Regulators are moving on the issue, and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies and retailers are proactively making bold commitments to improve both the sustainability of their packaging and to fundamentally rethink their packaging systems.
There will be significant impact on packaging converters and their value chain, which could threaten the survival of many in the industry. However, for packaging converters with the right focus and innovation capabilities, the new landscape could offer significant growth and new partnership opportunities to support customers in revising their packaging portfolios. Going forward, converters will have to proactively embrace sustainability issues as consumer demands and regulatory requirements multiply.
Packaging is ubiquitous in our daily lives and enables minimization of food waste and overall product breakage with advanced convenience features at low costs. Over the past decade, the global packaging industry has enjoyed strong growth, driven by shifts in choice of substrates and expansion of new end-markets. Headline changes include the increased use of plastics to replace other substrates and accommodate consumers’ demand for convenience, but also the economic boom in China and other emerging regions.
However, widespread usage of single-use packaging containers has resulted in a heavy burden on the environment, and the management of packaging waste is facing a crisis due to two unresolved challenges:
Governments have started to respond to the public outcryGovernments, on all continents, have responded to public concerns regarding packaging waste, especially single-use packaging waste, and are implementing regulations to both minimize environmental waste and improve waste-management processes.
Some of the largest and most developed countries and regions are taking significant steps to introduce regulations to drive sustainability, while others are still operating as per the status quo, with limited or no regulations in place. For example, in the US 16 states have enacted statewide regulations around packaging waste, which tend to target single-use plastics, shopping bags, and increasing recycling targets. Several more bills are pending to be approved over the next 3 years. Meanwhile, Europe has progressed further than some other regions when it comes to sustainability. Measures announced in May 2019, under the “New EU Directive for Single-Use Plastics,” aim to reduce leakage of the ten single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches. Additionally, some countries—in particular France, Germany, and the United Kingdom—are going above and beyond the already robust recycling regulations across the European Union with Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPRs). These countries are implementing even more aggressive targets, fees for introducing non-recyclable packaging, and additional legislation such as only using recyclable packaging, setting higher recycling targets, and so on.
In Asia, Thailand recently announced a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags at major stores effective January 1, 2020, and aims for a full ban by 2021 to reduce plastic leakage into the environment. India has shelved plans for a full ban of single-use plastics for now, but is pushing for increased awareness campaigns and more collection points to improve collection and curb waste. China has banned imports of plastics waste and approved legislation to ban/reduce single-use plastics, increase recycling, recovery, and recirculation of used plastics. Latin America had relatively low commitments to sustainability with few regulations in place through the early 2000s. However, in the past few years there has been a considerable rise in awareness: between 2016 and 2019 many local and federal bills have been approved or proposed in countries across the region. For example, Chile is banning plastic bags for business and Mexico City is banning single-use plastics.