“There is growing recognition that addressing the symptoms of the crisis through clean-ups is not enough. We need to move away from today’s linear take-make-waste model and fundamentally rethink the way we design, use and reuse plastics. A systemic shift tackling the root causes is required: a transition towards a circular economy for plastic, in which it never becomes a waste or pollution,” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
With momentum building towards a circular economy for plastic packaging, we outline some current trends and look forward to what’s coming next so you can make informed decisions on your packaging needs.
We predict the following trends will drive plastic packaging design in the near future:
Transition to Fully Recyclable Packaging
Increased Focus on Environmental Impacts
Reduction of Materials and Waste
Increased Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Content
Continue reading as we take a look at each one and what it means for plastic packaging.
1. Transition to Fully Recyclable Packaging
Recent advances have been made towards more recyclable packaging, furthering the work begun by The Alliance to End Plastic Waste. In the U.S., this work towards circularity was best exemplified by the U.S. Plastics Pact. The Pact’s goals will quickly and significantly drive the increased use of recycled plastics across the country by creating markets for recycled plastic and ensuring that packaging is fully recyclable.
To ensure packaging is effectively recycled, it must be designed to flow optimally through the recycling system from the beginning.
2. Increased Focus on Environmental Impacts
Globally, organizations have committed to sustainable solutions for packaging, including reducing carbon impacts through energy and water usage reductions, as well as waste minimization. The most recognized scientific methodology to quantify environmental impacts of packaging is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).
Amongst packaging technologies, plastics are well known for their favorable life cycle impacts and lower environmental impact versus the use of glass or metal. While many options exist for plastic barrier packaging, picking the appropriate solution can further help to differentiate and advance the sustainability goals of an organization. The ideal solution is a technology that not only reduces environmental impact, but those that maximize recyclability.
3. Reduction of Materials and Waste
Another trend that’s been a topic of discussion is the reduction of materials and waste. One way to achieve this is by light weighting product packaging. Some of the many benefits of this include:
Decreased material cost
Reduced environmental footprint
Although reducing material content has been on the rise for the last 15 years, it’s now considered an essential part towards a more sustainable future – something that’s at the top of many businesses’ minds. However, there can be concerns about light weighting in some industries, as it can potentially impact packaging durability and overall performance.
4. Increased Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Content
The consistency of PCR streams is one of the key issues limiting greater adoption of PCR resin in plastic packaging. A major concern is the scarcity of non-colored, “clean” PCR as many packages are composed of colored resins. Plus, the recycle resin stream can include contamination from mixed plastics, such as coextruded plastics and small retains of previously packaged formulations. By switching from multilayer plastics to single plastic material packaging, the potential of contaminating the recycle stream is reduced, subsequently enabling increased PCR content in packaging. The PET industry has been the leader in this area over the last decade, significantly increasing recycled content in packaging. This includes demanding food contact applications where extractables and contamination are a major concern.
With an amplified focus on recycling and sustainability, it’s no surprise that we’ve also seen an advancement in plastic packaging technologies. Approved by the largest recycling associations around the world, our fully recyclable barrier packaging technology, Enkase, offers the lowest environmental footprint across all commercially available barrier packaging technologies.