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Challenges for Sustainable Packaging

2019-01-07 09:41 Monday


Sustainable materials have become a notable trend in the packaging industry. Companies and jurisdictions including McDonald's, Delivero and Iceland have pledged not to use plastic, or use 100% sustainable packaging.

sustainable packaging

Such pledges are a victory for  both public relations and the environment, but how challenging is it for packaging companies to make the transition?

Supply Chains

Packaging affects the entire supply chain, from material manufacturers, packaging manufacturers, brands and retailers, to waste and recycling organizations, and finally back to material suppliers.

"Packaging companies use sustainable materials, mostly because of pressure from the media and environmental groups rather than profit. But many sustainability factors, such as recycling, are beyond their control", notedBarrington Pamplin, a packaging technology expert.

Obstacles to Waste Recovery

Even in the UK and other developed countries, waste collection and recycling are not coordinated centrally, but by local authorities, which leads to inconsistency in waste management and hinders the closed-loop recycling of materials.

Pamplin said this disconnect in waste management could make it harder to build recycling facilities, and hamper packaging manufacturers' materials supplies, due to inadequate waste stocks or poor quality. The problem is more challenging for developing countries, where pollution is far worse and recycling is far less advanced.

Sustainable Packaging Costs are Higher

Generally speaking, the price of recycled materials and new materials is more expensive than that for virgin materials. The cost of sustainable materials is higher because economies of scale cannot be utilized to the same extent. Furthermore, additional research and development inputs are required to transition away mechanical production lines.

Cost has a much bigger impact on packaging manufacturers than it does for brands. For brands, the increased cost can be as low as 1%, but for packaging manufacturers that figure is generally10%, because of the need for upfront investments.

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