Sustainability in design, use and end-of-life processing will increasingly define flexible packaging across the next five years, according to new expert insight from Smithers. This will create challenges for the whole value chain through 2026, even as the market adjusts to a market space redefined by COVID-19, and short-term disruption in the supply of raw materials in the first six months of 2021.
In its latest in-depth study, The Future of Sustainable Flexible Packaging to 2026, Smithers notes that with the emergence of circular economy models, there is a need to shift away from traditional weight reduction considerations to other strategies. It has a direct focus on actionable approaches that can be taken at all stages of the flexible packaging value chain to realize a greener tomorrow.
These are grouped into seven key business and technology areas:
Design for recycling—including optimizing barrier performance and coatings, switching to new high-performance paper grades, and the rapid development of functional polymer mono-material packs
Overcoming technical and regulatory challenges to increase the volume of recycled content used in films and other plastic formats, with a focus on low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
Innovating to meet the emerging need for more reusable flexible formats in both traditional retail and the booming e-commerce segment
Improving waste management via marking and collection, to boost supplies of high-grade post-consumer resin (PCR), including grades suitable for food contact applications
Sustainable sourcing of feedstocks, including PCR, but also bio-based versions of existing plastics, substitution from polymer to paper substrates where plausible, and the wider use of recycled pulp in packaging papers
Use, where plausible, of biodegradable flexible plastics (despite the predicted extension of prohibitions on oxo-degradable materials)
Weight reduction—the economics of flexible packaging will continue to call for thinner substrates, and lifecycle analyses can highlight the CO2 savings it also gives in distribution compared to heavier rigid packaging materials
R&D in flexible packaging is being shaped by various actors—packaging converters, brand owners, governments, and ultimately consumers, Smithers observed: “The year 2025 is a key date. Many brands and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) companies have committed to making some or all of their packaging fully recyclable by that date.”
Full article: Flexographic Technical Assocaition