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Four Major Predictions for Sustainable Packaging in 2023

Time : 2023-08-07 Hits : 56

1.The trend of reverse material substitution will continue to grow.

Grain box liners, paper bottles, protective e-commerce packaging... The biggest trend is the "paperization" of consumer packaging. In other words, plastics are being replaced by paper, mainly because consumers perceive paper to have advantages in terms ofrenewability and recyclabilitycompared to polyolefins and PET.


There will be a significant amount of paper available for recycling. Reduced consumer spending and the growth of e-commerce are leading to an increase in available paperboard supply, helping to maintain relatively low prices. According to recycling expert Chaz Miller, the price of Old Corrugated Containers (OCC) in the US Northeast is currently around $37.50 per ton, compared to $172.50 per ton a year ago.


However, there is also a potential significant issue: many packaging materials are a combination of paper and plastic and cannot pass recyclability tests. These include paper bottles with internal plastic bags, paper/plastic carton combinations used for beverage containers, flexible packaging, and wine bottles claiming to be compostable.


These solutions might not actually address environmental issues but rather address consumer perception. In the long run, this could lead them down the same path as plastic containers, which claim to be recyclable but are not actually recycled. For advocates of chemical recycling, this might be good news as they will have time to prepare for large-scale plastic container recycling as the cycles repeat.

2.The push for compostable packaging will exacerbate.

So far, I have never felt that compostable packaging has a significant role outside of foodservice applications and venues. The discussed materials and packaging are not inherently circular, are likely not scalable, and are probably not cost-effective.


(1) The quantity of household composting is insufficient to drive even the smallest change; (2) Industrial composting is still in its infancy; (3) Packaging and foodservice items are not always welcomed by industrial facilities; (4) Whether it's "bio" plastic or traditional plastic, composting is a non-circular activity that generates mainly greenhouse gases and little else.


The PLA industry is beginning to back away from its long-held industrial compostability claims and is looking to position this material for recycling and bio-materials.The claims for bio-based resins may indeed make sense, but that's predicated on its functionality, economics, and environmental performance (in terms of life-cycle greenhouse gas production) exceeding similar benchmarks for other plastics, particularly high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and in some cases, even low-density polyethylene (LDPE).


Recent research has found that about 60% of home compostable plastics do not fully break down, leading to soil contamination. The study also discovered that consumers are confused about the implications behind compostability claims: "14% of plastic packaging samples were certified as 'industrially compostable,' while 46% were not compostable. Among the biodegradable and compostable plastics tested under different home composting conditions, most did not fully break down, including 60% of plastics certified as 'home compostable'."

3.Europe will continue to lead the anti-greenwashing movement.

Although there's a lack of credible assessment systems for defining "greenwashing," the concept is generally understood as companies portraying themselves as environmentally friendly while attempting to cover up their social and environmental harms, all to safeguard and expand their market or influence. This has spurred the rise of an "anti-greenwashing" movement.


According to The Guardian, the European Commission is actively seeking to ensure that products claiming to be "bio-based," "biodegradable," or "compostable" meet minimum standards. To counter greenwashing, consumers will be able to know how long an item takes to biodegrade, how much biomass was used in its production, and whether it truly suits home composting.

4.Secondary packaging will become a new pressure point.

Excessive packaging isn't only an issue in China; many countries are grappling with it. The EU aims to address over-packaging through proposed regulations that dictate, starting from 2030, "each packaging unit must be reduced to the minimum weight, volume, and number of packaging layers, such as by limiting blank space." According to these proposals, EU member states must reduce per capita packaging waste by 15% compared to 2018 by 2040.


Secondary packaging traditionally includes outer corrugated cartons, stretch and shrink films, corner boards, and straps. But it could also encompass primary exterior packaging, such as shelf cartons for cosmetics (like creams), health and beauty aids (like toothpaste), and over-the-counter medications (like aspirin). Concerns arise that these regulations might lead to the dismantling of these cartons, causing disruption in sales and the supply chain.