR of 3.7%.

Paper and paperboard packaging market: estimated CAGR of 4.2%.

Aluminum foil packaging market: estimated CAGR of 4.3%.

Metal packaging market: estimated CAGR of 4.0%.

Glass packaging market: estimated CAGR of 4.4%.

In the next five years, industry analysts predict plastics usage will see slower growth compared to other materials.In the next five years, industry analysts predict plastics usage will see slower growth compared to other materials.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, “Packaging Sustainability: A Changing Landscape 2020

Download the FREE Executive Summary below, or PMMI Members can download the entire report here.

Make plans to visit PACK EXPO International in Chicago, November 8-11, to see on-trend sustainable processing and packaging machinery and materials.

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