Smithers report maps out the 10-year strategic journey to greater sustainability in packaging

Smithers report maps out the 10-year strategic journey to  greater sustainability in packaging
LEATHERHEAD, Surrey, UK and AKRON, Ohio, USA – August 09 2022 – Sustainability has emerged as the defining market driver for the packaging industry across the 2020s. Legislative mandates on plastic formats, brand owner corporate sustainability commitments and consumer enthusiasm are all combining to force fundamental change on a global industry worth $1.05 trillion in 2022, according to Smithers – the leading consultancy for the paper, print and packaging industries.

These same factors will reward innovation at nearly every phase of packaging sourcing, manufacture, use, disposal and recovery over the next decade. How these often interlocking and mutually supportive trends will evolve is examined critically in the latest Smithers expert study – The Future of Sustainable Packaging: Long Term Strategic Forecasts to 2032.

It identifies that as a degree of maturity reaches the market, some of the easiest carbon saving steps have already been taken. Instead if further sustainability gains are to be realised over the next decade, new technologies will need to be investigated, and existing approaches refined:
  • Recyclability will benefit primarily from the evolution of better automated sorting equipment twinned with advanced image processing in material recovery facilities – especially for plastics. This will simultaneously stimulate more interest in sorting friendly marking, labelling and packaging designs; as well as the deployment of more monomaterial or other plastic formats that are easier to process after recovery.
  • Wider use of recycled content, especially post-consumer recycled (PCR) polymer resins is a priority for many FMCG brands and their packaging partners. Improved recyclability will increase both the volume and quality of PCR materials available on the market. This will be further enhanced by the wider deployment of in-store or other dedicated collection schemes for harder to recycle formats; and the full commercialisation of chemical (advanced) recycling plants converting mixed plastic inputs into resins that can be used in a new generation of packaging.
  • Renewable sourcing of packaging materials is also a key consideration, covering the wider use of PCR, as well as recovered pulp, metal and glass materials. There is a parallel interest in converting a wider range of non-edible biomass sources, such as agricultural waste, into useable packaging materials.
  • In 2022 many brands are looking to embrace re-use and refill format packaging. Still at a nascent stage, this has the potential to significantly reduce the number of packages produced annually. The fundamental change this requires in both brand-owner and consumer thinking means this will have a more limited impact in the short term, and be limited to certain regions and product groups.
  • There will also be work to further develop the potential of biodegradable plastics and other materials for those end-use segments where recovery or re-use is not a plausible option. 
Each of these provides the potential for genuine carbon savings. Their adoption will be shaped not just by commercial concerns however, but a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape. Smithers’ analysis tracks how these will interact with business decisions along the packaging supply chains; including the impact of taxes and prohibitions on certain materials; requirements for minimum content of PCR stocks, packaging design requirements to encourage recyclability, and ultimately the implementation of comprehensive extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes.

The outlook for creating a genuinely sustainable future for all packaging materials – including technical considerations, regulatory developments, economic and demographic drivers, and brand and retailer initiatives – is examined in depth in the new Smithers study, The Future of Sustainable Packaging: Long Term Strategic Forecasts to 2032.[]
This vital strategic guide to an enduring and defining industry trend for the next 10 years is available to purchase now, priced $6,750 (€5,950, £4,950).

Find out more

Download The Future of Sustainable Packaging: Long Term Strategic Forecasts to 2032 brochure

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