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Flexible packaging to emerge as a major contributor to the green movement in the industrial ecosystem

Flexible Packaging

Material innovations and regulatory support will boost demand for flexible packaging as convenience and sustainability take the lead in consumer expectations.

Modern consumers are living an exceedingly busy lifestyle, where time is a critical asset. Convenience has thus become an important aspect of daily life, influencing several activities, including purchasing decisions. The younger generations, particularly the Millennials, are becoming accustomed to speedy gratification in nearly every aspect of life, from hailing rides to ordering food at the click of a button, and thus expect this rapidity to continue in products as well. According to a 2020 Consumer View report released by the National Retail Federation, over 83% of consumers claimed that convenience during shopping was more important to them than it was five years prior.

The impact of this transition has trickled into the packaging ecosystem as well, triggering an evolution in the way brands package their products over the years. This is particularly apparent in the way flexible packaging has evolved, becoming a highly sought-after solution in the era of convenience, given its myriad beneficial properties. Based on estimates from Global Market Insights Inc., the flexible packaging market is set to be valued at USD 390 billion by 2028.

Flexible Packaging
Flexible Packaging

From its lightweight nature that makes it ideal for on-the-go products to its versatility of use, flexible packaging is gradually emerging as the preferred packaging solution among food brands, pharmaceutical firms, as well as consumer packaged goods, among other applications. According to flexible packaging industry players, another key global issue these products address is the growing environmental burden of waste across food supply chains, both in the home as well as commercially. Flexible packaging solutions, particularly when designed with air-tight seals and high-barrier materials to minimize moisture and gas ingress or egress, are able to extend the freshness of the products, resulting in less spoilage and consequently less product being sent to landfills.

Favorable regulatory initiatives create a strong foundation for sustainability in the flexible packaging market

Waste production is harmful not just to the planet but also to economies and populations in general. At present, the packaging industry is one of the most prominent contributors to waste materials, considering that nearly half of the plastic produced worldwide is used for single-use applications.

While recycling is a viable option, on its own, even drastically improved rates would be insufficient to address the current plastic waste problem. In this scenario, there has been a gradual shift towards enhancing the reusability of packaging products. While in its nascent stages, growing public and private sector support has allowed reusable flexible plastic packaging to emerge as a viable alternative to single-use plastic-based solutions, indicating a step forward to a potentially plastic waste-free world. In March 2022, the SSPP (Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging) Challenged introduced by the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) announced funding worth nearly USD 3.5 million for 18 revolutionary collaborations aimed at achieving the UK Plastic Pact.

Part of this initiative was the SSPP Challenge’s major co-funding and collaboration agreement with the CEFLEX (Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging) initiative, a partnership effort involving over 180 European nations, organizations, and associations with a common goal- to streamline the flexible packaging value chain. The collaboration involved USD 5,99,350 funding from SSPP in support of a comprehensive testing program for CEFLEX’s ‘Designing for a Circular Economy’ guidelines to improve the circularity of all flexible packaging in Europe by 2025.

Cellulose film solutions pave the way for a green revolution in packaging

With the ongoing industrial shift toward a greener future, sustainable technologies like cellulosic film materials are gaining popularity as packaging materials. Derived mainly from wood pulp and cotton, cellulose has historically played an important role in the production of paper and paperboard materials.

Technological advancements, however, have expanded the scope of cellulosic film solutions beyond traditional cellophane technology, making it a key component in emerging biodegradable and biobased flexible packaging materials, which are quickly replacing conventional fossil fuel-based products. According to Global Market Insights Inc. projections, the flexible packaging industry from the cellulosic materials segment is poised to register a valuation of USD 28.5 billion by 2028, on account of the growing demand for ecologically responsible packaging products.

Since they are derived from biodegradable sources like wood pulp or cotton linters, cellulosic film material can be recycled, reused, or renewed, making it ideal for sustainable flexible packaging products, a trend that major manufacturers have picked up on.

To that end, in September 2021, Ahlstrom-Munksjö introduced PureBarrier, a new oxygen barrier, compostable mono-material crafted from 100% cellulose fibers. Possessing strong gas and oxygen barrier properties, natural wet strength, and derived from responsibly sourced wood pulp using the company’s expertise in natural fiber parchmentization, the PureBarrier technology has created a new generation of materials designed to address sustainability concerns in the flexible packaging industry.

The flexible packaging industry is gradually becoming one of the most profitable sectors, as these products have become versatile options for businesses looking for impactful, portable, and environmentally responsible packaging solutions. From making a better first impression among consumers to ensuring optimum safety of the encompassed product, flexible packaging is at the forefront of innovation and sustainability in the evolving packaging ecosystem.

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Disclaimer: This post is for the information and educational purposes only.

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