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Sustainable Packaging Trends Include Flexible Packs and Adoption Opportunities

Companies across the packaging industry are encountering issues and brainstorming solutions to meet a growing demand for a lower carbon footprint.

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PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Challenges and Opportunities for Packaging and Processing Operations

CPGs, OEMs and packaging suppliers are facing major challenges in adjusting operations for sustainable packaging, but opportunities to overcome these hurdles are available, according to PMMI Business Intelligence’s 2022 report “Challenges and Opportunities for Packaging and Processing Operations.”

PMMI asked all PACK EXPO International attendees to participate in a survey before the show to understand the industry’s top trends, and identified both barriers to adoption and opportunities for growth in sustainable packaging.

Challenges Transitioning to Sustainable Packaging

CPGs also noted perceived challenges relating to production, including the suitability of older equipment for use with materials that it was not designed for.

“We have old equipment and need to find new baggers that can run more sustainable materials,” one participating CPG said.

Related to this was a clear understanding that sustainable alternatives need robust experimentation and testing, including machine trials, to ensure that more sustainable flexible packaging materials such as films can be used without a negative impact on production and performance.

“We have various different types of film wrapping lines that utilize heat sealing with polypropylene or PVC film,” another participant said. “Our largest issue is replacing our existing material with a more sustainable PE mono-material. We’ve thus far found that it takes more heat and time to seal, and we can’t afford to slow down our equipment to accommodate.”

Many respondents referred to the tight operational parameters required to hermetically seal food packaging, with issues such as heat tolerance, shelf life, robustness, and integrity all cited by participants as challenges to overcome. 

The increased cost that often comes with more sustainable flexible packaging was also seen as a barrier to adoption, along with a “learning curve” anticipated with a change in packaging.

As one participant explained, “The biggest challenge is currently getting our customers on board to pay the increase in cost for having sustainable films.”

Solutions for Sustainability

BoxPMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Challenges and Opportunities for Packaging and Processing OperationsBuy-in is needed from customers when it comes to more sustainable packaging, and it was clear from the answers given that despite concerns, CPGs are interested in the potential for more sustainable and recyclable packaging.

OEMs and packaging suppliers regularly cited the importance of providing more guidance and support, details of lessons learned up front, and information about new films and market trends as solutions to reassure their customers about sustainable options and meet market needs.

One CPG said OEMs and suppliers should “provide a clear solution (equipment + material) for high-speed operations with more sustainable materials (whether that be mono-material PE or paper-based substrates). This can be either modifications/upgrades or entirely new equipment, but being able to provide a proven solution would be extremely valuable.”

Suppliers can also reassure customers on quality and consistency by delivering robust, high-quality packaging, particularly in the area of food contact acceptable films. 

There were repeated fears of supply chain shortages and consistency of supply among respondents, so being able to deliver consistent volumes will be key for a successful move toward more sustainable packaging. 

One CPG said suppliers need to “meet my supply requirements and have the volume necessary to address everyone.”

Most CPGs Making Sustainability Efforts

Cpg StrategiesPMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, Packaging Sustainability: A Changing LandscapeA PMMI survey found that overall, most CPGs are making efforts to add sustainability to packaging with a variety of strategies. 

The survey found that 89% of CPGs are designing recyclable packaging, and 80% are minimizing packaging to reduce waste. Over half of CPGs (56%) are redesigning packaging using more sustainable materials. About a third (36%) of CPGs are implementing re-use packaging, and about a quarter (27%) are choosing renewably sourced materials.

Looking to the Future

Policymakers are setting targets for waste and emissions in light of the ongoing climate emergency. Global targets are being set in relation to global temperature increases and carbon emissions, including the US Government’s goal of reducing emissions levels by 50-52% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Consumers are also increasingly demanding environmentally friendly products. With these factors at play, sustainability will continue to be a key concern of CPGs.

There are high expectations on OEMs and materials suppliers to deliver quality, consistency, and support in this area.

Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, 2022 Challenges and Opportunities for Packaging and Processing Operations.

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